It seems that there is a system throughout life that goes like this…”If you do the right things…life will be good to you.” If you study the Bible and do the things that it says you should do you’ll be happy…right. It certainly sounds like it should be a recipe for success anyway. Then when spiritual people, who do everything they know to be closely connected to God, suffer from depression, anxiety, or any other number of emotional problems…there must be a piece missing in their quest for Christianity. At least that’s what people think anyway-
When I’ve done all I can think to do and I hurt anyway I’m left asking…”Have I missed something?” “Is there something God wanted from me that I didn’t pick up on and now I’m being punished or something?”
Well…there are two decisions to make from this point…I either give up on the whole notion of God. Or I try harder and do more to try to get into God’s good graces. Either way it’s a loosing proposition.
I’m not ready to give up on God…so what’s the truth?
Even if you and I have daily devotions and go to church twice on Sunday, we will have sin and pain in our lives.
In the book there is a wonderful reminder of an Old Testament character who lived this lesson. Remember the story of Job. He had some tragic losses. He had everything he owned stolen or destroyed, his children died, his body covered in sores…if there was anyone who could have given up it’s this man. And just when you need a good friend…his friends basically say “Job, it’s all your fault. What did you do to make God so mad at you. Surely there’s something. If you’d just clean up your stuff, He’ll like you again.” I’m just say…had it been me in this situation I might have thought that they were on to something. Maybe I had done something wrong.
What does Jesus say in John 16:33 about what we believers can expect in this world?
Go with me to the story of Susan on page 32. Take a moment and read as Susan talks about the thoughts that go through her mind.
- Describe a time in your life when you’ve had thoughts that you didn’t think a Christian should have?
- What emotions do you believe “good” Christians shouldn’t feel? What feelings are not godly, not the fruit of the Spirit and shouldn’t be felt?
- In Susan’s story she made the conscious decision not to feel anger. What feelings have you chosen not to feel?
There are three ways people handle their negative feelings and emotions.
Jesus wants us to own our real feelings, not cover them up with religious activity.
Read what Kind David knew of this in Psalm 139:23&24
We condemn our actions…get angry at ourselves and this is supposed to propel us into change.
How’s that working for you?
If we can just work harder we might be able to cover up our bad sides. By working harder we can make up for our faults, improve ourselves, and feel less guilty.
Read Ephesians 2:9 to see what God has to say about works.
Are you denying your sinfulness, working hard to make up for your faults?
Not all negative feeling are sin. There are some things that just happen because we live in an imperfect world. So if things just happen because they just happen…Then what should we do with the feelings that come up. If someone causes me pain what should I do with that feeling? What of the anger, grief, sadness and fear?
- What negative feelings do you sometimes feel?
- What negative feelings arise simply because we live in a less than perfect world?
- What does the Bible say about how to deal with these negative emotions?
Romans 12:15, Ecclesiastes 3:4 & 7:2-4, Ephesians 4:26-27, Romans 5:3-4, Hebrews 2:10-11
If you were taught that enough Spirituality meant no pain, then you’ll likely spend a great deal of time trying to make things better.
There are 5 ways people usually compensate when they fail to meet their own expectations:
Feelings of Failure
It is normal to fail. If the only way you can deal with your pain is to deny it, by trying harder not to feel it, or by condemning yourself for it, then you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Read Romans 7:14-15, 18 & 21 about what God says about failure.
It takes a lot of energy to continually try harder to overcome the pain that enters our lives.
Read Luke 9:24. Our own effort has never transformed anyone.
When we are severed from the love of God and others, we hide. When Liam, who is 7, does something he thinks I don’t approve of he does one of two things…he trys harder to do good things to win me back over to his side…or he runs to his room and distances himself from me. Then I find myself sitting at the side of his bed having a chat about what happened and making everything ok again.
Read Ephesians 5:13-14. Healing only come through relationship.
If you hide your pain you’ll never experience forgiveness. Forgiveness unties ourselves from our past hurts and the people who hurt us. Speaking from experience…this is a very difficult step!
Read James 5:16 about forgiveness.
Lack of Love
We aren’t born with the ability to love…it’s something that we learn by seeing it lived out around us. Jesus teaches that our ability to love is directly linked to how much we have been forgiven.
Read Luke 7:47 about what Jesus has to say about loving much.
- Which of these 5 ways we compensate do you see lived out mostly in your life?
- What do you think you could do this week to move to where God wants you to be?
It’s wrong to believe that Christians should have a supernatural ability to not experience sin or pain in their lives. Sinfulness is normal and negative feelings are normal. Where God is calling us to place our attention is how we are willing to deal appropriately with those feelings when they arise. We’ll all have bouts with envy, jealousy, bitterness and pride. We’ll all experience sadness, grief and hurt. It’s the next step that we take in working out those feelings that is most critical. Our God is a God of grace and compassion.
- Where do you find hope and freedom in what we’ve talked about in this chapter?
- What will you do to work this truth in your life?
If you’d like to join this study in real time…I’m teaching it at HopePark Wednesday Mornings & Thursday Nights. If you’re a Nashville local, the door is always open. We’re at 8001 Hwy. 70 South, just off I-40. Online at http://hopepark.com and on twitter @hopepark.
Me…well you can find me twittering @jodytodd.
Have a great week!
Questions and assigned quotes from the study by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend entitled “12 Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.”