Christian Concepts is please to announce that Matt Pavlik’s first book, Marriage From Roots To Fruits, will be published April 2015.
Position yourself for Change
While there are no specific steps to take to change, there are specific steps to position yourself for optimal change.
1 – Know the Truth
There is a difference between knowing facts and experiencing the facts in a loving relationship with Christ. Knowing the facts does not change you. It is only head knowledge. But it is an important step. Before we open ourselves up to something, we need to know what we are opening ourselves up to.
2 – Remove Distractions
We live in a fallen world, so there are distractions that can block our ability to see and hear from Christ. So the next step in the process is to intentionally remove as many of these distractions as possible. Think in terms of all of your senses. Remove clutter that is visually displeasing. Remove noise. Remove smells. Remove temptations.
3 – Enter Rest
With negatives removed, add positives. Go to a scenic, peaceful place. Or, if this is not practicle, imagine a peaceful place where you feel safe. You might light a scented candle. You could put on some soothing music. Consider anything that helps you relax.
4 – Give Permission
You may now be ready physically, but not spiritually. Say a simple prayer to give Jesus permission to be present and share with you what He knows is needed. Search your heart – be prepared to share what you find there.
5 – Bring up your Feelings
Whatever you find in your heart, bring it to God through your feelings. Even if you have negative feelings about God – He wants to hear those too. Come as you are. If you do experience persistant anger or other negative feelings about God, make a note of these for a later time. Consider counseling to sort through these feelings.
6 – Wait and Listen
At this point, you have done all you can do, except to wait with anticipation. Believe God wants to speak to you. Again, if you do not believe this, make a note of it so you can dig deeper into why. It might help to remember step one. Think of some scriptures that affirms God accepts you and wants to speak to you. Come to God in faith believing these are true. Allow God to speak to you. What you start thinking about is likely not a coincidence. Trust God is directing your thoughts. Allow your mind and heart to be a blank canvas and give Jesus permission to write and draw on your heart.
- What negative feelings or memories came up when you thought about God?
- How did God speak to you? Consider keep a prayer journal where you write out what God is saying to you.
3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
“1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.”
God’s Actions Count More
No matter what happens to us apart from God, God’s actions always count more. Why is this such an important truth?
To be Human is to be Vulnerable
Our actions affect others to the degree they are vulnerable. God made us able to be vulnerable, but he also gave us the ability to put up walls to keep others out. Even so, there are limits to this defensive ability. We can find ourselves easily hurt if we encounter an unsafe person. We can be “caught with our guard down.” This is exactly what happens to children. Children are naturally more vulnerable – and most of the time that’s a good thing. When we are vulnerable, we are open to learning – learning through relationship and learning information.
To be Human is to be Capable of Abuse
Abuse is when someone more aware and more powerful uses their position to take advantage of those who are less aware and less powerful. When the misuse of power is much greater than the victim’s ability to manage it, the victim’s automatic defenses kick in. Automatic defenses are heavy duty, but their use comes with a cost. Dissociation is the main defense. Dissociation allows the victim to survive horrendous abuse. The cost is the victim loses a part of their self when the walls come up.
Recovering What Was Lost
It can take a long time in a safe, controlled environment to recover from abuse. One of the first steps to recovery is regaining the lost ability to trust. Without trust it is hard to be vulnerable. Without being vulnerable, it is hard to recover. This is what makes recovery so difficult. Usually a person will trust a little again. Then so long as the trust is not further abused, progress is made little by little. This is possible in extreme cases too, but the process takes a lot longer.
The Bad News – Abuse Happens All the Time
So far I’ve been discussing abuse while focusing on person to person interaction. But our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is against evil powers and principalities. The bad news is abuse happens all the time because no one is perfect and evil is real. Anyone on earth can end up in a position of power over others. When we sin (go against what God wants) we give the devil permission to harass us, until we once again realign ourselves under God’s authority.
The Good News – God is On Our Side
The good news is God is good. Whenever we are vulnerable and we encounter God, we are changed for the good. Whatever anyone else has done or said to us, can be washed away by whatever God says. God has infinite power and is infinitely good, so it will trump everything else. When we sense we have power, God wants us to be humble so we don’t hurt his children. However, when we hurt someone, there is forgiveness and God’s healing presence. Therefore, we are never without hope!
- Are there any ways you have recently abused the power you have? Talk to God about it. Ask him to increase your awareness of how you use the authority he’s given to you.
- Are you currently in an abusive relationship? Do you lack the power to appropriately protect yourself? Are you feeling too weak or vulnerable? Find a trusted person – seek out help so you may be strengthened to remove yourself out of the abuse.
- Are you still hurting from past abuse? Even though you are no longer in any immediate danger, God wants to see you find healing.
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
… If God is for us, who can be against us?
Forgiveness or Healing
Which comes first? Do we forgive first then experience healing? Or, do we experience healing which allows us to forgive? I’ve been pondering this for several months now. The more I think about it, the more it does appear to be a “chicken and egg” question.
An Important Question
Why is this question relevant? I say it is important because suffering cannot be addressed by a simple black and white answer. When you are actively suffering, there are usually no easy answers. Yes, suffering will work for our ultimate good. But will that knowledge satisfy the person currently in excruciating pain? For the person not in any kind of pain, it is too easy to address another’s suffering with, “Snap out of it!” Or, “Just don’t think about it anymore.” Or, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Forgiveness is First?
If we say forgiveness must come first, what about the situation where someone is so traumatized by what another has done, they cannot begin to even think about reaching out to someone else? This person is clearly not ready to do anything more than receive care. They need some amount of recovery and restoration before considering other things. Therefore, at least in some cases, forgiveness cannot be first.
Healing is First?
If we say healing must come first, just exactly how much healing is needed? All of it? Isn’t extending forgiveness part of the healing process? Or is it the evidence of health? If someone hasn’t forgiven their offender, they are essentially perpetually waiting for payment of the debt. This is the opportune time for bitterness to take root. Therefore, forgiveness must be completed to enjoy full emotional health.
Forgiveness and Healing are Intertwined
With this puzzle before me, I can only find one way to answer. Forgiveness and Healing are inseparably dependent on each other. You cannot say you are 100% healed if you haven’t completely forgiven your offender. But, many times a person cannot start, let alone complete, the forgiveness process without first receiving a heavy dose of healing.
This means there are two “stages” to healing fully. The first stage has nothing to do with forgiveness or the offender, but has everything to do with our basic needs for security and safety. Where strength was taken, it must be restored. Concern for the immediate necessities of life take precedent over forgiveness. We must have our hope restored that life is worth living before entertaining forgiveness. Yet, when a person is strong enough to resent another person for what has been done, they would appear to have the strength to extend forgiveness.
The 7 Steps to Complete Healing
While forgiveness is essential to complete healing, it is not essential to start healing. A foundation of being able to extend forgiveness to another is the capacity to sense exactly how much one has been forgiven by God. In this security, in God’s power, we can then offer the same comfort to another. So we might summarize the relationship between forgivess and healing as follows:
- You recognize how you are hurt by someone.
- You receive care as needed to restore your basic functioning and sense of personal safety.
- You consider what is to become of your offender; you consider forgiveness over revenge.
- Forgiving releases you from the burden of collecting a debt that cannot be collected. Being able to forgive is evidence you have accepted God’s forgiveness for your sins. Forgive from God’s strength, not your own.
- You might be completely healed at this point, or simply cleared to pursue further healing.
- Look to God to provide the healing needed.
- Pray for your offender out of the comfort and healing you have received.
This is a dynamic process (not necessarily a sequential one). When you’ve reached step 7, or 5, etc. you might still need to return to step 2 to receive further care. It might take short amount of time, and it also might take a long amount of time. No time limit can be placed on this process.
- Where are you at in the 7 steps to Healing?
- What is difficult about forgiving your offender? What do you need to help you be able to forgive?
- What has getting hurt revealed about you? Have any weaknesses been uncovered that require further healing?
- Some burdens (hurts) are too much to carry alone. Seek help from others when you need it.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Peter 5:6-11
… Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. … And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Healing – Become Like A Child
If you want to experience healing, we must first become like a child. Jesus said we are to become like little children if we are going to enter His kingdom (Matthew 18:1-6). What does it mean to become like a child? What does this have to do with healing?
God’s Design: Our Neurobiology
God made our brain. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). Our brain is sophisticated enough to be self-healing. You’ve probably heard of someone who has suffered an injury, but through intentional effort, the non-damaged portion of the brain picks up the functioning of the damaged portion. Our brains our always changing, based on what we experience every day. God designed our brains to be relational. Parts of the brain are dedicated to bonding, attachment, and even pre-verbal experiences. These parts provide us the emotional capacity to:
- Give and receive love
- Regulate emotions
- Establish empathy in relationship
These developments begin foundationally in the womb! The brain, body, and mind of a pre-verbal developing child is God’s design for the reception, interpretation, and response to His love and invitation to life.
From the very beginning we are wired to be receptors of God’s love!
God’s Design: As A Child
We are to become like children. What are children like? They are:
- Totally dependent
- Vulnerable and unguarded
- Capable of being soothed
- In the present moment – naturally contemplative
If you have unpleasant feelings in the present – if you are having difficulty “becoming a child” – it is in part because of how you been treated and how your brain has correspondingly been (mis)wired. Through counseling and healing prayer, you can work through these hurts – healing your brain in the process. If you want to experience this type of healing, contact us at New Reflections Counseling.
The journey of the child, experienced during the earliest and most formative months and years of life, prepares the heart and mind for spiritual bonding and attachment as an adult.
– Anne Halley
Our neurobiological system has been designed for God.
– Anne Halley
3 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.