Relationship Issues: Biblical Wisdom for Life

Human beings are, by virtue of our makeup, called into community and relationships. Having been made in God’s image, we are relational by nature and gravitate toward relationships with others – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). However, living as we do in the aftermath of Genesis 3, it’s not surprising that our various relationships (whether with our friends, spouses, colleagues, neighbors and even strangers on the internet) are complicated and difficult. You may find yourself desiring relationships but struggling with them for a variety of reasons related to relationship issues, including pride, anger, lack of forgiveness, hurt, lack of trust, struggles to be vulnerable and so on.

Bible Verses about Relationship Issues

God has not left us alone in this. The Bible gives us wisdom on how to navigate this important area of life, challenging and encouraging us to enter and conduct relationships in a healthy manner. Below are a few key verses with wisdom on handling and thinking about relationships in a life-giving way.

The call to love others

When asked to summarize what the message of the Bible was, here’s how that conversation with Jesus went:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.Matthew 22:35-40

In other words, love is what it’s all about. We are called to love God and to love others as we love ourselves.

The two commands to love God and our neighbor are very closely linked. Another biblical author expressed it this way: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:7-8, 20).

The gist of it is that we can’t say something like, “People are so hard to get along with, but what matters is that I love God”. This verse is saying if we know and love God, it follows that we love people too (as difficult as that may be!).

“A new command I give you,” Jesus told his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Our relationships are to be marked by love, which will show people that we truly belong to Jesus.

Living with compassion and forgiveness

We are all sinners. We hurt, disappoint, frustrate, annoy, and generally do stuff to one another that we shouldn’t. We need forgiveness from others (admitting this calls for humility), and we also need to extend forgiveness to others.

The apostle Paul said to the young community of Christians in Ephesus, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Not only are we called to get rid of bitterness, which undermines relationships, but we are to extend forgiveness, which builds and rebuilds relationships. To live well with others in meaningful relationships, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are necessary.

It’s challenging and interesting that Paul says to be compassionate and forgiving towards others in the same way God forgave us. That’s humbling, because we need forgiveness from God often, and he is more than willing to grant it. By the power of the Holy Spirit who can do more than we can even imagine or ask for, God is able to transform our hearts to enable us to forgive others.

Dealing with our anger

The earlier verse mentioned getting rid of anger. Anger is a real issue for many. While anger is a valid emotional reaction to circumstances or certain actions by people, it can become crippling if we live in it. Anger can fester and take root so deep that even being in the same room with the person becomes impossible.

Instead of stewing in our anger and letting it lead us down a dark path, we are encouraged, “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). The longer we hold onto our anger, the further it drives a wedge between us and the person we are angry with.

That wedge is something the devil can exploit to undermine or destroy the relationship. Sometimes you can be so angry with someone that after a while you don’t even remember why you’re angry because the issue has faded from view, and the anger has become an entity unto itself. That’s a dangerous place to be. It is wise to address our anger and its root cause sooner rather than later.

Being in community

Because we are creatures made in God’s image, we are relational by nature, though we come at this differently. Some love huge crowds, while others are content to have a deep conversation with one person. In either case, relating to others meets a need in us.

Ecclesiastes also makes this observation about human life: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). The book of Proverbs has this gem, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We sharpen one another by giving each other wisdom, guidance, assistance and so much more.

God has placed us in many different communities, including the community of faith. To live out the Christian life, we need that community. The reciprocal pronoun “one another” is prominent in the New Testament: “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16); “Be servants of one another’ (Galatians 5:13); “Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 5:11); “Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21); “Forgive one another” (Col. 3:13); “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16); “Love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22) and so many more.

The Christian life is a life lived out in community, in a shared life with others. If you are not part of a community of faith, may I encourage you to join one?

Walking wisely

Lastly, but not least, part of being wise in our relationships lies in not only knowing who to be involved with, but who to steer clear of. “Do not be misled,” Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Be wise who you hang out and build your life with.

If you struggle with certain kinds of addictions, for instance, it may not be healthy for you to hang out with people that actively participate in that lifestyle. Cultivate relationships with people that love the Lord and are actively pursuing him.

Christian Counseling for Relationships

The area of relationship issues may be a complicated or painful one for you, whether you’re carrying hurt, disappointment, fear of commitment, or anger. A Christian counselor can help you, not only with thinking through relationships from a Biblical perspective but also with giving you skills and tools to enable your relationships to flourish. Whether it’s for talk or another kind of therapy, consider connecting with a Christian counselor.

Photos:
“Black Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reflection”, Courtesy of The HK Photo Company, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of Emmanuel Phaeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Together”, Courtesy of Cassidy Rowell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage? 6 Truths from God’s Word

Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about marriage?” If so, this article is for you. In the beginning, when the world was young and harmony reigned, God blessed the first marriage, between Adam and Eve. After Adam was created, there was nothing in the creation like him, and God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”. God created and brought Eve to Adam. Created in God’s image and Adam’s equal, Eve was “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” as Adam put it.

Adam and Eve had one another in this brave new world – someone who was an equal but different and complementary. Since people are made in God’s image, it makes sense that Adam and Eve had an innate desire for relationship and that it wouldn’t be good for either of them to be alone. As descendants of Adam and Eve, all of us are the result of this first marriage.

Cut to the 21st century, where many struggle with the relevance of the institution of marriage. Despite our difficulties with marriage, there is a beauty to the way marriage brings two lives together and the two become one flesh, one new family unit when they leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24).

This “leaving and cleaving” creates a committed space of unashamed intimacy within which a man and woman build a life together. What can we continue to learn from the Bible about marriage?

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

It is good

One of the things the Bible says about marriage is that it is good. The book of ancient wisdom called Proverbs puts it this way: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Presumably, she who finds a husband also finds what is good.

Again, this makes sense in light of human nature and our inclination toward being in relationship with others, including this most intimate of human relationships. The marriage relationship is a life-long commitment (Romans 7:2). All things being equal, weddings are generally a time of celebration.

In some liturgies, the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus turned water into wine is mentioned as another divine endorsement of marriage. If God was behind marriage when the world was perfect and the specter of arguments and divorce was absent, the wedding at Cana shows us God still endorsing marriage even in our broken world. It is good, and it is worth celebrating.

It is a mystery

Of all the things one could say about marriage, one apt description is that it is a mystery. It’s a mystery in a least two ways. First, despite our culture’s fractious relationship with marriage, the vast majority of people are still drawn towards making the public and lifelong commitment that is marriage.

Second, and more important, reflecting on marriage while writing to Christians in the city of Ephesus, the apostle Paul brings up what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds these believers that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh.

But then he says that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his church. This is a “profound mystery”, he says (Ephesians 5:32). It’s a bit mind-bending, but human marriage is patterned after and is an echo of the relationship between Christ and his people. Getting married draws you inadvertently into something beyond yourself, something timeless and cosmic – profound mystery indeed.

It isn’t for everyone

Even though marriage is a good gift, it isn’t for everyone. There are some for whom the celibate life is their calling. Both Jesus and Paul make this point. Some people have made the choice to remain single “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus continues, saying, “Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12).

In other words, some people may decide to stay single to maintain an unswerving focus on the kingdom. Paul puts it this way:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…if you do marry, you have not sinned… I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.1 Corinthians 7:17, 28, 32

In other words, if you want to get married, that’s great, but marriage comes with certain responsibilities or anxieties, and you must be aware of that. If you want to stay single, that’s also great. The single life enables a certain kind of unbroken focus on the kingdom. In other words, the calling toward either marriage or singleness is morally neutral; each life comes with its own joys and burdens.

It’s not perfect

Marriage is not perfect because the people in it aren’t perfect. The reality is that people no longer get married in the blissful context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now way more complicated than that. Coming after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage now happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.

Adam went from composing poetry for Eve, his beloved wife, saying, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command: “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it”, he says (Genesis 3:12).

She’s now merely “The woman”. Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame to one another, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding ourselves and our motives from one another and God.

Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Sin entered our lives, complicating and twisting this beautiful relationship given to us by God.

It should be protected

Because we are not perfect and we’re getting married in a post-Genesis 3 world, marriages are fragile and need protection from the people in (and those not in) them. The Bible is full of warnings against adultery, but it also concerns itself with harmful attitudes between husbands and wives that undermine love, mutual appreciation, warmth, forgiveness and so on.

It also addresses the harmful attitudes of others who are not in the marriage and who don’t take the marriage covenant seriously. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

God is aware of the world we live in, the temptations and challenges we encounter in daily life. Sometimes the spouses in a marriage, or the people close to them, don’t honor the marriage covenant. This can have dire consequences for all involved.

It’s a partnership

A marriage is a partnership in which both spouses have a role to play and something to contribute to the nurture and health of the relationship, and any children that may come from the marriage. Both the husband and wife have a role to play in instructing their children and in how they relate to each other.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction,” says Proverbs 1:8, “and do not forsake your mother’s teaching”. Paul talks about the framework within which our relationships work. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”, he writes in Ephesians 5:21.

There is to be a conciliatory attitude in the marriage relationship to help that relationship flourish, so when we talk about “submission” and “loving one another,” it is not about sublimating your personality or strength but about leveraging it toward making the marriage work. This requires the work and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in us.

Christian Couples Counseling

Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship in a constructive manner. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes.

Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue working toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider Christian couples counseling with your spouse.

Photos:
“Bride and Groom”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wedding in Abruzzo”, Courtesy of Foto Pettine, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of freestocks, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Putting the Ring on the Finger”, Courtesy of Sir Manuel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

11 Ways to Love Your Spouse Well

Many marriages will end when one feels the other does not love them anymore or does not love them how they need. People will say that they have “fallen out of love” with their spouses, or maybe they are exhausted from giving so much love but not receiving enough love in return.

Even though love in marriage is about giving and receiving love (not just one or the other), it is often the culprit behind extramarital affairs, separation, and divorce.

11 Ways to Love Your Spouse Well

It is vital in healthy, thriving marriages to choose to love your spouse well every day because this is the most important human relationship in your life, so this is a shortlist of ways to love well.

1. Spend time with them.

This seems silly to say, but life gets seriously busy, especially with work and children in the mix. It is often difficult to prioritize spending quality time together, and there may often be days when you barely speak at all.

This behavior can lead to emotional distance in your relationship, where you become like ships passing through the night instead of partners, lovers, companions, and best friends. So choose time every day, even if it is simply 15-30 quiet and uninterrupted minutes (phones away, televisions off, children not with you) talking about how you are doing, how your day was, or any other important things.

Schedule date nights or date days/weekends with your spouse when you can get away and focus solely on each other. You will never be able to know how to love them well if you are not working to know them every day. They will change, and so will you. Do not let them pass you by over time so that you do not know one another anymore.

2. Prioritize them over every person in your life, including your children.

Your spouse should be (and know that he or she is) the most important person in your life, under your relationship with Jesus if you are a Christian. This relationship must be protected and nurtured because it is the glue of your family. Without a healthy marriage, parenting will always be a huge challenge, and there will be constant dysfunction.

Your whole family will be unhealthy if your marriage is unhealthy. Put them above your work, extended family (like your family of origin), and even your children. Though your children are next in line of priority, your marriage should be at the top. To love your children well you need to love your spouse well.

3. Develop empathy for them: put yourself in their shoes.

Consider how they feel, what they feel, and why they feel it. Empathy is a beautiful and effective way to demonstrate love. If you do not ever consider their feelings with family decisions or about the health of your marriage or any other matter of importance, they will feel unseen, unheard, and not valued by you.

4. Be honest with them when you feel like they are not loving you well in return.

If you are the one who is loving so much that it is hurting you, it is time to be honest with your spouse about this. If you are constantly working hard to meet their needs and fulfill their wants and wishes to the point that your own needs are not being met, your relationship could be unhealthy. It is time to share with them that you feel you are carrying the emotional load of the relationship and that you want a reciprocal relationship. Be specific with what you need and want in return.

5. Pay attention to their needs and wants.

Be on the lookout for what they want and what they need. Acknowledge that you hear and respect them when they directly share these with you. If you cannot meet those needs, and you will not be able to meet them all, help them problem-solve about ways to get what they need and want.

However, if it is something that they specifically need from you, make it your priority to serve them in the way they need. If they want something from you that will cause you pain or harm, then set a boundary, and say no. Offer a compromise.

You could also practice this if there is something that they want with which you are uncomfortable (like some sexual activity, for example). Just because your spouse wants it, does not mean they need it or will get it. If it seems reasonable and, in your power, to help, then do so.

6. Support their dreams and work.

This could be a great way to demonstrate your love for your spouse. Always be open in communication about dreams, goals, and work. Let them share with you and honor them. If there is something physical that you can do (like financially support a dream or carve out time to hang out with the kids so that your spouse can work toward it), then do it.

If it is not in your hands, then hear them and provide support. They need you on their team, just as you need them on yours.

If your dream is inconsistent with what your relationship needs, it could be that your dream needs to be carefully assessed. You should never pursue a dream at the expense of your relationship, so it is even more important to have your spouse on board (and to be on board with theirs, too).

7. Serve them.

Take over the dishes. Help take out the trash. Do the bills. Cut up the credit card if your spouse hates it. Book a trip. Make the bed. Take them lunch. Hang out with the kids. Serving is an incredible display of love.

8. Be willing to be wrong.

You are not always right, nor do you always know what is right. When you are willing to acknowledge that you are wrong, it goes a long way in your relationship. However, if you never apologize and always react defensively, your marriage will suffer in the long run. This kind of behavior turns your spouse away and reduces the feeling of emotional safety in the relationship.

9. Listen.

This is a way to show respect for your spouse. Be willing to listen. “Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry.” Listen to their words and listen to the things they do that speak louder than words. Listen to what they feel and what they think. Listen to their body cues and body language. Listen to their health and their other relationships. If you notice that your spouse is struggling or needs you to step in and love them better, it is your job to do that.

10. Keep the fun alive and flirt, too.

Remember when you used to have fun? Think of a list of things that you can do that you both (or even just one of you) enjoy, and spend time doing that together! What did you do before that you both used to enjoy? Is it possible to put it back into your life? If you enjoy game nights, going to the movies, going shopping together, or going on trips, it does not matter what it is, just carve out time to do what you enjoy together.

Keep flirting, too! It is a way to keep the fun in your marriage, and it will show your spouse that you still find them attractive and that you still want them. This can be a great way to nurture your sexual relationship.

11. Pay attention to how they feel loved most.

One helpful (but not exhaustive) tool to use is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. He lists what he believed to be the top five ways that spouses give and receive love in his book, and they are relevant to discuss here. You may do some of the things above, but your spouse may not feel loved. Pay attention to how they feel love. It usually is different than what makes you feel love and how you give love. The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation: Words that speak on how you feel or what you think about your spouse. They could be kind words about them as a person or something that they have done, or they could be how you feel about them.

Physical Touch: Some people feel most loved with hugs, cuddles, massages, kisses, or sexual activity. Touch your spouse! Your sexual health in your relationship is vital to the overall health of your relationship.

Gifts: Thoughtful gifts are how many feel loved, and if this is your spouse’s love language, be intentional about surprising them often with small (and sometimes big) gifts.

Acts of Service: Some find it incredible when their spouses serve them in some way.

Quality Time: Some just want to be together without distraction. That for them feels like love.

No matter what you choose to do, pay attention to what you need and what your spouse needs. Do everything in your power to love them well and meet any needs that you can. This is the foundation of a healthy marriage, and nurture it in the long run, helping safeguard against affairs, separation, or divorce.

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for more practical ways to love your spouse or you could use some additional support in your relationship, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment. We would be happy to help.

Photos:
“Dream Come True”, Courtesy of Oziel Gomez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bridge”, Courtesy of Shea Rouda, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart in the Sand”, Courtesy of Khadeeja Yasser, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking on the Beach”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Premarital Counseling for Today’s Generation

Many couples are reflecting on how 2020 went for them and wondering how 2021 will treat them. We noticed a boom of weddings in 2020 despite the pandemic. This encouraged many to get engaged and to hopefully get married in 2021. We may wonder why people are getting married, and it could be as simple a matter as singles and dating couples being tired of living alone.

The pandemic has brought many issues to the surface such as depression due to constant isolation and anxiety when alone. Autophobia is the fear of being alone and is especially difficult the older you are. Undoubtedly families and couples did better than singles while being left alone for such a long time during the pandemic.

Although some took the risk of going out during the outbreak, many had no option but to stay at home out of concern for a loved one. This woke up many men and women to consider moving forward with their partners toward marriage. This is a noble solution to the problem of being alone. Wisdom would say that although it’s great to get married, we must build solidly to have a long-lasting marriage.

As a minister, I notice that couples in our church tend to rush into marriage but many, if not all, of these couples wisely seek advice. The pandemic is causing doubts and questions for possible weddings of 2021 such as financial costs, wedding attendance, where to live, school, jobs, family distance, etc.

A blessing in disguise of the pandemic is that it is helping couples to work through these issues with others, which is helping them to count the cost of moving forward.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’Luke 14:28-30

These couples cannot afford to put up money for a big wedding, and they are wondering where to live because, if the pandemic extends, they want to know could they be safe, and what is around them in walking distance i.e., parks, beach, trails, stores, etc. With this in mind, partners are asking one another about pre-marital counseling.

Premarital counseling is a foundational precursor to a healthy marriage because we tend to invest in what’s important to us. The passage in Luke helps us to consider how we are building. Couples aren’t just “fools rush in”, there is an alternative that can support a stronger relationship that will remain resilient during challenging times.

Sadly, many couples also ended their relationship in 2020 because the pandemic tested them beyond their capabilities and forced them to tap out. Couples’ characters were exposed and with the added pressures of isolation, they had no one to turn to. These marriages had little to no support that otherwise could have been of immense help.

The question is, why didn’t these couples have support? We could chalk it up to many possibilities, but one vital reason could be that it wasn’t discussed at their premarital counseling. We all have friends, but we don’t turn to them to get input especially about sensitive material as insecurities, sexual intimacy, conflict, jealousy, deceit, secrets, etc.

If adequate support is not set up in advance this challenge can be difficult to overcome. We all need support to move forward in life. We all appreciate the heroic stories of individuals, but the most encouraging ones are the teams of heroes that show everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Avengers, Justice League, and Star Wars are all some of the biggest box office hits in the last decade. The reason for their success is that they are teams fighting off a great evil. These have become bigger revenue-generating franchises and have overtaken the individual hero’s place as top of the box office king. Why do we have less enthusiasm about being a team in our marriages? Marriage is a perfect opportunity to be a team and have others team up to helps us.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is an interesting passage for couples because if my partner and I are one then who is going to help our one unit? Some may suggest that spouses are the other individual to help them out, but we can challenge that position by reminding everyone of the goal that God designed in Genesis 2:24 “the two will become one.”

By that principle, a couple who follows the word of God is one unit. The secret of Christian marriage is that we get to celebrate two lives joined together in holy matrimony, yet they are not alone. In the kingdom of God, we have support and guidance to face any issue. Marriages should never be alone. As separate individuals, we can support one another and maximize the potential of our unions.

2021 is going to be a full year of many couples dating, getting engaged, then married. Families will begin and many joyous occasions will take place. During those moments there will be stress and anxiety and one way to combat those symptoms will be to get premarital counseling as soon as possible.

First, dating or engaged couples can jumpstart their long-term relationship by investing in a healthy premarital counseling series so that they can develop a great foundation to make their marriage strong. Second, they can develop a support network. If they do these two crucial things, along with reading their Bible and praying every day, then they can have confidence that will stay together for the long haul.

If for some reason their church, ministry, friends, or community cannot provide that, then therapy can be a great alternative. Marriage and Family therapists are trained in basic approaches that can help couples in their relationships hence the title “marriage” therapist. Some may say that therapy is too pricey and could take up a lot of your time. An argument can be made that investing in your relationship is priceless.

When I married Nicole, there was no price too high to pay for the ring, wedding, and honeymoon. We had a budget of course, but my attitude was that I wanted to invest in the things I thought were important to me. Where we put our money shows where we are invested.

My advice to those of you reading this article is that if you are considering getting married soon, think about possibly getting premarital counseling through a therapist who will be impartial and professional. Sometimes our friends and family can mean well when it comes to giving us premarital advice but at times that can have some biases attached with it.

A professional therapist is trained to be in the middle and not side with either partner. The licensed marriage and family therapist will work with both individuals to help bring issues to light that could be of concern and to build skills to help them navigate expectations for the future.

Having a healthy dynamic marriage is priceless. I look back to when Nicole and I got premarital counseling and I shudder to think what would be said of us right now if we had never invested in our relationship after our engagement. In truth, our marriage would be a nightmare.

I’m grateful that others supported me and helped me to learn ways to communicate effectively, how to plan out my week with my wife, prioritizing biblical values, sexual intimacy, reconciliation, daily encouragement, effective roles, letting go of past hurts, submitting to one another, listening, finances, etc. Many couples get married and do not talk about these issues.

It is no wonder that couples have so many arguments. They approach their relationship with optimism but then they hit a snag after the vows. When conflict arises, they realize that they didn’t prepare for these issues and are shocked when they have no one to turn to. They want to save face, so they keep it “in-house”. They go to church and pretend that everything is fine.

Deep down, however, they are yearning for help so that they can grow. This piece is written for those looking forward to getting married this year but honestly, anyone can get counseling at any point in their relationship. It’s an investment that will reap long-lasting rewards. One spouse can go alone, although it is highly recommended that both attend.

If the couple is healthy, and one spouse wants to process a trauma from their past, then that one spouse should get therapy and may not need to include the other. If the conflict affects both, then both should attend to get therapy. Premarital counseling will prepare the couple so that they will not be blindsided by any potential threats.

Athletes say that the worst hit they take on the field is the one they don’t see coming. With premarital counseling, not only will you be ready for those challenges, but you will also be ready to confront them. Not only will you be ready to confront them but be victorious as a wonderful team. I close out with an encouraging analogy from Jesus on how to build our spiritual homes:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:24-27

Photos:
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Christian Marriage Counseling: When to Go and Why it is Helpful

Too often, couples believe that they must be on the brink of divorce and feel repulsed when in the presence of their spouse as their cue to attend marriage counseling. Christian marriage counseling should be considered more of an emotional first aid kit for your marriage. This emotional first aid kit can aid you in the minor cuts, major falls, sprains, and breaks of your marriage.

“Couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy with their relationship before receiving help.”John Gottman

Perhaps you are on the brink of divorce. Perhaps you feel yourself or your spouse pulling back in your marriage and you are not sure why because you cannot pinpoint what is distant, lacking, or repulsive to you.

How to Know if Christian Marriage Counseling Might Benefit You

Here are some circumstances that you might be able to relate to right now and why Christian marriage counseling might benefit you.

Something is off.

You cannot name it. You feel like you are communicating, you are still intimate, and you consider your spouse your best friend. Perhaps one or both of you are dealing with anxiety. Perhaps the stress and chaos of work and managing the home and kids are making it difficult for more time to connect on a deeper level, leaving you feeling somewhat distant or disconnected.

Perhaps you are in a season of raising babies and toddlers and the lack of sleep and quiet is just wearing on your mind, body, and relationship. Marriage counseling might benefit you in this stage of life because your mind is always whirling in a million directions. Your mind might feel stuck like the spin cycle on an aged washing machine, making it important to take time to work through your emotions and stressors together.

Your communication is lacking.

Tony Gaskins said “Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it…it dies.” Relationships take work. Healthy communication takes a lot of work and marriage counseling can be helpful to help you work through the kinks of different personalities, different love languages, different coping mechanisms, and through various forms of communicating.

Communicating is about so much more than the words that come out of your mouth – your tone, your timing, and your body language are all telling in the way that you communicate with your spouse.

Your finances are stressing you out.

Finances can be a divisive quicksand in your marriage if you are stressed about your financial situation, are drowning in doubt, or found out about an extensive debt that you did not know your spouse was bringing into your marriage.

Marriage counseling is a powerful tool in working through the ins and outs of finances, what is stressing you out, how to make a plan, and how to communicate and deal with your situation without letting it impact the continued blooming and blossoming of your relationship.

Sometimes it is the stress of not knowing how to talk about finances that creep into your marriage and try to rip it apart. Marriage is about teamwork, not trying to figure everything out on your own.

You are thinking about starting a family, but you are not sure if you are ready.

Marriage counseling might benefit you and your spouse if you are considering starting a family but are unsure of how to talk through your own upbringings and why you want to do things differently. Perhaps you both have different ideas of a family timeline and want to talk about it with a third-party who can ask different questions and facilitate healthy discussion and planning for your future.

Maybe one or both of you were raised in an unstable home and want to begin working through that emotional baggage and turmoil so that when you have a family of your own, it does not bring up unhealthy feelings and memories at every milestone. Marriage counseling can offer a different perspective to help you prepare for your future together so you can thrive.

One or both of you is carrying emotional baggage and it is weighing you down.

When you are carrying emotional baggage, it can impact you without you realizing it. It can also impact your closest relationships because you are holding back and trying to ward off those unwanted feelings and memories. Perhaps your baggage comes from a previous relationship, making it difficult to bare your soul with your significant other.

Dr. Steve Maraboli said, “How many of us walk around being weighed down by the baggage of a journey? You can’t possibly embrace that new relationship, that new companion, that new career, that new friendship, or that new life you want while you’re still holding on to the baggage of the last one. Let go…and allow yourself to embrace what is waiting for you right at your feet.”

Your partner is right at your feet, and it is important to be willing to serve them, have fun with them, talk with them, laugh with them, and cry with them. It is important to be able to grow together, evolve together, and blossom in your relationship with Christ together.

You are having issues with in-laws or extended family.

We often value the opinion of our parents and close family, and when family members are unsupportive of your marriage or talking badly about your spouse, then it is time to consider marriage counseling. When you get married, your priority is your spouse and your home. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

While your family will always be a priority to you, your spouse must come first. When you make this commitment, you mustn’t let others try to come between it. Mark 10:9 reminds us, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Guard your marriage. Protect your relationship. Prioritize your spouse. Make Christ the center of your marriage, rather than the opinions or approval of other people.

Absolutely nothing is wrong.

Christian marriage counseling can be beneficial not because your marriage is falling apart, but because you want your relationship to thrive. Perhaps you want to be challenged on a deeper level. Every marriage must weather the torrential storms of life, but it might be helpful to walk through the bountiful and the weary seasons of marriage with a counselor.

Christian marriage counseling can serve as a “wellness check” for your marriage – talking about life, growing in your relationship together, challenging you on a spiritual level together, improving your communication, and continuing to work through any baggage from the past. Marriage counseling is helpful for any day and any season of life.

Today might be a day of sadness or distance in your marriage. Today might be a day when you feel like life is throwing you curveball after curveball, and you are not sure how to move forward. Today is the day to choose reconciliation – with yourself, your spouse, and others. When your overall emotional health is in check, your marriage will continue to grow and thrive.

Do not let six years of unhappiness be the alarm that sounds in your mind to schedule your marriage counseling appointment. Marriage counseling can be for a rainy day, a slightly cloudy day, or a day where the sunshine is on full display.

Whether you feel like your marriage is stale or constantly surprising you, take to heart these verses for your marriage. Pray them with your spouse. Start a Bible study with your spouse. Make your spiritual health a top priority.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.Ephesians 5:25-33

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:12

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14

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How Family Counseling Can Change Your Family Dynamics

Families today face a wide range of difficulties and challenges that impact family dynamics. Families may deal with the effects of divorces, separations, deployments, moves, or identity crisis. Families may also deal with a financial crisis, death of a loved one, medical issues, disabilities, or behavioral ups and downs.

Families may need to address overarching issues of grief, anger, stress, or poor communication skills. It is definitive that all families will face obstacles of various kinds; however, it is important to note that your family does not have to deal with these roadblocks without the support and guidance of a counselor who can aid you in your family’s journey.

If one of your children is struggling with explosive anger outbursts, family therapy can help the child specifically as well as help the family determine how to best aid the child during their outbursts. The therapist will work to get to the root of the issue and determine the best way to help the child deal with and process their emotions.

If one of your family members is battling severe anxiety, family counseling can help the person struggling with anxiety as well as educating the entire family on how to help identify and deal with anxious behaviors.

If your family dynamics are impacted by the effects of stress because of finances or dealing with the loss of a loved one, family therapy can help you learn effective coping strategies to work on the betterment of your family’s emotional health.

Friday nights should be more about making memories together than avoiding one another because of underlying issues or avoiding conversation because you are unsure of what to say.

How Family Counseling Can Change Your Family Dynamics

Family counseling may be the pathway to establishing healthy communication.

Kevin Thompson said, “Communication thrives in healthy families. Unhealthy families have many topics that are off-limits.” For the betterment of the emotional and spiritual health of every family member, it is important to lay a strong foundation for communication skills. Every family member needs to know that their family conversations are a safe place.

They need a safety net, a place of trust, a place to ease anxiety and make their feelings known. Children need a place to ask questions because the world will fill their minds with many thoughts and feelings that they are unsure how to process. Adults need communication with their spouse where they can make their feelings of depression or anxiety known without feeling like a failure.

Family therapy can address family dynamics and ways to improve communication without judgment. Every individual, marriage, and family can improve in this area; it is not something you need to feel like a failure in if your communication is suffering or at a halt. Does everyone feel heard? Does everyone understand how to communicate without immediate judgment? Is everyone given the opportunity to voice their opinion or ask a question?

Family therapists can also serve as a mediator if the issues are more resentment-driven or someone is simply having a difficult time knowing how to voice their feelings.

Family counseling may be the fresh start your family is desperately longing for.

Perhaps your marriage is on the rocks or you feel like you are not getting through to your teenager. Maybe your teenager is inwardly struggling to find themselves or is unsure of what their future should look like. Perhaps their college decisions or sports scholarships are weighing heavy on their shoulders.

Family counseling is a great opportunity to discuss important topics or past issues in a safe, judgmental free place. Sometimes people do not realize how quickly they begin talking over someone else or a child is unsure how to ask a parent for help because of the fear of disappointing them

Sometimes it is more about children aiming to make their parents proud and feeling uncertain of how to voice their struggles. It may be the peer pressures that weigh like a ton of bricks on their adolescent shoulders.

Family therapy can help your family determine how to walk alongside one another in the struggles of life when you feel like you are currently at very different phases of life.

Family counseling can deal with a variety of issues.

If one person in the family is struggling, it impacts family dynamics and likely means that the entire family is functioning differently. Most of the time, we do not struggle during the initial spiral of emotions and crisis, but afterward when the initial wave of support has come and gone.

A child struggling with peer pressure needs continued support. Someone battling anxiety and depression needs continued support. Someone battling struggles from their past, the loss of a loved one, or fear of the future needs more support than what one day can offer.

Family counseling can help family members at large address their struggles and involve the entire family in establishing a plan of continued support for the future. Jen Williamson said, “There is no right speed at which to process one’s healing. There is no one path that serves everyone all of the time. Not every answer is everyone’s answer.”

Every person processes, deals with, and copes differently. Family therapy can aid your family in establishing emotional first aid and help determine how your family can best function through phases of grief, anxiety, anger, poor communication, and withdrawal.

Family counseling can help children establish healthy coping skills for their future.

Not only is family counseling effective and helpful for the entire family at large, but it can also help children learn and establish healthy coping skills for today and in the days and years to come. Helping children establish healthy coping skills is first done by helping them realize it is healthy to be vulnerable and express their feelings and emotions.

It is not a weakness to ask for help. Children need to know that their home is a safe place – one where they can cry, laugh, sing, dance, ask for help, and dream gargantuan dreams.

One thing children in today’s society are longing for is a voice. They long for their voices to make waves and to make a difference. It is crucial to their development to help them understand this voice and the impact it can have. Our goal is for them to be world-changers who know that they can make a difference by doing the right thing.

Today, you can begin your family’s journey to health by:

  • Scheduling a family therapy session. Today is your day! It can be a place of reset, rest, and resolutions. Your heart may need to hear “you are not alone.”
  • Ensure that your family is pursuing open and honest conversation. Start by sitting down as a family and just having an open conversation. Ask everyone how they are really doing. Do not accept “I am okay” as an answer.

Dig deeper. Ask your teen how school is going. What are their favorite/least favorite classes and why? Do they still enjoy the sport they work so hard at? Ask dad how work is going. The first step is to approach conversations out of love and compassion rather than judgment and feelings of failure.

The key to open communication is to check your tone and your heart. Are you empathic or harsh? Are you truly asking someone how their day was, or are you going through the motions and not really listening?

  • Realize every family faces their fair share of setbacks and crises. Do not feel like your family is wrong or failing because of a personal or overall family setback or crisis. You are not alone in facing personal issues. You are not alone in dealing with financial crises, poor communication, staleness in marriage, or having a trying time conversating with teenagers.
  • Get involved at church and have a strong support system. An often-overlooked support system is right under our noses in the churches we attend on Sunday mornings. Ann Landers said it so well, “Church is not a museum for saints, but rather a hospital for sinners.”

It is so easy to feel like we must put on a façade at church. We feel we cannot ask for help or admit areas in our lives that are not picture-perfect. We can truly begin to experience a breakthrough when we put on fewer facades and more true faces.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” The church should be that place where we can come together like a village to help one another through the periods of darkness and ride along together during the periods of bountiful and immeasurable blessings. That is what family is really about.

Christian Counseling to Improve Family Relationships

If you’re looking to improve the family dynamics in your home, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory. We would be happy to meet with you and your family to strengthen the bonds in your home.

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How to Deal with Rejection

Most of us can agree that rejection is painful. Whether rejected by a potential spouse, a loved one, or a career maker, the ego takes a hit. Sometimes it is difficult to move past the hurt and carry on with life as we know it. But life does go on, and we can learn how to deal with rejection in a healthy manner that will propel us forward into our future.

How to Deal with Rejection

Some people can experience a painful rejection and yet find it in themselves to regroup and try again to reach their goal. However, others have trouble once rejection has taken root, especially if they have heard the word “no” constantly. Why are some people resilient after rejection and others are not?

Resilience after a rejection is not a trait only some people are blessed with. Dealing with rejection is a behavior that you can learn. It is how you identify and analyze your thoughts and emotions after rejection. It is learning how to use that hurt to mold and create your purpose by shifting your perspective.

Learning how to deal with rejection is not easy. Being slighted by someone stings and according to studies using MRI scans, the brain responds similarly to physical pain and the pain from rejection. Unfortunately, with social media only a swipe away, more and more people are experiencing rejection on a frequent basis, but there are things you can do to help build your resiliency and bounce back to reach your goals.

Remember Who You Are

When the world rejects you, it’s easy to forget who you are and whose you are. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). No one wants to be hated, disliked, snubbed, or rejected. Yet, Jesus prepared us for how the world reacts to people.

Most of the time, it’s not that people are meaning to slight you. It may be that they are in a hurry or have important matters on their mind and simply forgot to speak or acknowledge your presence. They may feel overwhelmed at work and take a quick break to scroll social media and inadvertently skip “liking” your post. Or, perhaps they are trying to manage all the small details for a social gathering and forget to personally invite you.

Of course, there are situations where you are outright rejected – a potential spouse or clique at school or work. This is the time that you need to remember that God created you and loves you just as you are. You don’t have to prove your worth to Him. You are already a part of His eternal kingdom. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 2:25).

In Him, you are whole, eternal, and perfected in every way. It doesn’t really matter what other people think. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Give Yourself Grace

Rejection is hard enough without the inner voice chiming in and over-analyzing situations. We can tear apart a conversation or something as simple as a look from across a room. The thoughts that form can take on an ugly personality – attacking with negative self-talk. Some of this inner voice originated when we were children through experiences that left an imprint.

More of the inner voice stems from adult experiences that seem to confirm what the childhood inner voice already demands. Have you heard any of these thoughts from your inner voice?

  • You can’t please them because you will never be good enough.
  • No one will ever love you.
  • You’re not meant to do great things.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will never like you.
  • You’re not smart/pretty/clever/wealthy/talented enough.
  • Why even try? You will only fail.

These are harsh statements living in your head and it’s time to put a stop to them. It’s time to give yourself grace. Why should we listen to that negative inner voice say things to us that we would never say to another human being? Even if these are comments you heard from someone in your past that doesn’t mean you have to talk to yourself that way now. Don’t believe these lies. Be kind to yourself.

It’s Okay to Feel the Pain

Keeping the pain from rejection bottled up inside however is unhealthy and can lead to other long-term problems. You can feel the hurt, just don’t get lost in it. You don’t want the emotions to override your controlled behavior. Under the initial sadness, anger, or resentment of rejection is the hurt that needs to be addressed.

In some people, especially those who have faced rejection multiple times, the pain is too much. These people feel the pain, but they can’t seem to separate themselves from the hurt. This can lead to anxiety and depression.

If you think you are having trouble moving past rejection, consider seeking help from a professional therapist. Using a combination of talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist can teach you techniques to move past the pain and shift your perspective.

Feeling the pain can bolster you to higher goals. Celebrities, business executives, CEOs, among others have told stories of being rejected only to reemerge stronger than before. The rejection was actually a blessing and opportunity in disguise. However, these successful people would never have realized that if they hadn’t first embraced the rejection and acknowledged the hurt.

Avoid Dwelling on the Situation

As we recall the painful scenario, we tend to dwell on the pain which gives permission for the inner voice to give its opinion. Slowly we chip away at our own self-confidence. We begin to doubt our ability, talent, skills, worth, appearance, and other things that are important to us. We become our own worst enemy. We manage to twist the truth to fit into new belief molds that are not necessarily true.

Allowing a situation to take the forefront in your mind can also exacerbate the pain and emotions toward the person or people involved. Anger, bitterness, and resentment can grow exponentially. The problem with allowing these emotions to grow is that they end up hurting you.

You are probably not in a place where you can readily forgive the other person just yet for hurting you but holding onto the pain only keeps you from moving forward. “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26). As a child of God, you have more important things to think about.

When Your Hurt Can Help Others

Not all rejection is personal. Yet, rejection can also serve a purpose in God’s plan for your life. Consider the heroes from the Bible. For example, Moses was rejected by his Hebrew brethren which led to his running away until God called him to return to help His people. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife until God moved him into a position that others may not have thought he was worthy to hold.

The rejection you recently faced may have a purpose to it that you aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes in order to get our attention or to steer us back on track, God will use rejection. Ask Him what the purpose of this hurt is and to reveal your purpose.

As seen countless times in the Bible, God doesn’t use someone for something great without first testing them thoroughly. Perhaps what seems like rejection is really part of a test to make you stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future.

Your story could one day inspire another person, maybe the entire world. If you need help dealing with the rejection so you can get back to fulfilling your purpose, seek help from a Christian counselor who can point you not only to techniques that work but also to biblical truth about yourself as someone God created in His own image.

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“No”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Thumb Smiley”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Success Ahead”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Sad Heart”, Courtesy of Conmongt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Recover

Do you feel like taking a step back when things get tough in your life? If so, you may be using emotional withdrawal as a defense. This is a common situation, but it can lead to other problems if not addressed.

Withdrawal is a coping mechanism for pain. It’s a self-protective measure a person uses to keep from getting hurt again. However, when withdrawal is used over long periods or repeated, it can cause further relational decay.

Reasons for Withdrawal

The reasons for withdrawing can be myriad in number. They can be due to either real or perceived threats to one’s mental, physical, or emotional safety. Here are several common examples of why people may withdraw.

  • A boy is bullied at school and withdraws from all social contact with peers.
  • A young girl is sexually abused by an uncle and withdraws from all males in her family.
  • A wife withdraws from her husband after he has an affair with a coworker.
  • A young woman experiences spiritual abuse at church and refuses to attend organized services again.
  • A man is treated poorly by his boss and withdraws from social contact with other coworkers.
  • A divorced father withdraws from his children.
  • An elderly mother refuses to see her adult children.

Shame is often a root of withdrawal. In each example above, the people may partially blame themselves for the mistreatment they received. They may even feel like they deserve poor treatment, due to a damaged self-image. Shame can hold us down and keep us from living the life God intended for us to live.

Real guilt may also be involved in withdrawal situations. While shame is attached to false guilt, real guilt is attached to something we did to hurt others. The divorced father may feel guilty for turning his children’s lives upside down. The elderly mother may feel guilty for prioritizing her career over her children when they were young.

Anger is often a reason for withdrawal. The bullied boy is understandably angry at the bully. Likewise, it’s reasonable for the wife to be angry about her husband’s affair, and the teen girl to be angry over the breakup. Anger is a normal, even healthy, reaction to unwanted changes. But when it is not handled properly, it can cause a person to withdraw.

Fear can be attached to reasons for withdrawal. Many people who withdraw live in dread of getting hurt so badly again. Though the real threat of danger may have passed, the trauma from the original incident runs deep. The fear of getting hurt again can drive the urge to withdraw.

No matter the reason for your withdrawal, a caring Christian counselor can help you deal with it. In many cases, talk therapy is highly effective for handling withdrawal and moving toward healing. Your counselor will be able to help identify the reason for your withdrawal and get you past it.

Signs of Withdrawal

The signs of withdrawal run parallel to the signs for the underlying feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and fear. Here are some signs you may notice if you are withdrawing from others.

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • One-word answers
  • Silent treatment
  • Leaving the room when someone enters
  • Fear of returning to where the original incidents occurred
  • Spending much more time alone than usual
  • Not responding to texts, emails or calls

Withdrawal can lead to intense loneliness, and untended loneliness can lead to depression, which can have major risks. These are the signs of depression to watch for:

  • Bouts of tearfulness
  • Feelings of inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Irritation or uncharacteristically short temper
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy even with normal daily activities
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Memory problems
  • Negative impact on work
  • No longer attending normal social engagements
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia
  • Slow movements or slowed, quiet speech
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Recurring thoughts about death, dying, and suicide

If you have at least three of these symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s important to meet with a counselor. In counseling, you’ll receive the help you need to overcome your depression and start connecting with safe people again.

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Emotional withdrawal symptoms can last for a few weeks after a trigger incident. If not handled right away, these symptoms can persist for months or even years. You need help to deal with these symptoms, so they don’t exact a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being.

If you’ve had any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s time to get help.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense loneliness
  • Irrational fears
  • Not leaving your home

No one can successfully navigate these problems on their own. We can help you discover the roots of your withdrawal so you can eliminate these symptoms. If you are not making progress on your own, a consultation with a professional can give you a new perspective plus practical tips for recovering.

Recovering from Emotional Withdrawal

To recover from emotional withdrawal, you not only need to deal with the roots of the problem but find new ways of relating to others. A counselor can help you find the solutions, plus role-play improved relationship dynamics. Let’s look at the examples above to see how these people were able to move past withdrawal.

  • The boy who was bullied gains some boundary-setting skills with his counselor. He learns to view his classmates as not “all bad” any longer. By taking a few calculated risks, practiced with his counselor, he connects with one child in the class and begins building a friendship.
  • As the young girl receives counseling, she learns to grieve her losses and heal from the trauma. Her counselor helps her see that while her uncle made very poor choices that hurt her, other males in her family have been consistently loving and kind. She begins taking baby steps toward a closer relationship with her father.
  • The wife attends her own counseling sessions in addition to marriage counseling sessions with her husband. As they work to repair and restore their marriage, the wife works on her own tendency to use the silent treatment when she’s hurting. By overcoming that relationship problem, she learns to stay connected to her husband even when they experience conflict.
  • The young woman who was spiritually abused walks through the grieving process with her counselor. In her counseling sessions, she learns what personality traits attracted her to the abusive church, and how to overcome those weaknesses. She begins testing out other churches with her friends, not committing to any but keeping her eyes open.
  • Through counseling, the man decides he needs to quit this job, mourn the losses, and build up his emotional strength to start a new job. When he finds a new job, he’s better prepared to build connections with coworkers from the start.
  • The divorced father deals with his guilt and shame in the counselor’s office. There, he discovers that he still has great worth in God’s eyes and finds the courage to rebuild the relationships with his children.
  • The elderly mother talks with a counselor about her past. Though she cannot go back and change anything that happened, she learns that a sincere apology goes a long way toward building bridges. She practices that conversation with her counselor and hopes that her later years will be the best ones yet.

If you are suffering from emotional withdrawal, you can find the same hope and healing as in the examples above. A compassionate Christian counselor is waiting to help. Give us a call today at Seattle Christian Counseling to set up a meeting.

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What is the Christian Perspective on the Law of Attraction?

Ever since the publication of the 2006 book The Secret and the 2007 movie of the same name, the law of attraction has circulated in our pop culture vernacular. Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, and other celebrities are adherents of this movement. You might not even realize the roots of the movement, but maybe you’ve heard people talking about positive vibes, manifesting what you want, and other similar buzzwords or phrases.

If you’re interested in self-help or self-development, you might have noticed popular social media figures promoting law of attraction concepts. For example, YouTuber Lavendaire, who has a million subscribers, wrote this on her blog:

All realities begin in the mind: your beliefs become thoughts, thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become reality. As you take action towards your dream, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

What exactly is this philosophy? Where does it come from? Is it compatible with a Christian worldview? Let’s talk about the background of the law of attraction and compare it with Scripture, and consider how we as Christians can think about this philosophy.

What is the Law of Attraction (LOA)?

The law of attraction is based on the New Thought movement, which began in the early 1800s in the United States under the teachings of Phineas Quimby. Quimby believed in mind healing and practiced hypnotism. Throughout the 1800s, Quimby’s ideas gained popularity, and in the early 1900s, the New Thought Alliance was formed, based on the idea that your mind creates your reality.

In 2006, Australian author Rhonda Byrne published the book and created the documentary called The Secret, and these ideas subsequently went viral. Dr. Neil Farber, writing for Psychology Today, summarizes the law of attraction:

The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. It is believed by many to be a universal law by which ‘Like always attracts like.’ The results of positive thoughts are always positive consequences. The same holds true for negative thoughts, always leading to bad outcomes.

In other words, you focus on your desired outcome, and the universe will give you what you want. Your thoughts become your reality, and even more so, your feelings become your reality. The more you focus on health and prosperity, the more healthy and prosperous you’ll become. The more you focus on sickness, negativity, and poverty, the more sick and unhealthy you’ll become.

Of course, this concept is attractive! It offers us a sense of control. Who wouldn’t want to be healthy and wealthy? But is this belief based on science and evidence, or is it pseudoscience? And more importantly, does this concept align with Scripture, or is it based solely on humanistic or New Age teachings?

LOA ideas include many concepts you may have heard in passing, including visualization, positive vibes, manifesting, mind over body, source energy, and more. This article will address some of those specific concepts and compare them to the truth of Scripture.

The LOA sucks people in by convincing them that they can receive their truest desires if they:

  •     Believe hard enough,
  •     Visualize clearly enough,
  •     Put out enough positive energy,

These ideas hold a kernel of truth. Positive thinking can, to a certain extent, improve your mental and physical health. Optimism is one key to resilience. Treating other people well and being a happy, upbeat person tends to have a ripple effect on those around you. In the book of Proverbs, we often see that wisdom is its own reward (e.g. Proverbs 8:18, 9:12, 22:4).

However, LOA ideas represent a perversion of these truths. You can’t trust the universe to bless you just because you’re putting out positive vibes. Indeed, because the universe is a created thing, it has no power at all to either bless or to curse – that power belongs to God, alone. In the end, this belief is just another futile attempt to manifest happiness and prosperity through one’s own efforts.

Criticism of the LOA

Scientists, psychologists, and other experts claim the law of attraction is pseudoscience, yet its ideas are still wildly popular and gaining traction. Writing for How Stuff Works, Nathan Chandler says:

But Byrne’s ‘secret’ is not really a secret. For centuries, both philosophers and con men have leveraged the LOA and its ilk both to buoy the spirits of the downtrodden and in some cases bilk vulnerable targets out of their cash.

Certain aspects of positive thinking can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You decide to be positive, so your happiness attracts people to you, leading to improved relationships, career progress, etc.

Ultimately though, the law of attraction requires belief in order to “know” if it works or not, which is why it can suck you in. You place your faith in attracting positivity, but you have to be fully invested – mentally and emotionally – to see if it “works” for you.

And if it doesn’t work? Well, instead of acknowledging their ideology is false, LOA proponents will claim that you didn’t put out enough positive vibes:

If you are focused on the belief ‘The Law of Attraction isn’t working for me’ then you dramatically increase the chances that the Law of Attraction won’t work. This is because you are focused on the concept of lack, which attracts yet more lack into your life.Katherine Hurst

The Bible and the Secret Law of Attraction

Let’s compare some of the most popular concepts from the law of attraction with relevant Scripture passages:

Cognitive reframing and creative visualization.

The law of attraction requires that you reframe your thoughts from negative to positive, and visualize what you want to achieve. There is a scientific basis for visualizing an action before performing it, and how that makes you more likely to succeed. This is different from visualizing yourself winning the lottery, however.

The Bible teaches us to reframe our thoughts according to God’s Word (Romans 12:1-2). It also teaches us that we can trust and rely on God to take care of us (Proverbs 3:5). We don’t have to rely on putting out the right energy into the universe. The Bible tells us that God wants us to rely on Him, and He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Positive vs. negative and like attracts like.

Again, there is a kernel of truth here. Science shows us that positivity improves mental and physical health. Common sense tells us that happy, healthy people tend to have more stable and functional lives.

But this doesn’t mean that your mind creates your reality. While God’s word teaches us to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), it also teaches us that we’ll have trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that we must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:1).

Mind over body.

LOA proponents teach that you can overcome sickness and poverty, etc. if you let your mind conquer your body. But God’s Word teaches that he is the Creator, who is sovereign over his creation (Colossians 1:16).

If you’ve ever had the stomach flu, you know that all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to get you out of it. You can’t manifest a cure for cancer (or coronavirus). Instead, we must turn to God the Creator and trust him in both good times and bad.

Source energy.

We don’t all come from the source energy of the universe, as The Secret Claims. We were made by God, and he is a being whom it is possible to know.

Manifesting.

Some adherents of the Law of Attraction claim Bible verses to support their beliefs (e.g., “with God all things are possible”). The prosperity gospel and Word of Faith movements teach similar concepts: if you believe in God’s Word, you will have a good life with many blessings; if you “speak truth” from God’s Word, you will attain material benefits and wealth.

The Secret claims that we are all divine and have one consciousness. If we just tap into the source energy, meditate, and put out positive vibrations, we will attract wealth and happiness.

These concepts are not in line with Scripture or science. They provide a false sense of control, as well as the temporary benefits that you can derive from optimism and healthy positivity. The shreds of truth can suck you in. We don’t manifest our reality. We simply take action, as human beings whom God created.

The law of attraction is not the same as the Bible. Here’s what Christians should do instead to improve our lives: live by faith, walk in obedience, and trust God. God is pleased by our childlike faith, rather than our hope that the universe will manifest wealth for us.

If you are struggling with hope and want to experience the mental health benefits of optimism and positivity, grounded in a biblical worldview, don’t hesitate to contact our office to set up your first appointment for Christian counseling.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-blame-game/201609/the-truth-about-the-law-attraction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/boundless/201706/the-law-attraction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_attraction_(New_Thought)

https://www.britannica.com/event/New-Thought

https://people.howstuffworks.com/law-of-attraction.htm

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-science-of-visualizat_b_171340

Photos:
“Barbed Wire Crown”, Courtesy of Jclk888, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Milky Way”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Intersection of Impossible and Possible”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Compass”, Courtesy of MarandaP, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

The Fear of Abandonment: Getting the Help You Need for Abandonment Issues

The fear of abandonment can create lasting problems from childhood long into adulthood. Adults with abandonment issues may sabotage, consciously or subconsciously, personal relationships with others. This can take the form of pushing a partner away after a period of time to keep that person from eventually leaving first.

For example, a man with abandonment issues may leave his wife of ten years for another woman for fear that his wife would have eventually left him. Before the marriage ended, he may have emotionally pushed her away. In another five or ten years, he may repeat the behavior with his second wife due to his fear that she too will someday leave him.

Although these issues can stem from childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma, adults can develop a fear of abandonment as a result of traumatic experiences later in life.

Abandonment During Childhood

It is common for children to become teary-eyed and sad when their parent leaves them at daycare. A child may cry when their guardian leaves them in the church nursery for an hour or two while the adult worships in the sanctuary. However, children with healthy emotions will move on and play with toys after a while. Or, if they are new to daycare, they will adjust within a week or so of consistent attendance.

Children with emotional abandonment issues, on the other hand, may panic at the thought of the guardian leaving them. The child might develop a severe case of anxiety or refuse to sleep alone. Sometimes this behavior is due to the fear of being left alone. Other times, it is the result of a child having been abandoned.

Abandonment can come in many forms. The parent may physically leave, such as when one parent leaves indefinitely due to divorce or death. Or, it might be from emotional abandonment as when the parent refuses to meet the child’s basic needs for love, attention, and nurturing.

If the child comes from a poor family where the basics of food, running water, power, and heat are not provided consistently, the child may associate that with a lack of love. Loving parents try to provide for their children’s basic needs, and on some level, children instinctively know this.

However, it is not only children from low-income households at risk. Influential families can raise their children without meeting their emotional needs. Children who feel that their parents or guardians are withholding love and attention may develop abandonment issues.

Abused or neglected children from all social-economic backgrounds are at a higher risk of developing a fear of abandonment. These feelings of rejection can shape a child’s mind and their self-belief. This can lead to issues later in life as they try to manage personal relationships.

A child’s mind also perceives events differently than an adult would. A child might conclude that a parent leaving the family permanently due to divorce is because the parent no longer wanted the child in their life. They may believe that the parent felt their life would be easier (or happier, richer, etc.) without the child present. The child may begin to show signs of separation anxiety with the remaining parent.

Separation anxiety is common in children for whom one parent is gone due to death. The loss may have been forthcoming, such as a long illness, or sudden, like a tragic accident. The loss is still deep in either case. Some children suddenly become hyper-aware of the remaining parent’s presence and are afraid of losing them. Other children may feel a sense of betrayal, especially if the living parent is domineering, abusive, or emotionally distant.

During the aftermath of a parent’s death, the surviving parent must cope with their own emotions. Sometimes this means that they wind up neglecting their child’s emotional needs. This isn’t necessarily done on purpose; both child and parent are hurt.

If you are the parent or guardian of a child with abandonment issues, let the child know you are open to hearing how they feel. If it is your own child, they may feel awkward or afraid that they might hurt your feelings. Assure them that you will not overreact. Allow them to express their fears.

If you are worried about the child’s emotional health, seek professional help. You can speak to your child’s pediatrician or school counselor. Sometimes the act of sharing their fears and having someone reaffirm that they are wanted and loved can place a child in a better mental state. Your child’s doctor may refer you to a therapist if the anxiety from the fear of abandonment is extreme.

Abandonment Issues in Adults

Adults are at a higher risk for developing abandonment issues if they experience a traumatic event. This can include sexual assault, domestic violence or abuse, the end of a relationship, or another high-stress situation. It is not only the fear of physical abandonment or neglect but of emotional abandonment as well; the feeling of the other partner pulling away and leaving the person unloved and rejected.

These adults may leave relationships to keep from getting hurt. This fear of intimacy can also result in shallow relationships. The person wants a deeply committed relationship but is terrified of someone they love eventually leaving them. The hurt they will feel at the dissolution of the relationship (not on their own terms) is an emotion they need to avoid at all costs.

This person may sabotage their relationship by becoming emotionally distant, verbally abusive, or indifferent to their partner. They may engage in extramarital affairs or choose work over family life. They may start arguments and contradict their spouse when the spouse tries to confirm that they would never leave the marriage.

The adult with abandonment issues may accuse their spouse of infidelity or some other betrayal. Furthermore, to widen the emotional gap, they may tell others about this alleged betrayal, so that no one will blame them for leaving the spouse.

The behavior from the fear of abandonment causes a reaction from those involved. Unfortunately, the adult with these issues may get a sense of satisfaction from these reactions and the attention they garner and cycle through the behavior again. To the outside world, these people appear full of drama and consistently in new relationships. However, the truth is that the person is hurting with an emotional need that is still unmet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fear of abandonment can cause a person in a bad relationship to stay longer. The fear of loneliness outweighs the fear of staying in the relationship. Even if their partner is emotionally or physically abusive, the person with abandonment issues cannot break free for long. This “stuck” feeling can lead to additional mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Getting the Help You Need

If you recognize the symptoms of abandonment issues in your own life, seek the help of a licensed mental health care professional. Your primary physician can refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counseling center near you.

A faith-based counseling facility can help you overcome the fear of abandonment while reassuring you that there is One who will never abandon you. By relying on your faith in God, you can resist the urge to ruin and flee a loving relationship. You will find the necessary courage to leave an abusive relationship that does not adhere to your Christian values that love is patient and kind, not jealous, boastful, or proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).

A common treatment for emotional abandonment and the fears that accompany it is psychotherapy. This includes talk therapy which can be done in an individual setting with the therapist or in couple’s sessions.

The therapist will help you to identify the thoughts and emotions that accompany these issues and change your responses. It will take time to learn to react with the new behavioral patterns, but this is something you can do. It is not only for you but for the future of your relationship.

Photos:
“Dog on the Beach”, Courtesy of Chris Henry, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Doing Her Makeup”, Courtesy of Photo Hunted, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the City”, Courtesy of Remi Boyer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bridge in the Mist”, Courtesy of Parker Coffman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License