With Every Problem . . . .

The first time I read the opening declaration of James*, I was a new Christian:

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many 
kinds . . . .”  

I was terrified!

Even now, four decades later, when hit  by the twists and turns of life, my first response is rarely to embrace hurt or disappointment with “joy.”  Even so, I committed to live out the wisdom of James and determined to test the promise that follows his declaration::

“The testing of your faith produces perseverance,
and perseverance must finish its work so that
you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything,”

 With that, I have embraced this truth:

Opportunity to trust God more . . . .

“With every problem comes opportunity . . .
opportunity to trust God more.”

Of course this commitment has not only impacted my personal outlook, but also how I counsel others.  From the onset, my goal in building a relationship with each Client has been based on my conviction that:

Biblical counseling
is more than fixing problems.
Biblical counseling should be about strengthening our relationship with the Shepherd of our hearts.

When people seek counsel, they often perceive God as being very distant and assume the worst of Him. To circumvent this, we rely on prayer and the Scriptures to bring God into every conversation that takes place in the Counseling Room. This “conversation” between God and Client continues as Clients are encouraged to do their Journey Notes outside of the Counseling Room two or three times a week. Those who follow through are the ones who do the best overall, as they learn to trust God not only with details of their lives but also their eternal future.

One passage that is a favorite with Clients is found in Isaiah 30. In it God urges His people to resist the temptation to run from their problems–but to run to Him instead.  The passage begins with this prescription:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength. . . .”

Meant to calm the heart and mind, the passage goes on to acknowledge what we are more likely to do:

. . . but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
(Verses 15-17)

It then reassures us with this beautiful picture of a caring Shepherd:,

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!

Isaiah 30:18

Did you catch that? “He will RISE UP to show you compassion.”  A perfect illustration of God being ACTIVELY concerned when it comes to the lives of His children.

The passage continues, with this assurance of God’s faithfulness in seeing us through dark valleys, as it challenges us to reject the things we cling to instead of God:

“Although the Lord gives you
the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
your teachers will be hidden no more . . . .
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”
Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver
and your images covered with gold;
you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth
and say to them, “Away with you!” 

No matter what we face, God calls us to come to Him with problems large and small.  I especially love the encouragement of Jesus’s invitation to all,

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28-29

It’s all true:

With every problem comes opportunity . . .
opportunity to trust and love God more.

How to begin?  Give thanks to Him for His love and mercy as you rely on Him to provide the wisdom and perspective you lack.

So . . . what are you waiting for?!!!

All to His Glory!

*James 1:2-4

Light in Dark Places to Warm the Soul~

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 
II Corinthians 3:18

Having grown up in Sunny Southern California, I am always captivated by the miraculous transformation of the landscape when snow falls.  The first “real” snow in our area was a “powdered sugar” kind of snow that demanded no fanfare but caught your breath with its quiet beauty.  What was fascinating about that particular snow was how it seemed to light up the darkness as it fell.  When my daughter commented the next day that she had to close the blinds in her bedroom to sleep because it was so bright, I knew exactly what she meant.

In a sense, the light of Christ transforms the landscape of the human heart, cleansing and filling the broken places with His peace.  No matter how dark life may appear, when we draw near to Christ in faith, the darkness is dispelled as the light of hope blankets and warms the soul.  Are you looking to lighten those dark areas in your life . . . perhaps to unhinge the icy fingers of bitterness or regret?

This week I was reminded of one of the best means of transforming the landscape of the heart as I worked with a young woman I have come to enjoy and respect.   Journey Notes Praise Journaling is a wonderful means of entering into the ongoing, personal soul-work we all need to stay fresh in our faith.    The young woman’s story is one of tragedy–raped at age 12, in and out of psychiatric hospitals after attempting suicide several times– until recently she lived a life sold out to drugs, rehab and more drugs.   Today, she marvels that she is still alive and is intent on getting to know God better.  We meet weekly, but the major work being done in her heart and mind is the conversation cultivated between her and her Lord as she does her Journey Notes.  In our last Session, I asked her if she wanted to share anything from her Journey Notes?  Her response immediately got my attention: “My voice has changed.”  I responded with a puzzled look and waited for an explanation.  She went on to say, “My Praises and Responses to what God says to me have changed.”  When she read some of her most recent entries I understood what she was saying; there was a new depth and passion expressed in her writing that wasn’t there before.  Ah yes, I have seen it before– the light of His Presence had filled and warmed her soul, dispelling darkness and giving hope.

What the Bible says is true, to contemplate the Lord’s glory is to be transformed . . .

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”  
John 12:46 

Are you in a dark place right now or is there someone you want to encourage?  Maybe you are absolutely fine, but are looking for a fun way to add joy to your journey?  Then I strongly encourage you to consider giving Journey Notes Praise Journaling a try.  You can do it on your own or you might ask a friend to do it also; committing to meet weekly or bi-weekly to share what God has shown you.  Truly a wonderful means of entering His light to warm your soul.

All to His Glory!