How to Stop Worrying in a World Filled with Anxiety

Lisa began her day by announcing, “Good Morning!” in a groggy, insincere voice. She tossed and turned all night over her father’s unexpected diagnosis, not knowing how to stop worrying about what might happen. Her anxiety builds and sweat beads on her upper lip as she mentally reviews her to-do list.

No REM sleep and too many alarm snoozes mean no quiet time. She expects a pumpkin spice latte with an extra shot of espresso to replace her spiritual need. She tries to catch the weather on the local news only to be bombarded with a crisis overseas or a brutal murder.

Quickly, she turns off the television to spare what is left of her children’s innocence as they get ready for school. She grabs a protein bar on the way out the door and dreads the traffic she will encounter on the way to work due to her late start.

Her negative internal dialog begins. “There is so much to get done and no time. I can’t find peace. This world is crazy. Does everyone feel overwhelmed? This is too much! Do I have an anxiety disorder or is it my hormones? Why can’t I figure out how to stop worrying? Is it time to get counseling?”

Everyone has different ways of coping with anxiety in their lives and figuring out how to stop worrying. Lisa is unsure if her anxiety is normal anxiety or if maybe it has crossed over into a general anxiety disorder. She has gone from having a few sleepless nights to many over the course of the last month. She is premenopausal so she has blamed her anxiety and sweating on her hormones. Maybe it is just hormones, but maybe it’s General Anxiety Disorder.

Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The National Institute of Mental Health describes the symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder as:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Other symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Social isolation

Since Lisa exhibits several of the symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder, it would be wise for her to schedule an appointment with her physician. In order to properly diagnose Lisa, the physician will follow these steps:

  • Do a physical exam to look for signs that anxiety might be linked to medications or an underlying medical condition
  • Order blood or urine tests or other tests, if a medical condition is suspected
  • Ask detailed questions about symptoms and medical history
  • Use psychological questionnaires to help determine a diagnosis
  • Use the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association

As a Christian, Lisa has access to more than physicians. What could she do immediately to find some relief from her anxiety? She could pray. She could open her Bible to 1 Peter 5:6-7 and find hope from the Good Counselor.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7

To cast means to throw off. Lisa needs to throw off her anxiety. The anxiety is a tool of her adversary. Peter instructs further in verses 8-10.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:8-10

Lisa could just be struggling and suffering from ordinary complications of life, but if symptoms persist that seem to worsen regardless of prayer and healthy life choices professional treatment is available and should be considered to prevent Lisa from becoming clinically depressed.

How to Stop Worrying: Natural Remedies

There are natural remedies that Lisa can incorporate into her life. First, her physician should rule out any medical causes for anxiety such as her thyroid.

Natural remedies include:

  • Prayer
  • Casting your cares on the Lord
  • Scripture memorization
  • A healthy diet free of caffeine and processed foods
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy such as lavender essential oil
  • Forest bathing-time spent outdoors
  • Time spent with animals
  • Writing
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Deep sleep
  • Chamomile tea
  • Green tea

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Imagine Lisa sipping her chamomile tea before bed as she looks over a Bible verse that she is memorizing. She sets her alarm an hour early so that she can enjoy a healthy breakfast and spend quiet time alone with God.

She skips an unhealthy gossip laden lunch with coworkers and has a healthy salad that she brought from home followed by a nice walk on the greenway surrounding the office complex. As she dodges traffic on the way home, she is listening to a Christian podcast or recites that bible verse. She is taking every thought captive.

These are ways that she can put 1 Peter 5:8 into action.

  • She’s of sober spirit, alert: No caffeine, no alcohol
  • She’s resisting her adversary: No gossip with co-workers
  • She’s standing firm in her faith: Prayer, Bible Study, Memorizing God’s Word

Christian Counseling for Anxiety

Still, there are times when normal anxiety crosses over into something more and there is no shame or disgrace in seeking a clinically trained Christian counselor.

Lisa may find that regardless of all of her attempts at conquering her anxiety naturally, medication and psychotherapy is necessary. Medications are diverse and depend on the anxiety disorder.

Or, Lisa may have another anxiety disorder that can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or specialized counselor such as: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

If you’re struggling with how to stop worrying, feel free to contact our office today to schedule a counseling appointment.

Many times Christians avoid specialized treatment due to the stigma attached to having a mental illness or disorder. Christ died on the Cross so that the children of God could walk in freedom. Shame was nailed to the Cross so that Christians wouldn’t have peace in their eternal salvation. Shame has been exchanged for peace and freedom.

Having an illness is not a sin. The sin is living under daily condemnation that is self-inflicted or assumed due to another person’s faulty belief system. Own the freedom that has already been paid for by Jesus. Lay aside every encumbrance and sin. Run with endurance. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith.

Photos:
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Energepic.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Alexander Dummer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Olga, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Approaching the Tree”, Courtesy of Vlad Bagacian, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Is Fear of Commitment Ruining Your Relationship?

Emily and Eric had been dating for one year, and they’d had several conversations about getting married, but Eric hadn’t popped the question yet. Emily’s friends asked her regularly when they were planning on getting married because she had often talked about wanting to be a wife and thinking that Eric was the one.

Everything seemed to be going well. Emily and Eric’s friends liked the relationship, and their families thought they seemed very compatible. So Eric was shocked when after two years of dating, Emily turned his marriage proposal down.

That night, Emily’s mom called. Through tears, Emily told her mom, “I wasn’t ready yet. I love Eric, and I want to be his wife, but when I saw him kneeling there with the ring, I just couldn’t say yes. I feel like I’m going to be trapped if I say yes.”

Maybe you’ve never turned down a marriage proposal, but have you ever been flooded with fear before making a big decision? It can be so much more comfortable to linger in uncertainty instead of choosing a course of action, knowing you can’t go back.

The fear of commitment can surface in other areas of your life besides romantic relationships. It might prevent you from settling on a career path, moving to a new area, or choosing a major in college. Any decision that limits your future can seem daunting and frightening. It’s too hard to deal with the overwhelming fear, so you end up avoiding these decisions or putting them off as long as possible.

What causes an unreasonable fear of commitment? How can you overcome it, and how can you know if and when your fears are justified? If you’ve realized that your commitment phobia is affecting your life, you’re probably ready to do whatever you can to overcome it. Or maybe it’s your partner who has a fear of commitment and you’re feeling hurt that they are keeping you at arm’s length.

Keep reading to find out more about the fear of commitment and how you can work through it in your relationships and your life.

What is Fear of Commitment?

How can you tell if you just have “normal” cold feet in your relationship, vs. allowing a dysfunctional fear to wreak havoc? Don’t most people feel kind of afraid to commit? When does it cross a line into something you might need help overcoming?

If you’re reading this article, you probably recognize that the fear of commitment is causing problems in your relationship, whether it’s you or your partner who is fearful. So let’s break it down a little more. The word commitment means “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”

A commitment restricts your freedom. Isn’t that the root of your fear? When you keep your options open, you still feel free. But there’s a problem with this kind of freedom. When we always keep our options open, we never get to enjoy the rewards of commitment – a fulfilling marriage, for example, or a rewarding career.

A fear of commitment can also be known as commitment phobia or relationship anxiety. These terms aren’t an official diagnosis; they’re just used to a sense of extreme anxiety in a relationship that prevents the relationship from moving forward naturally. According to Psych Central:

“People with a commitment phobia long and want a long-term connection with another person, but their overwhelming anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressed for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or they may initially agree to the commitment, then back down days or weeks later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears.”

As you can see, relationship anxiety prevents you from having what you really want. You might desire to be in a long-term relationship, to get married, to trust your partner and enjoy your life with them. But you’re held back from this ultimate goal by your own overwhelming fear.

If this describes you, don’t lose hope – you can overcome the fear of commitment. It doesn’t have to prevent you from having the relationship or life you desire.

Commitment and Attachment Theory

Psychologists offer a few explanations for the root of commitment phobia, and one of the explanations stems from attachment theory. Good Therapy explains:

“According to attachment theory, the quality of the relationship will depend on an attachment figure’s alertness,responsiveness,and availability to meet the individual’s personal needs. Additionally, attachment theory suggests that prior social interactions – particularly those experienced in childhood – can also influence a person’s behavior and may have a significant impact on the way an individual perceives relationships in adulthood.” [emphasis added]

So, if you experienced an insecure attachment with your caregiver(s) as a child, you might struggle to have a healthy attachment in adult relationships. You might be afraid to trust them and make a long-term commitment.

Or you might have experienced an insecure adult relationship that has led to fears of committing to someone else. Your partner may not have been emotionally available or responsive to your needs. Here are a few more possible causes of the fear of commitment (Psych Central):

  • Dysfunctional environment in the family of origin
  • Experience of trauma or abuse in childhood
  • A past unhealthy relationship
  • Specific fears: of the relationship ending without prior notice, of someone hurting you unexpectedly, etc.

Many experiences can act as triggers for a fear of commitment, causing you to struggle with ongoing anxiety.

Symptoms of the Fear of Commitment

Here are some behaviors that you or your partner might display if you are afraid to commit:

  • Feelings of anxiety or uneasiness when your partner brings up plans or talks about commitment
  • Avoiding planning for the future or discussing where the relationship is headed
  • Avoiding emotional vulnerability and closeness
  • Engaging in a series of short-term relationships that lack depth; moving on before things get too serious
  • Ghosting the other person for days at a time, especially once you’re past the very early stages of a relationship

Every relationship moves at its own pace, and it takes some people longer than others to make a decision to commit. That’s normal. But a chronic fear of commitment can prevent you from moving forward even when you really want to. It can become an inner battle to allow yourself to commit to someone. This struggle can prevent you from enjoying a fulfilling relationship.

Is a Fear of Commitment Ever Justified?

It’s crucial to listen to your intuition in every relationship, not just romantic ones, but especially before you make a lifetime commitment to someone. A fear of commitment and a sense that something is wrong or unhealthy are two different things.

If you are in a relationship and you are hesitating about commitment, ask yourself whether this fear is a pervasive pattern or whether it’s specific to this relationship. The younger and more inexperienced you are, the harder it can be to tell the difference.

Get advice from your family, friends, or a qualified Christian counselor if you need help discerning whether you’re dealing with an unhealthy relationship. Don’t ignore red flags, warning signs, or the fact that you and this person may not be compatible. Taking your time, praying, and using discernment are all healthy behaviors that partners should respect in each other.

But allowing a chronic fear of commitment to prevent you from forming an emotional attachment is something altogether different. Don’t feel bad about taking time to commit, but don’t let fear control you, either.

Overcoming a Fear of Commitment

Anxiety isn’t a rational thing; it’s a stress response to a perceived threat. So you can’t just reason yourself out of your fear of commitment. But you can start gradually teaching your brain and emotions that you’re safe and it’s okay to let your guard down little by little, and eventually make a long-term commitment.

You can start by taking small steps in the right direction. Commit to short-term plans. Commit to plans a few months away. Gradually increase your capacity to make a commitment for your future.

Recognize that regret is part of life. None of us have perfect foresight and unrestricted freedom. Every choice we make to do one thing is a choice not to do something else. None of us will choose perfectly. Our realities will always be limited by our own decisions.

Trust God’s plan for your life and that he can and will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28). Commitment and responsibility are inextricably linked. Once you’ve committed to a course of action, you now have responsibilities related to it, and that’s okay. Living up to your responsibilities and commitments will make you a healthier, stronger person.

If you or your partner is struggling with a fear of commitment, don’t be afraid to talk about it together. The individual struggling may choose to get individual counseling for fear of commitment, where he or she can work through possible attachment issues, childhood experiences, and past relationships. Couples counseling can also help you work through these issues together.

The fear of commitment doesn’t have to stop you from having a fulfilling life and relationship. Reach out for a risk-free initial appointment with one of our Christian counselors today so you can take the next steps towards living in freedom.

Resources:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/fear-of-commitment
  • https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/commitment-issues
  • https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-is-commitment-phobia-relationship-anxiety/

Photos:
“Dilemma”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Do I Love Him?”, Courtesy of Jonathan Andrew, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of TranStudios Photography Video, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Bonds of Love”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License

How Could the Enneagram Personality Test Relate to Christian Counseling?

Words can be a funny thing. Over time, their meaning can change and new words come into our vernacular. One word you might be hearing more often is “Enneagram.” For those who don’t know what it is, it might sound like a diagram. Others think it’s a medical tool, like a sonogram. Often people hear it and think it’s something scientific that doesn’t apply to them.

Today let’s unravel what it is and why it’s useful for everyone. This helpful personality tool is being used by counselors, spiritual directors, pastors, small group leaders, and everyday people. It has even been connected to the Seven Deadly Sins to help us understand our sin nature.

What is the Enneagram Personality Test?

“The Enneagram opens you to an extraordinary view of the truth about you. It can help you recognize your unique melody as well as where you are off-key internally and relationally.” – Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram, by Adele Doug Calhoun and Clare Scott Loughrige

At its most basic, it is a tool for understanding personality. As we expand from there we see it’s a valuable resource for spiritual development. It teaches us ways we’re prone to struggle, our weaknesses and strengths, and ways to find harmony.

Nine Enneagram personality types are the main focus. Though there are sub-types and wings as well, most people are concerned with their main type. Each type corresponds to a number. These types influence how we understand and interact with the world, others, God, and ourselves.

The name comes from the Greek word enneawhich means nine andgram meaning figure. Each of the nine types is mapped out into a geometric design. On this chart, we see how the other numbers interact with and influence one another. It can also show ways we lean to another number during periods of stress, trauma, or transition.

The exact origins of the Enneagram personality test are a mystery. It’s an ancient method for understanding human personality. This tool has been used by Christians and other religions around the world for centuries.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that tool came to the United States. American-trained psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo brought it here. He helped merge the nine types and modern psychological research. After bringing it to the US, one of Naranjo’s first students was a priest named Father Robert Ochs. He began teaching it as a tool at Loyola seminary. It has continued to spread and is now known by millions.

Today many of Ochs’ original students are teachers themselves. Often those who teach and offer Enneagram coaching share their lineage to Ochs. This is similar to how we share our family lineage. Coaches are available through counseling offices, churches, private practice, online, and more. You’ll find books, classes, and even a few apps available to help guide you on your journey, all thanks to one man bringing it to the US.

Using the Enneagram in everyday life

It can be far too easy to take a personality test and never think about it again. We take the test everyone on Facebook is taking, think “hm, that’s interesting,” post our results, and never think about it again. Even with a tool this transformative, this still happens. There is an urge to find out our type without exploring it so we feel like we fit in is for all of us.

Diving into our type feels vulnerable. It feels like opening ourselves up to parts we may not want to know about or face. Yet diving in has the chance to transform your life in the best of ways.

Knowing what our type looks like as healthy and unhealthy gives us tools to approach challenges. Your study will point back to yourself, as well as to how you relate to others and to God.

Benefits of the Enneagram

These are some of the ways the Enneagram has benefited people in their everyday lives:

  • Couples have found it helpful to understand their partner’s behaviors, beliefs, core longings, and struggles.
  • In the workplace, bosses and managers are using it to improve productivity, employee satisfaction, and build a strong team.
  • Pastors and priests can use it to better understand themselves and their parishioners.
  • Parents have found it to be a wonderful way to relate to their adult children.
  • Our type can also give us unique insight as to how we relate with God, the areas where we sin, and spiritual disciplines that will benefit us.
  • In small groups knowing one another’s type can help group members interact with each other with more grace and kindness.

This is transformative and has changed countless lives worldwide. According to author Beth McCord “…The Gospel itself is the transformation. The Enneagram simply illuminates our heart’s intent. The Enneagram can show us what’s wrong; only Christ can fix it.” (Becoming Us: Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving Gospel Centered Marriage)

Some people are private about their type. Perhaps they feel ashamed of their type or feel revealing their type will give away information they’re not ready to share. Just as we never push someone to tell us personal information, we never want to push someone to tell us their type.

Finding your Enneagram type

People are usually eager to find their types. For some, this is a quick process and they’re able to find their type within a matter of days or even hours. In other cases, it can take weeks, months, or even years.

It seems to be especially difficult to find one’s type if someone has been through trauma, chronic stress, or other challenging situations recently. In those situations, we often lean towards a different type. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to type themselves then study more or come out a chaotic life situation to realize they were actually a different type.

The best way to begin finding your type is to read brief descriptions. Next, find additional resources and do more in-depth reading about that type and its wings. Sometimes people will choose to do a thorough study of each type over a long period of time. Then they type themselves after coming to an understanding of all the types.

There are a few apps and online quizzes that offer the ability to type yourself as well. As with anything online, some are better than others. Take them with a grain of salt as only a good way to get initial ideas. Then dive into deeper research of that type to see if it sounds like you.

You’ll find courses and books galore. There are dozens of podcasts, YouTube videos, and sermons available to help out. The Christian band Sleeping At Lasteven wrote a song based on each type. People have found them to be quite helpful when trying to discern their type.

It can be tempting to type others but don’t try. We want to relate to them better, unravel their quirks, or justify their actions. A person’s type is personal. In typing ourselves, we face aspects we may not have ever faced before. Typing oneself involves exploring things our closest friends and family may not even be aware of. It’s not possible to know what others think, feel, or experience so it’s not possible to type anyone else.

Don’t worry if this all feels overwhelming to you – it’s almost like learning a new language. Exploring with a trusted guide such as a spiritual director, pastor, priest, or counselor can be helpful. They can help you to find your type and help work through feelings that might arise. Then you can work together to figure out how to engage with God and how you understand God in light of your type. Christians are finding this to be one of the most helpful resources in understanding their own sin nature and building a strong walk with God.

The Enneagram Personality Test is also a powerful tool in the context of a counseling relationship. Working with the psychological background in mind has proven to be quite helpful. Let your counselor know if this is a tool you’re interested in exploring together.

Photos:
“Writing”, Courtesy of Green Chameleon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Discovery”, Courtesy of Noble Mitchell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Ethereal Lane”, Courtesy of Casey Horner, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Studying”, Courtesy of Joel Muniz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Ways to Relieve Stress from Your Life

When is the last time you felt stressed? What caused it? Are you stressed right now? Take a minute to consider when, during your day and week, you tend to feel the most overwhelmed and tense. When are you under the most strain? What physical and emotional signs of stress do you experience when the tension goes on for too long?

We all go through times of feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Maybe you think being constantly stressed is normal. Or, maybe you feel like it’s a completely negative condition to have that sense of emotional stress.

It’s possible, especially if you grew up in an abusive or dysfunctional household, that you’re not used to living without a feeling of constant stress and tension. But, you should know that even though feeling stressed out is a normal occurrence for everyone, you don’t have to live with chronic stress with no healthy coping mechanisms. There is hope to deal with chronic stress, to escape it when possible, and to manage it optimally if you can’t escape it.

The truth is that stress is a complex experience that affects the brain, body, and emotions. There’s no simple explanation for what causes it, how to reduce stress, and how to manage the necessary stress that’s an inevitable part of our daily lives.

But, there are some answers available to you, and more importantly, there is support if you are feeling too overwhelmed to manage life stressors on your own. Let’s talk more in detail about the meaning of stress, types of stress, ways to relieve stress, and what you can do if there’s just too much for you to manage.

Defining Stress and the Causes of Stress

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

“Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress.”

In other words, not all stress is bad stress. It’s just that our bodies respond to change with physical symptoms of stress, and all of us have different thresholds for how much we can tolerate before feeling overwhelmed. Negative life experiences will inevitably affect us physically and emotionally.

So, if your body reacts to significant life events with specific responses, how can you know how much stress is too much? If you’re noticing signs of stress, or if you’re going through a long season of chronic stress, what can you do to cope? Coping with difficult experiences or life changes helps us build resiliency, the ability to emotionally navigate and withstand hard circumstances.

If we never faced the need to adjust to new situations or cope with tough experiences, we would never develop the emotional resources to manage difficulty. People who cannot cope with any form of stress end up being emotionally immature and having life and relationship difficulties. Paradoxically, the less we can cope with stress, the more stressed out we will become.

But let’s reiterate, this doesn’t mean that stress is always a good thing. In fact, chronic stress is linked to increased risk of disease and death, and it can cause physical and emotional problems, or lead to unhealthy and destructive coping mechanisms such as chronic procrastination, overeating, or substance abuse.

Causes of Stress

That’s why it’s so important to identify the causes of your stress, do what you can to reduce it, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage your response to circumstances you can’t change.

According to WebMD, the biggest causes of stress are:

  • Work and the various difficulties inherent in a person’s job.
  • Life events such as moving, divorce, or trauma. These can be positive (marriage, the birth of a child, etc.) or negative (difficult situations, trauma, tragedy, etc.).
  • Internal feelings of fear, unrealistic expectations, or negative attitudes.

Types of Stress

Psychology Today explains that there are three types of stress:

  • Acute: An argument, a missed deadline, a car accident.
  • Episodic Stress: Regular small crises that cause accumulating tension.
  • Chronic: Serious life problems that may be fundamentally beyond our control: poverty, war, or racism. The demands are unrelenting and you don’t know when they will stop.

The Effects of Stress

Everyone has their own natural level of response to stress, but all of us have a built-in physical stress response. In the short-term, when we feel unsafe, our bodies produce “fight-or-flight” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare us to flee or overcome an attacker.

But, if we are exposed to these hormones consistently for long periods of time, we will start to notice negative health effects and signs of stress, such as digestive problems, sleep problems, headaches, flare-ups in chronic conditions, etc. Mental health issues are also common with long-term stress, including depression and anxiety.

Although you can develop positive coping mechanisms in the short term or for acute stress, chronic stress is very detrimental to health. According to Medical News Today, symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Irritability
  • Frequent illness
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

These are some of the conditions that may be a result of chronic stress:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • PTSD
  • Heart disease
  • Anxiety disorders
  • A weakened immune system

Clearly, chronic stress can be a dangerous condition. Sometimes, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if you use unhealthy coping mechanisms to respond to stress. These negative patterns can cause more stress.

This means you lack the ability to move on from difficulty, change what you can in your circumstances, and respond in the best way possible that doesn’t cause you more problems on top of the original stressor.

Ways to Relieve Stress

Some causes of stress are outside of your control:

  • Maybe you or a loved one has a disease or chronic condition that you have to manage, and there’s no cure, or treatment stretches out for years.
  • Maybe you are in a toxic marriage or household, and you don’t have the means to leave.
  • Maybe you are in a destructive situation at work, but you have to keep working because you are the sole source of income for your family and other jobs are scarce.

In these situations, your feelings of being trapped and helpless can exacerbate your ongoing stress.

Even if you can’t eliminate the causes of your stress, there is still hope for you. There are resources that can help you live your best life even in the midst of a situation you can’t change. There are measures you can take to care for yourself in the midst of toxic or tragic situations.

Learning small coping mechanisms can be step #1 on the road to regaining a sense of agency in your life. There are some situations we can’t change, but we don’t have to let learned helplessness take over. Stress reduction can look like breathing, relaxation, walking, or art. You can proactively care for yourself by eating well, practicing gratitude, doing yoga, or exercising.

Verywell Mind includes the above strategies in the category of fast-acting stress relief. Sometimes, though, there are things about a situation that you do have the power to change. If this is the case, it might be time to shift into problem-solving mode:

  • Can you reduce your workload, get help from others, or cut back on caffeine and sugar?
  • Can you make a long-term plan and take the first step for getting out of a toxic situation?
  • How can you take a break, even if you can’t avoid the source of the stress altogether?

Christian Counseling to Reduce Stress

Seek counseling for stress if you need to. Feeling heard, understood, and supported is vital to help your mind, body, and emotions cope with a host of difficult stressors.

Christian counseling for stress management can help you process your emotions in a safe and compassionate environment, then take the next step to develop coping mechanisms and problem-solving strategies. Your counselor will use proven therapeutic techniques integrated with a faith-based perspective, with the goal of drawing you closer to Christ.

Contact our office today for your risk-free initial appointment.

Resources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/201812/the-three-types-stress

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/causes-of-stress#2

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324.php

Photos:

“Stressed”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Checking Social Media”, Courtesy of Jeshoots.com, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Enjoying the Sun”, Courtesy of Radu Florin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “…and breathe…”, Courtesy of Rabin Benzrihem, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Scriptures on Relationships: What Does the Bible Say about Friendship?

Our lives are made up of a web of relationships – with colleagues at work, at home with parents, siblings and children, with our neighbors, and so much more. One important type of relationship, which can take different shapes and develop around a variety of interests, is friendship.

Friendships range from the casual acquaintance or former classmate you bump into or “friend” on social media, to the kinds of friendships where you would entrust your life and the lives of your loved ones into their hands.

Some friends are the people we rely on – we cry, laugh, sing, pray, and do life with – and they can do the same with us. To find and have a good friend is something priceless.

Scriptures on Relationships

What does the Bible say about friendship, and what timeless wisdom can we glean from the Scriptures on relationships to navigate this important part of our lives?

We are built for relationships

One of the realities about us as people is that we generally gravitate toward other people and toward relationships with them. Even if we struggle to trust people or connect with them, we have something of a yearning to meaningfully relate to other people. This is understandable when you realize that human beings were built for relationships.

Do you know why you really, really enjoy your friends and their company? And why we crave connection with other people? Genesis 1:27 says that human beings were made “in the image of God.” This means there is something about us which reflects who God is.

We will get into this more a little later, but one of the things about God is that God is relational by nature. God made us to be in relationship with one another – despite being surrounded by immense beauty and a plethora of animals, God thought that human solitude was ‘not good’ (Genesis 2:18).

We need the company and connection with other human beings. That’s why one of the worst punishments which can be inflicted upon a person is to place them in solitary confinement.

While there may be many complications involved, we are fundamentally built for relationships and connection with other people. The capacity and desire for meaningful relationships is an integral part of who we are as beings made in God’s image.

Friendships are enriching

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” says the ancient wisdom from the book of Proverbs (27:17). When we are friends with someone, we let them into our space, let them get to know us, and allow them to have influence in our lives.

When a friend speaks into or over your life, because they are someone you have grown to trust, you take what they say seriously. And so, our friends have a role in developing and molding our character.

If they tell us something true about ourselves, even though it might be hurtful, “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). Deep friendships enrich us because good friends challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. In the same way that iron sharpens iron, good friends help to build us up even as we do the same for them.

The Bible also talks about friendships that are deeper than even the bonds of blood. Proverbs 18:24 speaks about “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” One example of this in the pages of Scripture is the relationship between David and Jonathan.

These two men pledged friendship to one another, so much so that when Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was hunting down and wanting to kill David out of jealousy, Jonathan went out of his way to warn his friend to keep him safe (1 Samuel 20). Some friends will go way out on a limb for us, much more than even our own siblings or parents. Such friends are precious.

This is the positive side of friendship, but there is another angle the Bible also talks about.

Certain friendships can derail us

The dark side of friendships is that they can derail us, depending on the person. Because our friendships can shape us in profound ways, we need to be careful who we befriend and invite into our inmost spaces.

As kids, many of us had at least one friend that our parents warned us about that they didn’t want us to play with. At times these parental bans were reasonable, because that kid didn’t care about school and her influence was affecting your grades.

At other times, parents had their own hang-ups and they simply didn’t want their kids to hang with a kid from a different background, and this was often not reasonable. But when God tells us to be careful who we associate with and who we let into our friendship spaces, it is being done from a place of wisdom and love.

God knows us through and through – our strengths, weaknesses, and so much more. God also loves us deeply and desires for us to flourish. The Bible is full of verses that warn us that we can become ensnared in the bad behavior of our friends, such as being hot-tempered (Proverbs 22:24), plotting violence (Proverbs 24:1) or overindulging in alcohol and food (Proverbs 23:20-21).

Whoever we invite into our inmost spaces to become our friends, to have influence in our thinking and behavior, they will have a profound impact on the development of our character. As Paul puts it, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

This does not mean that we are to be unloving, judgmental, hostile, or unhospitable to people who display some of these behaviors. No; Jesus was loving towards us and hung out with the “lowest of the low.” We are to always be courteous, loving, and kind, regardless the individual.

As Paul put it elsewhere, if we refused to associate with everyone who acted in this and other ungodly ways, we would have to leave the world altogether (1 Corinthians 5:10). Friendship, however, is deeper than mere association. To exercise wisdom in choosing our friends, the question is whether we are letting people into a position where they can influence and counsel us toward what is ungodly, or toward what will build up our character and theirs.

A true friend

There is one friendship we have not spoken about yet. Earlier, we touched on how as people we are hardwired for relationships, and that’s because we reflect who God is. Is it any wonder, then, that one of the friendships the Bible talks about is between God and people?

You may know of the song that goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear . . . .” This song is talking about something profound – that God desires relationship with people.

Jesus says that His disciples are His friends, and not just simply followers or servants. Do you recall that verse about a friend who sticks closer than a brother? Jesus – who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – exemplified that.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus said this on the evening before He laid down His life for the sake of His friends, and the world. He demonstrated that great love for us.

What’s remarkable about all this is what another Bible writer says: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8). It’s not for nothing that Jesus was called the “friend of sinners.”

Conclusion

As people, we are hardwired for relationship. We crave connection with other people, and despite some of the difficulties we may have in forming deep and long-lasting friendships, our hearts always yearn to find meaningful relationships.

By applying wisdom in this area of our lives, we can pursue healthy friendships that nourish us and our friends, helping us to grow more into the people we can become as bearers of God’s image.

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Scripture for Anxiety Relief: Finding Hope in God’s Word

A racing heart, gripping fear or a persistent worry cycle that keeps you up at night are just some of anxiety’s many symptoms. The Collins Dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of nervousness or worry. Health websites explain that anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress: the approach of a predatory animal would have set off an alarm in early man’s body – a rush of adrenaline triggering a “fight-or-flight” response.

While running from large animals and imminent danger is a less pressing concern today, our anxieties now generally revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other issues that consume our thought life.

While in some instances the adrenaline rush is helpful (that nervous feeling before doing a speech can make you try harder and lead to enhanced performance), in most cases anxious thoughts are unpleasant.

Scripture for Anxiety Relief

If we look at what God has to say about anxiety in the Bible, it is something that we need to submit to Him. Here are some helpful verses from the Bible about not worrying, for anxiety, and God’s Word can help calm your fears.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

There are times in life when this command may feel impossible and not calming at all. God says we must stop feeling this way but how do we do that? We could easily end up feeling anxious about our anxiety, striving to be content but still feeling defeated. Reading the verse carefully, we see that the verse gives a better alternative. Instead of feeding fear, we should tell God what we think we need.

Praying to Him, with a thankful heart that acknowledges that He is a Father who cares and gives good things, is our strategy to combat anxiety. The verse that follows in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” is a promised result that comes after identifying our desires and handing them over to God.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

This word “cast” occurs one other time in the New Testament, in Luke 19:35, in exactly the same form. Referring to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on on Palm Sunday, the verse says, “They brought it to Jesus, and casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”

So the meaning is simple; if you cast the garment on the donkey, you no longer carry it anymore, the animal does. God is able and willing to carry your anxieties in the same way a donkey works for you and lifts your load. He wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power, as Isaiah 64:4b says, “no eye has seen any God beside you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

The reason why you are able to cast your cares on the Lord is that he cares for you, and this is where the rubber meets the road. Do you believe this promise? Then trust him. He cares about the thing that is worrying you and wants you to trust him for that.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34

Of all the Bible verses about not worrying, this passage from Matthew is probably read most often. It speaks so directly to the physical needs that cause us concern. In John Piper’s post, “Do not be anxious about your life,” he mentions eight reasons why Jesus says his disciples should not be anxious from this passage.

The first is that we ought not to be anxious about food and clothing because they cannot provide the great things of life – the enjoyment of God, the pursuit of his gracious favour, the hope of eternity in his presence. The second is that the birds have taught us that God can be counted on to work for us tomorrow just as much as today.

Thirdly, anxiety is useless; fourthly, God delights in adorning us; the fifth reason comes down to unbelievers being anxious about worldly things so we need to set ourselves our apart in this way; the sixth is that when we are anxious it shows that we don’t think our Father in heaven knows our needs, the seventh that it is foolish to carry burdens that God has promised to carry for us, and lastly, that God has appointed to each day its portion of pleasure and trouble, so we need to believe that God will be God tomorrow.

There are many more Bible verses about anxiety that we can reflect on to help calm fears, as we meditate on God’s character and what he has done for us in Christ. Here are a few more to cling to:

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

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand. – Isaiah 41:10

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. – Psalm 94:19

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. – Psalm 34:4

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

If you struggle with anxiety know that the Bible offers hope. The verses above, along with many others throughout the Scriptures are good food for meditation and memorization. When anxiety strikes, bring these passages to mind and rest in the calming assurance that God is in control.

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7 Bible Verses about Death: Finding Hope in God’s Word

The Bible teaches us that ever since Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, this world has been fundamentally dysfunctional. Sin and death and various kinds of pain and loss are grim realities that remind us that things are not the way they are supposed to be.

Friends, family members, or beloved pets die; jobs are lost; health and independence decline, homes are lost to fire or flood – grief is an unwelcome but inevitable part of life.

Though the picture may seem dark, God has not left us without instruction and comfort. In fact, there are many Bible verses about grief that can bring comfort to the grieving Christian.

7 Bible Verses about Death and Grief

If you are going through the grieving process, meditate on the following Scriptures on grief and let God’s Word give you comfort.

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

In this verse, David is experiencing deep grief (we are not told over what) that is intense enough to have physical effects on his body. Rather than wallowing in his misery, however, David pours out his heart to God, pleading for His grace.

The first step when you are grieving is to take your grief directly to God. Though God already knows what you are going through (you are not giving Him any new information), it is His will that His children come to Him in prayer with their concerns and requests.

Much as a father might see his young child struggling to complete a task and yet wait until his child asks him for help, God often waits for us to ask Him for help before He gives it. However, unlike a human father who might become irritated or might not hear his child, God always hears His children and delights to answer their prayers.

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.Proverbs 15:13

Here we see that happiness in the heart generally produces a happy countenance, but by contrast, grief in the heart can be soul-crushing. This teaches us the truth that a person’s outward behavior is profoundly affected by the state of their heart. Happy heart = happy face. Sad heart = sad face.

We see this reflected both in ourselves and in our daily interactions with others. It is often easy to tell a person’s state by the expression on their face. Proverbs are general observations, however, meaning that this is not a hard-and-fast rule. We will see a contrasting thought in the verse we look at next.

Even in laughter, the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.Proverbs 14:13

Sometimes the outward appearance can be the exact opposite of what is happening in the heart. Though a person may laugh and smile on the outside, it may be just a mask for genuine pain and grief.

Solomon (the wisest man – other than Jesus – who ever lived) implies that this ironic sort of occurrence is normal. Sometimes, in order to cope, or because a person doesn’t want to spill their guts to someone, they need to put on a mask of normalcy that hides their inner pain.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

Suffering from grief can be overwhelming. We can feel as if we will never recover – never move past it. The psalmist, however, teaches us that though we may be in the midst of deep and crushing grief, God has compassion on those who are brokenhearted and heals their emotional wounds.

This is not to say that God makes everything better and that the source of the grief goes away. Rather, as Saint Augustine once said, “Oh Lord . . . our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

God heals broken hearts by giving Himself to His brokenhearted people. We find healing and rest for our souls when we find our comfort and satisfaction in Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.Psalm 23:4

David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1) was no stranger to grief. Many of his Psalms deal with the subject in depth. In Psalm 23, possibly the most well-known of all of the Psalms, David describes the rest and peace that God provides.

Even though David is facing death (whether his own or that of someone else is not specified), he finds his comfort in God’s discipline (God’s “rod”) and guidance (God’s “staff”). In other words, God is taking care of David through daily correction, instruction, and wisdom.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.Matthew 5:4

Next, we come to a verse about grief in the Bible that has caused a lot of confusion over the centuries. Contrary to much popular exposition, the phrase “those who mourn” in this verse refers to those who mourn over their sin. These people will be comforted because their sins will be forgiven.

This makes sense when we think about the nature of “blessedness” and mourning. “Blessedness” means a deep-seated joy, which would appear (at first glance) to be contrary to mourning. However, if one is mourning over their sin, then they can have this kind of joy, knowing that God has forgiven them.

Though this verse does not directly address grief and loss, there is a secondary sort of application to those of God’s children who mourn over traumatic events. They will be comforted both in this life and in the life to come as they come to a deeper knowledge of God and grow in likeness to Christ. Their comfort will derive from the fact that their sins are forgiven and that any grief and pain that they suffer in this life is temporary.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the people of the church at Corinth who were apparently suffering from affliction of some kind. Paul tells them that God is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” meaning that He is characterized by compassion and is the source of any comfort that they experience.

Next, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that God brings comfort to them in all of their afflictions. This is a precious promise! God does not leave His children to flounder aimlessly and wallow in their grief. He ultimately brings comfort to them by giving them Himself!

However, God does not merely comfort His people so that they will merely live happier, more joyful lives. He comforts them so that they can bring the same comfort to others who are going through affliction and grief. In other words, comfort in our times of trouble is never an end in itself. It is to overflow from our hearts as we reach out to others who are suffering.

Loss can strike God’s people unexpectedly, so the time to get the proper perspective on grief is before it hits. Figuring out what one believes about God, His sovereignty, and His comfort while in the midst of grieving is dangerous. If a person’s heart is not firmly grounded on the precious promises of God, times of grief can completely destabilize and overthrow their faith.

This is not to suggest that the grieving process will be easy, however. God can and will teach His people many things as they grieve, all of which are designed to make them more and more like Christ.

If you are struggling with grief, seek out a trusted friend or your pastor for wise counsel. If these are not available, however, a Christian counselor can come alongside you and help you work through the grieving process. Don’t wait – get help today!

Photos:
“Grief”, Courtesy of Marquise Kamanke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “A Grief Observed”, Courtesy of Yuris Alhumaydy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Remember”, Courtesy of Matt Botsford, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cross”, Courtesy of Maria Oswalt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Encouraging Bible Verses for Seasons of Mourning and Grief

Loss is something that most of us will face in some form or another at some point in our lives. Whether it is the termination of employment, reduction in mobility or quality of life, or the death of a loved one, whether expected or unexpected, loss can be devastating.

The effects are long-lasting and life-changing. If not processed properly, the grief that one experiences can bring on a host of other mental health conditions, including (but not limited to) depression, anxiety, anger issues, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.

In such times, it is wise to turn to God’s Word for help. Reading and meditating on encouraging Bible verses about loss can help you fight off depression and find comfort from the God of all comfort who alone is able to give us peace.

Encouraging Bible Verses for Mourning and Grief

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

Though it can seem as if God is distant or uncaring when we have experienced loss, in this Scripture for loss we read that God is compassionate. He cares for those who are brokenhearted, tenderly bringing healing to their wounded hearts.

This does not mean that everything will suddenly be better, but when you have suffered loss and are in the middle of the grieving process, let the psalmist direct you to reflect on God’s loving character and look to Him in faith.

…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

In times of loss, it is common to experience fear. What we had depended on to be there for us (whether a person, a position, or something else we deemed important) is now gone and in its place has come fear – fear that nothing is permanent or even stable.

In such periods of emotional weakness, it can seem as if God is absent. As Isaiah teaches us, however, that this is far from the case. God is always with us and though we may not always realize or recognize it, we are constantly being strengthened and upheld by him.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4

In this verse, we have the precious promise of the world to come. The new order of things will not include sadness, tears, or pain because this world of sorrow, misery, and sin will be swept away. Whatever pain or loss the Christian may experience in this life will be wiped away by the sheer fact of God’s presence.

Not only that, but whatever caused the loss, even death itself, will no longer exist because the old order of things will be gone. Though we still have to live in this world, we can rejoice in the glorious truth that all will be made right in the next.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26

When we have suffered a loss, it can feel like our heart has been shattered and the effects on our body can be profound. Just getting up in the morning and moving through our day can seem like insurmountable tasks.

In these sorts of situations, it is necessary to orient ourselves on God, our ultimate reference point. Everything must be understood as it relates to Him. When feeling beaten and broken, we look to God for strength and for the eternal sustaining grace that He promises to His children.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

Not only do we have the promise that God will hear us when we cry to Him for help, we read that God comes alongside those who are downcast and depressed saves them. He does this by giving them Himself. His grace is the answer to our pain.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

Admittedly, this verse has been misunderstood and misapplied by many in our time. Though often taken to mean that “everything works out for the best for everyone,” this verse is actually a promise made only to God’s children – those who are “called” according to God’s eternal purpose.

For the Christian, then, all things are done for his good. Though loss is undoubtedly painful and unpleasant, the Christian can move through the grief that accompanies that loss with the knowledge that God has permitted it for his or her good.

This is not to say that it is easy. The sin that we are born with (and which Satan loves to agitate) will attempt to make us look accusingly at God and draw our hearts away from Him. It will try to get us to focus on the loss instead of on the God who made us.

But regardless of how painful the loss may be, the Apostle Paul promises that everything that happens to us is for our good. Loss is designed to detach us from the love of this world so that we become more focused on the next. It also causes us to put our trust more firmly in God, who wants the ultimate good for His children.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Let’s face it, the world makes numerous promises of peace. It promises peace if you eat certain foods, behave certain ways, know certain people, etc. In other words, it promises peace if you become like the world.

On the other hand, Jesus promises a peace that is unlike that which the world gives. His peace is comprehensive and lasting and it is not based on something you do. His peace is a peace with God that has both objective and subjective elements.

Objectively, He gives peace with God that indicates a cessation of hostilities. In other words, He gives salvation. Subjectively, Jesus gives a peace that (while based on objective peace) means that the believer receives all of the benefits of God’s love and care for them.

As mentioned in Romans 8:28, this includes the knowledge that everything that happens to the believer in this life is meant for their good. But it also means that when the believer’s heart is rightly oriented toward God, their fears eventually subside and their inner turmoil is ultimately quieted.

Though practiced extensively in the past, the art of Christian meditation has fallen on hard times. It has largely been replaced by Eastern forms of meditation that encourage one to empty the mind.

Meditation that is specifically Christian, however, involves focusing the mind on some passage of Scripture or biblical teaching for an extended period of time, while free from distractions. Meditating on Bible verses for comfort in a time of loss can help you orient your thinking toward the God who can fill the empty space in your heart.

If you have suffered loss and are in the midst of grief, look for a trusted friend or pastor to help you carry the burden. If this is not possible, seek out a Christian counselor who can come alongside you and guide you through the grieving process and help you deal with the loss in a godly way.

Photos:
“Couple”, Courtesy of Jacob Postuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God’s Place”, Courtesy of Anthony Bevilacqua, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hold On,” courtesy of Priscilla du Preez, cdn.magdeleine.co, CC0 Public Domain License; “Candles in the Round”, Courtesy of Mike Labrum, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

9 Principles from the Bible to Enhance Your Married Life

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the institution of marriage has fallen on hard times. The divorce rate has soared even among couples who would label themselves as “Christian” and even where divorce has not actually taken place, many marriages are unhappy, unhealthy, and unfulfilling.

A quick search through a local bookstore or online will turn up thousands of books on the subject of married life. Even after allowing for what could be termed the “celebrity factor” well-known people writing books on a topic because it’s fashionable one is still left with an overwhelming list of books and the unmistakable sense that many peoples’ marriages are in trouble.

God, the inventor of love and marriage, has much to say about love and marriage in the Bible. It has rightly been said that married life can be either a Heaven or a Hell on earth. Which one it is will depend on how well a couple is able to adopt God’s view of marriage and to put His principles into practice in their relationship.

What Does the Bible Say about Marriage?

Though there are many Bible verses for married couples, here are seven Bible verses about love and marriage to get you started.

Marriage was invented by God

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.- Genesis 2:22

One of the first things that we notice about marriage is that it was invented by God. This may seem basic but it is such a profound truth that it has affected the history of mankind ever since creation.

It was God who created the first woman and God who brought her to the man. Marriage was God’s idea.

Marriage is a good thing

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. – Proverbs 18:22

In this verse, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, tells us that finding a spouse is a good thing. This is a natural conclusion to be drawn when we understand that God invented marriage and that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Furthermore, Solomon tells us that one who finds a spouse “obtains favor from the Lord,” meaning that our spouse is a gift given to us by God Himself! Where two partners are striving to live lives pleasing to God, these things are true of marriage.

The bad news, of course, is that people and their relationships are not what they should be and couples often do not seek to live their lives according to God’s Word. However, the fault for this lies squarely at the feet of mankind and the corrupting power of its sin, not in the institution of marriage.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11

How often in your married life has your spouse done something to irritate you? Probably daily. How did you react? Did you let your anger loose and snap at them?

Again, Solomon tells us that being “slow to anger” displays good sense and this is nowhere more true than in married life. We shouldn’t let little things irritate us and when they do irritate us, it is to our glory to overlook them. How much more peaceful would our homes be if we were to put this principle into practice?

God hates infidelity

…the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant . . . guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:14-15

In this passage, we see God’s view of infidelity in marriage. Some translations actually prefer the word “treacherous” in place of “faithless” which rightly gives it a much more sinister and menacing tone.

We have developed an amazing range of words to soften this particular sin. We call it “having an affair,” “cheating,” “a fling,” “playing around,” etc. anything to avoid the force of the word adultery. God calls it “faithlessness” and points it out as a sin.

Because adultery strikes at the heart of the covenant relationship that was made before God that lies at the center of marriage, there is never any excuse or justification for it under any circumstances. It is always wrong, always a sin, no matter what. Period. End of story.

God hates divorce

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:31-32

In our time, divorce is available to anyone for any and every or even no reason and the reasons society invents are endless. “We just don’t love each other anymore,” “He says mean things to me,” “Our sex life has grown stale,” “All we do is argue all the time,” “I don’t feel fulfilled,” “It was time for a change,” or “We’re incompatible,” are just a few of the excuses that people give for seeking a divorce.

In this passage, however, Jesus narrows down the legitimate reasons for divorce to just one namely, infidelity. In 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul adds one other legitimate reason abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Any reasons other than these two are not biblical and are therefore sinful.

These are hard words to hear in a culture dominated by easy, no-fault divorce. But Jesus didn’t come to give us words that we want to hear He came to give us words that we need to hear. Other than for the exceptions mentioned above, God intends for marital issues to be worked through, not divorced over.

God loves forgiveness

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Every one of us are sinners and we sin against our spouse and against God every day. Though the primary reference is to the church, this passage has much broader applications for all of our relationships. The Apostle Paul teaches us that we are to be characterized by forgiveness in our relationships.

We are to not merely forgive in a grudging way (which is not really forgiveness at all), but to be “tenderhearted.” This means that our forgiveness is to be at hand, ready for when it is needed.

Why is our forgiveness of others so important? The rest of the verse tells us it is because we have been forgiven by God. If you are a follower of Christ, then you have no reason in the world not to forgive and every reason to forgive. After all, when Christ has forgiven you such a huge load of sin, how can you not forgive your spouse’s sins against you?

As Ruth Bell Graham has said, “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. – Ephesians 5:25

In this verse, we read that husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. This is a tall order. Christ loved the church by sacrificially giving Himself to die for her. While, admittedly, most husbands will not be called on to die for their wives, they are nevertheless called to live sacrificially for her good.

In Ephesians 5:27, Paul reveals that marriage is a picture of Christ and His church. This makes the command for husbands to love their wives even more urgent. Imagine how many fewer divorces and how much greater marital harmony there would be if more husbands sacrificially loved their wives this way!

Love and respect

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:33

Here we read that there is to be a mutual love-respect relationship between husbands and wives. The husband is commanded to love his wife “as himself” and the wife is to make sure to respect her husband.

It might be tempting to conclude that the husband somehow needs to learn to love himself before he can love his wife but that is absolutely not Paul’s point. On the contrary, the implication is that the husband already does love himself in that he does good to himself by nourishing and caring for himself. In the same way, he is to love his wife by nourishing her (physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) and caring for her.

Wives, on the other hand, are to respect their husbands. One of a husband’s greatest needs (relationally speaking) is to know that his wife respects him. It may be many wives’ greatest struggle to respect the man she married. She may love him, but respecting him may be hard.

None of this is to say that husbands don’t have to respect their wives, nor wives love their husbands. Rather, Paul tells husbands and wives what they most need to hear.

Don’t fight

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:14-15

It may be against the common wisdom to say that married couples should avoid arguing and fighting, but the common wisdom is not always wise. In this passage, Paul tells us to do all things “without grumbling and without disputing.”

This is not merely to retain marital harmony, though that certainly is in view. We are to maintain peaceful relationships because the society around us is watching. Paul tells us that we are to appear as “lights in the world” that show up in contrast to the “crooked and twisted generation” around us.

This is, of course, an ideal. Very few married couples are able to go through life without any arguing or fighting. However, even when they do, it is to be overcome and handled in a way that is pleasing to God.

Christian Marriage Counseling in Newport Beach

Does all of this strike you as idealistic and impossible to put into practice? That’s not surprising, because it is. As an unbeliever, you won’t have the power of the Holy Spirit to help you overcome your native sin and selfishness and so you will struggle to even accept that these things are necessary for your marriage.

Even if you are a believer who has the power of the indwelling Spirit of God to help, you will still struggle with the sin that remains in you even after you became a Christian. The sinful self always struggles to dominate the life of the Christian even though it is “on its way out,” so to speak.

Prayer, a necessary element of the Christian life, is a vital component to any marriage. Through prayer, we communicate our trials, struggles, and temptations to God, the only one who can truly help.

If you struggle to put these things into practice in your marriage, and you do not have a pastor available to help, try seeking out a Christian counselor to assist you in working through these things for your marriage.

A Christian counselor can come alongside you and share the joys and pains of living the married life before God. They can help you work through the problems or issues that might arise and be a neutral party in settling disputes.

May your marriage grow and prosper and may “God, the best maker of all marriages, Combine your hearts into one.” (William Shakespeare)

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“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of rawpixel.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Follow Me,” courtesy of Yoann Boyer, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Joyful Couple,” Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Got Anger Issues? Find Hope in these Bible Verses about Anger

It’s not uncommon to get angry from time to time, but when anger leads to self-harm, sin, or the harm of others, it’s a problem.

In the Bible, we see God experience and express anger. Anger directed in the right place can often be very helpful. We should be angered by the corruption, violence, sin, and abuse that goes on in the world. It’s a basic emotion, but it’s an emotion that can harm our brains and bodies in addition to harming other people and we’re told to get rid of it.

So, how do you know if your anger is a problem or causing harm?

Answer a few of these questions:

  • Has your anger caused you to sin?
  • Has your anger interfered with a relationship?
  • Is your anger keeping you from experiencing peace? From sleeping? From forgiving someone?
  • Is your anger interfering with your work or your ability to focus on a project?
  • Do you yell, lash out, or get violent when you get angry?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, we want to give you some Scriptures on anger to help you overcome it God’s way.

You CAN experience freedom from your anger issues.

You may feel like your anger is a knee-jerk reaction and you cannot control it, but in the following Scriptures, you’ll find truth and encouragement to help you manage your anger and maintain self-control.

10 Bible Verses About Anger Issues

Let’s look at anger in the Bible. We’ve scoured Scripture and identified the Bible verses we believe are great sources of support for overcoming anger issues.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8

We mentioned that, as Christians, we’re called to rid ourselves of anger. So while it can be natural to experience “righteous” anger, the Bible instructs us to get rid of it. You might think to yourself: My anger doesn’t hurt anyone; what’s the big deal.

Even if you think your anger is not hurting anyone, it is proven that it hurts your body and brain. Regardless of that, however, God commands us to get rid of it. Now that we’ve laid the foundation and know that anger should not be an emotion we hold on to, let’s look at some more Scripture.

For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:20

This Scripture is a reminder that anger does not draw towards a righteous life or help anyone be made more like Christ. If you hold on to anger, it’s important to remind yourself that anger is not achieving for you that which God desires and it’s not serving your life. In our feelings of righteousness, we often hold on to anger, but this verse clearly states that anger actually makes us less righteous.

In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

This verse affirms that anger itself is not a sin, but that it can be destructive and lead to sin. It also confirms that prolonged anger is not good and dwelling on anger which often leads to days of “the cold shoulder,” bitterness, and unforgiveness is not God’s design. We’re not to end a day or go to sleep still holding on to anger.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

Anger in the Bible is depicted as residing in the laps of fools. Those who are easily provoked and quick to anger are prone to make foolish ways.

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

This Scripture esteems patience and self-control two fruits of the Spirit that a person prone to anger often does not exercise.

Do not make friends with a hot tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. – Proverbs 22:24

Through the Scriptures above, it’s very clear that God calls us to be slow to anger and not to associate with those easily angered. It’s also clear that He does not want us to hold onto our anger for prolonged periods of time in His instruction not to let the sun go down on our anger. We’re to release it within the same day we experience it.

Bible Verses about Overcoming Anger

Now, let’s look at some Scripture that gives insight into just how to release anger. It’s one thing to know what the Bible says about anger, it’s another to have actionable steps from the Bible about how to overcome it.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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. – Colossians 3:12-13

To “put on” is to practice or exercise. To combat anger, practice the opposite of it. Begin practicing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Begin forgiving to a greater measure.

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things, there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the spirit are not duties or merely virtues to possess. They stem from fellowship and communion with God. Spend time in prayer, worship, and Bible reading and watch as your anger is replaced with patience, gentleness, and self-control.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 2:22-24

To overcome anger, it’s important to remember that you are made new in Christ. You must actively change your attitude by dwelling not on your anger or replaying an offence over and over, but by dwelling on the fact that your old self is a thing of the past and God has laid out for you a way to behave and respond in true righteousness and holiness just like Him.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Take captive every angry thought and stop fueling anger by demolishing any justifications or “proof” you have as to why you have a right to feel the way you do.

To recap, what does the Bible say about anger issues?

  • You should not hold onto anger for longer than a day
  • It resides in the lap of fools
  • Do not associate with those easily angered
  • Don’t let your anger cause you to sin
  • Anger does not lead to a righteous life
  • A patient person is better than a warrior and a person with self-control is better than a person who can garner control over an entire city

When you understand that anger does not serve you and is unhealthy to your body, mind, spirit, and relationships, the first step to overcoming it is to spend more time in communion with God through prayer, worship, and Bible reading.

It’s through that time that the fruit of the Spirit will become evident in your life, so that rather than anger, you’ll start to respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

Christian Counseling for Anger Issues

If you find yourself easily angered and falling into destructive patterns in your life and relationships because of it, save this link and return to it again and again when you need God’s support.

A Christian Counselor can also be a great support in helping you understand your anger issues and find the right strategies so you can actively choose to operate from a different place. Contact us to learn more about our Christian Counseling for anger management.

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“Storm,” courtesy of Casey Horner, unsplash.com, CC0 License