Grief Not Allowed

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. – John 16:20

griefnotallowed.newlife

In our culture, it seems more acceptable for us to be angry than sad. Consequently, many of us stumble through life without understanding our feelings, completely out of touch with our emotions. We may be deeply grieved by a number of circumstances, but we don’t feel safe acknowledging our sadness. It’s socially “okay” for them to vent their anger, but not to explore and discuss the deep hurt beneath it.

When you feel sad, anger seems like a safe retreat. It causes your adrenaline to rush. It commands attention and demands respect. It allows you to stay in control, and it keeps uncomfortable feelings and situations at a safe distance. However your failure to grieve can actually poison you.

The Bible offers no precedent for us to suppress our grief. The Old Testament depicts many people showing real grief. The men of Israel would rip their clothes, sprinkle themselves with ashes, wear black armbands, and spend time in mourning. They would wail before the Lord without feeling shame.

That experience allowed them to express their emotions and then move on without the baggage of repressed feelings. When we don’t grieve, we stuff our disappointments and sadness, and compensate for them with other less-threatening emotions, and at the top of the list is anger. But Scripture gives you liberty to grieve, so when you need to, openly grieve!

– Steve Arterburn

To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness. – Erich Fromm

Maintaining Focus

Has it ever been easier or more convenient than now for a believer to lose focus on God? If the apostle Paul found himself ‘greatly distressed‘ that Athens was ‘full of idols‘ (Acts 17:16), what would he think after checking out today’s culture? The Internet alone is overwhelming.

Maintaining Focus

A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes an Internet guru who plugged the word ‘God‘ into a popular search engine. He received a number of responses remarkably close to the amount of sites listed for ‘sex.‘ Yahoo Inc. lists thousands of sites devoted to religion and spirituality, compared with thousands about movies and hundreds about home and garden.

And these figures are expanding exponentially. We’re only a mouse click away from countless links, Web pages, and chat rooms, that define God, redefine Him, recast Him into our own image, or explain Him away altogether.

With all this at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We can’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked by falsehoods or temptations that will prove destructive to our faith.

The writer to the Hebrews called this ‘fixing our thoughts‘ and ‘fixing our eyes.’ ‘Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith‘ (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2).

The old adage is true; the eyes are a window to the soul. So what things will your eyes let into your soul today? It’s your call. You get to decide to be the strong, self-disciplined person you know you want to be, or let your eyes lead you to places that you know deep down you don’t want to go. Focus.

– Steve Arterburn

Self-Monitoring

Our contemporary culture desires its affairs to be as expedient, as convenient and as streamlined as possible. Yet when it comes to knowing others, and knowing ourselves, expediency breeds superficiality. In effect, our love for expediency is making us strangers to one another, and strangers to ourselves.

Self-Monitoring

Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living. This isn’t the time or place to discuss the merits of that statement. But I can say this with certainty: an unexamined life is impossible to live faithfully and well.

One reason for this is that controlling our desires has everything to do with getting to know ourselves better, that is, understanding what people, situations, and substances give us problems, and what responses are effective in countering them.

A good way to begin practicing the examined life is to ask yourself what you’re feeling before you indulge your cravings. Our cravings are often the result of, and a superficial way of dealing with, some negative emotion.

This may be anger, depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, or any host of other emotions. Once you’ve identified the feeling behind the drive, you can more appropriately express or deal with it, instead of trying to ignore it by engaging in some appetite you think will make the feeling disappear.

When you learn to know yourself and express your feelings appropriately, your appetites can stop being emotional buffers and once again serve the purposes God intended them to serve.

– Steve Arterburn

Religion Isn’t Masculine

Stephen Arterburn

Masculine mythologies become most dangerous when they undermine God’s calling upon men to faith and worship. Real men, the myth goes, aren’t supposed to need the crutch “religion” provides, that’s for kids, women, and the elderly—that is, people unable or afraid to face reality and grab life by the horns.

 

Guys, that myth thrives only in modern Western culture. Patrick Arnold, assistant professor of Old Testament at the University of San Diego, says this:

 

“An imaginary trip around the world might quickly shatter that idea. Listen to Buddhist monks in Tibet…Witness throngs of Hindu men making their annual pilgrimage to Benares. Watch a sea of Muslim males pray passionately to Allah in a huge Arabian mosque. Join Hasidic men in Jerusalem…earnestly in prayer at the Western Wall. See the joyous faces of African tribesmen, scarred with ritual signs of their manhood…Or, for that matter, join charismatic evangelicals at a local businessman’s prayer breakfast…Men are naturally deeply religious, all right; it is just that modern culture provides little help for them anymore in minding their natural masculine spirituality.”

 

Do you sense the tension between your need for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and our culture’s insistence that no such need exists?

 Listen to me: you—along with all men—were created by God to worship God for the glory of God. When you do so, you’re expressing your true humanity, and your true masculinity.

Persistence & 'Programs'

Jonathan Daugherty

How many times in the last week (or day’or hour) have you felt like giving up? Have you been tired, frustrated, or beaten down by life or addiction? What are the answers to your sexual acting out, and how can they possibly be implemented?

For those of us who struggle with sexual sin, ours is a daily battle with temptation. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images and innuendos. Pornography is a booming business and growing exponentially through the ever expanding Internet universe. Marriages keep breaking up due to “irreconcilable differences” or sexual infidelities. How can we curb such rampant impurity and lead a life that is pleasing to God?

Many in today’s culture (and even churches) would be quick to shove a “program of healing” in your face and spout, “Just do this and you will be fine.” This is the modern day equivalent of the old doctor’s quip, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” We have become a society engrossed with programs to “heal” every ailment. We even have 12-step programs for compulsive fingernail biters! (Ok, maybe we haven’t digressed that far, but we’re well on our way.)

Does this mean all ‘programs’ are bad? Of course not. Are most programs useless? Not hardly. But if programs, in and of themselves, were effective, don’t you think we would see higher rates of ‘success’ from those who implement them? The answer should logically be yes. Then why are we not seeing a larger number of people in “recovery programs” finding long-term freedom from their compulsive behaviors?

I believe the answer is found in one word: persistence.

The Bible speaks of perseverance (or persistence) as endurance. The Greek translation for endure is hupomeno and has the connotation of “staying under” or “remaining.” Jesus used this word when He spoke in Mark 13:13 and said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Does that type of long-term vision describe the attitude of our culture today? Hardly! We become impatient and frustrated when a candy bar doesn’t fall from the vending machine in less than 2 seconds. We have severely lost our willingness to endure and persist. Thus, the increased reliance on “programs” alone to remedy our every addiction.

Programs can be useful (such as our EMB workshops), but ONLY when coupled with persistence and relationship. When we persist, or endure, we are engaging in the hard work of “staying under” the leadership and accountability of another person (as it pertains to recovery). Persistence is most interested in the process, recognizing that enduring is not always clean, neat, glamorous, or “perfect.”

We persist because we understand the greater good of “remaining” until the work is complete. Persistence means I will not bail out no matter how intense the pressure is to quit.

Programs are oftentimes primarily interested in outward conduct. Are you “doing” the right things? Are you following each step correctly? And programs can often turn a person away to work on their issue alone, isolated from others. This is why so many people will start a solid program only to find themselves shortly afterward abandoning it as they spiral further into their shame and addiction. We need other people to help us maintain focus when it comes to fighting compulsive behaviors; not a list of rules.

One last note on persisting – it is NOT easy! In fact, one of the sub-definitions for the Greek word for endurance is “suffer.” Sticking to something and not giving up are character qualities that test our resolve at the core of our being. It requires increasing our threshold for emotional discomfort and developing habits of righteousness that lead us to the One who can “bear our burdens.” Jesus is our ultimate example of persistence. He is the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Jesus “remained” where God wanted Him and provided us with freedom from our afflictions.

I challenge you today to adopt a new outlook on your personal journey of purity. Instead of seeing the mountain of potential failure spots in front of you, focus on the wonderful Savior who fully bore all your sin, shame, and guilt on the cross and said, “It is finished.” Let Him be your primary motivation for persisting and connecting.