Feelings Are Followers, Change is Possible

What do you do when you feel depressed, angry, irritable, guilty, afraid, anxious, furious, confused, stressed, troubled, restless, etc.? Because God created us with the capacity to feel, He desires glory in all that we do feel. Redemption in Christ includes the redemption of our feelings!  The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes a change in feelings – love, joy, and peace (Gal 5:22-24). This indicates that our feelings are produced, not merely experienced. Godly feelings are a result of the Holy Spirit being in control of what we think and do. Rom 8:6 says a mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Gal 6:8-10 makes it clear that if we sow to please the Spirit, we will reap the fruit of the Spirit. This gives us hope for feeling better if we lack love, joy, and peace in our life!

There is a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is the basis of diagnosis such as Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Bipolar Disorders and many more. Bad feelings are a common symptom of most disorders. Most diagnoses are made based on behavioral, thought and emotional patterns. If the negative behaviors, thoughts and emotions profoundly impact a person’s life and relationships in negative ways, a clinical diagnosis is made.  But what if the Holy Spirit produced the fruit of the feelings of Christ in those who are suffering from such disorders? Would this change the status of their condition from clinical to just problematic, or maybe even complete resolution? For example, if a depressed patient experiences the fruit of the Spirit’s joy, would their depression so improve that they could no longer be labeled with a depressive disorder? They may still be prone to depression, but not controlled by it. If this is true, could we say the same thing for other disorders? If the anxious woman experienced the Spirit’s fruit of peace, the ADD teen the Spirit’s fruit of self-control, or the Bipolar person the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace as well as self-control, what impact would this fruit have on their diagnosis and life?

In Christ, we are in the process of becoming more and more like Christ from the inside-out.  This includes our feelings. But such fruit is the product of our becoming more like Christ in four areas. Christ-like feelings follow Christ-like behaviors, thoughts, desires, and beliefs.

Feelings Follow Behaviors (i.e. actions and lifestyle patterns)

Cain was depressed and angry. God counseled Cain how to change his feelings, “Do well, and your countenance will be lifted up” (Gen 5:6-7). If we do what God calls us to do consistently, God promises that we will “reap what we sow” (Gal 6:8-10). This means that no matter how bad you and I may feel today, if we discover what God is calling us to do and do it consistently, our feelings will eventually experience positive change. This positive change in feelings will often be a result of a positive change in our situation, for we make a bad situation or feeling worse when we respond poorly. But the most significant reason our feelings will experience a positive change is that our relationship with God improves when we choose to do right in suffering. Rom 8:28,29 makes is clear that eventually all things that happen to those who love God will turn out for good, either in us or through us. We must persevere in doing good to see the good that is promised. If we are going to find the strength to continue doing what is right when we feel bad, we must change the thoughts, perspectives, and meditations of our heart.

Feelings Follow Thoughts (i.e. meditations)

If a person’s heart is full of fearful thoughts and perspectives, what will he feel? In contrast, if his heart is full of peaceful thoughts, what will he feel? Feelings do follow thoughts not just actions.  A man came to counseling after having been a pilot dropping bombs during the first Iraq war. Five years later, he was still waking up with terrors, feeling the weight of shame, believing his bombs had killed innocent people by the thousands. Sleep loss has escalated, and his thinking became more and more distorted and bizarre. He was diagnosed with PTSD. We first discussed the relationship of his thoughts to his feelings to help him see his need to change his meditation.  Rom 8:6 says that the mind focused on the Spirit is life and peace. This truth (found in the assignment “The Relationship of Thoughts to Feelings”) motivated him to work hard on changing his thinking and perspective, no matter how bad he felt.

Eventually, his feelings changed by meditating on the sovereignty of God (Lam 3:37-38) as it related with his role as an agent of the government (Rom 13:1-4) in the Iraq war. Each time he was tempted to guilt himself over the bombs he dropped (which produced a controlling anxiety) he would take his guilt and anxiety captive to the truth of God. He had studied and memorized passages like Rom 13:1-4 which states that the government exists as a minister of God to avenge and punish evil. In light of this he would pray, “Father, I may feel guilty of murder but based on Romans 13:1-4, I was obedient to your call as an agent of the US government; therefore you do not hold me guilty for wrong doing. You are the Judge, not me.” He had also studied and memorized passages like Lam 3:37-38 which states that God is in charge of all that occurs, as well as passages like Deut 29:29 that states we are to follow what God reveals, not what is secret or unknown to us. In light of these truths he would pray, “Father, I may feel anxious about the potential of killing innocent people, but the truth is, there is little evidence of this, and the truth is, I was following what You had revealed as my role. The truth is that You are ultimately in control of life and death, not me, not anyone else. I trust your sovereignty and the Word in this situation, not my perspective and feelings.” As our thoughts and perspective begin to reflect God’s thoughts and perspectives, we will experience feelings that glorify God and will become more like Christ.

Feelings Follow Desires (i.e. motives and affections)

If you were given something you intensely desire, like a $5,000 bonus or an engagement ring,  you would feel intense joy. On the other hand, if you lost something you intensely desire, like the $5,000 bonus you anticipated, or a close relationship now gone from your life, you would feel intense sadness, anger, maybe even anxiety. This is because feelings follow desires.

Each Christmas growing up, my brother and I would always get one “big” present. I remember the grand feeling of disappointment that came over me when I was 14 years old and opened my “big” present. It was a study Bible, a very nice one. My “other” desires dictated my disappointed feelings. Fast forward 15 years. My wife and extended family pitched in to get me an expensive computer bible software program I truly desired. After opening the present, I looked at them and said with grande elation, “No way! You all should not have spent so much on me!” How can the same person receiving such similar gifts respond with such opposite feelings? This is because my feelings followed my desires.

James 1:14 says each one is tempted by what he desires, not by what happens to him. When you feel the temptation to self-pity and to pull away in sadness, check your heart’s desires. When you feel the temptation to quit loving and doing right, check your heart’s desire. When you feel anxious, and your heart is racing, check your heart’s desires. We want to be happy; we want good health, good relationships, and good results in life. But if we are ruled by these desires, our feelings will be dominated by depression, anxiety or anger.  You and I are led by our desires. It’s not our circumstance or feelings that are the real problem. It is our heart’s desires.

Jesus said in John 4:34 that his food is to do the will of the Father. Because of this, he was never controlled by feelings of depression, anxiety or anger, even though his life was filled with sorrow, disappointment, hurt, unjust treatment, and even physical abuse. His feelings followed his ruling desire to do the will of the Father, even through He suffer horrible circumstances. As a result of his perfect desires, he can offer us forgiveness from the Father for our disobedient desires, thoughts, behaviors and feelings. He offers us help in our struggle to change our disobedient desires. Heb 2:16-17 says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Do you desire this forgiveness and help? Christ can both atone for your sin and help you to change your heart’s desires to do the will of the Father. If you are overwhelmed and dominated by negative emotions, the best news possible is that Christ can change your heart’s desire to be more like his.

Feelings Follow Beliefs (Ps 27:13; 1 Pet 1:8)

How would you feel if you believed you deserve a $5000 raise, but you didn’t get it? Most likely your answer would be “mad and sad.”  In contrast, how would you feel if you received the $5000 raise but you believed you didn’t deserve it (maybe because of many sick days or your department did not produce as well as expected)? Most likely your answer would be “humbled, grateful and blessed.” Note in both cases you believed, therefore you felt. Feelings are determined by what we believe, not by what we receive.

What we believe, our faith, is the most crucial human motivator. What we each believe fundamentally motivates us in life, and therefore motivates our feelings. David declared that he would have despaired unless he had believed that he would see God’s goodness in the end (Ps 27:13). What we believe motivates our actions. Jesus was motivated to endure the suffering of the cross because he believed future joy was awaiting him (Heb 12:2). What we believe motivates our thoughts. The Psalmist meditated on God’s law day and night for he believed it increased his wisdom like nothing else (Ps 119:97-99). What we believe even motivates our desires. The early church believed in Christ and was filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:8). The Psalmist meditated on God’s law constantly because he believed they were more valuable than thousands of pieces of silver or gold and sweeter than honey. (Ps 119).  Godly feelings, actions, thoughts, and even desires follow our faith in the Lord and his Word.

Such life transforming faith in Christ is a gift from God’s Spirit (Eph 2:8-9) that comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). Biblical counseling facilitates and nurtures such transforming faith in practical ways. If you are dominated by a lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness, there is hope through God’s Spirit. The Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center is here to help you find this transformation.

Avoiding Poor Decision Makers

 

Are you ready to choose?  Life is a succession of decisions, punctuated by choices. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that the mind of man plans his way. Ephesians 5:15 admonishes us to be careful or circumspect in how we walk. We are instructed in this verse that the way to do this is to walk in wisdom. Everyday we have choices to make from what time will I go to bed and get up, to what will I eat and wear, to how will I treat others and handle responsibilities, to what will I give my attention to and meditate on, to what will I do with the time and resources I have today. All these are gifts from God that he desires us to be wise and careful with. As Ephesians 5:16 says, He calls us to, “Make the most of our time.”.

God is good – all good, and so everything he calls us to is ultimately good for us. He do not call us to a life of regret but an abundant and fruitful life. Now let’s be clear this doesn’t mean that all wise decisions will always lead us to immediate gratification. I have counseled many spouses in tough marriages struggle with the fact that God and His Word called them to choose to trust Him for future happiness and do good to their spouse in present trials. Many wise decisions require us to delay gratification to gain superior gratification. But God’s Word repeatedly promises if we follow His Word which is His wisdom consistently in our decision makin, we will experience God’s goodness in fullest measure! The author of pleasure calls us to pursue pleasure – a pleasure that doesn’t sacrifice on the altar of the immediate, the joy of the eventual and eternal. God wants to lead us to making the most of everything we have been given. The fruit of consistently applied wisdom will not disappoint us in the fruit, unlike the fruit of the fool talked of repeatedly in Proverbs.

The first step in learning to make wise decisions is wanting to make wise decisions. I have never known of anyone one who consistently went against immediate gratification unless they were consistently convinced it was leading to an eventual superior gratification. This is why I have developed a list of verses on the superior gratification of consistent, wise decision making. I encourage you to print it out and use it for your life and for those you counsel, to reinforce every step of obedience and wise decision needing to be taken each day.

To consistently make wise decisions you must learn to recognize foolish decision making. Below I have listed five poor decision makers. When you are struggling to determine what God wants you to do in a tough or tempting situation, read through each of the five decision makers below and ask yourself, “What decision would this type of decision maker make in my situation?” This can help you avoid the misery of the fool and instead  experience the goodness of God.

The Fool

They choose first and think later. They do not seek biblical guidance or wisdom on decisions. They may even choose against the counsel of wise advisers in their life and even “common sense” to attain their desire. This approach reveals an idol of the heart and is often based on immediate gratification. This reveals a lack of trust in the Lord, not believing that following His will, in the end, will make them happiest. They seek material, emotional or relational pleasure or relief outside the counsel of the Word and will of God.

The “Spiritualizing” Fool

They make unwise decisions and then justify them by claiming it is God’s will. They may even say that the Holy Spirit led them to do this even though it be clearly an unbiblical decision in a relationship, purchase, or manner of life. They go against wisdom and prudence based on a number of wrong views on knowing the will of God like, “God speaks outside of His Word” or “favorable circumstances prove a decision to be the will of God.” They have the same heart as that of a fool but it is cloaked in false spirituality and unbiblical theology.

The Indecisive

They cannot decide between two options, fearing either one may end up being the “worst” choice. The potential good and the potential risk of each seem too close for them to make a call, resulting in passivity and non-decision. They do not decide at all or in a timely manner. Unfortunately and unintended, their fear of making the perfect decision leads them to reaping the same harvest as that of a sluggard due to the fact that they neglected to act responsibly before God as His steward in a timely manner. Their carefulness in a decision actually reveals an idolatrous desire for perfection and an inordinate desire to avoid discomfort or suffering in a given area. They must accept that wise and obedient decisions do not necessarily lead to earthly comfort or success, but they always please God and this always lead them to greater internal and eternal comfort and success from God.

The Lazy & Distracted

The lazy and distracted may determine what is wisest and know what would please the Lord in a given area but they do not diligently follow through or execute the plan. They may talk much about needing to do or plan how to go about doing, but never get to it (Prov 14:23). They often want quick results (Prov 21:5) and are feeling-oriented (Prov19:24; 26:15). They must nurture faith in the Word of God and meditate on clear pictures of future pleasure from God (both in regards to the next season of life and in the eternal pleasures if heaven) to motivate greater diligence in knowing and doing the will of God in neglected areas of their life (2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 Tim 4:10). This will most effectively be done by main friends with those who are strong in faith-motivated decision makings vs feeling-oriented decision making (Prov 13:20; Heb 10:24-25; 3:12-13; Phil 3:17).

The Independent & Boastful

The independent decision maker is inflexible, a perfectionist, proud and often prayer-less in decision-making, planning and execution (James 4:13-16). They are more concerned about following their plans and goals than in accomplishing the ultimate goal of goals – glorifying God and loving others in the process (1 Cor 16:14; 1 Tim 1:5; 1 Cor 13:1-4). They must learn that it is from the mouth of the Most High that success or failure in any endeavor ultimately comes and not in their effort (Lam 3:37-38; Ps 127:1-2; Prov 3:5-6). They must make their ambition to please the Lord in the way the seek to get things done, not just in getting things done. In other words they must seek to do the will of God in a fuller manner –  in both the planning and the process. They must leave to God the results so they they do not become results-oriented above God-and-others oriented.

If you or someone you know is struggling with wise decision making, we are here to help. Request an appointment today with one of our biblical counselors.

The other option we would offer is to watch our two session training on  “Wise Decision Making“.

Turning no one away, we are here to help. www.lcbcc.org

Begin with Hope by Reaching Out for Help

There is hope. Are you in a relationship challenge feeling there is no more you can do? Are you having a difficult time preserving through emotions like anger, anxiety, bitterness, depression, guilt or grief? Maybe you have given up hope for overcoming some stubborn addiction, financial challenge, eating issue or physical challenge.  God can cause all the trials of your life to accomplish a greater good in the end, if you will seek Him and His answers. This is the clear hope repeatedly testified throughout Scripture and by the many who have come to the Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center for help.  

There is help.  All our counselors are trained to help you take practical steps to find this hope and help. We provide four different counseling services in two different formats – on location or online – depending on your needs. Click here to set up an appointment 

  • CONSULTATION:  1-2 sessions to give biblical, practical encouragement and direction in personal or relational challenges.
  • LIFE-COACHING: 5-6   sessions  to  establish foundational  habits  and  routines in  life and relationships  prescribed by  God in  the  Scripture that promote success and stability in specific areas of life and godliness.
  • CONCILIATORY COUNSELING: Begins with 2-4 sessions to determine if reconciliation of differences in a relationship or conflict is possible. The number of sessions beyond this is based on the receptivity of one or both parties to deal with the concerns in the relationship and conflict.
  • PERSONAL COUNSELING: 12-15 sessions that begin with about 8-10 weekly meetings to identify, inspire and instruct key areas that change is needed.  After this 2-5 more sessions spread out over two-four months to ensure the new heart and habit changes are continuing.
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Onsite or Online Counseling

We have seen many people and families gain the insights needed to make changes they never thought possible. We are certain, therefore, that the Bible contains all necessary information for your life, your problems and your need for godliness as you encounter these various difficult trials and temptations (2 Peter 1:2-4). Consider allowing one of our counselors (live or online) to help you take clear, biblical steps that can help. Let Christ do for you what he has done for many others through biblical counseling.

The key to all the success we have had at the center is because our counseling approach is built on one key belief.  We believe that the central method by which God transforms a person’s primary motivations and responses in life is by giving that person a greater understanding of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Word and Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:18). Our counselors are here to help you experience this distinct transformation whether you live near the center or on the other side of the country or world. Begin with hope by reaching out to us for help.

Click here to set up an appointment 

Contact us:
info@lcbcc.org
843.278.0072
www.lcbcc.org

Avoiding Despair – Part 2

Avoiding Despair (i.e. Depression) in Difficult Times (Part 2 of 2)

By Tim Bryant
In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul says that he was perplexed but not despairing. This becomes the biblical goal for each of us when we encounter perplexing situations – how do we have hope when it seems there is no way out? How do we gain biblical direction when there seems to be no options left? This is Part 2 of a 2-part article. (Click to go to read part 1)

For a despairing believer to pull out of deep despair,  he or she will require regular renewal of the mind that God is Sovereignly at work in the challenges for good purposes as they obey. If they are going to respond right to this very difficult situation and experience the good purposes God has for them in their present challenge, the greatest need first of all is to look at the challenges through the eyes of biblical faith (Heb 11:1). Here is an assignment I often give to help its this.

List specifically some of the good purposes God intends in this challenge? Here are some example answers from others I have counseled in difficult times: God is finishing the good work in me of making me more obedient to Him like Christ (Phil 1:6; Phil 2:3- 8; Heb 5:8); God believes these trials are necessary for my perseverance and endurance in faith and Christ-like character – this is necessary for heaven (1 Pet 1:6-7; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet 4:18; Heb 12:14); He is teaching me to set my desires and hopes on that which endures forever (2 Cor 4:16-18; 1 Pet 4:1); God will not give me more than I can handle – He is faithful – (1 Cor 10:13; God rescuing Job 38-42); He is purifying what I believe are my “needs” in life so that He and His Word become all I need (Job 23:12; Matt 4:4; Luke 10:38-42); He is confirming my salvation ( 1 Pet 5:10); He is preparing me to be able to sympathize and comfort others in challenging circumstance like Jesus does (2 Cor 1:3-4; Heb 4:15; 5:2); He is provoking me to a greater trust in Him for the unknown  (Deut 29:29; Job 23:8-10); He is helping me realize that because His Sovereign I and others are as safe in dangerous circumstances as we are in safe circumstances (Heb 9:27; Ps 139:16; Eph 2:10); He is helping me learn to actively leave to God my and other’s needs – spiritual, physical, etc. – as I pray for myself and others and represent Christ I am exercising such faith rightly (Jn 16:7-8; Col 4:2-5; 2 Tim 2:24-26; 1 Pet 3:1-2); He is teaching me to value the days on earth so I will make the most of my time and relationships for eternal purposes – (Ps 39:4-6; Eph 5:15-17; Ps 90:12); He is giving me opportunity to glorify Him and His good purposes before the angelic realm by how I respond (Jn 12:27-28); There are many more purposes God will reveal as I walk in faith and obedience to Him (Jer 32:19); The more confident you are that this present challenge will lead to all these good purposes of God in your life, the more hope will replace worry, anger, neglect, sinful escapes and despai (Ps 27:13)

You must commit to prayerfully review these at various times throughout the day and use them strategically to replace despairing thoughts (and work to memorize key accompanying scriptures). Remember, feelings and faith follow thinking, whether for the better or worse, make your thinking biblical – Rom 8:6. Remember, it is only by the grace of God and the Word of God that your faith can grow leading to obedience – Rom 10:17; Acts 20:32. You must learn to memorize and meditate on the Biblical perspective in your present challenge – Lam 3:16-18, 21-26; Hab 3:17-19. (For a clear method of meditation on the Word see “How to Effectively Meditate on the Word”- Col 3:16; to access all our assignments visit our Counselor Resource Center.)

Now, Get out a calendar, and by faith, begin to establish and maintain a daily schedule that reflects obedience to the things God has called you to fulfill even in the midst of the tough circumstance. As you do, keep dwelling on faith- building truths; the Spirit will produce hope, and hope will produce endurance n loving labor in challenging circumstances – 1 Thes 1:3. If your perspective does not lead you to a daily schedule that reflects love for God and others, you will not experience the good purposes, you must keep biblical truth feeding faith-motivated over  – Gal 5:6.

Here are some key priorities to include in that schedule. Priority 1: Pursue spiritual growth during this time – Phil 2:12-13. Prayer and Meditation walks with 3X5 Scripture cards; Close fellowship with a godly group of Christians – Sunday school, worship and preaching, etc. – Rom 1:11- 12; Read godly literature that helps you grow in your knowledge, fear, love, and trust in God – Ps 27:4. Priority 2: Pursue loving growth toward others – 1 Thes 4:9- 10. Daily prayer for others – Eph 6:18; The Apostle Paul’s example; Daily ministry to others (i.e. Emails? Phone? Letters? Packages? Conversa- tions? Service Projects? How Can I Pray for You?) Priority 3: Be faithful to care for your physical, domestic, vocational, parental, etc. responsibilities – Eph 2:10; Priority 4: Any “extra” time, fill with productive enjoyment – no coasting! Create a List – Eph 5:15-17 Put all this on a schedule entitled, “My Proposed Biblical Schedule”. Enlist the help of one or more godly mentors (same sex, unless family member) and any others to help follow through with these commitments – Heb 3:12-13; Tit 2: 3-5; Phil 3:17. These mentors must gently but clearly call you back to faith-motivation when you slow or stop reversing the downward spiral of depression.

Remember, you must dwell on and do what is right, no matter how you feel. Remember, depression can be stubborn, so you must eliminate all excuses for not dwelling on and doing what is right. Remember, despair (biblically defined depressin) is different than perplexity – 2 Cor 4:7. The real cause of despair is not tough circumstances or crisis, but rather failure to do and think the Word of God out of the faith God has given me in the crisis. Remember, seek Faith-motivation verses feeling- motivation – Heb 11. FAITH IS BELIEVING THE WORD OF GOD AND ACTING UPON IT, NO MATTER HOW I FEEL KNOWING THAT GOD PROMISES A GOOD RESULT. (This is a definition of faith to hold on to given me during end intense trials in my life by one of my good friends and counselors at the center, Dr Ron Allchin.)

At our media store you can watch the full length biblical training on overcoming depression (click here)

Can a Person Really Change?

Tim Bryant
I have been director of the Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center (www.lcbcc.org) in Charleston  South Carolina since 2003.  We have seen God do great things for His glory in many lives and marriages.   The reason for the successes is because our counseling seeks to be carefully and methodically based on the biblical theology of sanctification.   The testimonies that come out of LCBCC affirm to you that people can truly change when Christ is at work through the truth of His Word.  No one is in a hopeless state. But God must supply you power to change as you supply the effort. Both are needed! You cannot change on your own, but God will not choose change for you. Indeed God will, if He loves you like a Father, place you in some very difficult circumstances to persuade you to change. (See James 1:2-4, John 15:3, Heb 12:6,7 & 10-12, 1 Peter 1:6-9) He has done this in my life. But in the end, the process of change, according to the Bible, is a cooperative effort between God and you. Both must be active. God is the initiator and you are the responder.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work  out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.                           Philippians 2:12-13

 

Testimony – “I had some private addictions that had hurt my wife repeatedly for years. I had tried and tried but could not break free. Finally, I lost control to my sin and made a bad decision that cost me my job. My wife as devastated. Through biblical counseling my eyes became open to how practical the Word was as the Spirit began to persuade me to repent and change my heart. For the first time I had a power to choose to think Truth in temptation! God’s Word has now so replaced my addictions that when my 4 yr. old son pretends to be “dad” he now bows his head and starts reciting little scriptures he has heard me praying. Apart from LCBCC teaching me how to use Christ’s Word in my battle against sin, there would be no restored life or marriage.”

Testimony – “Last year my depression had become more and more dark, and panic attacks had become more and more frequent. God was using suffering to teach me to trust in His control and His promises, to increase my faith to give up my anger, to be more disciplined in meditating on His thoughts, not mine, to give up my desire to be a super mom and wife”

Testimony – “I had anger that had not been dealt with and unforgiveness in my heart mixed with an enormous amount of pride. I would listen to no one. It led to explosive and destructive behavior. I ended up losing the most precious gifts to me – my wife and son. God broke me. Through Biblical Counseling I have been restored to God, my wife and son. If God is willing to help change me, I know He will do the same for others.”

Do you see a common thread in each of these testimonies? It is Philippians 2:12-13. God gave each of these the power to change. He placed them in tough circumstances that provoked them to change and then spoke through the ministry of His Word to convince them of their need to change. But, each of these responded to this power of God at work in them and around them by “working it out” in daily life. They made choices to think on and act on the Word of God. Apart from the cooperative effort between them and God, change would not have happened. God supplies the power, we provide the effort. (See 1 Cor 15:10, Rom 8:12-13, Phil 3:10, 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:13, 1 Cor 9:24-27)

Note that Philippians 2:12-13 uses the word “salvation” in the context of “working out”. This may seem confusing because of other passages like Ephesians 2:8,9 that says we are “saved not by works but by grace”. The moment your heart first responds in faith and repentance, you are saved, meaning you are no longer under the penalty of your sin. Yet, the more your heart responds in obedience, you are in the process of “being saved” or experiencing the ongoing benefits in this life of being saved. You are becoming less controlled by sin’s power and more by Christ’s reign in your life. The Bible uses the concept of justification to speak of that initial work of God upon a man, while it uses the word sanctification to speak of the continuing work of God upon a man whom he has already saved from the penalty of sin. Both are indeed what it means to be “saved”. So, the Christian is at both times ‘saved’ from sin in one sense and ‘being saved’ from sin in another. The first requires no work – God does it alone, while the ongoing work of God in sanctification is a process that requires man to work for continued freedom from the bondage of sin. Both require dependence upon God’s power and provision in Christ, for you can do neither on your own.

LCBCC views everything we do in counseling and training as an extension of this process of sanctification as defined in the above statement. Any success is a direct result of God through Christ working in a person’s life and heart, learning how to depend on that work as they respond in obedient thoughts and actions. I encourage you to look up the verses mentioned in this article. Pray for God to speak to you as you meditate on them. Add to this effort a meeting with a mature Christian leader whose life reflects active participation in the process of sanctification and change. If you and God cooperate together in the process of change, you will be the next person to have a testimony of the glory of God’s power.

For more information or help on biblical counseling and change visit our website at www.lcbcc.org

*Image courtesy of by wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Three Needs Before Medicating Emotional Issues

By Tim Bryant

How do we best help someone experiencing debilitating emotional symptoms? I am a 25-plus-year sufferer of malabsorption syndrome, extreme food allergies, and chronic fatigue. My wife and four children can testify that there have been times through the years that I felt so depressed that lifting my body out of bed each morning to fulfill even the smallest daily responsibility was a major battle. There have also been times in my life that I could not slow down my racing heart, anxious thoughts, insomnia, and even panic attacks. My emotional struggles for stability has taught me an approach to relieving troubling emotions through the use of prayerful biblical meditation and humility. Because of this I am often able to help people who are where I have been.  As I listen to their struggle I am prayerfully asking myself the following question, “What does this person truly need most?” I want to know what true needs are not being met in their life based on a biblical view of what mankind’s true needs actually are (Luke 10:42; Job 23:12; Mat 4:4; Duet 8:3; 1 Tim 6:8). This is essential.

Here is a biblical perspective based on three areas of true need that we all have:  1) We have spiritual needs because we were created by God and for God. We function best when our choices, thoughts and lifestyles are in fellowship with God and in harmony with His Word. Only then do we reflect his character and image. 2) We have physical needs because we were created with a body that has basic needs of good nutrition, adequate sleep, and appropriate exercise. 3) We have medical needs because, in spite of proper care, our bodies can malfunction and become damaged or diseased. This a result of the curse introduced through the Fall of Adam, putting us all under the effects of sin and death. Each of these areas of true needs directly and significantly affect our emotions. We are a needy people–we always need more of God and His Word nourishing us or we suffer spiritually; we always need more nutrition, exercise and sleep or we get sick; we sometimes need medical help to restore our bodies to physical health.  

There are two other “needs” that modern society would want to add to the three true needs. Some believe that if these two needs are not met, they can likewise cause debilitating emotions. The psychological needs theory is based on the belief that we need love, acceptance, significance, self-esteem, positive nurture, etc., or else we have little choice but to become dysfunctional in various ways, including emotional. They promote the emotional needs theory that too much past negative experiences will inevitably cause present negative and debilitating emotions. The psychiatric needs theory is based on the belief that the brain is the seat of our personhood, including the emotions. Thus, the psychiatric approach to helping the person with debilitating emotions uses mood-altering drugs to control the parts of the brain that process emotional status, believing this is a medical need. There are several widely used types of psychotropic drugs available today. A biblical view would neither discount the help that psychotropics can bring nor discourage their wise use in certain cases, but a biblical view rejects the belief that psychotropic drugs is needed to deal with troubling emotions.

Psychotropics drugs can be a secondary helper at best, but it may become a cover that prevents finding real solutions at worse. It may be necessary to medicate a person if there is a high risk of danger to self or others, and if there is no alternative available to offer protection or to bring quick relief from severe emotional torment. Psychotropics may be deemed necessary to help ameliorate the emotional symptoms while the spiritual, physical or medical needs continue to be investigated. The troubled person may have undetected spiritual or hidden physical problems at the root of the emotional problem. Unfortunately, what often happens is that psychiatric medications are overused, prematurely used, or only used, halting further investigative work on the true needs at the root level of troubling emotions.

The overuse and premature use of mood altering drugs has led to masking real problems such as lack of self control, wrong thinking, deviant behavior, poor sleep habits or poor dietary choices. Additionally, psychotropic drugs can mask adverse medication or food reactions or even the diagnosis of true medical diseases such as hypothyroidism or endocrine disturbances like decreased testosterone. Therefore, it seems prudent to use mood altering drugs as a secondary solution and to prioritize assessing what we know are three true  needs of emotional health: the spiritual, the physical and the medical.

This is contrary to much of the current culture that often places prescribing drugs as the initial, and sometimes the only, treatment paradigm. However, for the biblical counselor, these three areas must be sufficiently assessed and a remedy clarified and pursued for any problems that are discovered. If the person is still in significant emotional distress, or a danger to self or others, drugs may be a necessary, temporary solution. We have often seen at the Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center that as the spiritual, physical and medical needs are assessed and met, and as the person begins to grow in faith, establishing an obedient walk with the Lord, then the emotional state and control improves. At that point a reduction or suspension of the drug under the careful supervision of a medical professional should be considered.

I have listed here some basic questions to help you or someone you are counseling to assess true needs. This is only a starting point for the assessment. Pursue this prayerfully, carefully and humbly. Do not hesitate to reach out for leaders in your life and to those knowledgeable in dealing with the spiritual, physical and medical needs.

Assessment 1: Spiritual Needs
What is the person’s relationship with the Lord? What do they know and believe about God and is that being developed into a healthy fear of the Lord through a confident trust in and growing love for the Lord? Is there character growth? Are they in appropriate environments that help them to grow through their struggles? Are changes needed (i.e. parenting styles, communication issues, school, church, friendships, use of time, counseling, etc.)? Is there guilt or shame that has not been addressed?

Assessment 2: Physical Needs
Are the basic needs for nutrition, sleep and exercise regularly met? Are significant dietary changes warranted? Is help needed to aid in sleeping better from a medical, cognitive, or structured routine perspective? Is a specific routine of exercise needed? Is the body healthy and active?

Assessment 3: Medical Needs
Do tests reveal a true physical malady or deficiency in the body that needs medical treatment? Is more research, testing and treatment needed? Is a medical specialist warranted that can look into a specific area that seems suspect? Are the medicines and treatments that are currently being used effective, or are some medical changes warranted?

Assessment 4: Psychotropic Drugs
Has sufficient effort been attempted in the above areas to discover and remedy negative contributions, but without significant change on the emotions? Are the emotional symptoms dangerous or debilitating enough to warrant psychotropic medications, knowing emotional symptoms are often signposts to real problems on other levels (spiritual, physical, medical) that have yet been revealed?

Many times there are answers for those struggling with troubling emotions on the spiritual, nutritional and medical level that, if pursued and applied, would powerfully and positively affect the troubling emotions. But many times hurting people do not get to the deeper spiritual or physical root issues due to a variety of reasons: 1)  our diagnostic ability to assess the spiritual and physical condition is limited; 2) the person struggling is not willing to discuss and discover the real issues on the spiritual or physical level; 3) the person struggling does not consistently apply the advice the counselor or doctor has prescribed.

AVOID THE OVERUSED, PREMATURELY USED OR ONLY-USED APPROACH

In closing, remember, medicating emotional symptoms is not wrong, but is not always wise. Be careful not to let the use of psychotropics be overused, prematurely used, or only used. When dealing with troubling emotions, especially when there is no clear nutritional or medical diagnosis, learn how to let prayerful meditations on God and His Word be the main means of bringing spiritual peace and joy, and let psychotropics, when deemed wise, assist in this means – not the other way around. When psychotropic drugs do seem warranted, biblical counseling and meditation should continue. Many times if a person who is on psychotropic medications also continues to pursue biblical thoughts and behavior change, then in time that person’s change allows them to back off the medications in part or entirely, under a doctor’s care. We have seen this many times at Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center. 

May the Lord give us wisdom as we seek to biblically care for souls who live in earthen vessels.

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For a more in-depth study, watch this two part series.
Troubling Emotions Square

(Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Avoiding Despair – Part 1

Avoiding Despair (i.e. Depression) in Difficult Times (Part 1 of 2)
What is the difference between being perplexed and being despairing? A person in despair looks at a challenge and says, “There is no way out!”, while a child of God, in the same challenge, can look and say, “I don’t see any way out, but I believe God will provide.” Depression is a hopeless response to a challenging circumstance.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Paul describes his tough circumstances. He was “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down”; and yet, note the four faith-filled responses to those circumstances (underlined below):

(2 Cor 4:8-9 NASB) we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; {9} persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Biblically, depression can be diagnosed as a hopeless response that causes spiritual inability to handle life to the glory of God. And because hopelessness is sin, there is hope for the depressed! A despairing believer must first gain biblical hope by gaining a divine perspective on the challenge; This will not necessarily change the circumstances, but will change our ability to obediently persevere in doing God’s will. It can be helpful to read through the perspective of Jeremiah in Lamentations in 3:17-26, or Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 13:25-14:9 to see how perplexing situations do not have to become despairing (i.e. hopeless.)

What to Believe in Perplexing Circumstances
God declares in His Word that He is responsible for both the challenging circumstances and the pleasant circumstances of our life – this is called God’s Sovereignty. (Read Job 2:10; Ecc 7:14; Is 45:7; Lam 3:38; 1 Sam 2:6-7; James 4:15; Mk 10:29).

God declares in His Word that He uses secondary causes to bring these challenges about: 1) God Works Good Through Satan’s Sin (Read about Job’s loss – Job 1:12, Job 2:6); 2) God Works Good Through People’s Sin (Read about the Christ’s death (Jn 19:11; Acts 4:27:28); 3) God Works Good Through a Nation or Ruler’s Sin (Read about the invasion of Israel – Prov 21:1; 2 Kings 17:18-20); 4) God Works Good Through Natural Disasters (Read about the disciples stormy sea experience – Matt 8:26,27).

If we are in Christ, God’s control over all things is used to help us become more dependent upon Him and grow in Christlikeness (Read Rom 28- 29; 2 Cor 1:8-9). Every challenging circumstance will accomplish good for the child of God if handled rightly (Read Heb 12; Gen 50:20; 2 Cor 1; 2 Cor 4:17; 1 Pet 1:7).

We may be tempted to believe that somehow God can produce good in us without the bad in our lives and that somehow suffering is a negotiable tool for God as He seeks to strengthen our faith and change us into Christ’s image. This is not true. (Read Phil 3:10- 11; 1 Pet 4:18; James 1; Phil 1:19; Rom 8:16-17).

What to Do & Not Do in Perplexity
Responding to challenging circumstances wrongly will not lead to any intended good, but rather lead to greater challenges in your life (Gal 6:9 -10). Here are some typical disobedient responses to challenging circumstances:
1. Worry – Mat 6:25-34
2. Anger – Eph 4:26,27; Eph 4:31-32
3. Neglect of responsibilities—2 Tim 4:5; Eph 5:1-17 (becoming a hermit, few productive activities, undisciplined eating and sleeping routines, slack on care and training of children, etc.)
4. Sinful Escapes – Matt 5:27ff; Rom 13:14; Mk 4:18-19 (heavy drinking, internet obsession, hanging out with wrong crowd, shopping sprees, responding to flirtation, off limit conversation with men, and even worse spending time with them, soap operas and romance novels, etc.)

All these responses will lead to earthly despair and possibly even eternal despair in hell. (Read Prov 13:15; Ps 32:3-5; 1 Jn 2:19). This downward spiral of emotional depression and despair is evidence of a lack of biblical faith and hope actively in control of the mind and actions. (Read Gen 4:6-7; Ps 27:13; Heb 11:6).

But at any time in this downward spiral of depression, if you confess any sin and turn to Christ and His way of escape, the spiral can be reversed (see Prov 28:13; 1 Jn 1:9). Your circumstances may not change, but your spiritual eyes and desires will.

Part 2 will provide a clear method for reversing the spiral of despair by biblical faith (To read part 2 click here)

At our media store you can watch the full length biblical training on overcoming depression (click here)

 

The Divine Perspective of Change

2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

This verse is a verse on change – specifically on how God, in essence, changes a person. This verse is a glorious observation from the Apostle Paul on some glorious benefits the saints have received from through the New Covenant God has established with them in Christ. This verse states that we have been enabled by the Spirit to both behold more fully the glory of the Lord and to be more fully transformed into the likeness of that glory.

This benefit is far superior to that which the Old Testament saint had. The New Testament saint does not only have the God of all glory present and active around him, but by the ministry of the Spirit God is at work in him – transforming Him. According to this passage the Christian can “with unveiled face” behold the glory of God in Christ, and, thereby, most amazingly, be transformed by this beholding into the very likeness of that glory of God which He beholds. What remarkable change is possible for the saint of God in Christ because of the new potential he has to “with unveiled face” behold the Lord of glory. This thesis will seek to help believers make the most of this ability described in 2 Corinthians 3:18 in the transformation of their lives.

John MacArthur calls 2 Corinthians 3:18 his favorite verse of Scripture and here is why:

That verse illustrates to me the divine perspective of the process through which we are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The theme of the verses is glory – and more than any verse I know of, it emphasizes the glorious nature of what Christ does for those of us who look to Him in faith. It shows how the glory of the Lord pervades the New Covenant in an even greater way than it did the Old, and it applies that truth to my life – and the life of every believer.”I have had the privilege through the ministry of biblical counseling of seeing God graciously transform many minds, lives and marriages. It is from this perspective that I testify to the reality of what John MacArthur calls, “the divine perspective of change.” When transformation occurs by the Spirit of God, it is preceded by deeper biblical comprehension of God by the Spirit of God in the heart and mind of the one whom has changed. As a result they behold His glory more fully thus empowering choice-changing affections, like a godly fear, trust and love. From God’s divine perspective, change has come as a result a change in knowledge of God. In this verse the Spirit of God rolls back the current of eternity and allows us to see the “divine perspective on change”. Thus it is in this verse that we see what fundamentally biblical transformation is and how it occurs.

This Verse’s Contribution to the Doctrine of Biblical Change

There are various verses in the New Testament scripture describing biblical change, each from various angles; as in the study of any doctrine so it is true in this one, that some verses overlap one another and differ from one another, but never contradict another. Each verse embellishes the concept further.

  •  The doctrine of biblical change is described in Ephesians 4:22-24 as having three components: putting off the old patterns of life, being renewed in the spirit of the mind, and putting on the new patterns of life reflective of Jesus Christ.
  • Romans 12:1-2 instructs change through commanding us to offer our bodies and renew our minds.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives a four step process of change wherein the Word of God teaches, reproves, corrects, and then trains the man of God in righteous living.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 gives us the “Divine Perspective.” It observes that the more a believe beholds the glory of the Lord, the more they will become like what they behold. It makes a believer’s concept of God central to his ability to change.

According to Ephesians 4:22-24, the old patterns of life are to be put off and the new patterns of life in Christ are to put on in the context of the renewed mind. Yet, it is clear based on 2 Corinthians 3:18 that it is the greater comprehension of God’s glory that centrally renews the mind and motivate powerful changes in the habits of a person. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives instructs that biblical reproof and correction are necessary to change biblically. 2 Corinthians 3:18 would lead using clear and accurate concepts of God Himself to reprove and correct a Christian’s heart most effectively. To support these things I offer the following excerpts from “Knowing God” written by one of the greatest theologian of our day, J.I. Packard.

The Christians instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern men, and modern men, though they cherish great thoughts of man, have as a general rule small thoughts of God.

Does this tremendous sense of His holy majesty, His moral perfection, and His gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient, as it did Daniel? By this test, too, we may measure how much, or how little, we know of God. (pg. 25)

The invariable fruit of true knowledge of God is energy to pray for God’s cause – energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and a relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer – and the more knowledge, the more energy. By this we may test ourselves. (pg. 24)It is fresh views of the Divine that characterize what centrally occurs in Divine change leading to a change from the inside-out. 2 Corinthians 3:18 makes this clear by stating that it is by beholding the glory of the Lord that the believer is transformed in that glory of the Lord. This verse makes clear that biblical transformation does not occur just by identifying (i.e. “beholding”) what sinful pattern is to be stopped and what righteous patterns started, nor by just more accurately viewing one’s self, others and or his circumstances. But rather it is more clear views of the Lord that will centrally effect our perspective of all these and promote divine changes in all of these things.

The discipline of beholding the glory of the Lord for the purpose of transformation into the Lord’s likeness should be a major distinction between those who counsel secularly and those who counsel as Christians. But sadly I believe it is a distinction that does not get due emphasis in much Christian counseling today. Fresh views of the glory of the Lord is the fundamental change that occurs in all true, divinely given, transformation of sinful man.

JI Packard writes:

But the Bible tells us that now, in fulfillment of His plan of redemption, God at work in the Christian believers to repair His ruined image by communicating these qualities (i.e. incommunicable and communicable attributes) to them fresh. This is what Scripture means when it says that Christians are being renewed in the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) and of God (Col 3:10)” – (90)John Owens, the Puritan, writes on the importance of beholding the glory of Christ:

I assert that one of the greatest benefits for a believer in this world and the next is to consider the glory of Christ (7) “…the things of this world will have less and less attraction for us until they become as undesirable as something dead .” (9) All wickedness and confusion among human beings come from this darkness, this ignorance of God” (13)

Let us assure ourselves there is no better way for our healing and deliverance, yea, no other way but this alone, namely, the obtaining a fresh view of the glory of Christ by faith, and a steady abiding therein. Constant contemplation of Christ and his glory, putting forth its transforming power unto the revival of all grace, is the only relief.To support this further I offer excepts from A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy” in his first chapter entitled, “Why We Must Think Rightly of God”.

What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes to your mind when you think about God?” We might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God that idolatry. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself is a monstrous sin. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until once more worthy of Him. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place.As the Christian continues behold the Lord of glory, gaining a more correct view of God, he is able to be powerfully confronted and motivated to change sinful behavioral patterns and replace them. Thus beholding the glory of the Lord, I will argue, is the divine perspective of change, it is what essentially changes in a person if they are changing biblically. It is of central importance in the transformation of lives. Thus, I want to encourage counselors of Scripture, as much as possible, to aim to correct faulty notions of the Lord in the minds and establish fresh views of His glory for those we counsel; and to do so, not merely as a part of the work but as the very foundation from which we instruct, reprove and correct people in putting off sinful patterns in life and putting on biblical patterns of living.

Beyond Behavior Modification & Cognitive Therapy

Biblical transformation is more than behavior modification and more than just changing your “stinkin’ thinkin’ ”. It is about changing who or what is your God. I have found that the more I help people stand amazed at the mighty deeds and glorious characteristics of the God of the Bible, the more they are enabled by the Spirit of God to be motivated in a divine change that the world can not know. They are empowered to obey God’s Word by a faith that perseveres and by the new values that emerge from new understanding of God. This is true, satisfying, biblical transformation – it begins with what you think about God and how often you think of Him.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of change, please watch the following video. This is a three part series. You can watch the other three at the “Gaining a Transforming View of God” page. This teaching is, in my opinion, the most important distinction between secular counseling, and even much Christian counseling and what you will learn at LCBCC.

Redeeming Your Pregnancy

By Greg Gifford and Amber Gifford

As my wife and I welcomed our second-born child, we thought and collaborated about what we learned in this pregnancy. By ‘what we learned’, I am referring to what God taught us; things that transcend how to assemble a crib to how do we interact with suffering—even the suffering of pregnancy. Below is a simple representation of what we concluded and we pray that as you engage your pregnancy, or the pregnancy of a loved one, that you too would redeem your pregnancy.

Feel Deeply and Passionately About the Sanctity of Life

            As you experience the joys and trials of nine months of carrying another human being, feel deeply about the sanctity of life. A mom cannot feel the baby in her womb without thinking of a life that is growing inside of her. May this cause you to have a heightened value of that life. God is working inside of you the miracle of life. A baby is being formed and knit together inside of you at the cellular level (Ps. 139:13)! The process of human life is beginning inside of you. Feel that, marvel in that, praise God for that, and passionately believe that.

Do not give into a culture that wants to hold a high-view of human rights and a low-view of the sanctity of life. Let your motherly intuition show and confirm that what is inside of your womb is indeed human and life-full. Therefore, prize that life, value that life, and hold firmly that the baby in your womb is a person created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27): hold firmly that life is sacred.

Marvel at the Process of Pregnancy

As you witness the miracle of life forming within you, always let that be a cue for praise to God. When you visit Baby Center or read charts on the growth of your baby, let those be stimulants for praise within your life. When David thought of the complexities of gestation, it was a time for him to remember the omniscience of God (Ps. 139:15), so how can you reflect praise as you think on your baby’s formation? Perhaps you could reflect on the faithfulness of God to provide doctors? Or you could praise the grace of God for epidurals (my wife says, “Amen!”)? Or you could praise the creative work of God in forming your child? Whatever that looks like, let your pregnancy be a reminder to praise our good God.

Evaluate Your Heart

Pregnancy will reveal your hearts attitude (Prov. 4:23). You now have a ‘legitimate’ reason to demand. So do you? You can now maximize your suffering and minimize your responsibility. So do you? You can now be pampered. So do you? Many women fall into the trap that pregnancy is a sanctioned time of emotion-led, hormone dictated responses to life. Yet, Scripture teaches that God has given us the means to be Christlike in every context of life—even pregnancy (2 Pet. 1:3). Of course you will need to rest more, but are you more ‘cranky’? Are you snapping on people rather than considering their needs as more important that your own (Phil. 2:3-5)?

Pregnancy will not make you into something that you are not already. It will simply—under the pressure of a growing baby—reveal who you are. Maybe you are a dormant critic who is exposed in your pregnancy? Maybe you love to be pampered and now you have the opportunity to demand that pampering? Guard your heart and evaluate your heart during pregnancy, while living out that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Longing for Christ’s Return

Are you longing for Christ’s return like you long for the birth of your child? 2 Timothy says that all those who love the appearing of the Lord (2 Tim. 4:8) will be judged by Christ. Meaning, there will be people who love Christ’s return and people who will not. So that leads me to ask, do you love Christ’s appearing like you love your child’s appearing? Are you counting the days until the return of Christ like you are counting the days until your baby arrives? Or is that not even on the radar for you? One of the prayers that my wife and I consistently prayed is that God would help us to long for the coming of Jesus like we did the coming of our child.

Encouraging the Barren

In this time of great excitement, how will you encourage those who cannot have children? Because in very real sense, every time they hear a lady is pregnant, it is like an old injury returns. When you feel joy and excitement, they are reminded that they might never take a child to their first day of school. Or they might wonder what Thanksgiving will look like for their family, with no kids around the table. Please be sensitive to the fact that some wombs have been closed by our God, even though yours has not.

This does not mean that your pregnancy should be void of great joy to you and your family but it does mean that you are not flaunting the blessings you have received. When the body of Christ hurts, every member feels it (1 Cor. 12:26). So in this time of great joy, be sensitive to the pains of those women who are barren. They would gladly experience the morning sickness, sleepless nights, and swelling ankles to welcome a child into their home. While they should never transpose their pain into your joy, you should never try to transpose your joy into their pain.

Complaining or Encouraging?

Finally, be aware of your tendencies during your pregnancy. As mentioned above, your heart will become radically apparent under the pressure of a growing womb. And in that pressure, ask if you are constantly complaining? Paul (writing this while on house arrest) said that we are to “do all things without grumbling or complaining” (Phil. 2:14). The hard part is that this includes your pregnancy!

As if that were not a big enough jab, evaluate if you have shifted from encouraging and serving others to being encouraged and served. Pregnancy is not a hiatus from ministry. It is rather a nuancedtime of ministry. No, you may not be leading Jump Rope for Life but you can lead of team of women who write encouragement letters. No, you may not be able to sleep for six hours per night but you can help babysit for a mom in need.

One of the most terrible tragedies in a pregnancy is when a woman lets her universe become self-centric: her rest, her food, her comfort, her pills, her pain, and her cravings become the axis upon which everyone must rotate. Therefore, be on guard against the subtle temptation to make your pregnancy about you!

Practical Steps for Change:

As you consider how to serve others in your pregnancy, here are a few questions to get you moving in the right direction:

1. How do I need to be more serving to those who are around me (Tit. 2:14)?

2. What verses to I need to memorize to help me not grumble or complain under the physical pain of being pregnant (Phil. 2:14)?

3. What are some things God has shown me I need to change as revealed in my pregnancy?

4. Lastly, who can I pray for that is struggling to get pregnant and what are practical ways I can encourage them?