Wash away

Image: 2331323, Pixabay


1. Wash away my dread, Lord God,
And take away my pain.

2. Cleanse me of all guilt and sin,
And give me hope again.

3. Wrap me in your loving arms,
So I may feel you near,

4. And fill me with your joy and peace –
Then I will have no fear.

 


References

1. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day (Deuteronomy 28:66; NIV).

There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:4; NLT).

2. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7; NLT).

Your word is my source of hope (Psalm 119:114; NLT).

3. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you (Deuteronomy 33:27; NLT).

From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the father and kept for Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1; NET).

You have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13; NLT).

4. Give me back my joy again (Psalm 51:8; NLT).

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give (John 14:27; NLT).

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6; NKJV).

The mind of Christ

Image: Manfred Antranias Zimmer, Pixabay


Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 2:5; NKJV).

1. I share my mortal dread with you:
Father,
Help me to do your will.

2. I share my agony with you:
Strengthen my faith 

To trust you still.

3. I share my dying breath with you:
Father,
Receive my sacrifice.

4. I share my endless joy with you:
For we are one,
In paradise.

Image: Free-Photos, Pixabay


References

1. In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

He became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me (Matthew 26:37-8; NLT).

The thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me (Job 3:25; RSV).

If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

2. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:46; NIV).

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

3. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NLT).

4. Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21; NLT).

I and the Father are one (John 10:28-30; NIV).

Today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43; NIV).

My action plan

Image: BUMIPUTRA, Pixabay


Introduction

On 19.8.20. I posted an article called “My dilemma”. It described the inner conflicts I face each time someone behaves unacceptably towards me. As a Christian, should I speak out, or should I say nothing? Jesus used both of these approaches at different times in his life, so I have never been able to reach a conclusion about how I should respond.

Unfortunately, this uncertainty means that regardless of how I handle each individual situation, I ruminate for months afterwards about what happened, and whether I reacted correctly. My endless self-questioning generates a constant sense of guilt, worry and dread, which I find impossible to shake off, and which can easily lead me into depression.

Since writing that article, I have spent a lot of time praying, reflecting, and talking this issue over with others. From the insights gained, I have put together an action plan to follow next time a hurtful situation arises.

Rather than seeing my response as a straight choice between speaking out and staying silent, I am now treating it as a series of stages, each of which is open to reflection before taking any further action.

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

So, from now on, when someone behaves unacceptably towards me, I will withdraw to sleep on what happened for at least one night, taking time out to pray and reflect before responding. This will prevent me from reacting in the heat of the moment, with a high risk of damaging both the other person, and our relationship.

2. Decide whether or not to speak out 

A. If I decide it is pointless, or inappropriate, to speak out to the person concerned, I need take the matter no further. Instead, I will work on forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If I decide to tell the other person how their behaviour has affected me, I need to think carefully about how best to approach them, perhaps by email, text, a phone call, or by arranging a meeting. It’s important to remember that they may have had no intention at all of upsetting me, and may therefore be taken very much by surprise when I raise the subject.

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

If I decide to give the person feedback, I will do so as briefly and lovingly as possible. My aim will simply be to remind them of what they said or did, and to be honest about how it has hurt or disturbed me. Anything beyond this is superfluous, and risks generating angry retaliation.

4. Wait to see if there is a response

A. If the other person doesn’t respond, there is no need for me to say any more. The matter is finished, and I will let it go. Each of us is responsible for our own behaviour, and I can’t expect everyone to respond as I wish. Instead, I will focus on loving them, forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If the other person contacts me, I will take time to consider how best to reply, depending on what they say:

i. If they take responsibility for their behaviour, and apologise, I will accept this immediately, reassuring them that I have completely forgiven them. We will be reconciled, and the whole matter will be closed.

ii. If they react hurtfully, I will withdraw, considering the matter as being finished. Anything else is pointless, and risks generating more damage. Of course, I will still forgive them, and pray for them, but I can choose not to expose myself to further hurtful behaviour, in order to protect my own mental health.

5. Start again

Finally, if, despite doing my very best, the situation doesn’t work out as I hoped, or turns out badly, I will resolve to put it behind me, and start again. Every time I find myself ruminating about what happened, I will remind myself that it’s finished. There is always more to learn in life, and I can refine my action plan in the light of each new experience.

Conclusion

Throughout my life, when anyone hurts me, I’ve never known whether I should be honest with them, or say nothing. When I say nothing, I am left with a burden of powerlessness and distress. When I speak out, and the other person reacts angrily, I am left with a burden of guilt and dread, believing that I have sinned, and that the breakdown in relationship is all my fault.

From now on, when someone hurts me, I will remind myself immediately that I always have choices about how to respond, and that I have an action plan to follow. My overall aim will be to keep a careful, Christian balance between being honest, preserving relationships, and protecting my own mental health.

Image: Mustangloe, Pixabay


Acknowledgement

My warmest thanks to all those who have engaged in discussing this issue with me, especially Alan, Dianne, and John. Your contributions have been invaluable.


References

Introduction

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV).

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer (Luke 5:16; NLT).

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

Harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1; NLT).

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back (Proverbs 29:11; NLT).

2. Decide whether or not to speak out

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

4. Wait to see if there is a response

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV).

NB Matthew doesn’t mention whether the person has to say sorry or not:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:20-21; NLT).

5. Start again

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, 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 11:28-9; NLT).

I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:17; NLT).

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40; KJV).

Conclusion

Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26; RSV).

I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say (Psalm 39:1; NLT).

Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27; NLT).

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself (Proverbs 19:8; NLT).

My dilemma

Image: 412designs, Pixabay


Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

Image: czu_czu_PL, Pixabay

Dread


Image: Italy Melo, Pexels


When they came to the place called The Skull,
they nailed him to the cross,
[and] Jesus said,“Father, forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing”
(Luke 23,33-4. NLT).

1. My anxious brooding
Generates this dread, Lord:
My mind goes through what happened
Without pause –

2. My friend, the one I trusted,
Turned against me,
Attacking me, and wounding,
Without cause.

3. Every time I think of him
Please prompt me
To pray: “Lord, bless my enemy
With good”,

4. Then leave him in your hand
For my protection,
Whilst you, Lord, heal us both,
With your great love.


References

1. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30,27. NIV).

2. My close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me (Psalm 41,9. NIV).

They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause (Psalm 109,3. RSV).

3. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6.28, NLT).

Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5,44. NLT).

4. In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12,10. NIV).

My God is my rock, in whom I find protection (2 Samuel 22,3. NLT).

By his wounds you are healed (1 Peter 2,24. NLT).

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15,13. NLT).

Waiting (#2 of 2 linked prayers) Blog

Image: 272447, Pixabay

Wait for the Lord (Psalm 37:34; NIV).

1. I wait in silence,
Ready to share your joy.

2. I wait in stillness,
Ready to share your life.

3. I wait, alone, Lord,
Ready to share your dread.

4. I wait in darkness,
Ready to share your light.


References

1. Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21; NLT).

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:11; NLT).

2. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7; NIV).

When Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory (Colossians 3:4; NLT).

3. When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44; NIV).

If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).

4. You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT).

Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light (Micah 7:8; NLT).

A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

Image: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

Within

The kingdom of God is within you
(Luke 17:21; NKJV).

1. God isn’t in the whirlwind,
But in our rage and dread.

2. He isn’t in the earthquake,
But in our grief and pain.

3. He isn’t in the firestorm,
But in our guilt and sin –

4. For God is in our darkness:
The still, small voice within.


References

1. Then he said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind… (1 Kings 19:11; NKJV).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

2. …and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake… (1 Kings 19:11; NKJV).

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; NIV).

3. …and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire… (1 Kings 19:12; NKJV).

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24; NLT).

4. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21, NIV).

…and after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12; NKJV).

Shadow

Hello everyone. I’ve been thinking a lot about our shadow side recently – all the parts of ourselves we prefer to hide, ignore and forget. If we are to become whole, we need to face and accept them all, sharing them with God, who already knows everything about us. I find it fascinating that even Jesus had a shadow side, which he had to face and accept during his time on earth – hence today’s prayer.

1. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Anger, tears, temptation.

2. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Fears you couldn’t share.

3. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Sorrow, grief, impatience.

4. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Anguish, dread, despair.

References

1. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples (Mark 10:14; NLT).

Jesus wept (John 11:35; NLT).

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil (Matthew 4:1; NLT).

2. He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44; NLT).

3. Then he [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38; NIV).

Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? (Matthew 17:17; NLT).

4. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).

I’m agoraphobic

Lord,

1. I’m agoraphobic –
It’s a thorn within my flesh,
For I must face the threat of dread
Each day.

2. When I’m away from safety,
And panic strikes afresh,
My desperation urges me
To pray.

3. So I rely on you, Lord,
My Comforter and Guide:
No matter where I am
You’re always near;

4. And you understand completely,
As you walk, Lord, at my side,
For in the grove
You shared this wretched fear.

References

1. To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh. […] Three times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; NLT).

2. My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking (Psalm 55:4-5; NLT).

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3; NIV).

3. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

4. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do (Hebrews 4:15; NLT).

They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed (Mark 14:32; NLT).

Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44; NIV).