Articles written by PurposeCity about Suffering & Recovery

Be Known

Our Innate Desire To Be Known

I have been thinking recently about the seemingly growing mass of people who do things just to be known and noticed. The examples are so numerous that it is hard to decide which ones NOT to mention. Just think on some headlines over the last few months. Add to that the countless people who still go on shows like Jerry Springer, or people who play to the paparazzi just to keep getting noticed – Lohan, Hilton, Kardashian, etc, etc. On the far more tragic side I was reminded recently that when Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon on a New York sidewalk the first thing he said was, “I shot John Lennon.” He wanted to be famous and the closest he could get was to be infamous.

So, what is it about us that we have this growing need to be known, to the point that we do the ridiculous (or even the tragic) just to have our proverbial fifteen minutes of fame? I think at the heart of it all, it goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve and our rebellion against God. The point of the story is that human beings are in some sort of rebellion against God and this rebellion, known as sin, has had cosmos altering consequences. We have become alienated from God and from one another. That alienation has produced fear and insecurity, loneliness and shame. You might be thinking, “Hey, we have always had alienation, fear, and insecurity. What’s different now?” What is different now is two-fold.

First, there have always been other social institutions that helped us overcome our alienation and fulfill our need to belong and be known. Once upon a time the tribal group (or community/family) gave us a sense of security, identity, and purpose. We knew people and they knew us. Not simply in the informational sense of knowing, but in the deeper heart sense of knowing. It is more like the sense in Dutch and Afrikaans of “ken” as opposed to “weet”. Weet is informational knowledge, you know about something or someone. Ken is heart knowledge. It is what the Bible speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when it speaks of a longing for a new day,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

The more mobile and isolated we become, the more we run the risk of being alienated, yearning for connection.

The second factor is the divine element. During the rise of the modern era, and the commitment to science as having the answers to all our problems, we put God and spirituality on the shelf. We further isolated ourselves from the needs of our soul. Eventually people began to sense that modernism and science did not have all the answers and so an outbreak of being “spiritual” but not “religious” has been sweeping western culture. Why? Because we still have the deep inner need to be known and to know, especially by something or someone greater than ourselves.

In search of that need to be known, to be significant, many have taken a decidedly neurotic path. Others have taken a more reasonable and socially acceptable route. The rise in popularity of social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, is in part an attempt to stay connected or reconnect with people who are important to us. Such social media can be a great tool to keep and grow our relationships, giving us a sense of place and belonging. Of course it can also fool us into thinking that we have deep and meaningful relationships just because people see our status updates and we have hundreds of friends, some of which we have never actually met.

Ultimately, all our efforts to connect with one another, to be known by one another, to feel like we are significant and that we matter, will fall woefully short if we do not address the root cause of that alienation. We are alienated from one another on a horizontal plane because we first became alienated on the vertical in our relationship with God. We can have all the human connections we want, but until we are connected intimately with God, we will still be lacking and still looking for more. Blaise Pascal said it best: “We all have a God shaped vacuum in our soul that only He can fill.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about being known, he was speaking of the longing to be known by and to know God in as intimate a way as possible. All our searching for meaning, fame, security, belonging, and connection is at its core the result of a need to know that we are loved by God and to experience that love in deeper and deeper ways.

Porn

Porn

Porn ruined five years of my life.

Sure, I can talk about how God has brought me healing and restoration in ways I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, but at the end of the day… porn ruined five years of my life.

Sure, I can talk about the notion from 1 Corinthians 12, that God’s power is perfected in my weakness and how His grace is sufficient for me, but at the end of the day… porn ruined five years of my life.

Sure, I can talk about how I’ve been able to help others through this affliction because of my own experiences, but at the end of the day… porn ruined five years of my life.

Sure, I can talk about the eight years and counting of freedom I have enjoyed from this sin, but that doesn’t give me back the five years I lost before that.

In an age of endless excuses and increased syncretism, where almost any form of sexual behavior has become permissible, honestly dealing with the ruinous effects of sexual sin has never been more important. As a pastor (a vocation I took up several years after having been set free from my own struggles with pornography), I have counseled dozens of people out of addiction to pornographic content and have experienced first-hand the damage that is done to marriages, relationships, and even personal emotional health as a result.  There is real danger and there are serious consequences to being involved with pornography, and pretending otherwise only leads to misery or worse. Matthew 6:22-23 of the New Living Translation says this:

“Your eye is the lamp that provides light for your body.  When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness.  And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”

Thankfully, it seems some small parts of the world are starting to catch on to this as well.  In an announcement made by Google two weeks ago, the internet giant will take significant steps in limiting the advertising of pornographic content on its search engine.  Changes that have been in the works since March of this year, and thus, Google ads will no longer be accepted that are sexually explicit, nor will ads be able to link to pornographic websites.

This is an amazing leap forward for a company that has been setting the standard for internet practices for years, and it is particularly important considering the number of lives negatively impacted by the porn industry.  For more on this significant change, you can see Google’s letter to its account holders here.

While limiting access is a good start, more must be done if porn is an area you personally struggle with.  And, if porn is currently ruining your life, here are the things I did, and that you must do, to get free:

Recognize the severity of the porn addiction.

My captivity to internet pornography was extended, in large part, because I fed myself the lie that since “everybody did it,” it must not be that bad.  Believe me, whether you realize it today or ten years from now, it is that bad.  It will destroy your relationships, it will destroy your self-image, and porn will keep you from having a fulfilled life.

Repent and ask for God’s help.

Sexuality is a deeply internal issue for every person, therefore it can only really be dealt with at an internal level through the healing and restoration of the Holy Spirit.  Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.  Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.”  Get God involved right now by asking for His forgiveness, healing, and guidance.

Recruit an accountability partner.

The journey to freedom is long and difficult – you cannot do it alone.  In my personal recovery from pornography, God brought specific people into my life with whom I was able to be completely honest regarding my sins and struggles.  They allowed to ask me the tough questions that kept me moving in the right direction.  Ecclesiastes 4:10 tells us, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

Recover intentionally.

You will need a guide and some tools to help you on your way, and one of the best resources out there for working through these issues is the free 60-day online recovery class found at settingcaptivesfree.com.  It’s the course I used eight years ago, and it’s the course I still use today when coaching others to find health and healing from the ruin of pornography and sexual sin.  If you need some additional tools, XXXChurch has some wonderful resources as well.

Porn addiction is something many put off until tomorrow. However, it’s something where you need to put a line in the sand and begin your recovery today. I hope you might consider using some of the tools mentioned here and even consider signing up this very minute on either of the sites mentioned, starting your journey to freedom from porn here and now.

Friend

What To Do When a Friend Hurts You

I don’t think I need to ask if you have ever been hurt by a friend.  Being hurt is common to the human experience.  Each of us, at one time or another, has been wounded by someone that we have allowed to be close to us.  Sometimes, the wounding has been necessary to help us become what God intended us to be.

As part of our trusting relationship, a friend may see something in our character that needs to be addressed.  These “woundings” fulfill what we see in Proverbs 27:6a;  “The wounds of a friend are faithful…” And, the reason for these times of pain is to help refine and purify you and to help remove that which stands in the way of God and your relationship. 

In the same way that we are wounded by friends who are trying to help, we have all been wounded by friends who are trying to hurt.  For whatever reason, those we have viewed as friends may run roughshod over our emotions and leave us reeling and broken.  When the wounds of a friend aren’t faithful, how do we respond out of our own pain and disappointment. When wounded, it might take some time to work through it, but here are a few rules of thumb I have learned over the years:

First, I have found that it helps to clarify the issue or issues.  Many times misunderstandings and confusion create conflict and wounding that was never meant to be. In an electronic age, where email has replaced face to face conversations, one can’t hear tone or read the nuances of body language.  Being able to resolve a misunderstanding through clarification can lead to healing and restoration before a bigger rift occurs.

Secondly, know and understand that “hurting people hurt people. ”  Often, the wounds that you receive actually have nothing to do with you.  Perhaps there is pain in the life of the one who is lashing out at you.  Maybe there is a break down in some other area of their life and sadly you have caught them at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, and you take the brunt of their anger.  At these times it is easy to lash out and hurt back, but remember again from Proverbs 15:1,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Seek to be understanding and compassionate.

A third thing to consider is that often times people don’t have a clue about the true impact of their words.  Their idea of what is acceptable may vary greatly from yours. Letting people know how they have made you feel in a gentle manner can go a long way towards restoring relationship  Use expressions that do not fix blame, but help them understand the impact of their words or actions.  For example, I have learned to confront others with expressions like,  “When I heard ___________, I felt _____________.”  Fill in the blanks with the words that were directed at you and the emotions that they brought on. Hopefully, through using careful words and patient understanding, healing can occur.

The goal of each of these last three ideas has been to heal and bring restoration.  Indeed, in all our relationships God calls us to love and care for others and to walk at peace with others. (Romans 12:18)  This needs to be our end goal that we work towards. That being said, this is an end goal that works better if two people work towards it together.  If we are in a relationship where we are constantly being wounded by an angry and spiteful person, we need to understand that by allowing them to continue to wound us and the others around us we are actually empowering them and giving them authority over us and our own well being.  Often in times like this, the best way to have any relationship what so ever is to put limits on how often you are in contact with them and to limit what goes on in those times.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list on dealing with toxic relationships, hopefully it gets your thinking about how to have healthy and life bringing friendships.

What about you?  How do you deal with a situation where a friend hurts you?

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

In the first Beatitude, Jesus tells us we are spiritually bankrupt. So what do you do with that? Simple: You mourn.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Jesus said that those who recognize that they are “poor in Spirit”, what I called spiritually bankrupt, will in fact possess heaven. The first step in a relationship with God is recognizing that we have nothing to bring to the table. But there is a crucial second step and it comes in the form of mourning that spiritual bankruptcy.

Blessed are those who mourn is not about the mourning that we all do when faced with the trials and hardships of life. Jesus said those who mourn will be comforted and clearly not every mourning in life has an accompanying time of comfort as promised by Jesus. But there is a mourning that will be comforted, the mourning over our spiritual condition and separation from God.

The fact of our sin is not a pleasant thing to have to deal with. We want to hide it, deny it, laugh it off, or even proudly boast of it. But deep inside we are still in need of the love and forgiveness that God offers through Christ. The only way to truly overcome our bankruptcy is to admit it and mourn over it. With that comes the comfort of the loving arms of Jesus welcoming us into His grace.

If that is true, then why don’t we mourn our sin? Why try to deal with it in so many other ineffective and even destructive ways? At the heart of it all is pride and fear. We don’t want to admit that we are not perfect, that we have flaws and faults. So we try to deny and cover up. And with good reason. We have all seen enough examples of people who have failed and the feeding frenzy of ridicule and loathing that quickly surrounds them. Who wants to risk that kind of reaction by admitting their sin? No one! So instead we go on living our lives in silent sin, as we slowly die inside. In that way we are like the sick person who has a nagging suspicion that something is seriously wrong inside but they refuse to go to the doctor for fear of what they will learn.

The only way to truly be comforted is to deal with the sin in our hearts in an honest and forthright way. We need not be ashamed. God wants to remove our shame and guilt. The only way to do that is admit our need, mourn our sin, and ask for Him to forgive and restore us.

There is one additional thing that is crucial. If you are able to mourn your own sinfulness then you should also be willing and able to give grace and forgiveness to fellow sinners. One of the main reasons we don’t confess our sin, and find the freedom that brings, is that we have too often experienced the rejection that comes from others who will not admit their own sin. If we had a lot more honesty and transparency about our weakness, we would be a great deal healthier when it came to our relationship with God.

Mourn your sin, seek God’s forgiveness and then experience not only the comfort, but the joy and freedom that is found only in Christ.

Guilty

User Submission: Forgiving the Guilty

The following is a submission from a user like you. Emily shared her incredible story so that it might touch the hearts and lives of our readers. If you would like to share your own story, you can do so here

For as long as I can remember I have always found healing in writing. It’s how I process emotions and a whirlwind of overwhelming situations – situations that seems to weigh so heavy on one’s heart that it shakes their faith to the core.

Because I had many stories with situations like that to share, I began writing my book last September. I had been brainstorming for three years before I actually sat down to write it. More than anything, I wanted to be as honest and as open as I possibly could. It truly was a healing process for me as I reached back into the recesses of my mind to share very personal stories about my life – stories that would glorify my King, Jesus, and point others straight to Him and the miraculous transforming power of salvation, healing, and deliverance.

Although I openly discuss many things that the Lord helped me overcome, mostly sexual sin and rebellion, there is a particular occurrence that strengthened my faith more than anything I could have ever imagined. I find myself needing to talk about it today, knowing deep down in my soul that no matter how dark, tragic, or extremely sad it may be, Jesus has turned beauty from these ashes and will receive glory from it because what the devil meant for evil, the Lord has and will continue to turn around for good!

Last week, I found out that the man who murdered my father five and a half years ago was given a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions.  And while most people are shouting: “That man should burn in hell!” I am preaching, “You MUST forgive!”  because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. My friends, it is simply not worth it.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14 (NIV)

Although I made a CHOICE to forgive the man who took my dad’s life right after it happened, I wrestled with so many emotions and thoughts after reading the articles describing the horrendous acts of murder that turned my world upside down in November of 2008. Seeing the photo of this man, as he was escorted by two police officers out of the courtroom, his stone cold eyes looking straight back at me, made my stomach churn. My heart was pierced and so many different emotions rose up in me.

Avoiding traumatic thoughts and emotions was the main reason I chose not to follow the murder case as the years went on. Immediately, I chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and my now husband. I did not want to live in the trauma. It wasn’t that I didn’t love or miss my dad terribly.  It was because dwelling on all of this wicked and demonically influenced tragedy would never bring my dad back.  I knew that justice belonged ONLY in the hands of the Lord.  Most of all, I longed for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with my Jesus like I had found. I still pray for that to this day.

I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this from soley within myself. My strength does come from within though, but it is the power and might of the Holy Spirit who has given it to me. My life verse from the Bible will forever hold true, and I will never stop standing upon the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who strengthens me.” I’m so thankful for that promise.

Jesus will never abandon me. Although, my earthly father is gone, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than anyone could. I cling to Him when the storms of life try to overtake me, for He is my anchor of hope. I cling to and stand upon His Word that is full of promises – promises of His love, mercy, and grace, for He is my Rock and firm foundation. I cling to my Jesus and the voice of His Holy Spirit, for He is the One who gives me strength and courage to endure every trial I could ever face. No matter how dark life may get, know that when you trust in Jesus, and you hide your life in Him, you have a Light within you that shines so brightly it will overtake all of the darkness.

Spiritual Trash

Spiritual Trash

I have a confession to make….there is one household chore that I refuse to do. I try my best to contribute whenever I can, but this one thing falls on my husband… every time. What is this nasty chore that I wholeheartedly hate to do?  It’s a little thing called taking out the trash. Perhaps I am being a little dramatic, but the intoxicating smell of rotting old food makes my stomach turn.  I am thankful for the new Febreze trash bags, but honestly, they can only mask so much of the odor! Keep in mind, I live in the always sunny, forever warm, Florida – so the trash gets an extra boost during the summer months.  You are probably wondering by now though why I am ranting about something that everyone has to do….take out the trash. The reality is we would never dream about letting all of our physical trash remain in our house for weeks or months on end, but I would argue that we do this unknowingly when it comes to our insides. Sure, we put fast food and over processed carbohydrates in our systems, but I am speaking in a matter of the spiritual trash that we allow to rot and fester in our lives.  When was the last time you took out your spiritual trash? 

Back in the day I was a new, bright-eyed, ambitious youth leader and I had the great idea to test out this ‘theory’ with a bunch of good-hearted teenagers. I proudly announced, “Kids, this week we are going to take out the trash,” (as I carried in make believe trash bags stuffed with pillows). Let me tell you, I was in for quite the surprise. The challenge for all the kids was a week of taking out the trash in their spiritual lives. Every student was given a journal and they had to record everything that they digested that could possibly be poisoning their systems. The lists were long, to say the least, ranging from perverse music, to TV shows, to language that they heard daily and had become immune to at school. Some of the teens journals were pages upon pages for each day of that rather long week. However,  I wasn’t there to become their personal conviction – that can only come from the Holy Spirit.  Nor, was I there to point the finger, because I too decided to take out the trash in my own life and my list was just as long! It was a harsh wake-up call for us all.

So here’s where the challenge is passed on to you. First let me start by answering some questions that our flesh loves to ask in order to counter our spiritual need for purity:

Is this necessary?

This is vitally important as we honor God. Our bodies are His temple and we must realize that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth does speak. We are all filled with impurities that stop us from living correctly and we must attack these issues head on so that the enemy will not cause us to stumble. After all, who wants their life to smell like trash?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. “ Romans 12:2

Because of the fallen world we live in, is it possible to do this without becoming a hermit?

I am not going to lie, living life right is difficult and everyone has their own burdens to release at the foot of the cross. Most of the things we intake are not allowing us to be transformed but rather conformed. Yet, nothing is worse than living in denial. Nothing is worse than covering up layers upon layers of sins that rot away at our souls, without ever taking the time to clean up. It’s a clever trick that the enemy loves to play when you feel trapped by all of your sins (the trash in your life) without feeling God’s sovereign love and forgiveness that wants to cleanse you completely. There is freedom in taking out the trash.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Can I even do this exercise without feeling guilty and constantly falling short?

The reality is that even when we focus on this ‘exercise’ we will be reminded of just how tragic our shortcomings are. This sheds light on all of our fleshly cravings and all of our weak temptations towards sin. Paul was no stranger to this, especially when he spoke about doing the very things he shouldn’t do and not doing the things he knew he should do. In fact, it was a constant battle for him to choose God’s will over his desires and this is the Apostle Paul! So be encouraged, because Paul was constantly coming up short, just like we do, and he was in a constant state of preaching God’s good news.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

I encourage you to meditate on God’s word as you clean your life from its hazardous materials. Don’t be afraid to allow other strong Christians to keep you accountable, and remember to ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. There is no shame in admitting that this will be challenging and there is no condemnation when you are striving to honor God. He will honor your efforts and give you the strength you need when your flesh is weak. So, perhaps we should all go do my most dreaded chore. Let’s all go take out the trash knowing that when we do this, we will begin to look a little less like our filthy former selves and a little more like the God we love and serve.