Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
We have many reasons, often what seem to be really good reasons, to be 'strong'. But if the bottom line of being 'strong' is to constrict the range of emotions which we allow ourselves to experience, what do we gain? We become people incapable of honestly experiencing the emotional realities of life. In this and many other ways we manage to avoid the clear biblical injunction to mourn with those who mourn. Our instincts are often to cheer other people up, to look on the bright side of things, to remind people of things they already know to be true. This text urges us to do the most basic of things. When it is time to mourn, we can mourn.
We can also rejoice when it is time to rejoice. It might seem like it would be easier to rejoice together. But this is not necessarily true. People in recovery have often experienced so many disappointments and betrayals that we find it difficult to experience good things. When something good happens, we expect that bad things will be waiting right around the corner. Instead of rejoicing, our instincts are to protect ourselves from the possibility of the soon-to-follow danger. We do our best to 'stay calm' so that we won't be disappointed. But again, this text urges us to do the most basic of things. When it is time to rejoice, rejoice.
The full range of life's emotions are to be experienced in community. As we share the most basic elements of life together, as we party together and hold each other in times of pain, we will become a fellowship distinguished by a capacity for honesty.
I rejoice, Lord
You do not tell me to calm down.
You do not warn me about getting too excited.
You encourage me to celebrate.
'Party together', you say.
I mourn, Lord.
You do not tell me to cheer up.
You do not tell me to 'be strong'.
You encourage me to experience the pain.
'Weep together' you say.
Thank you for welcoming the full range
of human emotions.
Thank you for joy and sorrow.
Give me the courage to weep with others.
Give me the freedom to rejoice with others.Amen
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
"We haven't shared our bed for over 20 years,"
the man told me. This man came to see me for counseling as he was at the end of himself. He was running out of faith. Faith in his marriage, faith in his wife, and ultimately faith that God could fix his situation. He was on the verge of suicide.
He told me an interesting story. The problem started rather simply as many young marriages do. "We were having a fight one evening. I don't even remember what it was about. But we were really steamed at each other and I decided I was going to "punish" my wife. I told her that if she was going to act that way, I would just sleep on the couch." Over time, this couple learned to handle their conflicts in this distorted, disrespectful and damaging way. God says that this type of behavior is sinful.
Sometimes, his wife would take the initiative and "punish" him by sleeping on the couch. Over time, there was less forgiveness, less tolerance and less sleeping together. After a while, they stopped sleeping with each other altogether. His wife decided that she didn't want to share their bed with a man who was so unforgiving. So, she decided to move into the spare bedroom. God has stated that this type of behavior is unacceptable.
By all outward appearances, this couple was envied by their friends. This couple had a terrific facade. They both led very active lives. He would spend time with the boys watching sports and hanging out. Her friends became more important to her than her husband. People were so observant of their ability "to let each other enjoy themselves without tying the other down."
There were problems that were creeping in unaware to this couple. Their children noticed that at home, dad & mom would hardly speak to each other. They noticed that there parents would each go to their respective bedrooms in the evening and watch TV. They noticed that, at home, there was a lack of love and joy. However, the children also noticed that when they would go to church as a family, that all seemed good. At first the children enjoyed going to church because it felt like then they were a family that really loved and cared for each other. However, as the children became teenagers, they noticed the hypocrisy that their parents displayed. Their parents were one way at home, one way with their friends, and another way at church. When the children would talk to their friends, they came to realize that their parents really didn't love each other. It was all an act.
It was his son that awakened this man to what was really happening. His son casually said, sarcastically, "when I get married I want to have a wife that I don't love too, Dad." This man was so floored by his son's hurtful statement, that he didn't even know what to say or do. He just broke down and started crying. He asked himself, "what have I taught my children about love and marriage?" He realized that the last 20 years of his life have been a sham. That's when the feelings of despair and hopelessness set in. That's when he first started contemplating ending his life. Fortunately, this man sought help for his situation, deciding to get counseling for himself.
Now, the recovery from 20 years of denial and lovelessness is a long and arduous journey and I won't get into the issues that this man needed to face in counseling. However, I share his story to stop you and make you think...
How are you treating your wife? Have you two gone so far as to not share the marriage bed anymore? Maybe you haven't done that physically but emotionally. Do you sleep together, side-by-side, each nite and wonder why you're married, not feeling as if this person to whom you are married is even worth staying with? Have you given up on your love internally and just live a sham marriage?
Let me encourage you today. A pastor of mine used to say this frequently in his sermons, "it's never to late to do the right thing."
So, if you've gone a long time (or even a short time) and haven't been cultivating the love and romance in your marriage, be a man and take the first step. Swallow your pride. Apologize to your wife for discarding her. Work on valuing her. Let your kids see you two in love. Get help and talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor.Tomorrow, we are going to continue our discussion of marriage...BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
There are times in life when it feels like we will drown in sorrow. The losses, the betrayals, the failures threaten to overwhelm us. The intensity of the emotional pain frightens us in times like this. We feel ourselves losing ground as life swirls around us.
This text states with great clarity two central truths which are critical to our survival in times like this. First, God has made a very specific promise to us. God says "I will be with you." This may not always be what we want. We may want God to take the floods of life away. We may want God to build dams upstream in life so that the danger of flood is diminished. But, God's promise is clear. I will be with you.
Secondly, this text says very clearly "When you pass through the waters, they will not sweep over you." God will protect us and see us through. There are times when there just doesn't seem to be any way to make it. Nothing is more painful in these times than to have someone who stands at a distance express optimism about our pain in a way that minimizes the struggle. ["Oh, you're going to be fine. Stop worrying about it."] Conversely, nothing is more valuable in these times than to have someone with us who sees the danger clearly but who is able to be hopeful for us and protect us and see us throughFor your promise to be with me in the floods of life, God,
I give you thanks.
Help me to sense your presence.
For your hopefulness about my recovery,
I give you thanks.
Help me to share in your hope.
You are Life-Preserver to me, God.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
This honest two-part post is by an anonymous blogger:
“Guard you eyes”, my mother said. Seemed simple enough. How hard can it be, right? Or, so I thought until I stumbled across an advertisement featuring young woman with a nude upper body. I wasn’t looking through a pornographic magazine. It was some mundane publication that my parents had left in the bathroom. I was living in Europe at the time and the censorship laws there are much more lenient than in the United States, so an occasional sexually charged advertisement wasn’t entirely uncommon. I believe I was about seven years old at the time – a very young age to be exposed to porn. Of course, then there were several “friends” along the way who were eager to show me their porn collections, or that of their father's, or uncle's. I was quite taken by these images, though I didn’t fully understand sex. And why should I at that age?
I guess every tragedy has to start somehow, and mine started the day I randomly flipped through that magazine. Looking back, I suppose far worse things could have happened as a result of my poor choices. At the dawn of the internet, while I was still living with my parents, the fear of my parents finding out what I had could have been looking at on the computer kept from seeking out porn online. Fortunately, I wasn’t savvy enough to cover my tracks for quite some time. But, there were still those lenient censorship laws. I spent many a late night waiting for an erotic film to be shown. If nothing was broadcast to my liking I inevitably settled for the phone sex advertisements. I never called, but the girls were pretty - most of the time.
Unfortunately, this was the part of my life that I kept well hidden for many years. Apparently my parents were oblivious. I suppose it wouldn’t be entirely fair to blame them. They were raising a boy in a foreign culture and in a world in which parents weren’t very well educated in regards to the dangers of the internet. But, either way, the damage was done. Most people knew me as an introverted Christian kid from America. In many respects I appeared to be a good Christian boy to most folks. In high school I was very outspoken about my Christian beliefs, especially in the ethics classes I took, which provided plenty of opportunities for discussions about morality. Some of the guys called me the “Jesus Freak”. It wasn’t meant to be a compliment.
What is even more significant than the fact that my parents were oblivious to the secret part of myself that I kept tucked away, was that I was totally ignorant to the fact that I was setting myself up for a world of hurt. I had my first girlfriend when I was sixteen. We were both decent Christian kids, so we agreed that sex before marriage wasn’t an option. But, then there was the first kiss, the first French kiss, the first time making out. Soon enough I wasn’t particular interested in talking with her, I just wanted to experience the high I experienced from making out with her. And so the emotional intimacy quickly died, she lost interest, broke up with me, and that was that. I was devastated. I had been holding on to the idealistic notion that the first girl I dated would be the girl I married. As I reflect on that experience, I’m glad that she broke the relationship off. If she hadn’t I would have almost certainly pushed for intercourse eventually, regardless of how often I reassured myself that we wouldn’t cross that line. It was quite obvious that I had very little self-control.
Skip forward about 3 years. I now had my first great depression behind me. I had experienced severe emotional pain much of which was tied to being rejected and consequently feeling inadequate and insecure. There was much more to it than that, but that was a significant portion of my first emotional breakdown. I was now living with my parents in the United States. For some time I thought pornography was just a relic from my past. Unfortunately, that wasn‘t at all the case. As hard as I tried I eventually came back to it. After the fact I almost always said that it had been the last time. I even prayed that it would be. But, part of me still had my fingers crossed when I prayed that.
Then I met my future wife. I was honest with her about my past. At the time I thought it was in the past. She loved me anyway. Little did each of us know how much I would test her love. Physically we were both virgins when we got married, but mentally, and emotionally I was anything but pure. When we finally did get married, lo and behold, sex didn’t turn out to be like it was in the movies. As it turned out sex could sometimes be awkward, and take a lot of work and communication. My wife didn’t always know exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it, and neither was she always eager to give it to me. But, the women in the pictures and videos were. They say that anything worth having requires hard work to achieve. As it turns out the same thing is true of sexual intimacy. Sure, pornography always provided me with a quick and easy escape from my emotional pain, but afterwards it just irritated the gaping, festering wound in my heart.Tomorrow, we will see the second part of this very personal story.BE HOLY.BE A MAN