So much of our suffering is self-inflicted because we don’t know how to think correctly. Proverbs 5:23 says, “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” This week, we will study five areas that cause much suffering: being offended, angry, resentful, having worry and having fear (Lessons 7 and 8 in Happy School). Learning to think correctly about these subjects will bring much rest to your soul.
Remember, emotions (including all five of the topics we will discuss this week) are from thoughts. Changing emotions is ultimately about changing your thoughts. We will learn to think Biblically about all five of these troublemakers.
Be sure to first read Lesson 7 and Lesson 8 in Happy School, Where Women Learn the Secrets to Overcome Discouragement and Worry.
First, A Few Thoughts about Dysfunctional Families-of-Origin
Before we get started discussing the five Rooms, I want to mention that it was rare (okay, non-existent) in my early Happy School groups to find women (the ones who repeatedly struggled with their emotions) who said, “Oh, my parents were the best! They were amazing.” There is a close correlation to our early life/family-of-origin and our future mental/emotional young adult self. In almost every case, women who struggle emotionally had difficulties in their launching years.
You already know there is correlation between a person’s emotional health and their family-of-origin. But what I want you to know, however, is that if you had an emotionally difficult childhood or early teenage years, it is not a permanent declaration on your life. If you can renew your mind, it is definitely not the final word on your life story. Let’s discuss a few points regarding difficult families-of-origin before we get into the meat of this week’s lessons.
Families are not like jobs or roommates, where you can merely get new ones. They are part of your very substance. But when families-of-origin continue to be unpleasant, critical, dishonest, unreasonable, highly disappointing, or even evil, then you must have a strategy for thinking about and dealing with them.
Let’s discuss a Biblical command concerning your parents. The Bible’s call to honor our parents is inescapable (Ex. 20:12). The command is not to necessarily love them, but to honor them. How liberating this is, if your parents were not wonderful, because it frees you from feeling you have to be best friends with people you don’t actually like. You can honor the judge in a courtroom, without loving him or her. And you can honor your parents, without loving them.
You Biblical scholars are now thinking, “Wait a minute! There is a command to even love your enemies.” Yes, but that Greek word for love is agape, and it means to benefit or do good to someone. This is different from the Greek word for love, phileo, which is affectionate, brotherly love (as in Titus 2, which says women are to have phileo love for their husbands and children.) Honoring your parents does not mean you have to be with them every time they request it. In addition, know you can still honor your parents even if you have to set healthy boundaries. You do not necessarily have to call them every day or even organize a birthday party for them. But you do need to ask the Lord what honoring your parents looks like in your specific situation.
“How much exactly do I have to do?” asked a girl in one of my groups. “My unpleasant parents expect so much from me.” There is a principle in the New Testament that has helped many women in my groups. Jesus told his disciples that when the hated Roman soldiers asked them to carry their pack backs one mile, to carry it two. I love this teaching. You need to carry the backpack two miles—but here’s the great point—not three. As a Christian, you can return good for evil by going the second mile, but again, you don’t have to go the third. Jesus didn’t say, “Go as far as they ask you to.” He said go the second mile. Figure out what is responsible and reasonable as far as your difficult parents, go the second mile, then have the freedom to set boundaries.
One young woman told me that when her difficult parents came to visit her, they drank excessively, screamed at each other, criticized her, ignored the rules she had for her children, and completely disrupted her household. The young woman, along with her husband, decided to invite her parents to visit twice a year for four days and three nights (as well as visit the parents in their town once). Given the parents’ disruptive nature, the couple felt these visits—along with bi-weekly phone calls, texts with photos, etc.—constituted the second mile. When the girl’s mother heard the new boundaries, she threw a royal hissy fit about being told how much she could come visit. She thought having any limits on her visits was appalling and in her words, “extremely selfish.” The younger woman, the daughter, held her ground, as she and her husband felt this was still honoring her parents, yet not going the third mile.
Another woman had a terribly cranky, critical, and ungrateful mother who was very upsetting to her. The older woman said horrible things (much like Darby’s mom in Happy School). As the older woman aged, none of the other siblings would agree to have the aged mother come live with them. So this daughter (along with some money contributed from the other siblings) rented a modest room at a retirement community where the woman would get meals and care. She regularly visited and called (keeping boundaries when the older woman started her stuff). She was able to honor her mother, but not be swallowed up by her mother’s toxicity by allowing her mother to live in her home.
These are not easy issues. None of these situations are ideal or wanted. What a contrast these situations are to some older mothers I know who are more like angels. Sad as it may be, many women did not get blessed with a mother like Marmee in Little Women. To deal with difficult parents, you need a plan. Overlook when you can, forgive for sure (empty their boxes of offenses), try to remember any benefits you gained from your family-of-origin, and return a blessing for an insult. But after that, you only have to go the second mile.
Another piece of helpful advice is to know that you do not have to give toxic parents access to your heart. When you talk to them, talk about the flowers you are planting or what you’re cooking. They do not get to hear about what’s truly hurting you, as they often cannot be trusted with this information. You can honor them but at the same time, guard your heart.
If your father always drinks too much at Thanksgiving, gets belligerent, and ruins the meal, then tell him you are just having your kids to dinner this year, and you will have him either before or after the actual day. You do not have to be bulldozed by toxic people.
Another young woman said her father neglected her most of her childhood and then, in her teens, he began verbally abusing her. “You’re a nobody,” he had said to her when her career as a secretary disappointed his megalomania expectations. As she matured in the Lord, she realized she had many tapes playing in her mind of hurtful and hateful things her parents had said to her while growing up. “It hit me out of the blue,” she said, “that my earthly father’s assessment of me doesn’t define me; my heavenly Father’s assessment does. And He says I am loved.” (You can listen to Lauren Daigle’s official music video of You Say on YouTube HERE.)
If you’ve been abused, you will need to rebuild your neural pathways about what you think about yourself. God’s Word can tell you who you are. God has now called you out of darkness and you can heal from your early life. Neural grooves can be re-structured and your mind can be renewed.
With a difficult family-of-origin, decide what your responsibility is, and then quarantine thoughts of dread when you have to be with toxic parents. In addition, quarantine thoughts of sadness or anger after you see them. Much of your angst is from your excessive thinking about them but you have now learned to quarantine thoughts by thinking other thoughts.
Many years ago, a girl in one of my groups had been to counseling for help in dealing with her mean mother. The counselor was sympathetic and quietly told the girl, “Women with mothers like yours sometimes feel a lot better after the mother is deceased.”
I thought it was a horrible thing to say. But after talking to hundreds of women with difficult mothers, it’s not that hard to imagine that one might feel better if one has been metaphorically punched in the face for decades, and then the punching stops. The counselor’s remark may sound harsh to an outsider, but this girl completely understood and agreed. Still as a Christian, she forgave her mother, prayed for her, honored her, and witnessed to her, even as the rudeness and meanness continued.
Overlook, forgive, quarantine negative thoughts, and set boundaries by going the second—but not the third—mile. Again, only you and the Lord can determine what honoring your parents looks like in your situation. You decide the relationship though, not your parents. You are no longer a child and therefore no longer have to take orders from them (although they might try to make you think that you do.)
Just remember, even though your parents may be highly dysfunctional, you represent the One who called you out of darkness. So when you’re setting boundaries, always be kind, have integrity, serve, and be humble. Day 3, Part B in this week’s lesson offers further help for how to think when dealing with a difficult family-of-origin member.
An Antidote for Being Offended
Henri Nouwen, an author and theologian, discussed how we get offended over “little rejections, little impolitenesses, little negligences.” To this list he also adds, “petty slights and avoidances, criticisms, petty harm to our possessions.” We must all admit that it doesn’t take much to offend us.
Sigmund Freud, who is called the father of modern psychology, banished a couple colleagues, Jung and Adler (also famous in these circles) for contradicting him. This, my friend, is a great example of being offended. Being offended is as common to the human condition as table salt. We must look at it carefully.
Just this morning, I was discussing a worldview I had with a young non-Christian. Her response to me was that I must be delusional for holding such a view. She accused me of not being completely coherent because I hold these views. “I’m worried about you,” she said, insinuating that maybe I was going off the deep end. This is a tactic that people often use in debates when they don’t have arguments. Instead, they attack one’s character. Admittedly, I was offended because she implied I was possibly having mental issues. “Overlook,” I said to myself. “Be smoke, and overlook.” Knowing that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), I decided to be smoke and let the offense pass through.
Compare my initial reaction of being offended to how Jesus acted at the Last Supper. Mentally and emotionally, Jesus is preparing to go to the cross to take on and pay for the sins of the world. He had been with these fishermen jokers for three years. Just what were these inner-circle guys talking about at the Last Supper? Luke 22:24 says, “…a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.” I can’t even imagine how offended I would be if I were Jesus. I mean, He’s been pouring into these guys for three years, and now He is getting ready for His most definitive hour. And this is what the disciples are talking about?
Jesus wasn’t offended and didn’t melt down over the disciples’ pride, arrogance, and ignorance. Why? Because these are the ones He came to serve, and humility requires that we overlook and forgive.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” And Proverbs 12:16 says, “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”
Again, this is all about your thinking. The antidote to being offended and angry is being meek and humble. Jesus only describes himself once in the New Testament and it is in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
The key to overcoming being offended is to learn how to be humble.
Are you ready for the next scene at the Last Supper? Instead of getting offended or angry, Jesus girds himself with a towel and serves his disciples by washing their feet. In the midst of their pride and immaturity, He serves them. I can hardly take it. The contrast between Jesus and my natural man is too much.
I’ve often said that one of my most favorite verses is Proverbs 22:4, “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” What a promise. We must do everything we can to study and acquire humility.
Thinking further about my conversation this morning, I realized that this young girl is one of the people I’m called to serve and to love. Swallowing a big dose of humility is exactly the medicine I need.
My young friend’s insult was the dart. But as it approached me, it was imperative that I became smoke (Lesson 7 in Happy School) and let the dart, the offense, pass through me instead of landing.
There are endless ways that we can feel offended. However, just know it is a high mark of emotional maturity to not get offended.
The skill of overlooking can be acquired and improved, similar to how the skills of bowling or archery can be improved. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. But also like bowling or archery, some of us were born with more natural talent or grew up in a family watching others bowl or shoot arrows. No matter what you learned in your youth, you can always renew your mind and form new neural pathways.
Day 3, Part A
How to Think About Your Anger and Resentment
In Day 2, we discussed being offended and how to be smoke. Today we will tackle anger and resentment. All three of these issues come from the same root source, as we will see.
Everyone experiences some degree of anger. The range of anger is on a continuum, stemming from feeling slight annoyance to feeling deep rage. Just know that anger is a reaction to blocked goals and desires. Said another way, anger is not getting what you want or vice versa, getting what you didn’t want.
I’ve never met a person who repeatedly struggled with anger who was not also full of pride. Proud people are upset that life is not treating them with high enough attention. Life is not going the way they think it should. The antidote to pride (which is the source of anger) is again, humility.
I like the example of Haman in the book of Esther when Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman. “When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged” (Ester 3:5). Pride is always behind this kind of anger.
But there’s an opposite example to the one of Haman, and it’s the woman in Matthew 15 who came to Jesus because her daughter was mentally tormented. On a casual reading, it looks like Jesus is not kind to her, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” This desperate and humble woman knelt before Him and pleaded again, “Lord, help me!” Then, again, what Jesus said sounded very unkind, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” But upon careful study of this passage, we realize Jesus knew what He was doing. He was giving the world an example of great humility and faith, and their power.
“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” the woman uttered. She exhibited unbelievable humility and such outstanding, mind-blowing faith. She knew He had the power to give her what she wanted. Her humility and faith passed the test and moved the hand of God.
“Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted,” Jesus said to her. The Scripture says her daughter was healed at that moment.
I think Jesus not only wanted to give the world an example of great humility and great faith, but also a secret in getting Him to act.
The verses on humility and pride in the Bible roar like loud sirens. When you bathe your mind with these verses, you begin to see how colossally important these concepts are to God.
For example, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (Prov. 29:23).
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
You see, anger is a spiritual problem. Yes, we are to have righteous anger, but so little of our anger is righteous (for example, Jesus’ interactions with the moneychangers at the temple). Instead, our anger is often because our demanding spirit is not quickly attended to.
In your journal, write down what causes you to be angry and of course, try to legitimately fix the situation. Maybe you can ask a couple members of your Cabinet for their opinion. Just know that God always opposes the proud but lifts up the humble. It’s a great sentence to frequently stand on when you don’t know what to do.
Let’s move on to the highly damaging situation of having resentment. I’ve discussed before how our bodies are not built to carry resentment, and how many doctors and health specialists say that resentment can cause disease.
Another interesting note is that 12-step programs all include the non-negotiable principle of extending forgiveness in their programs. Resentment is an underlying current that pushes people toward addictive behavior.
1 Peter 3 has an answer for all three of the Rooms we’ve discussed so far this week, being offended, angry, and resentful, and it is this: developing the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. These words are very similar to the words Jesus used when He described Himself in Matthew 11. There are immense forces of darkness and hatred in our own hearts, and we must confront the evil, hardness, and ugliness inside and exchange them for a gentle and quiet spirit.
Humility is the single most important quality needed to respond correctly to being offended, angry, or resentful. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, though perfect and sinless, was asked to be the sin offering for the sins of the world. But He utters the words that we too must learn to utter, “Not my will but Thine.” That’s meek. That’s humble.
God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. Again, this is key to know, as pursuing humility gets you God’s favor and being proud keeps God resisting you.
Just so you know, one of the easiest ways to measure your emotional health is to take stock of how often you are offended, your anger level, and your resentment toward anyone (we will discuss worry and fear shortly, as these are other culprits). In addition, those who regularly experience high levels of these emotions are often unhappy. The answer to true emotional health is to think biblically, and thus, humbly.
A few years ago I had some severe resentment toward someone and God used two portions of Scripture to free me. One was a verse in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12. I’ve wrestled with the Lord’s Prayer for quite a time, and I really can’t find any way around what it says at the end in verse 12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That passage includes a conditional phrase. It’s as if it says do this to us as we have done so to others. I’m sure we could spend hours and days reading commentaries, trying to unravel the exact meaning. But no matter what, there is some correlation between us forgiving others and God forgiving us. We don’t have a choice as Christians; we must forgive.
Equally as powerful in my journey to give up bitterness was to study the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18: 21-25. The gist of that parable is that we, the self-centered creatures who have strongly rebelled against the Creator—but have been forgiven—now don’t want to forgive someone else of a much lesser crime. The Bible is clear in teaching that we don’t get to choose whether or not we continue to hold on to our bitterness. I Corinthians 13:5 says love keeps no record of wrongs. I don’t know about you, but I used to repeatedly play movies in my mind of how certain others mistreated me. No longer. God insists that I forgive.
The world is not designed so I am the Queen. It’s designed so that I work for the King. I continually get this confused in my mind and therefore, often feel angry and resentful about the hard tasks and people that I must face in this fallen world. Instead, I am to understand that like Paul, I am the Lord’s servant. It’s also motivating to know that there are rich rewards for humility. Proverbs 22:4 says, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” (Now that’s a promise to hold on to.)
We must remember God’s economy is different from ours. He who fashioned the ear and formed the eye (Ps. 94: 9) as well as He who gathers the seas into jars (Ps. 33:7) gets to make the rules. And they are for our good and happiness. Being offended, angry, and resentful is the furthest thing on earth from having a happy heart.
In Colossians 3, Paul says to put on humility, much like you would put on a coat. That reminds me of being cold, and then needing a coat. So when you’re offended, angry, or resentful, remember to put on humility. You can do this because now you know how to inject some thoughts and delete others (by Moving into Another Room).
Years ago I knew a couple who had to deal with resentment toward their babysitter who left their 2-year-old in a bathtub alone. The child drowned. Another mother had to forgive her teenage child’s friend, who was driving without paying attention, had a wreck, and her son died. These are extreme examples of how hard it would be to forgive others. I hope you can forgive the hard things that have happened to you in your life. God says His grace is sufficient. The Lord of the universe is asking you to forgive.
Day 3, Part B
Responding to Someone with High Negativity
My grandmother told me about her friend who had to take care of an aging aunt during the aunt’s last years. This aunt, who everyone called Aunt Luticia, had no children, and was arguably the most negative and pessimistic person you’ve ever met. Aunt Luticia complained about everything, and thought her opinion was always correct. It drove my grandmother’s friend crazy.
I remember being in my grandmother’s friend’s house once when Aunt Luticia was given a new wheelchair. She had complained for months about her old one and had requested that she get a new one. On this day, my grandmother’s friend gave her a new, high-end, fancy model. “This isn’t the one I was hoping for,” Aunt Luticia had said. “I don’t like the way the wheels lock.”
My grandmother’s friend felt frustrated and then began reprimanding Aunt Luticia for her ungratefulness. However on this day, Aunt Luticia’s part-time caregiver, Nelly, was present, and Nelly just started laughing. “Ms. Luticia, this wheelchair is just fine. You’re going to do great with this wheelchair. Why, I really like it.” I remember being struck by the difference in how my grandmother’s friend and the caregiver reacted to Aunt Luticia’s unpleasantness.
When I mentioned this to my grandmother, she said that Nelly could go home and forget about it, but her friend was continuously burdened and bombarded with Aunt Luticia’s negativity, so it was different for her.
Is that right? Or can you learn to have a different interpretation (and thus reaction) to unpleasant people’s comments?
Here are 7 verses in which the Bible says how we are to respond to difficult and unpleasant people. I promise, this is against your natural inclination. Comb through these verses with your difficult person in mind:
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Luke 6:29)
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Tim 2:24)
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2)
“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3: 12-13)
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (Prov. 16:32)
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Pr. 19:11)
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
It’s pretty obvious that the Scripture is assuming that others will be difficult. And in the midst of their unpleasantness, we are to return a blessing for an insult. What a foreign concept! But it’s certainly not foreign to the mind of God. When we’re confronted with difficult people, this is the prescription God has written, vastly different from our natural inclinations to be offended, angry, or resentful.
I didn’t understand this then, but actually, my grandmother’s friend could have learned to overlook Aunt Luticia’s negativity. I’m not saying it would be easy, and there would definitely be a learning curve. But again, it’s the interpretation that you give to the situation. She could have learned to choose meekness, patience, forbearance, and humility.
Personally, I think forgiving difficult people is one of the hardest things we’re called to do as Christians. Recently I read that if Christians would just love, serve, and forgive, the world would be turned upside down. That’s what the early Christians did.
In a devotional I read years ago, there was a story about two soldiers in the barracks. One had been drinking excessively and he threw his boots at a fellow soldier, a Christian, hitting him in the head. The next morning when the drunk soldier awakened, his boots were at the bottom of his bunk, all shined.
The hung-over soldier approached the Christian. “What is it about you that makes you act like this?” The Christian soldier shared Christ and the other man became a Christian.
Don’t just be nice—be godly. Be rare. Be like the Proverbs 31 woman, “She is worth far more than rubies.” God knows you’re going to encounter difficult people and He has given you instructions on how to respond.
Help for Your Anxiety and Worry
Recently I met a woman in town who told me about the stress she feels the entire month of December, as her part-time job is catering. “It’s anything but the most wonderful time of the year,” she joked on the square. As far as feeling stressed, there is much (!) you can do to reduce your stress. Some ideas include learn to say no, plan ahead, learn to say no, prep ahead, learn to say no, start earlier, learn to say no, and dial down the high-paced, self-induced, pack-it-all-in lifestyle. Some of you might thrive on this pressed-down-overflowing lifestyle, and of course that’s fine if you enjoy it. But we each need to take some time out of our life to think hard about what’s important and be sure that’s what we’re doing. (In an earlier lesson, I recommended taking an afternoon retreat to get clear on goals, calling, priorities, and responsibilities, thus helping you know which activities to add or which to delete.) Much of our stress is self-induced, as we struggle to maintain a complicated lifestyle versus a simple one.
Today’s lesson is not about this kind of stress that is self-induced by an overload in your schedule. It’s about worry (which admittedly, is a cousin to stress). So to begin, let’s clearly differentiate between the terms stress and worry. When people say they are stressed, they are usually referring to having too much to do in a certain time frame, or possibly referring to having to deal with someone or something unpleasant.
Feeling worried, on the other hand, is a precursor to fear, and is being highly concerned that something important might not go well. (Worry is always related to something important. I’m not worried about my golf game, but a pro golfer certainly is.)
We are not talking about people having concerns. Everyone has concerns. Mothers are concerned about their children; business people are concerned about their businesses; politicians are concerned about their policies and constituents (I know, I’m an optimist here). There is no end to what different people are concerned about. And concern is healthy. But at some undefined point, we cross the line from being legitimately concerned and move into the worry camp.
How does one know when she’s crossed the line from concern into worry? Here’s how: you will hear the Parade that Marches across Your Brain repeatedly use words like upset, disturbed, miserable, troubled, etc. That self-talk, along with feelings of anxiety, means you’re in the worry zone.
We have discussed the three times you can think about your WMDs—What’s Missing and Disappointing—on multiple occasions. Indeed, one good strategy for reducing anxiety is to seriously research your problem and talk to experts who are familiar with solutions. Write up a list of ideas and solutions to pursue.
But after you’ve done everything you can to learn about and solve your problem, you might realize you’re still stuck with the initial stubborn dilemma. What do you do then?
Let’s look at how one Bible hero, David, handled his intense worry and anxiety in Psalm 31.
David begins the psalm by using phrases like he’s in distress, his life is consumed with anguish, with groaning. Additionally, he talks about how his enemies are conspiring against him and plot to take his life.
David’s situation would certainly cause me anxiety. Let’s listen in to how David talks to the Lord about his worries.
In verses 14-15, David says, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies…”
Do you see what David was doing? He took his anxious thoughts and began to reframe, refute, and replace them with Biblical truth. Another example is verse 22b, “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called you for help.” Knowing that God hears your cry for mercy will soothe your inner angst.
This is one reason why a journal is so important. God will give you specific scripture to remind you that He is listening, He cares, and He is able to solve your difficult circumstance. I have pages and pages in journals in which I have listed worries and troubles on the left side of a page. Then, with a line drawn down the middle of the page, I have listed scriptures on the opposite right side that I believe are from God. These verses of David remind me that I have a God who delights in answering the prayers of His children, just like you and I delight in helping our children. What a soothing truth this is to me, that the hairs on my head are numbered.
So now you’ve researched answers, made appointments to talk to experts, listed massive action(s) to take, and then you’ve refuted and replaced your worries with what God says in His Word. Now you can be comfortable quarantining your previous worries by thinking another thought (Changing Rooms) until it’s again time to problem-solve. This does not make you some ostrich with your head in the sand. Why, you just proactively and head-on attempted to problem-solve what’s worrying you! However, you have stopped the insane treadmill of worry that beats you up. If you are a person who worries a lot, this practice of quarantining will quantumly heal your mind.
One of the most fearful and worrisome times of my life was a few years ago when I had a situation that I didn’t know how I was going to solve or endure. My husband and I researched answers as well as consulted with experts. During this season of trial, God would wake me up at 4:30 in the morning and I would pour through Scripture (especially the Psalms and the gospels) and record every scripture I thought was from the Lord, praying it back to Him. I would say to Him, “Lord, you say this in Your Word! You are a Promise Maker and a Promise Keeper! You excel at deliverance!” Imagine a scene from a movie with the beast of my unwanted situation tightly gripping me with his boney fingers. Then continue to watch the movie as God miraculously rips one finger off and then another, until my situation was resolved. Miracles, I tell you! Glorious miracles and answers to prayer! I learned so much during this hard time. I learned that “Blessed is the man who listens to Me, watching daily at my doorway” (Prov. 8:32). I discovered the truth that “the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9). I experienced the verse “…the LORD, who daily bears our burdens” (Ps. 68:19).
If you are currently walking through deep anxiety and the valley of the shadow of death, I remind you that God wants us to come to Him, repent, seek Him, worship Him, and trust Him by standing on His promises. David says in Ps. 69:16, “Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of Your love; in your great mercy turn to me.”
Of course God wants you to research answers and to talk to wise people about your situation. He recommends that in Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” But He also delights in getting you right up to the Red Sea—with the Egyptians in hot pursuit—and then commanding the sea to part.
Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
Christian, you have Someone who hears, who cares, and who is able. Seek Him. Find him. Then you can rest. “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). You and I are daughters of the King, and this is how royal daughters get treated.
He is the Prince of Peace, and His peace is for you.
The Real Answer to Fear
My most intense fearful moments are related to fears over my children. I remember having a three-year-old who was so dehydrated from the flu that he seemed almost lifeless (thank God for emergency rooms and IV’s). I also remember another son who fell on the ice and hit his head. He too was almost non-responsive on the way to the emergency room. Another time a child swallowed something, and I was afraid he might die. When the Emergency Room techs told me he would be alright, I remember sobbing because I was so relieved. Having had six kids, I could continue to list situations in which I was overcome by fear.
Some people have fear related to finances or health. Each of us has a main area that evokes fear. But the answers to fear—whatever the source—are the same. Therefore let’s comb through Psalm 91 to get some help in handling our fear.
Verse 1 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Rest, as you know, is the opposite of fear.
The Psalmist continues making these declarations in the following verses. In verse 11, he says, “…He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” The promises continue in verses 14-15, “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.’”
Ultimately, our fears are addressed and soothed because we trust in the Lord. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Humans experience many fears, but death is the greatest. However, God left us a historical miracle to assure us that we need not fear death. He orchestrated the historical resurrection in which Jesus demonstrated that He conquered death.
I study apologetics because I love knowing the answers to the objections of skeptics. But I also want answers to the objections and doubts of my own heart. When studied, one finds that the scientific, historical, and philosophical evidence for God is extremely overwhelming. Jesus actually rose from the dead and nothing calms my fears like knowing this.
I love all aspects of apologetics, but one of my favorite parts is studying the sudden transformation of the disciples after the resurrection. These disciples were cowards and hid behind locked doors after the crucifixion. But after the disciples saw the resurrected Christ, these unschooled and fearful fishermen suddenly transformed into bold evangelists (no less in front of kings)! Not only that, they endured beatings and torture while they held to their eyewitness testimony that they had seen the risen Christ. Skeptics, as well as scholars, have searched for other explanations to explain the sudden transformation of these men who days earlier were arguing over which of them is the greatest (at the Last Supper) to suddenly being willing to be beaten and tortured while they proclaimed over and over that Jesus died for our sins and rose again.
What explains that transformation? Nothing—absolutely nothing— except the fact that they saw the risen Lord. One young atheist woman told me the disciples had a plot to gain political power. Such hogwash! Beatings, prison, torture, and death were the rewards the disciples got for proclaiming the resurrection, not political perks. In addition, liars make terrible martyrs and all of the disciples (except John) were martyred.
Every other possible theory to explain the resurrection has been proposed, dissected, disputed, and refuted: the Swoon theory, the group hallucination theory, the later legend theory. Nothing can explain the disciples’ transformation except that they saw what they claim to have seen.
Christian friend, it’s true. God came to earth in the form of a man, died as a sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world (foreshadowed by Passover in Exodus), and rose again. Jesus conquered death. Therefore, now you and I can rest.
Bathe your mind with this verse penned by the Apostle Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55)
You have a God who hears your cry, Who cares, and Who can walk on water. He is the God who “turned the hard rock into springs of water” (Ps. 114:8). He proved He was God when He rose from the dead. You can rest from your fear, as your Father is strong and kind, and has heard your cry for mercy. “Praise be to the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy” (Ps. 28:6).
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” (Eph. 3:20). Amen.
It was difficult for me to read about dysfunctional families in the lesson this week. But as You know, You allowed me to have a difficult family-of-origin. Lord, teach me how to honor my parents. Teach me how to go to the second mile, but also when I’ve done enough, to stop before the third. Very few things upset me as much as my family-of-origin, Lord. Help me return a blessing for an insult.
And Lord, you know how easily I get offended, especially by you-know-who. Help me learn to be smoke and overlook their darts of offenses.
You also know how angry I am about that particular situation and how resentful I am of you-know-who. The truth is, You have the grace available to me to be humble and forgive, if I will just do it. Your Word says if I humble myself before You, then You will lift me up. So I don’t have a choice. My anger and resentment are spiritual problems. I want Your favor and I know being proud keeps You resisting me. I choose to forgive. I choose to empty their boxes.
And Lord, You know that person in my life who has such high negativity. Please help me remember that You’ve said if someone slapped me on the cheek, I’m to turn to them the other one. I said I was not going to take it from them, but Lord, Your Word says You want me to be humble, patient, and to bear with one another. Why, I’m to repay an insult with a blessing! This is impossible in my natural man. I ask for Your intervention.
I admit I’ve been plagued with worry and anxiety, Lord. I’ve gone beyond being concerned and have crossed the undefined point where I know I’m in the worry camp. Lord, help me through the steps of researching answers, talking to experts who can help, and then show me in your Word verses I can claim and that I can stand on.
One more thing. I want to say to You, I believe. You rose from the dead and conquered death and I believe. You have left so much evidence that it would be difficult not to have faith. I can rest because You are alive.
In Your precious name, Jesus,
Questions for Group Discussion
- What was your reaction to Day 1’s lesson on families-of-origin? What would the second mile look like in your life?
- What situations offend you? Do you understand the concept of being smoke and letting the offense pass through? Discuss this in regards to your particular situations.
- What thoughts or situations repeatedly cause you to feel anger? List everyone you can that you might possibly resent. Share with the group your struggle to forgive the people who’ve hurt you or hurt someone you love.
- Do you struggle with anxiety and worry? Do you research answers and talk to experts? Do you bring your requests before God, letting Him give you His perspective on your problems? After all of these steps, have you had success in quarantining your worry?
- How is your faith? Can you articulate why you believe? Does the historical evidence for the resurrection calm you? Would you say you are a person who trusts the Lord?
Next week is a favorite lesson, the one on relationships. Relationships are huge to our mental health so we need to learn everything we can about them.
To your happy heart,