Archive for November, 2016

Why Give Thanks?

I know I have a lot of things to be thankful for like my health, family, and comfortable lifestyle. But this week it’s been hard to give thanks. My wife has been nearly immobilized by back pain, I’ve had a constant toothache, and our Thanksgiving plans were put on hold. So, I found it hard this week to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is really a special time to give thanks to God who has given us so much. But in the midst of pain and difficulties we can forget to give him thanks.

So, why is it important to remember to give God thanks?

One reason is that all that he causes to happen to us is intended for our good and his purposes. “What possible good could come from my wife’s back pain and my toothache” you may ask? The truth is I don’t know, but I can still trust that he will keep his promise to work all things together for my good and his purposes (Romans 8:28-29).

Another reason we give thanks is that God likes it. In fact, he commands it. “In all things give thanks for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

We also give thanks because of how God will use the situation to transform us to be more like him. His goal is not so much to make us feel good as it’s to make us godly. Sometimes, this means he doesn’t meet our desires. He also disrupts our plans.

In addition, we give thanks for “bad things” that often lead to good things. In my life these are some of the painful circumstances that led to blessings:

  • Getting fired from my first job out of college led to a successful military career
  • Being rejected by a cute coed freed me to later find the girl of my dreams
  • Being rejected by a Christian organization enabled me to work where God wanted me
  • Being broken by an abusive home led me to receive salvation and 45 years of steady spiritual growth

We also give thanks to God because he is good. He loves us all the time, even when we are bad. He deals with us graciously. He makes sure that what happens to us is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Psychologists tell us that giving thanks is good for our health and emotional well-being. Thankful people are often

  • Happier
  • Less stressed
  • Better rested
  • Healthier

Maybe this is why one of my favorite disciplines is to thank God for the blessings in my life. It helps me see the good in my circumstances.

So, may we grow ever more thankful to our good God. Though we may be in pain, or things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, we can still thank him for the good he promises is being done. And when we experience the many blessings that make us feel good, may we remember to give thanks because every good and perfect gift comes from him (James 1:17).




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Grieving Our Losses

We all have losses in our life. Some really affect us and some don’t. But it can be surprising how much our losses can hurt us.

Because losses sometimes hurt badly, I have often ignored how they make me feel and try to get busy and forget them as fast I can. But is this the best way to deal with losses?

What Our Losses Are

The following are common losses we experience:

  • The loss of a girl or boyfriend
  • The loss of a job
  • The loss of a friend
  • The loss of a loving childhood home
  • The death of a parent
  • The loss of youthfulness
  • The loss of a dream

These are just a few examples of the losses we can have. They can make us sad, distressed, sorrowful, and embarrassed. We tend to run from the pain of these losses. However, it’s important that we face them head-on.

Why Face Them?

We face the pain of our losses in order to experience reality. We deceive ourselves when we pretend that our losses don’t hurt, grieve or make us sad when they do. This unexperienced pain can lead to addictions, chasing idols, psychosomatic pain, and a lack of self-awareness.

We are not weak or defective for feeling grief, sadness, and fear when we lose something. God has planned that our lives have periods in which we suffer. There will be “times to weep and times to laugh, times to mourn and times to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, paraphrased).  Stuffing the pain of our losses instead of experiencing them can hinder God’s purposes in allowing losses in our lives. He could, for example, be wanting to develop compassion for others through experiencing the pain.

Facing the pain of losses can throw us upon God’s tender mercies as it did David. “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also” (Psalm 31:9). This dependency increases our faith.

Facing our sorrows enables us to experience God’s comfort. We then grow in our capacity to comfort others as they face the pain of their losses (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When we repress the hurt of our losses, we forfeit the opportunity to receive comfort and growth.

Experiencing the pain of our lost job, relationship, or a dream does not doom us to depression for the rest of our lives. God says to us “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). We can dare to experience the pain knowing that he won’t give us more than we can endure and will deliver us when he has accomplished his work.

Another reason to face our grief is to obey God. He wants us to be real with him. He wants us to pour out our hearts to him and honestly tell him how bad it hurts. “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6). We become wiser as we face the pain of our losses.

So, let us not be so quick to brush over our losses. When we suffer the loss of our looks, or miss a promotion, or a friend moves away, may we slow down and allow ourselves to experience the pain. May we cooperate with God in grieving our losses.

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I never paid much attention to whether or not I was emotionally mature. So what if I was afraid, or discontent, or had difficulty accepting my limits? As long as I was godly and accomplishing things for him I was successful.

Little did I realize that I couldn’t become godly if I were stuck in impulsiveness, anger, and competitiveness. Or did I realize that my emotional maturity reflected my spiritual maturity.

Emotional maturity includes

  • Experiencing our feelings
  • Sharing our feelings responsibly with others
  • Experiencing and processing our anger responsibly
  • Not needing the approval of others to feel good about ourselves

What emotional maturity can do for us is

  • Avoid being overly sensitive to being hurt or offended
  • Accept responsibility and not blame others
  • Know and accept our limits
  • Be open to constructive criticism

Why Emotional Maturity Is Important

Emotional maturity is necessary to love others well, which is the goal of the Christian life (1 Timothy 1:7). People can be gifted speakers, know the Scriptures well, and lead competently elder boards and still fail as Christians because of being unloving spouses or unteachable, insecure, and defensive people.

It is who we are deep within that counts. We can look like an adult on the outside but still be an emotional child below the surface. When we are driven by a fear of failure, passively resist others, run from loneliness, and ignore our feelings we are often exhibiting signs of emotional immaturity. This immaturity affects our capacity to focus on others and to love them well. 

How to Become Emotionally Mature

Emotional maturity involves experiencing and processing our emotions wisely. Since our feelings are driven by our beliefs, relying on the truths about ourselves, God and others is vital to becoming emotionally mature. We can’t believe a pack of lies about life and still be godly.

Living God’s truth will set us free from our emotional immaturity (John 8:32). For example, knowing that what people think of us does not define who we are, frees us from our fears and helps us to love them. Also, knowing that we are always acceptable to God even when we fail, keeps us from beating ourselves up or blaming others when things don’t go well.

May we grow in emotional maturity by becoming aware of things we do and feel that reveal emotional immaturity. For example, we may seem to be extremely self-centered or experience considerable anxiety much of the time. We can then ask God to help us discern what we are depending upon that is driving this behavior or emotions.

In his time, he will show us what beliefs or habits need to be transformed. For example, I have had considerable anxiety about my health stemming from major surgery I had three years ago. So I asked, “God, what am I not believing that makes me feel so scared?” What he eventually revealed was that I did not believe I had a trusted shepherd who was watching out for me physically. This was not true! But this belief was driving my emotions. Now, as I ask God to help me believe the truth, I will be growing more emotionally mature as well as godly.

So, are you emotionally mature? Do your emotions and your behavior reflect a heart that is spiritually mature? May we all continue to seek to grow into emotionally mature and godly adults.

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