Truly Free . . . .

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

Freedom is something we long for and yet often eludes us.  Many times we attribute our struggle to low self-esteem forged in our past that keeps us in bondage. I believe it runs deeper than that.  As I have said to many clients over two-and-a-half decades, 

It’s not your self-esteem that’s the problem.
Rather, it’s your esteem for Christ that will truly make you free.

Perfectionism defined:

1. The theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.
2. A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.)

Speaking from personal experience, I would add a third:

3. Perfectionism is a robber of joy when pursued apart from Christ Jesus.

After battling depression for many years, what freed me from that pattern of self-destruction came one night in a dream. (At least I think it was a dream, even though to this day it remains so very vivid in my mind.) In that dream:

I saw myself standing next to God on a mountainside, our back silhouettes enhanced against the setting sun. How did I know it was God? I cannot say, I just did. As we stood together I realized that we were looking across a landscape that represented my life. There were rolling hills and steep valleys, winding roads and straight. As I took in the sizable expanse that represented my life up to that point I recognized the pain of rejection and betrayal in many of the valleys as well as delightful paths I had enjoyed with others. As the sun continued to set and the light shifted, I saw beauty (and even hope) in the darkest places as I realized that He had been with me every step of the way.

I cannot tell you how long we stood there, God and I . . . but I can tell you that it was a transforming moment that warmed my heart as never before. I realized then, that having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, I could for the first time in my life say that I liked me! I gave thanks to God in that moment for both the dark and light places, because I realized that they all came together by God’s design to make me, “ME”. 

As I reflected on all that I saw, I understood that I would not have the sensitivity to the pain of other people (having counseled for over twenty-five years) were it not for the pain of my past. In my having experienced the darker places–inflicted by others or by my own hand–I more readily embrace the sovereign goodness of God over my life. Only in the blood and saving work of Christ Jesus are we truly free! 

To this day I continue to be encouraged by the impact of that dream, giving thanks to Jesus for freeing me to live for, love and serve Him with a glad heart. I share my story with you in the hope that, if you are in bondage to your past or to perfectionism, that you will embrace the only One who can make you truly free . . .

        “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
     having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
     that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” 
James 1:12

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family,
but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free,
you will be free indeed.”

John 8:35, 36

All to His Glory!

 

On Meaningful Change . . . .

When she walked into my office, the change I saw in her was like–dare I say it?–night and day.  After weeks of constant turmoil, extreme highs and lows, when she entered into the Counseling Room yesterday–calm, confident and at peace–all I could do was marvel at God’s Goodness.

For years I have said that I love my job because God allows me to see miracles large and small. Yesterday was a BIG ONE. But that is not what I am writing to you about. It was something she said, as we settled in and opened our Bibles, that resonated with me in a powerful way. She said,

You know . . . it’s just not right.
People throw the Bible at you and say,
HERE, the answers are all in here,’ and then they walk away! 

Having someone help me open the Scriptures to what I needed to see,
and challenge me to APPLY what God says to my life . . . 
now that’s been a life-changer!”

In that moment, she expressed what the work done in the Counseling Room (along with her personal Journey Notes) has been designed to accomplish. It has been a long process of learning on my part, but it has always been my goal to:

Help hurting people get into the Word of God,
so that He can shepherd their hearts and
bring about meaningful change in their lives.

Living in a world that is hungry but never satisfied is confounding. We chase rainbows and fantasies fueled by desires that often lead to tragedy and heartache. Of course, this is nothing new.  More than two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul wrote about our human dilemma:

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
but I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind and
making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me
from this body that is subject to death?
Thanks be to God,
who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Romans 7:21b-25

Can you relate? Me, too.

Yet God is exceedingly faithful. Indeed, it is humbling to watch as lives are changed one heart at a time according to Christ’s promise:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

So how are we to work out meaningful change in our lives and then help others?  Psalm 139:23, 24 provides wisdom and direction in our quest:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139: 23,24

The first time I prayed David’s prayer, I was terrified but determined. I was terrified at the thought of the pain involved in having my sin ripped out of my heart.  Yet, I was determined because I respected David’s example as, “a man after God’s own heart.”* What I discovered after praying David’s prayer, was that God is far gentler than I ever imagined. Where I had expected Him to rip and tear the ugliness out of me, I found Him to be gracious yet thorough. It would take time to replace the ugliness of my sin with His goodness, but He continues to work in me as He does in all who seek Him.

The following is a guideline to help navigate the process of achieving meaningful change:

  1. Confess your need to God (pray) as you admit that meaningful change is not something you can achieve apart from Him. (Remember, humility is beautiful in God’s sight.)
  2. Make worship of Him in a Christ-centered, Bible teaching church a priority.
  3. Get into the Scriptures to gain God’s perspective on you, your life and the world around you.  (A good starting point is Journey Notes if you don’t have something in place or you’re looking for a fresh start. Also, I have found being involved in a solid Bible study with other believers extremely helpful)
  4. Ask God to help you to recognize opportunities to exchange old sinful patterns of behavior/thinking with new ones that honor Him.
  5. Give thanks to God for His love, mercy and amazing grace on a daily basis–no matter how your circumstances may change..

Sound daunting? Then find encouragement from these words of assurance:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13

All to His Glory!

*I Samuel 13:14–Samuel, speaking to Saul, made this  declaration, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of His people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”