In marriage, it is easy to focus on what another person is or is not putting into the “marriage box”. Instead of focusing on the other person, first ask yourself, “What am I unconditionally putting into the marriage box?”
By Preston Ni
Obstruction, silent treatment and underhandedness. Is your colleague just evil or is there something more?
- You ask a colleague for documents needed to take the project to the next level. No response.
- You then ask your colleague a question at the copy machine. She pretends not to hear you.
- During a meeting, your colleague jokes sarcastically about sensitive matters in front of others to embarrass you.
Chances are you may be dealing with passive-aggressive behaviour, where a person tries to act appropriately on the surface, but has a negative and obstructive attitude behind that façade, explained Preston Ni, a communications professor and the author of How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People. He points to a Chinese proverb to sum it up nicely: “Behind the smile there’s a hidden knife.”
For more, go to Is Your Colleague Pure Evil?
By Michael Herrington
Last week, in preparation to preach from Philippians, I began tracking how often I grumble. How often do I complain either out loud, under my breath, or in my mind? I’m ashamed to say it was far more than I would have suspected.
Paul says we should do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14). He then goes on to describe four characteristics of what we will become when we do so: blameless, innocent, children of God, and above reproach. He’s not talking about salvation with these terms; that was accomplished by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. He’s instead talking about how others will perceive us. He’s talking about an outward revelation of an inward reality.
I’m a little surprised by Paul’s description of this outward revelation. Why not focus on bigger issues? Wouldn’t our salvation be better evidenced by things refraining from lying or stealing or murdering our neighbor? Actually, no. Societal pressures can limit all of these things, even in non-believers. But what comes out of my mouth when things don’t go my way indicates whose kingdom I serve.
In the context of that chapter, Paul has been talking about Jesus’s self-sacrifice and willingness to put others first. Paul encourages us to model this example with a humble mindset and unselfish behavior. But selflessness can be a rather abstract idea, and our loophole mentality can cause us to weasel out of considering the importance of others. So Paul offers us a practical, though nearly impossible, task: Don’t grumble. About anything.
Why We Must Stop Grumbling
Don’t grumble about anything? Even traffic? Even the long line at the DMV? Even the weather? Even politicians? Even that annoying church member? Yes, even those things. By not grumbling we shine light in the world for a crooked and perverse generation.
Is Paul really saying that if I quit grumbling about things, I will appear as a light in a dark world? I admit I was a bit skeptical. But I really do think that’s what he meant, since for me to stop grumbling several things have to happen.
First, I need to humble myself to realize that my small grumblings really are sinful and offensive to God. This kind of humility chips away at my pride.
Second, I need to get to the bottom of the issue. I need to ask God to graciously show me where and why I grumble. During my weeklong experiment, in every instance I grumbled because things weren’t going my way. Grumbling usually blames someone or something else: an inefficient worker, an unjust system, an inconvenient incident. But the thought occurred to me this week: Why do I deserve this line to go faster or that person to act a certain way or my day to have a certain type of weather? I don’t.
Awareness of my grumbling showed me where I desire my kingdom, rather than God’s kingdom, to flourish. That is always the issue. When I grumble in response to circumstances, I am stating that the values of my kingdom matter more than the values of God’s kingdom. I am stating that people should work better for my sake, that systems should function in certain ways for my benefit, and that the weather should conform to my particular desires. I am the focus of my life.
Grumbling Hinders Humility
Third, I need to recognize that tendency to focus on myself and, instead, look to Jesus. He is the perfect example of what to do when kingdoms conflict. He was God’s kingdom on earth—and the kingdom of the world constantly clashed with him. Yet he didn’t “consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself . . . he humbled himself becoming obedient.”
Paul knew that to conquer the grumbles, you have to submit to God’s kingdom, to die to self. And when you submit to God’s kingdom, this attitude will pervade not only your words but also your actions. Conquering the grumbles may seem like a small part of building God’s kingdom, but because of what it requires, it’s a foundational building block. When in humility we seek to stop grumbling, we necessarily start building God’s kingdom instead of our own. Then his light shines through us in a dark world, allowing others to see God more clearly.
At a local fast-food restaurant I visit there is an employee who always smiles as he cleans the tables and picks the trash off the floor. Instead of complaining or rolling his eyes at the mess that some people make, he sings about Jesus, quietly, almost inaudibly. He is a light, often receiving smiles in return from customers as he passes on to another mess. By refusing to grumble he is showing what it means to live in God’s kingdom. May his tribe increase and our grumbles decrease.
How do I know if I or someone I love has depression or is simply wrestling with the normal ups and downs of life?
This short quiz may help.
Looking at the past two weeks, rate your experience of each statement with the following scale:
(0) Never; (1) Rarely; (2) Sometimes; (3) Often; (4) Always
_____ Feel restless, uneasy, irritable, or easily agitated
_____ React slowly to things.
_____ Real unhappy or “down in the dumps”
_____ Very few things, if any at all, give me joy; important things are not that important any more
_____ Too little, too much, or interrupted sleep
_____ The future seems bleak or hopeless
_____ It is harder to make decisions now
_____ Feel guilty, ashamed, worthless, or like a failure
_____ Little or no energy; exhausted
_____ Hard to concentrate
_____ Weight loss or gain (without dieting)
_____ Think it just might be easier to not wake up tomorrow
If there are several higher scoring items or if adding up your individual answers totals 12 or more, you may be affected by depression. Counseling may be helpful. Talk with your primary physician or contact CornerStone Family Services (614-459-3003) for more information and to set up an appointment.
By Cameron Cole
I sat next to a 25-year-old man at the Mockingbird Conference in New York in 2010 as he wailed. He had maneuvered himself into a private corner of the majestic nave of historic Parish of Calvary St. George in Grammery Park. As I stood by listening to his sobs and hoping to comfort him with a quiet presence, a common refrain rang amid his heaves of pain. “I didn’t know life was going to be this hard. I had no idea it would be so painful.”
The young man had left the cultural cocoon of suburbia, church, private school, Christian college, and campus ministry only to find a buzzsaw in the real world. He had naive expectations of happiness, prosperity, and connection as he emerged into adulthood. Instead his hopes had been dragged down a gravel road behind a chariot of loneliness, failure, and disillusionment.
From our brief conversation, I got the impression that he thought obediently following Jesus and complying with Christian morality would insulate him from pain. He had always believed that God had a wonderful plan for his life, but now he just wondered where in the world God could be found.
Parents and youth ministry leaders face a quandary in setting realistic expectations of the Christian life for young people. How do we maintain optimism befitting Christ’s victory over sin and death, while demonstrating pessimism consistent with the brokenness of the fallen world?
Jesus exhibited remarkable balance with his disciples, as particularly seen in the Gospel of John. Christ promised abundant life to those who followed the good shepherd. He said that anyone who looks on the Son and believes in him would have eternal life and be raised up on the last day. Christ consistently offers hope, peace, joy, and meaning.
In John, Jesus does not simply offer eternal life after death. The Greek portion of John’s audience valued the immediate implications of religion and had less concern about the afterlife than his Jewish audience did. John appealed to his Greek audience by prioritizing the benefits of eternal life in our present world more than the other three Gospels do. Jesus wanted them to see that there is no greater joy in the present age than to trust, follow, and serve him.
At the same time, Jesus pulled no punches with the disciples. In John 16, he told his friends, “In this life, you will find trial and tribulation.” There is no subjective speculation that you “may” or “could possibly” suffer. He states assertively that pain awaits them. Jesus also cautions the disciples that the world will reject them. In John 15:18, he effectively says, “The world hated me, and it’s going to hate you, too.” Christ guarantees persecution and resistance for his followers. Jesus perfectly obeys God, yet his life climaxes in betrayal, false accusation, torture, mockery, and execution.
The most satisfying, abundant life possible flows out of an intimate, dependent relationship with Jesus. I tell youth to repent from sin because of the joy they forfeit by worshipping idols and violating God’s law. I exhort students to passionately pursue Jesus with their heart and soul. I speak frankly about the hopelessness and emptiness of life in the flesh apart from God.
But I also know the temptation to sell a false kind of Christianity. At times, parents and youth pastors alike so desperately want to see kids converted that they paint a picture of the Christian life that departs from reality. We talk about Christ’s promises of abundant life without nuancing what that actually means, or, more importantly, what it does not mean. Most middle schoolers think that abundant life means they are going to get a boyfriend, or that they are destined to make the basketball team. Kids need to know that Christ makes no promises of comfortable, pleasant circumstances for anyone. His promises apply primarily to the condition of our soul.
We can go on retreats and mission trips where students experience a “Christian high” or “camp high” without warning them about the letdown. Don’t get me wrong, these transcendent experiences can have great value. However, young Christians, especially those who profess faith on youth trips, often think the euphoria of the mountain top represents the normal Christian life. They need to know that all Christians have seasons of joy and of dryness in their walk with Christ.
When we oversell the Christian life, we run a major risk of planting seeds of future disillusionment and doubt. Too often, young adults with unrealistic expectations set during childhood in the church walk away from the faith when their lonely, painful lives do not match the picture painted for them in their younger years. Unmet expectations yield resentment and disappointment.
However, we win trust and credibility with young people when we speak frankly about how difficult life will be, while also promising that the Lord will be there. We can do no better than to point students to Jesus’s very words, both about abundant life and unavoidable affliction. This honesty engenders trust in our relationships with students and deeper trust in their relationship with Christ. It tells them that Jesus cares enough about them to die on their behalf. He also cares enough to tell them the truth.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped over an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress.
[EMDR has been] designated as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and more.
What is the Actual EMDR Session Like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about the event. The therapist facilitated the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for example, “I did the best I could.” During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.
What Kind of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, clinicians have reported success using EMDR in the treatment of the following conditions:
Complicated Grief, Dissociative Disorders, Disturbing Memories, Panic Attacks, Phobias, Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Addictions, Body Dysmorphic Disorders, Eating Disorders, Pain Disorders, Performance Anxiety, and Stress Reduction.
The above information and more can be located at the EMDR International Association (www.emdria.org).
By John Myer
Our personal world is far from an island paradise. It’s more like a crowded street corner, full of ambient noise—the dull murmur of hundreds of people talking at once, frequent shouts, random horns blowing, and billboards talking to us through endless ad copy.
On top of it all, you don’t want spiritual hunger to set in and continue, unabated. Neglect spiritual interactions with God, and there are going to be casualties. Like susceptibility to a stale faith. Or a marriage that seems to get sand in its gears. And don’t forget parenting and purpose and life itself—all of those become an Alcatraz of sorts.
We escape on vacations. The longer and more frequent the better. Yet the return is terrible because while visiting the land of postcards we fall in love with mountains and surf. That taste of heaven seems to hurt more than if we had never gotten it at all, because on some colorless Monday morning, we’re back to the reality of an office cubicle.
You can’t escape the crowd. It’s your life. But you don’t have to let it mangle you. The thing Christians recommend the most (to each other and to those outside the faith) is a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
It’s also the thing we trust the least.
How do I know this? Because of how we act when life starts to squeeze. A demanding schedule is like an overloaded ship that rides too low in the water. In order to keep it from sinking, we scan the deck for the least important things to chuck overboard.
Read the rest of the story at http://bareknuckle.org/2015/06/03/fighting-against-the-crowded-life/
By Gavin Ortlund
In my current ministry role, guys often confess to me that they’re struggling with pornography whether that’s looking at naked women in magazines, watching x-rated movies online at websites like watchmygirlfriend, or some other kind of sexual sin. To help them, as well as in my own fight for purity, I’ve developed an acronym that encapsulates some often-neglected strategies for fighting the good fight in this area. I call it “fighting by F.A.I.T.H” (okay, kinda corny, but easy to remember).
Last year Dane Hays wrote a helpful article reminding us of the importance of accountability. These strategies complement that important theme. In other words, if someone says, “I have Covenant Eyes on all my devices, and I meet with a group, but I’m still struggling!”—what else can we do? (Note: these strategies are primarily directed toward males, simply because I only counsel guys in this area.)
In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis lamented how impoverished our idea of friendship has become. While in the ancient world friendship was considered the happiest and most human of all loves, today it’s rare to even find real friendships. As a result, we tend to look to romantic love for what God designed to be a part of friendship love. We use sex to fill a more general relational void.
In my experience, guys rarely connect the dots between temptation and plain old loneliness. And yet so many feel disconnected—isolated—like no one knows what’s really going on inside them. Amid our busy schedules and social media activity, we’re aching for the deeper connections God designed us to experience—for vulnerability, trust, acceptance, assurance. Temptation has such power because it appeals to this deep-seated loneliness.
In our cultural setting, the fight for sexual purity is one piece of a countercultural approach to allrelationships. We need the kinds of friendships described in verses like Proverbs 17:17. When we’re living in deep and authentic community, the appeal of temptation is less comprehensive and thus less powerful.
Another issue is the lack of adventure in many guys’ lives. So many seem to have nothing grand to aim for. They’re drifting, cynical, bored—lacking in idealism and initiative, without a sense of purpose and direction, untethered from anything transcendent and glorious. And when our lives lack adventure, temptation promises what we’re not getting elsewhere: excitement, adrenaline, a sense of life. It reminds me of King David’s choice to stay back from battle in 2 Samuel 11:1—where the real battle with lust for Bathsheba was ultimately lost. So many guys succumb to temptation because, like David, they stay back from their own God-ordained battles. They’re overwhelmed by temptation because they’ve never been overwhelmed by the glory of God and the wonderful thrill of walking in the good works he’s prepared for us.
I’m reading The Hobbit to my son in the evenings. Its great theme is adventure. Adventure is a holy thing, a delightful thing. Our hearts will seek adventure one way or another, so temptation can seem overwhelming when we’re safely burrowed up in our cozy hobbit hole. But the same temptation will often grow small and languid in the midst of a journey toward Smaug. And we all have our own hobbit holes to abandon, and our own Smaugs to slay.
In one of my counseling classes during seminary we devoted an evening to analyzing different kinds of marital affairs. My professor, Dan Zink, suggested affairs rarely happen because of the strength of one’s sex drive. Instead, they usually have to do with emotional factors, like the desire for relational intimacy and affirmation. I’ve carried this insight with me and applied it to sexual sin more generally, and I believe it’s crucial to consider in fighting temptation. When counseling guys fighting porn, for instance, I encourage them to look underneath to the emotions making the temptation particularly strong, and then to engage those emotions with the gospel and in other healthy ways. Are you tempted because you’re bored? Pursue a hobby. Are you tempted because you’re exhausted? Take Sabbath rest. Are you tempted because you’re depressed? Talk with a counselor. Are you tempted because of rejection? Engage your heart with the gospel.
A lot of guys seem to fight temptation at the biological level but never at the emotional level. But because our sexual lives are related to our entire person, that’s like bolting up two-by-fours over our front door while leaving the back door and all the windows wide open. Seeking sexual purity must involve seeking emotional self-awareness as well.
In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller recount Jane Eyre’s inner struggle with temptation. They note how most TV depictions of this classic novel make it sound like Jane resists the temptation by looking inward for self-assurance and self-respect. But in the book, Jane’s inner emotions are a whirlwind of clashing and confused emotions, and she has to look outside of herself to resist the temptation. The Kellers observe:
[Jane] does not look into her heart for strength—there’s nothing there but clamorous conflict. Sheignores what her heart says and looks to what God says. . . . God’s law is for times of temptation. (231, italics original)
In the midst of temptation, it’s often hard to cling to what we know is true. After all, the tempter is also a deceiver, and with temptation comes that ancient question: has God really said? Resisting temptation is therefore not just a matter of willpower but of faith. Part of the fight involves clinging to the objective truths of the gospel—likely those very truths that seem most distant and unreal in the moment of temptation.
In Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the character Mark is imprisoned, and he experiences a kind of intellectual temptation. In the midst of it, he discovers the power of objective ideas:
Day by day, as the process went on, that idea of the Straight or the Normal which had occurred to [Mark] during his first visit to this room, grew stronger and more solid in his mind till it had become a kind of mountain. He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one’s own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him—something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to.
Like Mark, we need to learn to cling to the objective truths of God’s Word in the moment of temptation. Temptation’s power is its fleeting pleasure; truth’s power is its bracing objectivity. Temptation is like cotton candy, empty and unfulfilling; truth is like cold steel, unyielding and enduring. The great allies of temptation are distortion, spin, deception, theological muddleheadedness; the great ally of resisting temptation is truth.
Let me share an example of a gospel truth I speak into temptation, sometimes even out loud: That’s not who I am anymore. In my union with Christ, this assertion is a “hard surface” of glorious truth I can cling to no matter what my emotions may be saying to me.
What truths do you particularly need in order to defeat temptation? Cultivate the habit of clinging to them amid temptation. They will not give way. Cotton candy cannot bend steel.
If you were exposed to pornography at a young age, or sexually mistreated at some point in your life, or have a family history of sexual sin, that part of your past has undoubtedly complicated your battle for sexual purity. Victory over future temptation will probably progress only as you deal with your past brokenness. An important step may be counseling. Above all, though, healing comes from the gospel, and “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). Christ is the great physician. He died for failures, repeat offenders, and the sexually broken. He can bind up all wounds and make you whole again.
A final note: no matter where you are, no matter how hopeless you may feel, don’t give up. In the gospel, Jesus has “perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16) for those who rely on him. That means no amount of falling down can ultimately destroy you as long as you keep getting up and running to Jesus (Prov. 24:16). But we must keep repenting, keep fighting. Don’t give up!
“Happy people do not compare themselves to others.”
-Dr. Henry Cloud
To learn more: Listen to the interview of Dr. Cloud called Finding the Path to True Happiness.
By Shaunti Feldhahn
Since sex is so important to my husband, and since you say it’s really about a man feeling desired by his wife, what can I do to get engaged and interested instead of just “accommodating” him? I know that just “going along with it” would be pretty depressing for him. But to be honest, I don’t feel that same type of desire for him, that he apparently feels for me. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy it when we’re together. I just don’t have this overwhelming need to “go at it” the same way he does. Should I just pray for God to give me that desire? Or what?
— Bemused in the bedroom
Dear Bemused –
At a church women’s retreat I did recently, I overheard a woman talking about this exact topic with a friend. You see, in one session on understanding men I had briefly touched on the sex topic. I knew the married men would be very motivated for their wives to understand their longing in this area! I didn’t have a lot of time for detail, but simply shared the same thing you referenced: that for most men physical intimacy is not primarily a physical need but an emotional one. If a man feels that his wife desires him, he has confidence in the other areas of life; if not, he can often feel a bit depressed.
Well, when the women at this retreat got into discussion groups, they apparently spent a lot more time talking about it among themselves than I did from the stage! And as I listened to them processing it afterward, I overheard one very blunt woman tell her friend, in all sincerity, “I know it is important for my husband, so I guess I just need to pray for God to make me horny.”
I just about spit out my Diet Coke when I heard that.
But …I also heard the heart behind it. What this sweet woman was saying, essentially, was “Well, I don’t feel the same type of desire as my husband does, so I need to pray that God will make me feel that way.” Maybe I should consider getting him a sex toy? Something like a fleshlight, I hear there is some great coupon code at websites similar to briantropiano.com.
So is that the answer? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with praying that, and I would say: go for it! But there’s another way you should probably “go for it” as well.
In many cases – not just sex, but many areas of life — I’ve noticed that when we don’t necessarily feel like doing something, God doesn’t always change our feelings so we can do it. Instead, he asks us to do something even if we don’t feel like it…and then our feelings will follow.
You can probably see what the application is for the bedroom. And it turns out there’s actually some fascinating science here as well.
Essentially, I’ve seen in the research with both men and women that if a spouse with a lower libido will make a habit of purposefully thinking about sex, planning for it, and then actually hopping into bed with a good attitude, not only do they usually enjoy it, but it becomes something they actually want more and more.
Sometimes you’ve got to act a certain way and trust your feelings to follow.
And over the past decade, scientists have discovered some important truths about how this applies to sex in particular.
Here’s a quick primer. As you probably know, testosterone is the main hormone that makes someone want sex. Men have far more testosterone than women, which is the main reason that, on the whole, men are far more likely than women to think about sex and feel that type of “desire” we’ve been talking about. Now, of course, some women have higher libido, and some men have lower libido – and those patterns, too, are tied to their individual amounts of testosterone.
Well, it turns out, being regularly sexually stimulated (at least once a week) actually raises testosterone levels, while forgoing sex for a week or more will cause testosterone levels to drop. So forgoing sex becomes a vicious cycle – you have less sex, so you want less sex. But when you “go for it” and decide to regularly engage with your spouse in that way, your testosterone levels will likely rise and you will begin to want sex more.
In other words: yes, pray for more desire! But realize that when you act as if you already had that desire, the way God has wired our bodies to respond may actually be the answer to that prayer!
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ?ndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.