10 Bible Verses about How to Control Anger

Learning to control anger can feel like the most difficult thing to do, depending mostly on the situation you face. You can count to ten or take a deep breath. Yet some people are not able to do this, and that anger could lead to harsh words or actions. Are you a slow burner or do you have a short fuse? There are plenty of Bible verses about how to control anger in Scripture. Below are some that will convict you as well as give you hope that, through God’s grace, it is possible to control anger.

Bible Verses about How to Control Anger

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:11, NIV

This verse is translated in various ways in certain Bibles, but it is the juxtaposition of anger and calm that is most important here. A fool gives vent to his anger; the wise man can keep control with God’s help. While there might be a rightful place for anger to be fully expressed, often it is better to keep silent and keep a tight rein on your tongue.

Careless venting to whoever may listen is certainly not appropriate as a godly way of self-expression. If you are serious about learning how to control anger, you can address this habit if it is present in your life.

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Proverbs 14:29, NIV

In short, without understanding a situation, your impatience will lead you into making silly mistakes. Colossians 3:8 implores believers to put away anger and wrath. Turn to God in prayer instead. James counsels readers to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19-21, NIV).

This is how to control anger in the Bible. While in and of ourselves it is very difficult to be patient, if we are saved, we have the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and can ask God to help us to exhibit it.

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered. Proverbs 22:24, NIV

The verse warns us that associating with angry people could lead us down the same path of anger and regret. This applies to both our personal and professional dealings. We must avoid getting too entwined with them since their bad temper corrupts us and leads us to act similarly.

When you lean into your relationship with God and trust his guidance, you will also gain wisdom to discern which friendships are not helping you in your walk with Christ. By discerning wisely, you will also gain a better grasp on how to control anger.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29, NIV

Paul shows here that we are accountable for the words we utter. We must speak in a way that is beneficial to those listening and appropriate to the situation. The aim is to show grace to those who listen to our words.

We must demonstrate a godly and Christ-like attitude of love and forgiveness toward others, particularly if they are not Christians. How to control anger as demonstrated in the Bible will also be a witness to others in terms of how we have been changed and how much we have taken on the “new self” offered in Christ.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15, NIV

We might think God is out to punish us because of our faults and the bad choices we have made. Although these are negative aspects of our lives, the Lord loves us more than we could ever imagine and acts to redeem and restore us. He knows our weaknesses and shortcomings and recognizes the need for us to make fresh starts.

You can make a fresh start today. In knowing how to control anger according to such verses in the Bible and meditating on them in triggering moments, with God’s help you will become more and more like Christ in your character.

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

This is a warning to us not to fly into a rage or harbor resentment over some incident, either at home or at work. It indicates a lack of self-control, exposes weak character traits, and is not godly in attitude. We need to refrain from anger and instead honor God in our hearts.

Sinful anger needs to be rejected; it has caused divorces, job losses, broken relationships, and so many other problems. Learning to control anger is important, as words spoken in haste cannot be taken back.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice. – Ephesians 4:31, NIV

The ESV version of this verse uses the words “put away,” which clearly states we need to get rid of all unhealthy behavior and guilty feelings after angry incidents. The tongue can be compelling in praise but devastating when it comes to angry criticism.

Paul notes these common character flaws are all linked to anger: bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice. All can be put away or gotten rid of with God’s grace.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother, or judges him, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. – James 4:11, NIV

James says that God is the only one able to save and destroy. Criticizing and judging each other means criticizing and judging God’s law. It is through His grace we are saved, so, therefore, do not live by worldly wisdom.

Discord results when we do not control anger. When we don’t, we are essentially nullifying the new covenant which Jesus brought through the sacrifice of his death on the cross. This verse shows us how serious these sins are in God’s eyes.

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. – 1 Timothy 2:8, NIV

Paul is exhorting the men to pray and to be in unity when they did so. He was aware of the bickering and anger so prevalent in the early churches, just as it often is today. Paul showed them that knowing how to control anger was critical so that they could worship God appropriately. There is no point in coming to God while we are harboring anger toward our neighbors. God demands that we forgive fully and come to him with hearts that have repented of the sin in our lives.

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

The fruit of the Spirit is available to all Christians and is full of characteristics that are the exact opposite of anger. It can seem impossible to offer all these things, especially when we live in a broken world full of sinners. But through asking the Holy Spirit to bear these fruits in us, we will start to see small changes in how we view other people and the world around us.

Meditating on Scripture gives us a very clear indication of how to control anger. By ourselves, we are powerless to change. But as saved and redeemed people, we have new hearts that can close the door on toxic emotions that hurt and destroy rather than build up and show love.

If you need more help learning how to control anger, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Christian counselor for guidance. A counselor will help you understand the roots of your anger so you can make behavioral changes today. Get in touch with us to receive the compassionate help you need

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Dating with a Purpose: Praying and Planning for Relational Success

Few decisions in our lives shoulder the weight of success or sabotage like matters of the heart. While our choice to follow Christ is the most significant choice that impacts all others, who we link with in dating or in marriage, polarizes our path. It either fuels us in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives or frustrates us in walking toward destiny.

Our hearts cannot always be trusted to make the wisest decisions and they often become obsessed with external appearances or are tempted by sin. God has given us wisdom in His word to help us make healthy and wise decisions. The Bible equips us to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). The Lord created us and knows our beginning and our end. He has given us all we need in His word.

Since we don’t automatically know the wisest course of action, we require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As we seek a marriage partner to be part of our life, we must pray and plan and seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Pray purposefully

God speaks to us through His written word and illuminates what seems obscure or confusing (John 10:27-30). God’s Word tells us how to communicate with Him, and it clarifies and confirms His guidance. When we are single, and ideally undistracted, we can embrace our singlehood for purposeful prayer, asking God to bring the right person to us in His perfect timing.

Praying with a purpose allows us to grow in intimacy with the Lord. He already knows what we think and how we feel. Sharing our real experiences and emotions, then surrendering them to Him allows us to become more confident and better able to hear His voice speaking through His word. Submitting to the Word and His commands empowers us to actively resist the enemy’s influence (James 4:7).

Plan intentionally for dating

God, who is Beginning and End, has ordained our life to reflect His glory on earth (Revelation 1:8). He wants you to see the wonder of His image in you. As you pray, ask Him to harmonize your ideas and plans with His. Pay attention to the wisdom of the Scriptures as you form plans and goals that maximize your gifts and align with His purpose.

Process authentically

We tend to view our pain through a lens of shame, but God can heal the unresolved pain that we hide. Participating in a process to work through past issues often hurts before we feel the effects of healing.

That involves offering our wounds to Him with open hands and a surrendered heart. His supernatural strength targets and triages our weaknesses. He beckons us to approach Him boldly, and He responds by lavishing us with fresh mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Awareness and acknowledgment

Only the searchlight of the Holy Spirit can bring awareness of the hidden parts of our hearts. Is there repeated sin poisoning us from the inside out? We often become numb to it, unaware that we are partnering with forces that oppose our faith (Ephesians 6:10-12).

When we are seeking dating relationships that lead to marriage, we need to be aware of negative mindsets that influence our behavioral patterns. Dysfunctional cycles surface, circulating the issues that have disrupted our progress and success with relationships.

Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight where these offenders entered, even if they have lingered through your family’s generations. God champions your future marriage. Working through issues while unmarried reflects an active partnership with the One who authors your destiny. As you return to Him, repentance welcomes healing and deliverance, bringing the freedom to connect from a whole and healthy heart.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9, NIV

Addressing the issues in dating

Beyond the sin factor, our mates weren’t meant to carry every emotional load. When we avoid attending to heart matters while single, we place undue expectations and weight on our future marriages.

As the Holy Spirit reveals “thorns” or areas of weakness, He also furnishes God’s grace and practical remedies that transform us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Wisely using the gift of the present affords us the space and strength to prepare with God, and perhaps a counselor, to work on matters that may make us better dating partners and spouses.

Aligning hearts

We are not serving ourselves or our future spouses well when we short-circuit necessary steps for repentance and faith. Although physique and chemistry play a key role in attraction, cultivating spiritual, mental, and emotional development affects the longevity of a connection.

We mask our real selves with illusions like Adam and Eve who fashioned clothing from fig leaves. As clever as they may have thought themselves, the cover betrayed their sinful hearts. Not only do we want to present our real selves to potential spouses, but we must get right with God first.

Allied and agreed in dating

Scripture causes us to reflect on the importance of alliances. Every believer’s walk with the Lord is unique, so every potential partner might not be in the same spiritual place.

However, walking in agreement, that is aligned with Jesus and not in step with the world, is foundational to establishing a dating partnership and eventual marriage. While the external person initially attracts, the internal is integral to what nurtures a marital covenant over the long term.

Being equally yoked is often mentioned in single circles, but it is more than sharing a set of morals. Our core values, gifts, goals, and purpose factor into our suitability as a mate. We need counsel from the Holy Spirit, other mature believers, and perhaps a trained professional.

From these places of contemplation, we can develop questions and form criteria to gauge whether we will advance our dating relationships. God doesn’t move accidentally, and following Him will enable us to act with intention.

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14, NASB2020

Next steps for dating

Let’s use our singleness to nurture our first marriage with Christ, our Bridegroom. We, as the Church, inclusive of male and female believers, are joined to Him in one Body, much like the illustration of two becoming one woven throughout the Scriptures.

In the natural and spiritual, we can pray, plan, and process to become a better fit for our potential mate, but even more so, for our King of Kings. As we communicate with the One who inspired and authored Scripture, He aligns us with His own Heart and prepares us to walk in agreement with a partner.

While you cannot control the timing for encountering dating partners and potential spouses, you can influence your preparation. God has outfitted you with resources. Avail yourself of the options for counseling on this site. Locate the support and sustained care that will make you ready to recognize and receive what awaits as you pray, plan, and prepare for adventures with God.

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How to Help Your Depressed Husband

When a loved one is in pain, the vulnerability and emotional pain you go through can be debilitating. The feeling of helplessness can be all-consuming, paralyzing you into inaction. In those situations, great courage and fortitude are required to push through those feelings of helplessness and instead focus on being supportive and present for our loved ones.

The same goes when the loved one who is in pain is your husband, and the trial they are going through is battling depression. We’ve learned a lot about depression and other mental health concerns over the last few decades, and so there are a lot of things you can be aware of and do to be supportive of your depressed husband.

Know what depression is and isn’t

Firstly, it’s of great importance for you to get informed about what depression is and isn’t, which can help you in dispelling any unhelpful myths or ideas you may have about the disease. Depression isn’t something a person can simply power through via sheer willpower, though for many men that is precisely the kind of mistake they make.

Depression is a mood disorder that impacts all aspects of a person’s being – physically, mentally, and emotionally; it also affects their behavior. Day to day activities become burdensome and difficult to do; even the things a person used to enjoy, like hobbies, lose their appeal.

Depression is a widespread mental health issue. Here in the United States, about 19% of adults have experienced a mental illness. Around 7.1% of adults (17.3 million people) have had at least one major episode of depression in their lives.

Women are twice as likely to have depression than men, but one of the symptoms of depression – having suicidal thoughts – tends to result in death more frequently in men. While women are more likely to attempt to commit suicide, men are four times as likely to succeed because they use more lethal means in their attempts.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly three hundred million people (about 264 million) across the world suffer from depression. This includes men and women, the young and the old, and people from every possible background including different cultures and ethnicities, religions, and social classes.

Having depression is not a sign of weakness. It can be caused by one or several factors, including genetics, trauma, illness, poor nutrition, and brain chemistry, among others.

Signs of a depressed husband

To better understand the question of depression, you should be informed about what depression looks like in men, and how that will impact your husband and your family. There are symptoms of depression that are common for both men and women, and these include the following:

  • anxiety
  • feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • aches, pains, and digestive problems
  • fatigue
  • sleeping too much or too little.
  • feeling restless and agitated
  • lack of concentration on work or tasks
  • struggling to fulfill family, work, or other obligations
  • difficulty remembering details
  • eating too much or too little
  • unintentional weight gain or loss
  • being unusually indecisive
  • having suicidal thoughts or making suicide attempts
  • losing interest in hobbies and things that were once exciting

Some other symptoms of depression are more specific to men, and these behaviors often hide depression. These include:

  • Compulsive behaviors, such as increasing intake of alcohol, gambling, or substance abuse.
  • Seeking isolation by avoiding family or social situations
  • Reckless behaviors, such as unprotected sex, sex with strangers, or reckless driving
  • Becoming overly sensitive, getting easily irritated, losing one’s sense of humor, getting angry quickly or with scant provocation, becoming more verbally or physically abusive of loved ones, or more controlling in relationships.

Diagnosing depression

It is important to help your husband to get a proper diagnosis. For it to be diagnosed as depression, the symptoms must persist for at least two weeks. It is important to seek help from a trained professional to get this proper diagnosis. Your doctor or healthcare provider can perform a series of tests to determine whether your husband has depression.

These may include a physical examination and some blood work to eliminate other possible sources of the symptoms. There is no single simple test for depression, but your physician can make a diagnosis based on the symptoms they observe and a psychological evaluation.

In most cases, they’ll ask questions about these areas to determine if your husband suffers from depression:

  • sleep patterns
  • moods
  • thoughts
  • appetite
  • level of activity

Treatment options for your depressed husband

There are various treatment options available for your depressed husband, and your husband and doctor need to proceed with a treatment plan that works for him. For the various possible treatments for depression to be effective, one key element is willing buy-in from the person suffering from depression. They must have ownership of the process.

They do need help, though. The people around them, who comprise their support team, can be there to encourage and stand in the gap where they can. For wives, this may mean being aware that more of the load may fall on you as your husband deals with the depression.

We mentioned earlier how the family may be affected negatively in various ways by a depressed husband and father. Giving them support, understanding, and accountability during their treatment will provide a more conducive environment for recovery.

When someone is diagnosed with depression, there are various strategies for treatment and coping with it. With mild depression, there are strategies they can implement to cope and manage it, and these include:

Finding support from friends and family through sharing feelings with people close to you helps you to feel less isolated and it makes those feelings feel less overwhelming. These cheerleaders can help you stay on the path to recovery. This support network can help with chores, driving to and from a doctor’s appointment and so much more.

Pursuing simplicity by breaking down huge tasks into smaller tasks.

Postponing big decisions until you’ve recovered. Discuss important decisions with trustworthy people.

Avoiding alcohol and other addictive substances may boost your mood and creates room for you to address your situation soberly.

Creating structure by making a daily routine can make each day feel a little easier with fewer decisions you have to make.

Eating and sleeping well by keeping up with good nutrition and getting good sleep helps you make progress toward better overall health.

Exercising or practicing mindfulness through meditating, and exercising by walking, running, or doing yoga may reduce stress and support overall well-being.

These coping strategies are supplemental to the treatment plan a licensed medical professional may create for your husband; they are certainly not a substitute for it. The trained psychotherapist may recommend medication or talk therapy, or a combination of both depending on the circumstances and the severity of the depression.

Medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed to help to cope with depression and get the body and mind back where they need to be. Usually, there are some side effects from the medication, and so the psychotherapist will likely adjust the type of medication and its dosage to meet the client’s needs.

Don’t expect immediate results, as the medication may only begin to have positive effects on a person’s mood or overall disposition after a few weeks. This process of finding the right medication and dosage can take a few months, so don’t lose heart, or begin doubting the process.

It is important for a person suffering from depression to keep taking their medication even when the outlook begins improving. Taking the foot off the gas prematurely because some of the symptoms of depression are lifting can set their progress back and potentially trigger a relapse with worsened symptoms.

The treatment plan, which includes taking medication, only stops in consultation with the psychotherapist who determines whether sufficient progress has been made.

Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is another powerful component of the treatment plan. This can take several forms, but its main aim is to provide a person with space to talk through the situation with a trained and licensed mental health professional.

This process can unearth various issues in the relationships around the person struggling with depression, including your own. Psychotherapy also assists people suffering from depression to accomplish various goals, including:

  • helping them identify and replace negative beliefs and thought patterns with positive ones
  • finding adaptive and creative ways to solve problems
  • creating, setting, and maintaining realistic goals
  • learning how to cope with a crisis
  • developing capacity and a deeper ability to tolerate stress and distress
  • digging into their relationships and experiences to forge positive connections
  • learning to recognize the issues that contribute to depression

Your loved one doesn’t have to walk the journey through depression alone. With you and your family’s loving support and the knowledge possessed by trained psychotherapists and other professional caregivers, your depressed husband can work through his depression and gain the tools he needs to deal with this season of struggle.

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Signs of Anger Issues and How to Address Them

Our emotional makeup helps us to experience all that the world throws at us and to respond appropriately to it all. A beautiful sunrise or sunset makes you feel warm inside, and you smile, draft a poem, or hug a loved one to express what you feel.

The death of a loved one or the loss of a long-cherished dream break you up inside, and gush forth tears, sadness and anger intermingled. Our emotions alert us to what’s going on inside of us and how we’re experiencing the world, so they are helpful for everyday life.

Anger is a powerful emotion, one which can overwhelm us and even short-circuit our ability to think and act rationally. Anger can be ignited by anything, from an existential threat to you and your loved ones to an annoyance like stubbing your toe on a piece of raised concrete. We get angry when people challenge us, when we are taken advantage of, or when we see wrongdoing, and so much else.

Powerful emotions like anger need to be shepherded well because the consequences of letting anger run amok can be dire. So, while anger is a helpful emotion that alerts us to what we’re experiencing and what may need to be remedied, how one deals with that anger is of the utmost importance.

Below are a few signs of anger issues that may indicate you’re no longer in the driver’s seat, and your feelings of anger are in charge. If anger is an issue for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.

Seven signs of anger issues

1. You’re afraid of what will happen if you get angry.

Have you ever scared yourself because of how you reacted to a situation? For example, your child or spouse did something that annoyed you, and your reaction was so over the top that you found yourself shocked and scrambling to apologize and figure out where that reaction even came from.

People have deep wells of feeling within them, and they don’t always know what’s in those wells; sometimes, stuff comes gushing out that we struggle to make sense of. The Bible warns us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV).

For you, maybe you struggle with the things you say and do when you’re angry, and you’re afraid of what might come out of you if you happen to get angry. If you’re afraid of your anger and what results from it, it may be a clear sign that you have anger issues.

2. Relationships have been destroyed because of your anger.

Ambrose Bierce , the short story writer, journalist, and poet once wrote, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Sometimes, the time between words spoken in anger and the feeling of regret is instant, and at other times it can take a lifetime to understand the damage caused by words spoken in anger.

Anger affects your ability to listen with empathy and make reasoned judgments. When you’re angry, you don’t always think about what you’re saying, and what you’re saying tends to be poorly thought out. In anger, we tend to generalize, leap to conclusions, and override the feelings and perspectives of others. All of this escalates conflict and damages relationships.

If relationships have been damaged because of your anger, it’s quite likely that you have anger issues. Whether you shouted at your spouse or kids, snapped at a client, gave a snarky retort to your neighbor, physically assaulted a friend, or spilled a long-held secret, anger may have led you to damage that relationship, perhaps irreparably.

3. You struggle to articulate your anger.

The thing to do with anger is to express it so that your feelings are acknowledged. It’s not good to either repress the feelings of anger or to express them in such a way that they cause physical or emotional damage to yourself or others.

Repressed anger, as well as passive-aggressive anger and violent expressions of anger, are equally destructive, though the first two are directed more internally, and the latter externally. You should be able to express your anger in a clear, assertive (not aggressive) way that doesn’t damage others along the way. If you can’t express your anger well, that’s also a sign of anger issues.

4. Your anger is disproportionate to the situation.

There isn’t a chart that lays out what a reasoned response to any given situation should be. That doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as an unreasonable or disproportionate response to a situation. Responding to someone cutting you off in traffic by pursuing them down the highway and then physically assaulting them should rank as an overreaction.

If the grocery store has run out of a particular product, it’s out of bounds to verbally assault a store employee or to damage store property. Getting into a fistfight with other patrons because the buffet ran out of steak or because a fast-food establishment ran out of a chicken sandwich is probably a reaction that’s disproportionate to the situation. It may indicate that you have anger issues.

5. You’ve been in trouble with the law.

If your anger has led you into situations and making decisions that got you in trouble with the law, that might also be a sign of anger issues. If your anger leads you to break the law because you’ve threatened violence, assaulted someone, or damaged property, that may be a sign that your anger has a hold over you.

6. You feel angry most or all of the time.

There is no shortage of things in the world to make a person angry. However, you can’t be angry all the time or allow things to get under your skin. If anger is the dominant emotion in your life, and you feel angry for many or most of your waking hours, or you’re constantly feeling impatient, irritated, and hostile, then you may have a problem with anger.

7. Your anger threshold is low.

What makes you angry? We’re all wired differently, and our experiences shape our temperaments in various ways. If you get angry quite easily and let things get to you without much provocation, you’ve got a low anger threshold. Having a low anger threshold isn’t problematic if you’re able to express that anger effectively and let things go.

However, because anger has a physiological effect, being angry a lot because you have a low anger threshold means that you’re putting your health at risk. Chronic anger increases your risk of stroke, it weakens your immune system, not to mention higher risks of high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems.

Growing beyond the problem

Anger doesn’t have to maintain its hold on you. It is possible to overcome the devastating effects of uncontrolled anger. For one thing, you can begin to look at the challenging circumstances and people in your life through a different lens. Instead of dwelling on unpleasant experiences in the past and looking at things from a negative standpoint, there is a different way to go, as this quote reminds us:

Forget what hurt you in the past, but never forget what it taught you. However, if it taught you to hold onto grudges, seek revenge, not forgive or show compassion, to categorize people as good or bad, to distrust and be guarded with your feelings then you didn’t learn a thing.

God doesn’t bring you lessons to close your heart. He brings you lessons to open it, by developing compassion, learning to listen, seeking to understand instead of speculating, practicing empathy and developing conflict resolution through communication. If he brought you perfect people, how would you ever learn to spiritually evolve?Shannon L. Alder

To overcome anger issues, it’s also important to look deeper, because anger can be caused by any number of things, from physiological processes such as chronic pain, hunger, fear, or panic. Anger can also be a symptom of a mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, or Alzheimer’s.

An anger problem may also be rooted in childhood trauma, or there may be specific events in a person’s life that have given shape to their personality and how they react to situations. In some cases, hormonal changes can also cause anger. To get behind and beyond these possible causes, it’s important to speak with a health professional to eliminate these other causes.

A mental health professional can help you not only by diagnosing an issue with anger but also by helping you understand the root cause of the anger issues. Your story is unique, as are the resources you possess to deal with anger.

Your counselor will walk alongside you, helping you begin to recognize your anger triggers while giving you tools for anger management and strategies to cope with anger such as breathing exercises, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene. They can help you begin repairing damage to relationships caused by anger and to begin walking in the joy and peace of the Lord. These words of David to the Lord can be true of you:

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right handPsalm 16: 11, NIV

Instead of anger, you can know and experience joy, as that is what God desires for people. Reach out for counseling today to get help with overcoming anger issues.

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Sustainable Self-Care Ideas to Improve Your Wellbeing

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly trendy to talk about self-care. This is especially true for people whose work or lifestyle puts them in positions where it is hard to take time for themselves, whether because they work long, exhausting hours, or because they are home with children all day and can’t seem to get a meaningful break. Also, let’s be honest with our current times. COVID-19 has added additional stressors on top of everything else in our everyday lives.

But for many, the understanding of self-care doesn’t go too much further than taking time for yourself, whether by going out for a cup of coffee alone, meeting up with friends, or being available for a long luxurious soak in the bathtub.

However, I would suggest that self-care goes deeper than making sure that you can take those 10-15 minutes (or more) for yourself every day, as one can very quickly go from that relaxed feeling in one moment, back to feeling stressed and under pressure from the next triggering event.

This suggests that you are over-extending yourself and what you perceive to be a state of relaxation is actually a state of constant stress. This state of stress that you perceive to be relaxed is just a lower level of stress compared to the previous overwhelming event—which is why we are easily stressed out by any small event that is stressful. Our cup is already filled to the rim.

Self-care, when we are stressed, keeps our cups from overfilling. But, self-care when we no longer feel as overwhelmed will help lower your cup even more so that when stressful life events happen, you can handle them with more patience, grace, understanding, and love.

Self-Care Ideas to Maintain Overall Health

Self-care needs to make some sort of effort to meet your deeper needs if it is to be meaningful and sustainable. It needs to look at all the areas of your life, your physical needs, like rest and taking care of your physical health, as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Focus on your physical health

One of the first steps in self-care is recognizing that you are responsible for taking care of your physical health. As an adult, no one is going to remind you that you need to eat or to get enough sleep. So, you need to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy and nutritious meals, and getting some form of daily exercise, such as going for a walk or cycle around the block.

All these things are important if we want our bodies to be operating at peak capacity. We need to make sure to set ourselves up for success by giving ourselves the fuel we need to feel good and manage our day-to-day responsibilities, and a healthy diet, rest, and movement all contribute to our general good health and wellbeing. Exercise is also known to help counteract feelings of stress by producing endorphins, so it has a double benefit.

Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. These are often also called the “feel good” chemicals. If your body is not producing enough endorphins you might experience depression, anxiety, or moodiness. This is why your physical health plays an important role in your mental and emotional well-being.

Know yourself

The next step in self-care is to do a little self-reflection. Take some time to look at your life and think about how the various aspects of it affect you and your wellbeing. Understand your capacity and limitations, so that you can know more easily when to say “no” to taking on too much.

Recognize what energizes you and what depletes you so that you can know what to say “yes” to and how to best recharge. Think about what kinds of things add significant stress so that, if possible, you can remember to practice your coping skills and make plans to manage the stress.

Prioritize what relaxes you, make time in your schedule to unwind, and allow yourself to show love to yourself. For some people, a warm bath with music or a book every day is relaxing. For others, cooking, dancing, or drawing are relaxing activities.

Think about what motivates you, so that you can commit yourself to what is important and follow through. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to anticipate stresses and work to mitigate them, and the better you will be able to identify what is important to you and be able to plan to meet your needs.

Only by taking the time to think about what works and what doesn’t work in your life can you make better decisions about how to use your limited resources of time and energy and how to be your best self.

There’s a saying about self-care being about choosing to create a life that you don’t regularly feel the need to escape from. So, ask the tough questions about your life, career, and habits, and whether these things are draining you or fulfilling you. And then make changes accordingly.

Establish boundaries

Once you have taken the time to figure out what is most important to you, and what you are best capable of handling, then you can begin to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. These will look different to different people and in different situations.

You may find you need a certain amount of time alone to refresh yourself, and once you’ve decided that this is a priority in your self-care you can determine where to take this time and set up boundaries to protect it. Your boundaries may look like saying “no” to certain commitments, or to saying “no” beyond a certain number of social hangouts. But there will be times where you need to establish a limit, and then enforce it.

Yes, life is not perfect, and things will come up that may require the relaxing of a boundary; however, the general trend of protecting your time and the things that are important to you should become a habit that you don’t feel guilty about. Boundaries will help you to prioritize what is important, and then you can let the less important things slide a little if necessary.

Focus on your mental and emotional health

Once you have taken care of your physical needs and taken the time to establish boundaries to protect what is important to you, you can focus on investing in things that will build you up mentally and emotionally. For some, this may look like a change in their job to find something more fulfilling or making better use of their gifts and interests.

But momentous changes like this are not always options for everyone and looking after your mental health may mean investing in a hobby or other activity that challenges you and gives you a feeling of fulfillment. This might include getting involved in community service or taking a class in something that interests you, whether art or economics.

For some, it might mean being available to regularly spend time reading an enjoyable book. However, it is important to be available for things that challenge you positively and give you a sense of progress and growth.

Invest in friendships that build you up

While you may have hundreds of friends on social media, it is important to recognize the friendships that you have in real life. One rarely has the time to invest meaningfully in many friendships in real life, but when you have a solid friendship that uplifts you and builds you up, take the time to invest in that person.

We are made for relationships and do not function well in isolation, and that time with a friend can be life giving, especially when you are going through a challenging time. So don’t forget to prioritize time and energy for investing in the people that are close to you.

Focus on your faith

For many people, the spiritual aspect of life is particularly important. This is a part of life that shouldn’t be left as the last priority. It should be our first priority. For a Christian, God is more than a distant idea, but a close comfort and help in times of trouble.

If your faith is important to you then you will not find fulfillment in just going through the worldly motions but will need to seek a relationship with God by reading His living Word daily, praying without ceasing, and following His commandments.

It will also be important to fellowship with people who share your faith, whether only for the weekly gathering or more frequently. Pay close attention to the people you gather with. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Invest in your faith community and you will find yourself spiritually fulfilled. If your spiritual life is not in alignment with God, it gives license to Satan to attack you in those areas that are not in alignment. Jesus gave us “The Great Commission” as our purpose on earth. Neglecting what Jesus commands us to do can be physically felt as an ache or need that we cannot satisfy in any other way.

This is the Holy Spirit convicting us, “and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). When you are in alignment with God’s Word, you will feel peace in your Spirit and no longer be at war with your flesh.

Make time to fill your cup

All these things may feel like a lot that needs to be thought through and prioritized, but at the end of the day, we are complex people with needs across all parts of life. If any of these needs – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – are not being met, then we will struggle to feel satisfaction and contentment where we are.

But if you make good choices when it comes to how you fuel your body, what you prioritize, and how you guard what is important to you, you will find yourself increasingly fulfilled by the life you are building. And while you are investing in all these things, you mustn’t forget to allocate time to rest. “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man’”(Mark 2:28).

Give yourself time to unwind and do the things that fill your cup, whether that is spending time in nature, socializing with good friends, or relaxing with a book, or even taking a long candlelit bubble bath. When the rest of your life is well balanced, these moments of rest will easily refresh and revive you and help you feel prepared to face the next challenge that comes your way.

Photos:
“Wake up and Glow”, Courtesy of Ellieelien, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Self Love”, Courtesy of Content Pixie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Mug on Chair Arm”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Forgive Someone: Biblical Guidance on Forgiveness

Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? How did you respond to the challenge? Sometimes in life, we face situations that take us to our limits and beyond. The sort of people we are – our character – shows in those moments. Though we may fail in the attempt, being willing to give something a go has great value.

If we are familiar with what the Bible says about living a life that is rooted in love for God and neighbor, then we know how challenging living such a life can be. We don’t always meet our self-expectations, and that’s to say nothing of the high standard to which God holds his people.

Nonetheless, we try to live faithfully, to be just and loving people through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not get it right, but we try; and when we fail, we dust ourselves off ask the Lord for His grace and mercy and try again. It matters that we keep going despite the challenges and setbacks. The life of faith as a disciple of Jesus means staying in alignment with the Word of God.

One area that most of us find challenging is forgiving others. When people wrong us, we may find ourselves inclined toward wanting to see them pay for what they did. In other instances, we may not wish them harm, and many times we certainly want nothing more to do with them.

The sins we and others commit are many, varied, and complex in the kinds of effects and traumas they produce. In the Bible there are three categories of sins mentioned: sin, transgressions, and iniquities. Forgiving others is thus not always a simple matter, and it may feel like we are betraying ourselves and our experiences to forgive someone who has wronged us.

What is written below is in no way intended to guilt us into forgiving someone or to do something we aren’t ready to do. Forgiveness is ultimately a choice we must make to let go of our anger and desire for revenge and forgive as our Father forgave us.

Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, not the person receiving the forgiveness. That’s not a choice anyone can make for another person, but we must reflect on the biblical teaching about God’s will for us to live free of resentment and vengeance.

After all, holding onto unforgiveness, according to some research studies, negatively affects our physical and mental health by making us more vulnerable to stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

We too are forgiven

One of the realities with which we are regularly confronted in the Bible is that we all need God’s forgiveness. The word “sin” doesn’t roll off our tongues easily, but essentially what that word conveys is the notion that we are morally bankrupt. We miss the mark in a variety of ways, whether it’s by not doing what we’re meant to do, or by doing the things we aren’t supposed to. We sin because we seek after fleshly gratifications.

Our attitudes towards other people may be less than generous; we might treat others with more respect because they are like us in one way or the other. We show favoritism or partiality; at other times we are unwilling to consider the feelings of others. In our thoughts, feelings, and actions, none of us is perfect and lives the way God wants us to. For this and more, God has forgiven us.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.Ephesians 2:1-10

This is a powerful message that shows how God has bestowed on us his undeserved favor. The first few verses of that passage read, “Though we were disobedient, God forgave. us and gave us new life.

This forgiveness isn’t a thing of the past. We continue to sin, and God continues to forgive us – “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” –1 John 1:8-9

God meets us in our weakness and forgives us. Even as we consider how others may have wronged us, we must also consider how we have wronged God and others, and yet we are forgiven.

We forgive others as we are forgiven

Forgiving others is likely one of the hardest things about the Christian life. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness means that you aren’t taking a person’s actions seriously. On the contrary, because we understand that God’s forgiveness came to us through Jesus and the sacrifice he made on our behalf, we know that forgiveness is serious business.

It’s so serious in fact that we are reminded that if we understand just what it is God has done in forgiving us, we will extend that forgiveness to others. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” and then he adds this difficult word – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. The gift we have received from God, we are to pass along to others; if we have understood God’s gift to us, that is.

Additionally, forgiving another person is more about us than it is about them. Have you ever noticed how stressful it is to be around someone you have something against? You either try to avoid them, or you grit your teeth when they’re speaking all the while thinking less-than-healthy thoughts.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of our toxic emotions such as hatred towards the other person. We reclaim our thoughts and don’t allow them to live “rent-free” in our hearts and minds because of the negative emotions we bear toward them. When we forgive them, we can move on with our lives, free of resentment.

We forgive often

The things that people do that require forgiveness may vary, but the act of forgiveness, the choice of letting go of the desire to pay back remains a tough one. It often doesn’t happen overnight; we must sometimes choose to forgive daily. If you live with the person, or if the things the person does occur often, that makes the act of forgiveness a daily choice.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples once asked Jesus the question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responded, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter’s question is all too relatable. It would be nice to have an upper limit when it comes to forgiveness, beyond which we can hold onto our resentment with divine approval. Jesus scuppers that hope. We forgive as often as we must.

Of course, we must understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that no natural consequences will flow from their actions. If a crime has been committed, forgiveness doesn’t mean the law can’t take its natural course. If a person repeatedly breaks their word to you, forgiving them doesn’t mean you are required to give them anything more than that forgiveness.

We can do all things

Forgiveness is hard. But in this, as in other areas of life, God has not left us to our own devices and to figure it out on our own. We “can do all things through him who gives [us] strength” as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13. God gives us strength to do the impossible – to forgive those who sin against us and to trust in God’s good judgment, leaving vengeance to God alone (Romans 12).

For the sake of our mental, physical, and spiritual health, forgiving others is a healthy practice that is tough in the doing, but worth it in the end. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Prayer for forgiveness

This prayer was written by Sue Fernandez in her book, Deliverance for Christians: Claiming Your Freedom In Christ.

“Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that You take back the ground that was given to the enemy when (Name of Person)(List Specific Incidents). I ask that You break every stronghold from my soul. And as an act of my will, I choose to forgive (Name of Person) and I ask that You give me Your Grace to do so, from the bottom of my heart. I renounce unforgiveness. I renounce bitterness, and I ask that You remove every root of bitterness.

“If anyone has been defiled by my bitterness, I ask that You show me who that is and what I need to do. I ask that you bind the enemy from (Name of Person); take off all the veils of the enemy: and open his eyes, ears, heart, and soul to the truth of God. I also ask that You bring someone to him who can lead him to salvation. I release (Name of Person) now to You, Lord, for You to work in his heart, soul, and life, as You will.”

Photos:
“Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Cathy Mu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Purple White Flowers”, Courtesy of Vlad Zaytsev, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hug”, Courtesy of Igor Erico, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pink Flowers”, Courtesy of Hannah Olinger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness

Depression as a Christian seems contradictory since the Bible promises us peace and joy. Peace and joy are very different feelings when compared to a depressed mood. We can have peace in our hearts about the future and our current situation. We can have the joy of the Lord through our salvation. However, our mood may tell us that we are sad even though there is no identifiable reason to be sad.

This is where I like to implement distractions. I may know in my mind that there is nothing to be sad about. I may have a wonderful life, a great spouse, successful children who are walking with the Lord, but I still don’t feel good, and I lack the desire to participate in things I once found interesting. The enemy tries to discourage a person and pressure them to feel guilty about these feelings. Naturally, we tend to look inward for the reason.

The goal is to immediately use Scripture to fight those automatic negative thoughts (fiery darts) that the enemy shoots into our minds. Find certain Scriptures that speak to you in the specific area in which you are struggling. Write these down on a small piece of paper to carry with you until you memorize them.

Do not allow these darts to enter your long-term memory. Short-term memory is anything under thirty seconds. If you rehearse something, a telephone number, a name, a time, or a phrase using certain rehearsal techniques they will convert to long-term memory. The trick here is to get to those fiery darts immediately with Scripture you have previously memorized.

Repeat God’s word to yourself and get his promises into your long-term memory. Carry your Bible around with you wherever you go. Put it in your purse, carry a small Gideon’s Bible in your back pocket so you can get used to using your sword. Keep seeking, keep knocking. Don’t grow weary.

Another reason we may continue to be affected by feelings of sadness is that we may have conditioned ourselves to be in this state. People find it comfortable to sit in darkness, wallowing in self-defeating thoughts. Though it’s not necessarily a desire to feel depressed, we may experience a physiological response (physical response throughout the body) to a depressed mood.

When we feel tired, we prefer to lay in bed to get some additional sleep. We feel hungry so we find something to nourish our bodies. Working through depression feels unnatural because our emotions or our bodies may prompt us to do things that will keep us remaining depressed:

  • Loss of interest
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Depression has many faces and many different presentations, and the sufferer may experience a variety of symptoms. As Christians, we may think that the Lord would relieve us from these feelings if we were in His good graces. This is false. There are instances where we may be experiencing guilt, shame, sad mood, and difficulty sleeping due to unconfessed sin. If we continue to live in a specific sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and prompt us in this way.

Do not mistake this for condemnation, however. Christ sent his Holy Spirit to us to encourage us and to convict us of sin. Conviction is meant to prompt us to repent, not to condemn us. The Bible says that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Out of love, we turn back to Christ knowing that his plans for our lives are far better than our own.

The enemy has effective methods of making us feel as though we will never measure up, leading us to feel beaten down by the world and our sin. Don’t grow weary of doing good, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).”

A thorn is a struggle or an ailment that the Lord has not freed us from so that He may be glorified through us. This is not to be confused with a stronghold. A stronghold stems from a certain sin we continuously fall into (i.e., binge-eating, sexual sin, continuous anger outbursts, slander/gossip, pride, lying, or substance use.)

Jacob experienced a thorn following his wrestling with God. Paul had a thorn that he was forced to live with, the nature of which the Bible does not reveal (however, many Biblical scholars think it may have had something to do with his eyes). A thorn may also be the loss of a child, the death of a spouse at a young age, a physical ailment, cancer, and even mental illness. The propensity to experience depression may also be a thorn.

It may keep us clinging to Jesus, running back to Him for continual support because we realize that during periods of intense depression, He is the only way we can make it through the day. Ultimately, Jesus wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to spend time in His word and rely on Him.

This does not mean that the Lord is devious and crafty, but He permits these ailments so that we will cling to Him. We live in a fallen world and as fallen creatures we do not fully understand His methods. We may not know why He would allow a young child to die prematurely, but we trust in His essential goodness and love. We constantly fight a spiritual battle with an enemy who is much smarter than we are, so we reach to Jesus to guide and strengthen us moment by moment during times of depression.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:17-18

One biblical truth you can hold fast to is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t lose faith or become discouraged when the storm rages between your ears. Cling to the hope that though you may be sitting in darkness, the Lord is your light (Micah 7:7b).

If you are in grip of mental health difficulties such as these depressive symptoms and would like to speak with someone to help identify the problem in a more clear and identifiable way, please reach out to a counselor for guidance and encouragement. We have a team of mental health professionals that will provide a hand to help you walk through your spiritual wilderness. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Photos:
“A Walk in the Woods”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Skeleton Keys on Book”, Courtesy of Carolyn V, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Zulmaury Saavedra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Victory!”, Courtesy of Svyatoslav Romanov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

8 Marks of a True Friend

In a world where people count friends by the hundreds on social media, one may want to consider how you can determine whether someone is indeed a true friend. There are many kinds of friendships, colleagues, and acquaintances, but not all friends are the kind of friends that one would want to keep close or allow into your deepest confidence. So how does one recognize a true friend?

8 Signs of a True Friend

1. A true friend is loyal.

A true friend is the kind of person that will stand by you no matter what. They will have your back when it feels like everyone else is against you and will defend you to anyone that questions your integrity. A true friend will not participate in gossip and will not stand for others gossiping about you.

When a friend has been around long enough to know your weaknesses and failures, but they think that you are worth having around anyway, then you know that you have found a true friend. They will accept that you are not perfect and not expect perfection from you. A true friend will remain committed to you despite your faults, flaws, and mistakes that you may have made in the past.

Their friendship isn’t fickle or changeable when the seasons in your life change. When a true friend is hurt or offended by you, they will allow you the chance to make it up to them and keep the door open to reconciliation. They won’t easily give up on you and will want to make the friendship work, even if for a time it is difficult.

2. A true friend is trustworthy.

A true friend is someone that you can always count on. They will have earned your trust over time, and you will know that whatever you share with them will be kept in strict confidence. You can also count on a true friend to keep their promises and do the things they commit to doing.

Not all people are naturally dependable, and some people will struggle more than others to show up when they say they will, but if someone is a true friend, they will prioritize the relationship to the point that other things will rarely stop them from doing whatever it is that they have promised to do.

You will also find that your deepest feelings and concerns are always safe with that friend. You can trust that your friend’s intentions towards you are good, and they will not be looking for ways to do things that would hurt you. They will respect your boundaries and not push you to do anything that you do not wish to do.

3. You can be real with a true friend.

When you have a true friend there will be no need to put your best foot forward on every occasion and you will know that you can truly be yourself with this person. When a friend can join in with you in everyday activities and participate in your daily life without finding such activities mundane or boring, then you will know that you have found something special.

A true friend will find joy and freedom in knowing that they are included in your more personal moments and that they can relax and be who they are around you. True friends will be content spending time in each other’s homes and will become well known to each other’s families.

Some may even begin to feel like they are a part of each other’s families. They will enjoy the freedom of being able to be completely real with each other and not worry about censoring themselves about any topic of conversation. This is because there will be a level of trust that they will be accepted wholly as they are, even if there are areas where you may disagree.

4. A true friend will show their care in practical ways.

While there is room for showing affection for a friend in a variety of ways, whether through gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, and practical help, etc., a true friend will make the effort to show their care in some or other practical way. The true friend will make the time to help in ways that show they understand your needs at the moment.

If you are going through a tough time emotionally then a true friend will be the first to call just to see how you are doing. They are the kind of people who will send an unexpected gift or note of encouragement when you need it.

They will also step up to help where they are able when you are in need, whether in need of a ride somewhere or of something material, like bringing by some groceries or a cooked meal if you are unwell. They will take the time needed to be there in a way that will lighten the load and help to ease any burden that you carry.

5. A true friend will share common ground.

This one seems obvious, but true friends enjoy spending time together and this is usually done around things that you both enjoy. Most friendships are initially formed around things that two people share, whether an interest in similar things or a shared activity.

With a true friend, shared things will likely hold a higher significance in your life, whether through a shared history or shared values. While true friends do not need to share the same faith and can have a mutual respect that allows for different beliefs, true friends usually have the things that are most important to them in common, like their faith. That way true friends can pursue their faith together, encouraging one another in that journey.

6. A true friend celebrates your success.

There is no room for envy in a true friendship. True friends will celebrate each other’s successes and be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. A true friend will want you to succeed in your endeavors and provide support and encouragement along the way.

7. A true friend will challenge you to be better.

On the other side, a true friend will also be willing to challenge you when you do something wrong. They will challenge any negative thinking or actions that are unhelpful to you. They will also be brave enough to speak out when they think you are making a mistake or acting in a way that is unhelpful or unkind or to those around you.

If you share a common faith or belief system this may also be something that they challenge you on. They won’t be afraid to risk offending you if they believe that challenging you in something is for your good. They will want you to grow as a person and will be ready to challenge you to do better whenever it is needed. They will also feel secure enough in the relationship that they will feel it is safe to do so.

So, if you have a friend who is brave enough to disagree with you, or to challenge a decision you have made, don’t be quick to discard them as a bad friend. Rather, recognize the courage it takes to confront someone and take the time to weigh the wisdom of what they are saying before deciding whether you will act on what they say or not.

8. A true friend is a rare treasure.

While a person may have many friends in their lives, many sharing characteristics of true friendship, a true friend is a precious and wonderful gift. True friendship takes time to develop and doesn’t happen without a solid commitment on both sides to push through the challenges together, even on the hard days.

It is only when a friendship has survived the storms and stood the test of time that its sweetness can best be appreciated. This kind of friendship only happens when both parties are equally committed to it, and willing to put in the effort for each other. Nothing dulls a friendship like one where a person feels like they are constantly giving and not receiving similarly from the other party.

A true friend will give without expecting to receive, but for the friendship to last, at some point, the amount of investment must be reciprocated. The way to determine how important a friendship is to you is to ask yourself how much you are willing to invest in it to keep it. To slightly modify the adage, the best way to gain a true friend is to be a true friend.

Photos:
“Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Briana Tozour, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Cynthia Magana, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of KaLisa Veer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Jonas Weckschmied, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

In the Christian world, marriage is held in high esteem. It is largely considered a natural step toward a mature and fulfilling Christian life. This emphasis, while in many ways positive, can overly-glorify the experience of marriage. It’s not that marriage isn’t a significant gift from God, but that gift does not come without relational difficulties.

The tensions of marriage are not as often discussed as the beauty and sacredness of marriage. This absence can create an unrealistic expectation of marriage and even make newly married Christians think that marital problems are abnormal, creating a sense of shame surrounding getting help for their marriage.

Spoiler Alert: Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

One specific area of conflict not openly discussed is communication. Other than saying something like, “communication is key,” pastors and Christian leaders rarely spend much time illustrating the need for clear and honest communication or teaching on how to become a better communicator in marriage.

As a result, when seriously dating or engaged Christians experience conflict and poor communication, there is the temptation to brush it aside, thinking something along the lines of “when we get married this will get better.” That is a false reality.

Marriage will not make you a better communicator. Only you can make yourself a better communicator, and it will require time and effort. However, if you push it to the side and continue to hope for marriage to solve the problem, then your frustration at your or your partner’s inability to communicate will continue to grow into deeper and deeper marriage problems.

The reality is marriage will not make you a better communicator. Acknowledging this fact is a step toward building a better marriage. Once you are aware of this, you can begin identifying the communication issues in your relationship and work toward establishing healthy patterns of communication to fortify your marriage and intimacy.

The Marriage Lie

The marriage lie is the idea that marriage will fix the problems in your relationships. These problems can be financial, relational, in-laws, career – the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, if you think marriage is the solution, you are mistaken. In fact, marriage often times intensifies the conflict. For the sake of this article, we will only discuss the issue of communication and how to become a better communicator.

How does marriage make your communication conflict more intense? For starters, marriage is initiated by the wedding, a season that often brings tremendous emotional, financial, and relational stress. Many couples survive the crucible of the wedding rather than thrive through the experience.

Even if your wedding is a positive experience, there is still the added stress of covenant commitment. When you are dating someone, there is always the security of separating if things don’t work out. This may sound callus or uncaring, but it’s human nature. If in the back of your mind you know that you can walk away, then there is always a certain level of security you feel. You have control and can opt out if you feel the need.

Once you get married, however, the commitment is final. If you are seeking to honor God with your marriage, then Biblically, there are very few circumstances that allow for a divorce. This sense of commitment can escalate your conflicts because where before you felt like you had a back door (whether you planned on using it or not), now, you are committed to this for better or for worse.

So when you experience conflict, things can get primal and instinctual very quickly as you fight for what you feel you need. It should come as no surprise that primal and instinctual are not great qualities for communication.

While you may have hoped for marriage to help your communication issues, you will quickly discover that the added commitment of marriage can actually create more stress, resulting in more marital problems.

It is important to note that marriage doesn’t create the problems. The problems were already there. It’s just that marriage cannot and will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems. That will require patience, love, commitment, and humility. You know, the hard stuff.

Communicating through Marriage Problems

So if marriage is not the solution to your communication issues, then what will help you handle your relational and marital problems? There are a lot of answers to this question. Each person and relationship will need something a little bit different. But that being said, there are some universal practices that can help you become a better communicator and resolve communication issues.

The first is recognizing your communication style. Are you someone who speaks what’s on your mind and can’t hide your feelings? Or are you someone who stuffs everything you feel inside hoping to avoid conflict? Step back and consider how you usually communicate.

Consider asking your partner or close friends to get their input. If you are struggling to understand how you communicate, then you may want to meet with a Christian counselor who can help you reflect on how you communicate with other people.

Second, consider the communication culture of your family. Was your family a place of healthy, mediated discussion where everyone got to share and express their emotions? Or was there an unwritten rule that the family does not discuss problems openly? Or maybe your family was more characterized by explosions of anger followed by peace as family members recovered from the intense outbursts.

You and your partner will likely repeat or continue the patterns you learned in your family. Discussing the pattern of communication in your family can be a helpful way for married couples to recognize their own issues in communication and set a vision for how they want to communicate.

If you begin to seriously explore your family patterns and find them painful or difficult to understand, then you should give serious consideration to working with a Christian counselor. Family of origin issues are complicated and very difficult to parse out on your own. Having a trained professional to help guide you and draw out your experience with your family is tremendously important.

Finally, recognizing the patterns in your marriage is key. Marital problems don’t appear overnight. They take time to grow and develop. Once you’ve considered your own style of communication and how your family communicated, it’s time to look at the details of how you and your spouse are communicating.

Look for patterns in your conflict. Are there topics, phrases, or behaviors that set you or your partner off? It is very important to recognize the detailed progression of your communication conflict in order to stop and resolve the issues before they get out of hand.

If things are already extremely tense between your partner and yourself, and you need relationship help, then consider Christian marriage counseling. Don’t wait until you are in a serious crisis to get professional help. A Christian marriage counselor can help mediate the conflict and explore the deeper issues behind the communication conflict.

These kinds of marital issues are not uncommon and there is no reason to feel ashamed to seek relationship help. Christian marriage counseling is too often seen as a last resort when it actually is much more effective at resolving issues earlier on in the process.

Don’t wait to get relationship help

In marriage, like in any other relationship, there will be conflict. But marriage is different because the commitment level is much, much higher. Most people put hope in marriage to solve their problems and are surprised to find that marriage can actually aggravate the problems.

Don’t let the shame of acknowledging issues in your marriage prevent you from seeking relationship help. Christian marriage counseling can turn a struggling relationship into a healthy, strong relationship. It will take openness, sacrifice, and humility, but remember resolving conflict in your marriage is possible.

Photos:
“Coffee”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Who Gets the Cat?”, Courtesy of Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Knock Down Drag Out”, Courtesy of Afif Kusuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Conversing”, Courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

5 Tips for Life After Divorce

There is a saying that “you never step into the same river twice.” Transitions and movement are a part of life – we change, or our circumstances change, or we find both changed in ways that are irrevocable, and sometimes painful. One of life’s changes is when you get divorced, a reality that has been in decline in the last few years in the US, but still affects thousands of people every year.

Getting married is usually attended with joy at the transition into life with someone and getting divorced separates you from the person with whom you shared life and dreams for that life together.

How to Navigate Life After Divorce

The situations in each marriage are different, and so divorce can bring with it a broad mix of emotional responses, from anger, relief, confusion, grief, or a combination of these. Life after divorce is about navigating a new reality with its own complexities that others may struggle to relate to. How do you move into life after divorce in a way that allows you to flourish?

Grieving loss

One aspect of life after divorce for some is that it is a time of grieving loss. Even in the most difficult marriages where their end comes as a relief, there is still a sense of loss. Sharing a life with someone isn’t an easy thing; you form emotional, physical, and other ties to one another, and that includes whatever hopes and dreams you shared with the person you married.

When you get divorced, all of what could have been, all that you’d hoped for and desired from a shared life must be laid to rest. The relationship changes in profound ways, and that’s something you must come to terms with, whether you’re happy, feeling regret, or lost because of what’s happened. Grieving is about giving yourself the room you need to feel your feelings, whatever they may be, and not gloss them over or pretend they aren’t there.

One avenue for this important work is through therapy. Group and individual therapy might be helpful as a part of your process of coming to terms with what’s happened and addressing issues in your soul.

The work of regaining your sense of self can happen in a therapy setting where you have the support and understanding of others. And if you need to heal, take time out for that to happen. The point behind grieving is not to wallow in self-pity but to acknowledge that in getting divorced, something profound has happened in your life, and you need to come to terms with the full scope of it.

Practice self-care

Being able to take care of yourself is important no matter what stage of life or experiences you’ve gone through. Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person will ever experience. Stress has many negative impacts on one’s health, and that includes comprising the immune system, something that many studies have shown.

Going through a divorce and dealing with the aftermath of it can have a significant impact on your overall health, which heightens the need for practicing self-care. There are several ways to deal with stress and make sure that you’re staying healthy.

Get some sleep. Good sleep allows the body to recover from whatever wear and tear it has experienced during the day. Not only does it help with energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence, but sleeping well also helps with what you eat.

Poor sleep has been linked to the consumption of foods that aren’t good for you because they are too refined, are high in sugar and the fats your body could use less of. You make better eating choices when you sleep well, and when you eat well it also impacts your sleep positively.

Eat well. As pointed out above, eating well by eating foods that help with your digestion, boost your immunity, and improve brain health not only keeps you physically and mentally healthy, but it aids good sleep and the emotional benefits from that. So, eating good fiber, taking in nuts, citrus, fresh vegetables, oily fish, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids all help to boost your health.

Move. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, dancer, or walker, do whatever you enjoy doing that gets you moving and that has your physician’s backing. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it keeps your body healthy, and your mood elevated.

Deal with the negative self-talk. In some situations, there may be negative talk from the people around you about your divorce, but also from yourself. You may be blaming yourself, calling yourself names, or feeling unworthy of love. Practicing self-acceptance and speaking gently with yourself are effective ways to counter this negative self-talk that only serves to paralyze and disempower you.

Lean on your circle

At all times, community matters. Life after divorce is no different, even if your community might shift a little during and after the process. Divorce may cause your circles to change – people can take sides about your divorce, and friends can be lost in the process.

However, you need your people – whoever they may be – in your life after divorce. This may be to help with chores that your partner used to do or to take the kids when you can’t, or just to come alongside you in support.

As mentioned before, group therapy can function as a supportive community to help bear some of the load of a new situation. Your spiritual community, as a community of people also on the way, may also be a bastion of support. Instead of shying away from the community, drawing nearer towards others who are safe is vital for emotional and mental health.

Dealing with the new you

Life after divorce doesn’t stop, and neither does your growth as an individual. God has built us in such a way that even the devastating events in our lives aren’t the end of us, and the evil that comes upon us can be used for good by God (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28), though it’s hard to tell at the moment how pain can birth anything good.

Part of life after divorce is to deal with the new you and come to terms with the changes your new status brings. Being married shifts not only our self-understanding but how other people relate to us. Getting divorced can have the same impact, and that sense of who we are and how people treat us can shift because of the new status.

Where you may have gotten used to going certain places because of and/or with your spouse, including the people you mingled with, you now must figure out doing life without them. The things you liked, and indeed the entire trajectory of your life may have changed because of your contact with your ex, and rediscovering who you are again away from that relationship becomes a whole new adventure. Take your time in figuring out what comes next for you.

Continue living your life

Divorce is not the end of your life, but a new chapter in it. If you have children with your ex, continue being present for them. They need to be reassured and know that their parents love them and that though things have changed for the adults in the room, how they are loved hasn’t.

Whatever may have happened between you and your ex, being present for your kids is important, as is protecting them from whatever issues you may have with your ex. They don’t need to be read in on the messier points of the relationship, used as spies to find out what your ex is doing or as messengers to communicate with your ex.

Go to work, keep enjoying your relationship with God, your hobbies, your church community, your friends, and continue developing yourself as a person. Though you may not be ready for love again just yet, it’s a possibility that may lie ahead in your future, and something that you can remain open to.

Photos:
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of [ik] @invadingkingdom, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lego Lady”, Courtesy of Jackson Simmer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Barrier”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License