“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is
until you put her in hot water.”
When I read the above quote I laughed aloud as I thought, “Eleanor Roosevelt, how very biblical!” Like it or not, it is adversity (or as Eleanor put it,“hot water“) that builds the kind of character and maturity that pleases God. James bears this out in the introduction to his letter,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you
may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Just as brewing tea with scalding hot water brings forth the best cup of tea, it is often the challenges we would otherwise avoid, that mold and change us when we choose to trust God. This can also apply to relationships:
- In my teens and twenties I enjoyed the simple pleasure of drinking a cup of tea while doing some personal reflection.
- In my thirties my appreciation for the benefits of sharing a pot of tea with a friend broadened as I savored the warmth and fragrance of tea with friends and, in the process, became a better listener.
Looking back, I can now see how God blessed those conversations,
as He challenged me to love others as He loved me,
by learning to trust Him as the Shepherd of my heart.
As time passed, God put two women on my path whom I quickly decided “needed more than a cup of tea.” One was a friend of someone I knew in a Bible study I was teaching. She was facing some tough personal issues that I felt were beyond my experience. At almost the same time, another person I was just getting to know, opened up to me about having been raped more than a year before.
After looking for a Christian counselor locally and finding no one, I widened my search and finally located one living about 40 miles away. Both women went there for counseling and were helped, but it bothered me that they had to drive so many miles on back country roads to receive the help they needed.
As I recognized the need for a Christian counselor in my community, I enrolled at a University to begin work toward a Master’s degree in counseling. With 3 growing kids at home and a husband who traveled A LOT for his job–I studied the major schools of psychology, with the idea of integrating the best of those methods with the wisdom of Scripture. However, soon after starting my internship, I discovered that the secular base of psychology tended to undermine the strength of biblical wisdom. It was that realization that led to developing Journey Notes Praise Journaling and the counseling approach I have used for 25 years.
Helping Clients look at themselves and their problems
by interfacing with the Scriptures, has proven to be extremely helpful
to those who embrace the process.
So why did I decide to write about this? To encouraged you to not be afraid to minister to the people God puts on your path with the wisdom of the Scriptures..Here’s where I went wrong:
- Once I got counseling help for those two precious women, I continued to pray for them–but backed off from trying to help them . . . fearing that I might “undo” whatever therapy they were receiving.
- I didn’t think about it at the time, but in doing that, I diminished the value of Scripture in my mind as I looked to psychology to provide the help that was needed.*
It was true that the two women I was trying to help DID need, “more than a cup of tea” (or simply a good listening ear.)
So how can you move forward? Here are my thoughts:
- Make prayer for your friend a priority.
- Commit to bringing God into the center of every conversation you have with your friend, by asking your them to list 3 things they are thankful to God for. (This can seem impossible at first, but it helps to break up the negatively skewed thinking that feeds anxiety and depression.)
- Encourage your friend to start doing Journey Notes to help them draw closer to God as you do the same. (I promise, it won’t hurt and you’ll actually grow too!)
- When you get together, talk about what God is showing each of you through the Journey Notes process.
- Be sure to share some of your praises and close your time together with both of you giving thanks to God for His faithfulness.
I like the picture of God’s plan for relationships illustrated in Ecclesiastes 4:
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of THREE STRANDS is not quickly broken.”
(Verses 9, 10 & 12)
God’s intent for relationships is blessing–as we share in our labor or help one another when needs arise. Yet, the larger blessing in relationships comes when we bring God into the center of how we relate to one another as that powerful THIRD STRAND .Speaking from experience, when we bring Christ into the center of our thinking in how we relate to others, blessings abound.
In the end this is what I learned: Being a good listener–as in sharing a cup of tea--when someone who is hurting can be helpful . . . but it has its limitations. Helping them look outside of themselves to God and the Scriptures, however, is to encourage them to discover boundless hope and joy in a God who is faithful . . . Always.
All to His Glory!
*To be clear: In a fallen, largely unbelieving world, psychology has its place and can be helpful. But that should never negate the value of Christians helping others look to the wisdom of Scripture and relying.on God’s Spirit to minister to the human heart and mind.