What Does the Bible Say about Depression?

The word depression gets used quite a bit in society. You might hear things like, “You look depressed” or “You are depressing me.” Depression is discussed pretty casually despite being a serious mental health condition that, according to the Depression and Bipolar Health Alliance, affects 7.1% of the population, which is over 17 million Americans.

Unfortunately, despite the severe impact the condition is having on our society, many refuse to acknowledge it as a real issue. Instead, people encourage each other to “feel better” or “stop being so blue,” as if depression was a choice.

The same attitude is also often true in the church. Many Christians assume that it is sinful to feel depressed and are striving to experience the joy of the Lord. This mindset is only perpetuated by fellow churchgoers and church leaders who don’t have space to hear and be with people who feel the weight of depression.

Instead of sitting with them in their pain, many choose to quote some Christian truism to their pain, saying something like “maybe this pain is a blessing in disguise” or “you have to let go and let God.” While ultimately these statements may be theologically accurate, they do little, if any, good for those experiencing depression.

Is there any discussion of depression in the Bible? Yes, there are a whole host of verses speaking to the issues of sadness, heartbreak, sorrow, and despair, which are all symptoms and feelings caused or associated with depression. Let’s take a look at several key passages on this topic that will give us a taste of what the Bible has to say about depression.

What Does the Bible Say About Depression?

In the Depths of Despair, He Cares

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. – Psalm 22:1-2

This is one of the most famous cries in all of Scripture. It appears both here in the Psalms and is quoted later by Jesus on the cross. The cry encapsulates the experience of facing the limits of despair, as clearly displayed on the cross. In the Psalms, the psalmist expresses his pain by articulating his inability to find peace by day or by night.

What is important to notice about this Psalm is the raw vulnerability with God. In the midst of his anguish and despair (i.e. depression), he cries out to God. He doesn’t run from God or try to act like everything is alright. Instead, he cries, wails, and beats his chest as a sign to God that everything is not okay.

And God isn’t angry at him, rather God, in His perfect love, wants to meet him in His darkest places of despair. Some may see this as an affront to God, but it is actually an invitation for God to meet with the psalmist in the valley of the shadow of death where God can and will comfort him. We are able to issue God this same invitation.

The Lord Restores

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. – Psalm 40:1-3

Here is another Psalm of deep authenticity and vulnerability. In this Psalm, the psalmist again verbalizes that in the midst of his troubles, he came to the Lord. He didn’t hide or act like he was okay. Instead, he was present, raw, and real with God in the midst of his depression, acknowledging his feelings and need for God.

As a result, we see God lift him from the depths of depression. It’s important to not jump too quickly to the resolution of the Psalms. If we do, we miss out on the real heartbreak and despair that the psalmist is feeling. And it is also important to recognize that everyone’s timeline will be different.

All we get to see is the recounting of the Psalm, we don’t know how long he waited before he was lifted up. The wait might have been a long time, so don’t be discouraged if your depression has been around for a while, in time it will be relieved.

The Father of Compassion

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

While the two Psalms above focus on our human experience of depression, this passage highlights the truth of God and His love for us. He is the Father of compassion, and He comforts all those in trouble.

This is a promise to everyone going through difficulties, such as depression. He doesn’t promise that we won’t go through difficulties, but He promises to be with us and comfort us along the way. This passage also explains that our suffering is not useless because, in its proper time, it will be used for the good and benefit of His kingdom when we can comfort others.

Lay Your Burdens Down

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

Depression is a weight. It can feel so heavy at times you don’t know how to function. You might find yourself lying in bed with absolutely no motivation to get up, anchored down by your depression. Or maybe you can get up, but you find yourself sitting at work with an absent mind unable to do what you need to do.

This is the unseen weight and burden of depression. The promise in this passage is profound. Jesus wants your weight. He wants your depression. He wants to unburden you, so you can live freely. This is no small thing, and it may not come with a quick fix, but at the end of the day, this is Jesus’ heart and longing for you to live in freedom from your burdens.

In Him, There is Victory

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

Finally, this passage is a tremendous boost in confidence. This is a very triumphant Bible verse for depression. If you feel like you just can’t make it and your depression is overwhelming you, take heart. God is for you. He is your God.

Throughout the Old Testament, God acts as the mighty warrior for Israel, going to battle on their behalf. God is fighting for you too. When you feel unable to stand, God is there to stand for you. This might mean giving you the strength get back up or have that hard conversation, or maybe it means God will intervene and change the circumstances.

Either way, the point is God is with you and for you. Take comfort in this on the darkest days, remembering you have a warrior fighting for your cause.

Conclusion

God loves us deeply and His heart breaks as we experience the heavy weight of depression. There are many Bible verses for depression. In the midst of the pain and apathy, we must remember God cares and that this is an opportunity for Him to meet us in our weakness.

Don’t hide your depression from God, come to Him with your feelings of despair, asking for Him to lift your burdens. Hopefully, this list of Bible verses for depression will help you remember that He deeply loves you and can handle your sorrow.

How to Set and Achieve Realistic Personal Development Goals

It is important to live with intentionality. To achieve our own personal growth, we need to set goals and make active progress forward. These can’t just be any goals. They need to be specific goals covering three aspects. These goals need to be guided by purpose, give you direction, and need to be made thoughtfully and well.

Imagine a motor boat. It has all the normal parts an engine, propeller, rudder, compass, and hull. The engine and the propeller allow it to move forward. This is your purpose. The rudder and the compass help it navigate the seas. This is your direction. And finally, the hull makes sure it makes it through stormy seas. This is a thoughtful, well made decision to help you get through adversity. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Personal Development Goals: Guided by Purpose

The first aspect of goals we will examine is the purpose. A good goal is guided by purpose. Every goal should move you toward a purpose, and more importantly, toward your purpose.

To put it simply, the purpose of a goal is knowing what you want to achieve.

As a result, you can set goals like this in all sorts of realms whether it be financial, spiritual, personal, romantic, etc. The idea of a goal is to keep us heading in a direction with a purpose rather than vaguely moving forward.

What can be more difficult to determine is to ask “what is your purpose?” “What are you supposed to do?” “Why did God create you?” To help you orient yourself, consider a few general principles about human purpose. We exist for the glory and joy of God and should live in a way that honors our calling to him. We should live for others, willing to give up things for ourselves.

Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

This verse speaks of offering ourselves upon the altar, which could be translated to giving up ourselves for his mission and calling on our lives.

When we consider our personal development goals, we consider them in connection with our general calling as children of God. Once you move beyond our general calling given by God, you can begin to consider your individual purpose and calling. Maybe you haven’t really considered your individual purpose before if so, that’s okay!

There is a lot of anxiety surrounding the ominous question of “what do you want to do in your life?” especially among younger people. What helps eliminate some of the stress is to re-frame the question, asking “who do you want to be?” This often helps people release some of the pressure to perform and focus on who they want to be.

By focusing on who you want to be, you are able to move beyond work. Perhaps you would like to have more space for your passion. Or maybe your passion can become your work. Or maybe you want to be able to provide well for your family and you know that requires long hours.

Making decisions regarding who you want to be can turn into your individual purpose. Then, you just need to make sure your goals line up with this purpose, and you will be headed in the right direction (or as MxPx put it: free to do what you want to be).

Finding Your Purpose

As you start to think about your purpose, remember the importance of prayer. It is a good place to start. Ask God to speak to you and show you what he has for you. What you feel called to might be scary or risky. It might not even totally make sense financially, but remember money can’t grant you fulfillment. Remember the verse from Romans 12, it calls us to sacrifice, not comfort and riches.

Also, remember this will require trial and error. You will likely need to explore a few different paths before you find what exactly is your purpose and that’s okay! Your story doesn’t have to match the timeline of a friend or a sibling, it’s yours. Sometimes it will take years to fully discover your purpose and that’s okay. You will figure it out along the way as you move forward.

Lastly, when you do find your purpose, keep in mind that it probably will (and probably should) influence all areas of your life (social, personal, professional, spiritual). Finding your purpose reorients your life. It isn’t just a hobby or a side hustle. It will produce meaningful and significant changes to your life!

Goals Give Direction

The second important aspect of personal development goals is to provide direction. If you’ve ever wondered what you are doing with your life and felt like you were going nowhere, then you probably weren’t setting up goals guided by your direction.

It may be helpful to think of personal development in both the short-term and the long-term. First, start with the long-term — Where do you want to be? When do you want to be there?

Start with the short term. What do you need to do to get headed in the right direction? Are you considering ministry, then maybe you should look into seminary or pastoral internships? Or maybe you want to get into web design? Then it would probably be good to find a coding bootcamp to get started.

When it comes to direction, a contradiction exists. You need to start with something small that moves you forward. Even reading this article is a good step. But on the other hand, you need to remember that achieving your greater goals takes time.

In order to achieve your personal development goals, you will need to have patience, motivation, and energy. It takes time to accomplish goals, which is okay, but the waiting can be frustrating, especially when you are eager to move forward. It can feel like if you don’t start right now, that you will never be able to accomplish your goals, but remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Another note about direction is to start big. Think as if there were not obstacles. Imagine where you would go if nothing stood in your way. You can deal with obstacles better when you know where you are headed. Even when you know where you are going, obstacles remain obstacles.

But if you don’t have a larger vision, simple obstacles can turn into full on roadblocks. By thinking big from the beginning, you will be able to stay focused on what lies behind the problems, so you can face the difficulty as it comes.

Goals are Manageable When Made Well

Finally, personal development goals need to be made in such a way that sets you up for success. If your plan is to “get to Mars,” you’re not likely to achieve your goal. But, if you are in NASA or the Air Force, then maybe it might work out.

The best goals can be defined as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound). To help illustrate this definition, let’s consider someone with a passion for wildlife working on a biology degree so they can work on a creation care team. Their love for animals and desire to help care for them give them direction and purpose.

But, they are struggling in some important courses and currently have D’s.

Specific goals include a higher desired grade, not simply “doing better.”

This is also a measurable goal because if you work hard, you will see your grade raise.

Other goals will be more difficult to measure, which may force you to think more creatively about how to quantify your given circumstances.

The goal needs to be achievable,

which means that an A might not be possible to achieve halfway through the semester, but you can still try for a B. Setting unrealistic goals can be discouraging.

Goals need to be relevant.

For example, cutting out TV may help improve your grades, but isn’t directly relevant. It is better to set an amount of time you want to study for or to get a tutor.

Lastly, it should be time bound,

which means you need to have a deadline. It can’t be ambiguous and open ended.

Making time bound goals helps you create checkpoints, thereby making them more measurable. For example, you could decide to study for two hours a night for two weeks in order to get an A on a test. The is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. Each goal will look different, but you should always have an end date.

How Christian Counseling Can Help

If this article has you excited, but you still feel apprehensive the amount of work you need to do or don’t know where to start, that’s okay.

A great way to jumpstart your personal development is counseling. Counselors can help you understand your passion and purpose so you can establish personal development goals and overcome any obstacles you face. They are a force of clarity and accountability as you seek to grow.

When we try to do things alone, it’s very easy to get distracted or lose track, but a regular counseling session can help keep you on track toward your long-term goals. So don’t just sit there! Get started on your personal development today.

Photos:
“Boating”, Courtesy of Nick Karvounis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wish for it”, Courtesy of SOCIAL CUT, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man on Arrow”, Courtesy of Smart, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Goals,” courtesy of rawpixel.com, pexels.com, CC0 License

Codependency Traits in the Church

“Codependency” is the commonly used term to describe the obvious accommodations that a person makes in order to adjust to an addict’s dependence on substances.

Consequently, it is damaging on two fronts: the addict is reinforced in their unhealthy behavior and the enabler is likely over-functioning in order to compensate for the lifestyle of the addict.

Codependents may feel as if they are some sort of hero for constantly saving the addict from themselves. But in reality, they are not helping the addict recover and are only compounding their issues. You could say that the codependent person has a control addiction in the same way that the addict does for a particular substance.

Substance addiction may be an extreme example of codependency, but it serves as a helpful one when we look at the nature of the human relationships trapped in this codependent situation.

The Bible teaches that every one of us is addicted to sin. The apostle Paul asserts in Romans 6:17, “though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.”

There is no doubt that the church can become an incredible force for good in breaking addictions and providing a community where codependency traits can be eradicated from people’s relationships.

The New Testament is full of clear direction pointing towards God’s design for Christians to assist each other in growing and maturing spiritually. Some of these instructions include teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, encouraging, reminding, and restoring. All of these things are intended to help someone transition from an unhealthy reliance on another person to a healthy reliance on God.

However, codependency can become an issue for church staff members as they seek to help and pastor many individuals who are struggling in their lives. If leaders fail to maintain a healthy balance in their pastoral lives, codependent relationships can thrive, and burnout is never far away. Simply put – Christian leaders must look after themselves.

Though the main point of the parable is about being ready for the His return, Jesus touches on the subject of personal responsibility in his Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). When the foolish virgins find that they have run out of oil because they didn’t bring enough, they then attempt to borrow more from the wise virgins who refuse because they only brought enough for themselves.

Christians are ultimately responsible for their own faith. God never intended that we should be either the object or the source of some else’s faith. We must all seek after the Lord for ourselves, knowing that He is the one who can fulfill us and grant us strength and healing.

Depending on the Holy Spirit vs. Depending on Flesh

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord’” (Jeremiah 17:5). The clear message of this verse is that God is to be the church’s source of strength. So don’t place your faith in the church leaders or unbiblical systems of doctrine, but instead look to the Lord.

Many would describe the Christian life as “just one beggar showing another beggar where to get some bread.” This is a brilliant quote as it sums up what the Christian faith is all about. We all need the Lord and our aim should be to point each other to Him.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” James says in James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

These passages demonstrate the process of refinement that God brings about by means of trials that drive the Christian to seek Him out in the midst of the trouble. Of course, it is often much easier to simply instruct someone and think you have all the answers to give when they hit a rough patch in the life.

We must be careful not to try and think on behalf of others. This behavior disempowers the individual and will contribute to their dependent tendencies. It is always more helpful to try and enable the person to become the driving force behind tackling their own issues.

The church can help us with this! The church community should be a place where we spur each other on to grow in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Codependency runs the risk of robbing people of the things that they need to experience in order to teach them dependence on God.

“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” – Proverbs 19:22

“One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” – Proverbs 27:7

These verses from Proverbs are excellent because they deal with the different ways people cover up their need for love. The first one addresses our desperate need for an eternal and unfailing love and how we might exchange this for something like money in order to feel secure.

The second one describes a person who does not have a sense of fulfillment, so they are more likely to search for it in places where it cannot be found. Both of these passages describe the motives of a codependent person. People with issues of codependency tend to cover up a hunger for love with something else. In turn, they fail to receive all that God has for them.

Those who are more susceptible to codependency are often seeking after a predictable way to attain a sense of value that has been lacking in their past.

The church is a wonderful environment in which we can be unconditionally loved and accepted, but it can also become a place where performance and pressure are rife. Too often, people are motivated to get involved in church in order to find self-worth. But this is never a good motivation in and of itself.

Christians must discover freedom outside of the “performance mentality” that demands perfect results in every sphere of their lives. Too often, those who are engaged in a codependent relationship have a tendency to behave in this manner.

Codependency is in direct contradiction to the unconditional “agape” love of God. It’s an attempt to exert control over how others feel or think about us, but it is a bottomless pit. You will never be able to do enough, please enough people, or perform to the level you think you should be achieving. When it comes to working for the church in either a voluntary or an employed capacity, we must carefully examine our motives.

There is so much freedom in knowing that God’s love is unconditional. When we are securely rooted in the finished work of Christ, we derive our ultimate value from Him. This helps us avoid attempting to overrule the work of God in other people’s lives. We must never think we know better than the Lord when it comes to dealing with the lives of those around us.

Dependency vs. Interdependency – The Culture of the Church

Of course, the church should be a place where we lean on each other. We are one body in Christ Jesus and must learn to be interdependent and selfless in our service to Him. But Jesus continues to challenge us just as he did with His disciples and listeners. Look at some of the key questions Jesus asked.

  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
  • Why then is it written that the Son of man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)
  • Who do you say I am? (Matthew 6:15)
  • Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
  • Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)

Jesus was a master at asking questions that cause us to search our souls and to think for ourselves. By these means, Jesus wants us to learn how to become people of bold and courageous faith, who both lean on Him and are able to take responsibility for their own spiritual lives alongside bolstering others in their faith.

Jesus calls us to be dependent on Him. This is, however, the only truly dependent relationship we should maintain. Of course, we should be interdependent in community – supporting one another, encouraging, and challenging each other. But we should always seek to harbor a special dependency on Christ, who is our master.

A wise piece of advice given to any person working in the ministry would be this: “The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give God – is the person you become.” We must embrace our testimony and utilize our life story for the glory of God. We must always seek to take care of our own issues in a healthy and appropriate way, and must never fall into the trap of thinking we possess all the answers for others.

Every single person possesses God-given ability to help others. As Christians, it is a central calling that we be a blessing to those in need. But we must be very careful not to enter into a relational dynamic of codependency, as this is never God-honoring and can be very damaging.

We must always seek to listen to the voice of God first and foremost. He is the one who can truly heal, restore and transform those people who are in need. We must never try and be the savior to others, as attempting to replace Jesus in the life of another is a dangerous and foolish endeavor.

Remember, interdependency in the context of a church community can be a wonderful blessing of rich joy, healing, and companionship. But we must always remember who is at the head of the body. Jesus is the only one who is able to guide our steps and lead us on into fullness of life; we are simply his vessels and the tools in His hand.

Photos
“Break”, Courtesy of Tanja Heffner, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Scripture,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Torn,” courtesy of Jiri Wagner, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking in the Park”, Courtesy of Mabel Amber, Pixabay.com; CC0 License

What is Spiritual Development and Why Does it Matter?

Over the thousands of years that have passed since Jesus lived here on earth, theologians have defined spiritual development in a variety of ways. Since we live in an increasingly pluralist and secular culture, spiritual development can have widely different meanings depending on who is defining it.

A general definition to start with is that spiritual development is a belief in a higher reality, something that exists outside of the material reality.

For those who follow Christ, the meaning of spiritual development is more specific. According to Acts 17:28, “… in him we live and move and have our being.” Our core nature, desire for significance and purpose, and our sense of belonging are derived from God himself, as he transforms us through Jesus Christ and his infallible, unchanging Word.

Romans 12:2 powerfully exhorts us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is a concise biblical summary of the purpose of spiritual development.

The truth that comes from God and his design for us, change us from the inside out in everything we do. He has given us all of our intelligence, skills, and abilities, and he requires that we steward those gifts according to his will. The more we develop spiritually, the more we align our wills with God’s will for our lives and for all of creation.

To put it simply, we can define spiritual development as becoming more like Jesus each day.

Spiritual Development as a Process

Spiritual development is not an instant transformation, but a lifelong journey of maturing and becoming Christ-like. God provides daily grace and power to his children as he refines them into his image. In Scripture, we see God’s refining spoken of as a process or journey. Here are several passages to illustrate:

  • Jesus says to his disciples, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
  • “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
  • We don’t grow in isolation; we are sanctified in fellowship with Christ’s body, the church. “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, andteachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Spiritual Guidance in Spiritual Development

It’s important to receive spiritual guidance from fellow Christians, but this doesn’t have to take place in an authoritarian context. A spiritual guide should be a helper who walks in step with the Holy Spirit. Counseling and coaching can be contexts for this supportive role.

One area in which spiritual guidance is important is correcting inaccurate beliefs about God’s attributes. Ignorance and lies about who God is need to be revealed and refuted for true spiritual growth to take place. Believing the truth about God and understanding who he really is, allows us to be restored and healed when receiving spiritual guidance. God’s love heals us so that we can live for him.

In this setting, spiritual guidance helps to reshape our inner thinking and belief systems, which we then carry out into the world around us. God is not only our personal Lord and Savior but One Who loves justice and peace in the world at large.

As we grow in Christ, we will become more aware of God’s immanent presence and guidance in our everyday lives. In attempting to carry out his will on a practical level, he will be with you. His manifest presence can be cherished even in the day-to-day mundane tasks of life.

It’s important to embrace the reality of God’s immanent, caring nature for his children, while also remembering his utter sovereignty over every human issue, from individuals to nations to the entire created universe. He reveals himself to us by means of the Holy Spirit through his Word, as well as through our circumstances, other believers, prayers, and the church, guiding us on our journey with him.

Spiritual Development as Counseling and Coaching

One way to look at spiritual development is through the lens of progressive stages. Erik Erikson has popularly described the stages of a human lifespan, and we can use these to describe the stages of development in our faith. Christian psychologists Yvonne Bissonnette Tate and Stephen Parker have correlated Erikson’s model to a spiritual growth model.

When a Christian is first born again, this stage can be called spiritual infancy. It is characterized, just as in Erikson’s model, by the tension between trust and mistrust, or a strong faith in God vs. despair and sadness, and a feeling that God is unreliable. For a believer, this tension is resolved by embracing hope in Christ through faith, which will last a lifetime.

Erikson’s model concludes with the stage of adulthood, which in the Christian walk relates to spiritual maturity, that is, a Christian who has grown up into wisdom and sanctification. This Christian is equipped to be a spiritual guide to other believers as they grow in their own faith.

A Christian counselor or coach should be trying to help clientsto mature spiritually or reach the “spiritual adult” stage. Counseling can reveal barriers to maturity, and obstacles like isolation, misplaced shame, unconfessed sin, and unbelief.

In counseling, it’s possible to evaluate a client’s maturity level and stage of development, and then mentor the client in areas of trusting God, resisting temptation through his strength, pursuing him on a daily basis, and cultivating a love motivation to work for him.

By the power of his Spirit, God can use Christian counseling as a tool for growth in the life of a believer. Clients often find comfort in knowing their issues are understood by an empathetic listener, and they find encouragement as they are reminded of ways the Lord is working in their lives.

Spiritual Development: Purpose

Our ultimate purpose as believers is to glorify God by seeking righteousness found only in Christ Jesus. God has promised us that we will only find complete happiness in an eternal relationship with him. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). As followers of Christ, we should find our greatest purpose and passion in seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Again, we must remember that sanctification is a process. God’s love compels Christians to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). This is both our eternal destiny and our temporal pursuit.

Scripture portrays spiritual growth as a growing to maturity: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Motivation to mature spiritually comes, as we have seen, because we are compelled by the love of Christ, and also because we are called to put our selfish desires to death and clothe ourselves with Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

We can see a correlation with this death to self in the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. All members begin by admitting that their lives are a mess and that they are powerless over their addiction.

In the same way, we cannot save ourselves from sin and its consequences; we are completely powerless on our own to live our lives according to God’s will. This teaches a theology of sin, which is paramount to our faith.

As believers, we will not attain perfection this side of heaven, and certainly not by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. The second step of AA is to acknowledge that God alone is able to do the work of restoration. Step three requires submission of yourself to the Lord.

Though obviously, not every Christian is an alcoholic, these principles are a fitting reminder of the fact that we are all addicted to sin. This addiction will stunt our spiritual development.

Addiction, in the Biblical worldview, is a form of idolatry and prevents us from giving God his due worship.  It can run the gamut from the seemingly innocuous (television, food, social media, or even idolizing family or a ministry role) to the illegal (drugs, theft, illicit sex, etc.).

To grow spiritually, we must pursue God with a heart of genuine worship, knowing that we are imperfect creatures and surrendering our full hearts and lives to him in every area. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

Spiritual Development: Purpose from Calling

It’s common for a believer to feel conflicted about discerning what the will of God is versus their own personal desires. A calling is one way to describe God’s will in an individual’s life.

Calling is defined as follows: “A calling is a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness and that holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation” (Dik & Duffy, 2009, p. 427).

The word calling is often used to refer to vocational ministry but also applies to any profession in which a believer may be engaged. This emphasis grew stronger during the Protestant Reformation when the reformers emphasized the doctrine that all believers are priests who can come to God on their own through Christ.

One study has found that men who decided to become Catholic priests placed a high level of importance on integrating their identity as priests with a strong sense of self.

We can correlate this to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers; Christians who embrace this doctrine can find a stronger purpose in their individual vocations. God’s will is transcendent, or high above us, yet it is also immanent, interacting with our personal identities and lives.

A separate study on calling and purpose discovered that people who believe God causes events also perceive him as having sovereign control over every situation. Trusting that God is sovereign helps us to perceive his will in our lives.

People who are able to see their vocation as a calling tend to have better outlooks on their careers and lives. But beyond simply achieving personal benefit, it’s important to seek God’s will in our careers and vocations.

We are God’s instruments in the world: “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

Regardless of a Christian’s particular job in the workplace, all of us are called to be instruments of justice and righteousness in accordance with God’s revealed will.

Discerning God’s will takes place in the context of the body of believers. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).

A Christian counselor or coach can help you connect to a local church, and embrace patterns of servant leadership as you live out your purpose and calling in the world.

Photos
“His Word,” Courtesy of jclk8888, Pixabay.com, CC0 License;  “Worship,” courtesy of Zac Durant, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On my knees,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fervent prayer,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Lies Women Believe: Experiencing the Stages of Spiritual Development

This blog post is a review of “Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free,” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

In her book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free, Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes about three different stages of spiritual development for women. We’ll take a look at each of those stages below.

Three Stages of Spiritual Development for Women

Stage One: Knowing Eve

What do you think Eve thought after she was removed from Eden? Do you think she regretted paying attention to the lies of the serpent? Picture what it must have felt like for Eve, one moment being in agreement with God, and then rebelling and being separated from him and not thrown out of her home. This was her first experience with isolation and failure. As women, we have all experienced these feelings (non-Christian and Christian women alike).

DeMoss believes that Christian women today are in bondage. She says: “They can’t enjoy God’s love.” This is a result of past experiences and sins. Another type of bondage that she mentions is “fear of man,” which consists of fear of being rejected, fear of what others think, and our need for others to approve of us.

Scripture teaches us that we should be free, but most women aren’t. Why is that? Because we were deceived. This began with Eve, and women have continued to believe these lies down to this present day.

Every difficulty we have today is because we have believed in these lies. We need to take back our lives!

Stage Two: Seeing the Lies

The author includes a list of the most common lies that women believe. This list is not exhaustive and not everyone is weighed down by the same lies. However, the lies mentioned are quite common among women.

Lie #1 – God: A common question in counseling is this: “if God is good, tell me why this [insert bad thing here] happened to me/my loved one?” Satan made use of a similar question to create doubt in Eve, distracted her (and us) from the good things God has provided. It also justifies us in deciding good and evil for ourselves, apart from God and his word.

Additionally, we tend to believe falsehoods regarding God’s attitude toward us. For example, if God doesn’t answer our prayers, we question his love for us. This is true even of Christians who were raised in a Church setting. They might know all about God’s love, but they don’t necessarily always experience it. This is another example of what the author describes as bondage.

Other lies that women believe about God may include: comparing God to the men we interact with, believing that God isn’t sufficient, feeling that living a godly life places too many limits on us, and thinking that God ought to fix every problem we have. If any of these lies sound familiar to you, you ought to read this book.  After all, our view of God is the foundation for all of life.

Lie #2 – Us: When we think about how we view God, we also begin to question how God sees us. Ms. DeMoss writes “If we do not see Him as He really is – if we believe things about Him that are not true – invariably, we will have a distorted view of ourselves.” If we believe that God does not control all things, it leads us to believe in lies.

For example, we start to believe that we are worthless. 42% of the women who were surveyed by DeMoss reported believing that they were worthless. This feeling can begin in childhood and run through a woman’s life all the way into adulthood. Left unaddressed, it can even lead to mental health issues as well.

Jesus has lived this pain. 1 Peter 2:4 reminds us that Jesus was “rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him.” Jesus viewed himself with reference to God the Father. Jesus showed our worth by loving us enough to die on the cross for us

This chapter also addresses the following lies: the lie that we need self-love, the lie that we cannot change, the lie that our rights are sacred, the lie that beauty on the outside is more important than beauty on the inside, and the lie that all your longings should be fulfilled. The end of each chapter has Bible passages that counter these lies. The author also has questions that you can use to determine whether these lies are present in your life.

Lie #3 – Sin: As Christians, we still sin. We are born with it, and that’s why we need the grace of God. While sin is present until we arrive in heaven, there are a lot of lies that we believe about it. Satan’s objective with Eve was to get her to sin and to believe that there would be no consequences.

This may be seen when the Serpent told Eve, “You surely won’t die!” though God had already told her “Eat this fruit and you will die.” The book offers a great discussion of this lie. It also expands to include other lies such as my sin not that serious, God will never forgive my sin, and I am not responsible for my sins.

In order to fight against these lies, we are asked to 1) Acknowledge God’s view of our sin, 2) Take full responsibility for our sin, 3) Assert the truth, 4) Act on the truth and 5) ask for God’s help to live a life of truth.

The remaining five lies addressed in the book focus on major aspects of our life such as emotions, marriage, children, and the personal circumstances we find ourselves in. Similar to the earlier chapters, each of these ends with a discussion of some truth from Scripture. The last page of each chapter has a prayer that may be of use to help you seek God’s help. We all want to be free of these lies.

Stage Three: Seeking the Light

The book has two main points. First, that believing lies restrain us, and second, that the truth can freedom. When we allow our relationship with God to grow, we stop believing in the lies.

In this last step, DeMoss walks us through a number of specific passages that will help to break our bondage. This review won’t go into much detail because it’s important that you read this portion of the book, yourself. However, we are here to help each other out. If you struggle to let go of a particular lie and need help, the Christian Counseling Newport Beach can help you.

Lastly, the each chapter’s structure allows you to know the truth of specific scripture verses. Some lies that you don’t know you believe will be revealed, and God will give you the confidence to start addressing them.

Also, each chapter provides sufficient Scripture to read to become stronger against lies that you may not have experienced. Store the lessons in your heart, and you will find God’s plan revealed to you.

Photos
“Long Distance,” courtesy of Chris Lawton, tookapic.com, CC0 License; “Strong,” courtesy of Christopher Campbell, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pray,” courtesy of Olivia Snow, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Smile,” courtesy of Caique Silva, unsplash.com, CC0 License