Friday, September 16, 2016

I want it NOW!

Dear Readers,
This season of busyness in ministry has compelled me to repost an article I wrote back in 2014. I hope you will find it encouraging today. You might even get a little chuckle out of the video at the end!

Some people really love their sin. Are you one of them? If someone were to ask me this question, I would immediately respond with an emphatic No! I love the Lord, and I struggle against sinful attitudes and actions every day. My flesh is relentless in its desire to be satisfied, but I am battling it daily, with some success. I’m sure that I don’t love my sin!

But wait. If I don’t love my sin, then why does it seem I’m unable to uproot it from my heart?  I’m not talking here about the sin nature, or the flesh or the influence of the enemy. I’m talking about what we Christians call besetting sins. These are the sins that seem to be constantly tempting us. Like the child’s game of Whack-a-Mole, we think we’ve got it beaten, and it pops up somewhere else. It seems we are in a constant, life-long cycle of sin-consequence-repentance-forgiveness. This is very discouraging, and we wonder if we will ever overcome this sin.

These besetting sins seem more deeply rooted than others. If you think about it, you can probably remember other sins that used to be problematic for you in your early Christian days, but no longer seem to be much of an issue. For example, I used to have a significant anger problem. I was very impatient and easily annoyed, which would quickly turn to anger and frustration. I had to confess and repent many times, but eventually I seemed to get a handle on that, and it doesn’t control me anymore.

But there is another sin habit that really seems to have a death grip on my heart. My awareness of this particular issue has been keenly sharpened over the last few years as I have struggled with chronic pain and disability. That issue is self-pity. I am always amazed at how easily I can fall into this mode of feeling sorry for myself because I can’t do the things I want to do. I was watching an old Willy Wonka movie yesterday, and I saw myself in the character of Veruca Salt, who was terribly spoiled and petulant. As I watched her demand that her father buy her everything she wanted, I became convicted of my own discontentment.

But for me, it’s more than just discontentment. When I can’t have what I want, and my Father won’t get it for me, I begin to feel sorry for myself. As I watch others who seem to have a better life than I do, I become jealous, and this compounds my misery. I become a spoiled brat who believes she is entitled to whatever she wants, just because she wants it! This is not acceptable for a child of the living God! But how can I change? “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24). Thank God indeed, I already have the answer to my problem! I have been freed from this sin. Now, I must receive the pardon and break free of the bonds of besetting sin.

The truth is, I am not a slave to sin, but a slave of Christ. I owe Him my life, my every breath, my very soul! How can I possibly feel sorry for myself when I have eternal life? This time here on earth, in this broken body, is a vapor (James 4:14). Besides that, there are many who are living in much greater difficulty than I am. Some of them would probably give anything to have what I have. The key to uprooting this sin in my life is to open my eyes to these truths, and to the people all around me who are suffering. Ministering to others is the absolute best cure for self-pity. I have experienced this many times as I am working on this sin pattern in my own life. As I reach out to help others, my own problems are diminished, I am more grateful, and I begin to move toward that contentment that seems so elusive.

Veruca’s father repeated something to her over and over as she sang about all her demands. He said, “You can have all that when you get home.” This is the refrain I must keep in mind, to combat these feelings of self-pity, jealousy and discouragement. All these things I desire and cry out to God for, will be mine when I get Home to Him. There will be no pain, no sorrow, and no limits on what I can do. But I must be patient. My contentment rests in trusting God to enable me to do all He has called me to do here, nothing more and nothing less. I can be satisfied in knowing that He will bring me to perfection in Him on that day when I arrive at Home.

If you haven't seen the Willy Wonka movie, and you'd like to meet Veruka, click here. You may see a little bit of yourself in her, too!

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Counseling Case Study

I think that my favorite kind of counselee is one who has had a life-changing event, and now is just not sure how to cope biblically with it. This is true with almost everyone I know who is suffering with chronic pain or disability.  But, when you think about it, the inability to cope with a new trial is what brings just about every counselee through my door. A physical trial may have been brought on by trauma, disease, or some other event, but other types of problems (grief, anxiety, depression) have a point of origin too, and can be just as debilitating. Those of us who struggle with chronic pain sometimes think that we are a special case, and that our problem is unique. But in reality, chronic pain and limited mobility are "common to man" problems:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

The Bible says that no temptation to sin can come in any kind of package that has not been dealt with before. That's what Paul means when he says "common to man." Self pity, a victim's heart, and a cry of injustice will never be allowed for us, just because we think we're especially pitiable. No, our pain and limited activity do not give us a license to complain, or to bow out of opportunities to minister to God's people. 

Maybe you don't suffer with chronic pain yourself, but you know someone who does, and you want to help her. What should you do, and what practical steps should you take in counseling her? What passages of Scripture would be most helpful, and how can you help her to understand their application? This week, I have some answers for you over at Biblical Counseling for women, where I'm presenting a Case Study called, "Jane's Pain." There, you'll find the first three sessions of my counseling process with a hypothetical woman named Jane. 

I would encourage you to visit Biblical Counseling for Women for the next two weeks (session one was already posted last Tuesday, 9/6/2016). I think you will find it helpful, whether you are counseling yourself or someone else. On a personal note, this time of year really ramps up in counseling cases, and I am finding myself much busier than I've been in a long time. I hope to get back to posting regularly here soon. I appreciate your patience, and covet your prayers as I seek to lead others Near to the Healer in their trials.