Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 48
Our key verse for today is found in John 16:33, which says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
Have you ever been at a gathering and the host asked everyone to share what was going on in their life? The purpose of course is to catch up and to pray for one another. There is nothing wrong with the purpose but what often happens is that most people share only the positive wonderful things that are happening in their lives. If someone gets real and says, “I’ve been having a really hard time. The season is difficult.” The response often is crickets. No one knows quite what to say. “ I’m sorry” sounds lame. Often “we will pray for you” also sounds lame and sometimes condescending. Are they really going to pray?
Personally, I think we need lessons on how to share that life is tough AND how to respond to others when they are vulnerable and authentic. Just because you admit that things aren’t going well doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your faith. It doesn’t mean that you’re ready to jump off a cliff. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t faithful or trustworthy. It doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning your faith or relationship with God. It can simply mean that the current circumstances in your life are difficult and you are struggling.
I’m a pretty black and white person. When things are tough I’m not going to give you a fake answer. Frankly, it’s nauseating to me when people go into a religious response like “I’m chosen and highly favored” and you know their circumstances are really challenging. We are chosen and highly favored but even kings and queens have bad days and challenging circumstances. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with admitting that even those you’re “chosen and highly favored” that life isn’t too great right now.
One of the things the younger generations are longing for is authenticity and vulnerability. Religion drives them away from a relationship with Christ and from wanting to go to church. We need to be able to share with the younger generation that we too have problems and issues that we’re dealing with. It’s not wrong to share; it’s about how we share. Give them the tools needed so that when they go through tough times they’ll know how to navigate rather than thinking that they can’t or shouldn’t share. It sometimes takes time for our thoughts and emotions to align with the truth of God’s word about our circumstances.
I grew up in a home where the message that “Christians don’t have problems” was inadvertently taught. Going to marriage counseling was never an option. Admitting that there were problems in the family was just something you didn’t do. On the outside we were the perfect Christian family, on the inside it was a much different story. It was also a place where expressing emotions was not allowed. So, I learned to bury my emotions. Maybe you can relate? I got really good at it! I had my black belt in not showing emotions. The benefit for my kids was that when they were growing up I didn’t freak out when something bad happened. The negative was that I also didn’t show great excitement when they did something well or worth celebrating.
I thought having little emotions was normal and I also thought that there was something wrong with highly emotional people. Through the process of RTF integrated approach and getting my heart healed I now feel things. I’m not super outwardly emotional but I do feel deeply. So, if someone asks me “How are you?” You’re going to get a real response. It’s going to be authentic. Most times it’s going to be vulnerable. It’s not going to give you a Christian-eze, religious response. I can’t do it. I know that might surprise some of you that a person in a leadership role will admit to having a bad day or a bad week but it’s a reality. It happens.
Sometimes the process of dealing with your emotions is what God wants to address. The process of getting rid of the negative feelings and emotions opens the door to God’s healing. Sometimes that process is longer than one healing session or longer than a day. It depends on the situation. It depends on the person. It depends on where we are in our healing journey.
I believe 100% in identifying the lies that we’re believing, getting rid of negative emotions through soul/spirit healing and evicting the enemy in any place that we have given him access. However, sometimes that process takes time. We can’t rush our healing. We can only cooperate with it. Now if you stay in the challenging place for years then there’s a problem. I’m talking about giving yourself and others time to heal. We normally don’t heal instantaneously from surgery on our physical bodies nor do we heal instantaneously in our emotions and our hearts.
Just take a look at the Psalms. One of the things I love about David is how real he was.
He didn’t say: “Oh, wait a minute. Someday people all over the world are going to read this and they’ll know about my struggles! I can’t be real. I have to tell them that I’m chosen to be the future King of Israel! I have to deny or ignore the fact that I’m being chased by enemies all around and that I fear for my life.”
No, David poured out his complaint. He was real with God. We don’t really know what David’s response was with his men but I kind of doubt that he was denying his circumstances. Afterall he was running from Saul and hiding in a cave!
So, what can we learn from David? We learn that we can be real with God. When you look at the Psalms you see David’s process. We tend to read through a Psalms thinking that the process of going from the pit to praising God all happened during his morning quiet time. That he went from the struggle to the victory in the length of time that it took you to read the passage. I don’t think that’s realistic.
Look up Psalms 142 . Listen to the desperate place that David is in. “There’s no refuge for me, no one cares about me, I am very low….” David is expressing how he feels. Is it true? Well, it’s true to David. How a person feels is how they feel. They may feel like they’re all alone even though they are surrounded by people. They may feel like nothing is ever going to change. Those are their feelings.
Our feelings don’t always tell us the truth about our circumstances but nevertheless they are our feelings. Denying our feelings or burying our feelings isn’t walking in freedom. Acknowledging how we feel, pouring out our complaint to God and getting our hearts healed allows us to see the situations more clearly. We listen to the truth that God has for us and begin declaring his truth into the situations. Our circumstances may not change immediately but as we declare His truth we are shifting our thinking. We are reminding ourselves of who He is. We recognize that even if we can’t do anything to change our circumstances that He is at work behind the scenes.
As we declare his truth our emotions begin to align with the truth of what God says about our circumstances.
A few years ago we had some challenging circumstances. There were three difficult things that happened right in a row. All of them were out of our control. Two of them were very personal attacks from “friendly fire”. (Christian “friends”) The Lord gave me a picture of what happened to me.
It was like I was in a boxing ring. The first opponent came into the ring and beat me up. I kept in the fight. The battle landed me on the mat but I got back up fairly quickly. The second attack came and it was equally as painful. In the picture, I got knocked out. I got up off the mat more slowly this time. When the third opponent came into the ring I was beat up, tired, and injured. I was still wounded from the other attacks. When the attack came I was knocked to the mat. I wanted to get up but I just didn’t have the strength. I laid there on the mat defeated. In real life that’s what it felt like. By the third attack I didn’t have the strength to get up. I was beat up, tired and just couldn’t see clearly. For the first time in my life I battled with depression. Oh no, should I really say that? What will people think? Will I be discounted as a leader for acknowledging my struggle? Unfortunately, those concerns are all too real for many of us.
Thankfully my season of depression didn’t last long. My husband and friends prayed for me. I was able to get out of bed and get back in the game but it took me a couple of weeks. It might have taken someone else 2 months. (I’m not talking about clinical depression)
I sought healing for my heart. I addressed the generational pressure of depression in my bloodline. Although I’d been through an intensive RTF ministry I’d never dealt with depression before so I hadn’t previously addressed it. My ministers had enough other things to address in my life! In my healing process I identified the lies I was believing, took my pain to Jesus and got healing and then I commanded that the enemy leave me alone. That’s the RTF integrated approach. Getting heart healing is good but if there are still lies at work it leaves an open door for the enemy. If the generational pressure is still operating then the tendency to go back into the struggle remains. Dealing with all four areas in an integrated way is what works and lasts as long as I continue to stand in my authority and keep the doors closed.
I would suggest that we need to have grace for one another. We need to acknowledge that struggle isn’t wrong. It isn’t sin. It isn’t even weakness. Struggle is part of life. At times our struggle is spiritual but sometimes it can also be a chemical imbalance, a hormonal imbalance or just the accumulated pain of this life catching up with us.
There is a lie that a lot of people believe. The lie is that showing your struggle somehow means that you’re failing as a believer. If you’re a leader then you really can’t admit your challenges. When we believe these lies and spread them by our attitudes we keep our leaders and others in bondage. We prevent them from reaching out and getting the help they need.
We all know of Christian leaders that have fallen into sexual sin or in other areas. What if those leaders had felt safe enough to share that they were struggling? What if their churches would care more about their healing than about the attendance and how it would look? Instead of being able to be real and not fear that they would lose their job they might actually get healed and not step into the sinful circumstances.
So I took a big leap from talking about not sharing your true emotions to stepping into sin. Think about it though. Most sin starts with a struggle. Loneliness can lead to pornography. Being lonely isn’t necessarily a sin but if we wallow in self-pity and isolate ourselves from others it can be. It opens the door to our vulnerability. Walking in unworthiness and shame can lead to sexual sin. Living in rejection can cause us not to fulfill our calling and destiny. Can you think of any sin area that doesn’t begin with some kind of struggle? If we can admit the struggle before we step into sin wouldn’t that be better? However, we (the church) have to be willing to accept people where they are. We don’t need to judge them for sharing the reality of their current circumstance or challenge.
A couple of years ago we were at a major Christian conference with leaders from all over the world. One of the main speakers was a leader in the church and in the network. During his message he shared that he had struggled with depression. His struggle lasted a couple of years! I was amazed at a couple of things. One, that he would share it in such a large setting. Two, that he was still serving at the church that he had been at when he’d been stuck to the couch and couldn’t get up. This said to me that his church stood by him and walked with him in love and support through the struggle, through his depression. I don’t know the details intimately but my respect for the church and all of the leadership increased. I was already a big fan and the vulnerability and authenticity made me honor and respect the whole organization even more.
So what’s the bottom line? Be Real. If you’re struggling, be honest with yourself and with others. Of course, use wisdom. Share with those that are safe. Share as Holy Spirit leads. Be intentional about keeping your heart clean and free from hurts. It’s not about just getting healing from the past although that is critical. It’s also about living a lifestyle of freedom and dealing with things as they come up on a regular basis. Living a lifestyle of freedom takes intentionality but it’s well worth it!
The second bottom line thing: Be grace-filled when others have the courage to admit that they are struggling. Being empathic and supportive without being religious and condescending. A hug, or a thank you for being real and sharing your heart, is appreciated. The last thing someone needs when they’re going through a tough time is for someone to remind them of scriptures like Rom 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Is this the truth? Absolutely, but it’s not helpful to the one who is in the midst of the struggle.
The truth is that we will have struggles in this world. Trouble is part of life. He has overcome and we are overcomers, but sometimes there is a “storm” before we experience peace that passes all understanding.
Father God we thank you that you gave us pictures of real people in the Bible who struggled with real challenges that life brings. Thank you for telling us that we would have troubles. Thank you for brave leaders that are willing to be vulnerable and authentic about their own challenges. Thank you for reminding us that in those troubles we would find peace. Your peace, your shalom is not a peace that the world understands. Your shalom is far deeper. It is wholeness, prosperity, rest, completeness and well-being. We invite you into every area of our hearts. Teach us to give you our complaints and hurts. Expose any lies that we’re believing. Show us the truth. We invite your healing presence and power into our lives. We know Lord that you promised that you would complete that which you begin. We choose to cooperate with you. Thank you that you came to heal our broken hearts. You knew that we would get hurt and you provided the healing we need.
I declare that I will live a lifestyle of freedom. I will be intentional about getting my heart healed. I will ask Holy Spirit to identify the lies I’m believing. I will cleanse my bloodline and I will take the authority given to me and command the enemy to back off and leave me and my family alone!