How to Fix a Toxic Relationship: 8 Bible Verses to Consider

Looking to figure out how to fix a toxic relationship? Here are 8 Bible verses to consider while deciding if the relationship has any hope of continuing.

Being stuck in a toxic relationship

The cause of all toxic behavior is sin, which entered the world when Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, rebelled against God (Genesis 3). Because we are children of our first parents, we are all stained with this original sin.

We feel anger, pride, and selfishness, and we feel trapped. This causes us to constantly search for something to hope in or a way of escape. There is one hope only of escaping this sin: Jesus Christ who died for us so that we could be saved (Romans 5:8). With His grace, we can find out how to fix a toxic relationship.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul admonished the church in Corinth for their lack of love and indifference toward him. This was because of their close connections with unbelievers. This had corrupted their spiritual growth.

Does this other person indulge people that distract from the gospel in your relationship? If this person or spouse is not being built up by believers, and is instead satisfied with being poured into by unbelievers, it is likely that you have a toxic relationship on your hands. Prayer is a great place to start as God promises He gives wisdom generously to all, without reproach as we ask Him with faith that He will provide it (James 1).

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. – Hebrews 13:14

This was one of the final exhortations by Paul to his followers in his epistle while imprisoned. He wanted them to show hospitality to strangers, remember those mistreated in prison, shun the love of money, and be content with what they had, remembering the Lord is always there to love and guide you. He is there for us in marriage, too.

God founded the institution; therefore, its vows must be upheld. Nothing is to come between you and loving your spouse and holding them in high regard – not their attitude or behavior, not your kids, not a job or other activity, not another person in any way.

Today, this type of behavior is too prevalent, often resulting in the break-up of marriages. If you find there is anything in the way of loving your spouse, you need to pray to the Lord for help to fix this toxic relationship and help you to rely on Him to help you do it His way.

Do not be deceived; ‘bad company corrupts good morals.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:33

This is true in all relationships – family, friends, and work. Who are your “friends?” Do they support you in times of want; are they there for you no matter the circumstances? Or do they disappear, making you wonder who you can trust? The Lord will never leave your side. He is incorruptible.

As a Christian, you are called to love others. Loving means taking the right course of action, in accordance with God’s Word, and to not be corrupted or change your views. He is the Lord, and He will let you know how to fix a toxic relationship with others. Conform to God’s law, not the world’s.

If your brother sins against you, go, and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

These are strong words, but they ensure accountability and effective conflict resolution. You must look at others as souls. Forgiving a person (family, friend, co-worker, etc.) or spouse means looking at them as a fellow “brother” or “sister” in Christ, a soul that has been redeemed and is called righteous just as you are.

Forgiving someone who is not a believer is loving our enemies just as we are instructed to, and looking at them as souls in need of a Savior. Wading through the consequences of the wrongs done might take longer. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship can involve deeper issues that will take time to understand. Take it to the Lord in prayer, search His Word for wisdom, and seek out good, God-centered counsel.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:8

When it comes to sex, we see that nothing is new under the sun. In Paul’s day, sex of all kinds was normal for most people. This included adultery, prostitution, pedophilia, homosexuality, etc. Sex outside of marriage was accepted as normal, just as it is today. Paul states you must flee from sexual immorality. It’s wiser to escape from this sin than be subdued by it (Genesis 39:7-12). You are only harming yourself and others involved.

Paul fought against the casual attitude toward it by some Christians and the pain it causes to both spouses. Today we still commit these sins. This causes friction, bad attitudes, and bad relationships. You will need to learn how to fix this toxic relationship.

Rely on the Lord. Pray for a resolution that will return the love you feel for your spouse and an escape from any relationship that does not honor God by respecting the design of sex to be between a married man and woman. Seek counsel to help point you to God’s will.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Paul once more tells us to treat others’ needs as more important than our own, and other people as greater than us. By doing this, you will achieve the kind of humility that results in love and unity. His goal was to center attention on other people, not yourself. We need to do this in our personal relationships and marriages.

By treating people with respect, you will be influencing the relationship out of toxicity. There will be the most opportunity for harmony and understanding of each other’s needs when at least one person is honoring the Lord. There may still be conflict, but true love will, with God’s help, see you through such times as you look to suffer well and seek out the other soul’s good above your own.

I appeal to you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. – Romans 16:17-18

Paul begs the Christians in Rome to be on their guard against false teaching, by holding to the truth they know and protecting it at all costs. He knew that others would come after him and try to sow division and confusion in the church, seeking after their own selfish desires.

Fixing a toxic relationship is a manner of speaking the truth to one another, whether at home, the office, or with anyone. Cling to the gospel to see your way through any measure of toxic relationship. Put everything to the test of Scripture to make straight your paths.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

With this chapter, it’s easy to see that love conquers all. There is nothing it can’t overcome. This is the love of Christ. As followers of Christ, we strive to love like this by the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowing how to fix a toxic relationship is using this love for every relationship. The Lord will show you how if you ask Him. Evil is overcome by the power of love.

It is quite clear in these verses that love should dominate our thoughts and actions. How to fix a toxic relationship then becomes a simple matter of understanding God’s love and loving the other person with it.

Get help with your relationships today by reaching out to a therapist on our website.

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What is Forgiveness, Really? Forgiveness Defined

Facing the need to forgive someone can be a struggle for many, begging the question, “What is forgiveness, really?” How does one know when they truly have forgiven? Whether you have been on the receiving or giving end, consider these layers of forgiveness.

Defined.

There are multiple layers to forgiveness to understand, including but not limited to: letting go, forgetting, expectations, and behaviors. In a small, informal poll on forgiveness, it was shown that the definition varies from person to person.

The one common factor of each participant’s definition was that a change for the giver of forgiveness occurred once forgiveness was granted. Forgiveness can equate to some or all of the layers being changed.

Layers of forgiveness: letting go.

Letting go of something is a basic definition of forgiveness. This layer implies that once forgiveness is granted, the wrongdoer is no longer held to account for the wrongdoing. It can also imply that the wrongdoing no longer bothers the one who is forgiving.

That being said, letting go does not have to equal both of those right away, as it takes time for the emotional impact of wrongs stirred up in memory to lessen its grip on those called to forgive. Whether the emotional impact ever entirely goes away or can be forgotten is not predictable.

Layers of forgiveness: forgetting.

Forgiving and forgetting are commonly linked together. In Christian circles, they take root with principles drawn from verses like Psalm103:12, which speaks of God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The only trouble is, forgetting is not something that can be guaranteed.

In fact, it is difficult to prove that forgetting something can be willed. The more impactful the wrong, the more likely it is that it will be more difficult to forget. So with this layer, it is important to consider two things:

First, as a forgiver, be clear with yourself that remembering does not mean it is happening again, nor does remembering mean that you haven’t forgiven.

Second, as one who is forgiving someone, there will be a variety of ways your memory of the wrongdoing can be triggered throughout any moment in time (i.e. similar emotions rising, similar tones/expressions/circumstances, similar relationship dynamics, etc.). Take care to set reasonable expectations about your ability to forget.

Layers of forgiveness: new expectations.

What does it mean to forgive, really? Setting new expectations is an important layer of forgiveness. Some consider forgiveness to include the expectation that the relationship with a wrongdoer is perfectly intact as it was before any wrongdoing. Others consider themselves responsible to expect no further wrong will be done; otherwise, a lack of trust would demonstrate a lack of forgiveness.

Both of those views on setting new expectations have dangerous implications. It may be so that a forgiving person is to set new expectations for the relationship with the wrongdoer, but careful consideration must be made so as not to confuse forgiveness with blind acceptance and false expectations over what is not in one’s control.

Forgiveness includes washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for a wrong, such as with a debt. In some relationships, forgiveness may still require expectation of change in the boundaries and interactions (i.e. prohibiting them from having access to you in the same capacity as before).

Layers of forgiveness: new behaviors.

Along the lines of changing how much access you give a wrongdoer to you once forgiveness is established, the behaviors you display toward this individual need to be considered in order to align with your forgiveness.

With the definition of forgiveness including washing away the expectation of someone needing to pay for the wrongdoing, forgiving someone necessitates the behavior of self-control on the forgiver’s part. This equates to not bringing up the wrong that was forgiven in expectation that the wrongdoer should feel remorse again.

Other new behaviors to be considered are whether or not you allow yourself to engage in a similar fashion with the wrongdoer. For example, if you decide to treat them as though they will never change from their wrongdoing ways, you may discontinue engaging with them or treat them as “less than” or with contempt.

It would be difficult to prove that these new behaviors, not to be confused with acting with caution, would indicate a heart of forgiveness. To differentiate between the two, a helpful question can be:

“Am I able to not hold them accountable while hoping that they change in the time I am separate from them, or am I requiring change/payment/retribution in order to let the issue go and condemning them to be only ever a wrongdoer?”

By asking this question honestly, one can get back to the heart of forgiveness and whether it has truly happened.

Next steps.

Forgiveness is as much complex as it is simple. It is defined as washing away the debt of someone who owes. This comes with a change of expectations and behaviors toward any wrongdoer. As Christians, we are called to forgive and forgive again.

Forgiving someone can be difficult to navigate for many reasons. There is wisdom in seeking counsel while seeking to forgive someone and managing all of the issues and emotions that come along with it. If you need support, reach out me or another Christian counselor in our online directory today.

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9 Benefits of Life Coaching

Life coaching, as a practice, has not been something that people have traditionally considered for their self-development. Throughout history, coaching has primarily been associated with sports.

We have marveled at how athletes credit their coaches for helping them become the best versions of themselves. However, this concept has now extended to various areas of our lives, making it possible to have a coach for any aspect of life.

Coaching can be defined as a practical strategy that helps individuals improve their performance. A coach serves as a facilitator of growth and learning, rather than an expert in the client’s field. The coach’s role is to guide their clients toward progress and unlock their untapped potential.

Unlike counseling or therapy, which often delves into the past, coaching focuses on the present. It asks questions such as: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? While counseling and coaching can work together, with counseling addressing past psychological barriers, coaching helps individuals reach new heights once those barriers have been addressed.

In today’s world, coaching is available for all areas of life. It depends on individuals to determine in which areas they want to empower themselves. Coaching can be sought for relationships, finances, career, dieting, fitness, and practically any area where one wants to enhance one’s abilities. Coaches are trained professionals who may specialize in a specific field or take a more generalized approach.

Why coaching is important.

People seek the services of a coach for various reasons. Here are some advantages of having a coach in our lives:

Conflict resolution strategies.

Sometimes, when we don’t know how to resolve conflicts, we can feel stuck. Coaching empowers us to develop better conflict resolution strategies by asking the right questions, challenging our thinking, and offering alternative options.

Professional and leadership development.

Advancing professionally comes with challenges. Coaching can help navigate these challenges and develop leadership styles. By identifying strengths and providing insight into weaknesses or blind spots, a coach brings out the best in individuals as they lead others.

Goal definition, creation, and clarity.

Coaching provides individuals with insight into their goals and assesses their current ability to achieve them. Based on this assessment, a strategy is formed considering skills, reality, values, and vision.

Creating or managing change.

Navigating change without support can be challenging. Coaches step in during chaotic times, realistically evaluating the situation and helping clients develop new habits, insights, and actions that enable them to cope and thrive in the face of change.

Improved relationships.

As coaching progresses, clients acquire effective communication skills, mature conflict resolution abilities, and commitment. This, in turn, improves both personal and professional relationships.

Provision of accountability and encouragement.

Having someone who checks on us and provides feedback and motivation can make a significant difference. Coaches are invested in their client’s success and offer the necessary support. They are there not only during smooth times but also provide encouragement when clients face obstacles.

Self-discovery.

Through questioning and assessments, coaching facilitates self-discovery and self-awareness. Knowing our authentic selves allows us to make informed decisions about our life trajectories.

Fine-tuning skills.

Success requires a variety of skills. To excel in our chosen fields, we need to refine and improve these skill sets, ultimately enhancing our performance.

Confidence and autonomy.

Confidence is something for which we all strive – to be secure in who we are and what we can achieve. Coaching provides an opportunity to learn, grow, question, and gain exposure to different perspectives. All these aspects contribute to building confidence as clients take ownership of their lives.

Professional life coaching

If you find yourself in a place where you believe the services of a coach would be beneficial, reach out to us today at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling. The qualified professionals in California are ready to assist you in becoming the best version of yourself.

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Bible Verses About Anxiety to Help You Overcome Anxious Thoughts

If you pay attention to the news or social media, there’s likely more than one thing you’ll encounter that will make you groan in despair or leave you feeling somewhat anxious.
Having the ability to connect to what’s happening everywhere across the globe with our easy-to-use technology has been a major factor in increasing anxiety. Whether it is for you or someone you know, chances are you know about anxiety and have searched for ways to help with overcoming it.

Anxiety is common, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (19.1% of the population) age 18 and older every year.” What can you do to address anxiety effectively?

Anxiety can be addressed by using therapy to work through its underlying causes and learning ways of coping with it. Other tools people have found helpful in overcoming anxiety include yoga, meditation, journaling, or even medication.

With any of those intervention tools, there is a need to create room to hear God’s promises and truth through His Word (the Bible). Despite how some have experienced the use of Scripture in the case of anxiety, it holds many encouragements that help us address anxiety.

Anxiety has a physiological aspect, to be sure, but there is a spiritual component that ought not to be discounted. The Bible, being God’s inspired wisdom, holds the reality of our potential for being anxious as well as the truest form of what will support us through such a time.

Bible verses about anxiety.

Anxiety has been a common concern for humanity since the first sin. The Bible has much to say about it because we all feel uncertain about the future, even though God knows the end of things from their beginning. The following Bible verses about anxiety are for you to meditate on, to study, and to know.

These Bible verses about anxiety and other passages of Scripture contain the keys to helping you overcome feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in tough times:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27, NIV

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, urging them to embrace His peace that isn’t based on circumstances. The peace that He leaves us all is His Holy Spirit. His disciples need not fear not because everything is fine and dandy, but because the God they worship, who is bigger than any circumstance, has given them His presence to dwell with them.

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, NIV

These words, spoken by Jesus on the night He was betrayed by one of His disciples, may seem paradoxical at first. How can Jesus have overcome the world when at that very moment forces were arrayed against Him to arrest and then subsequently kill Him?

Jesus understood not only God’s hand over every facet of His life, but He trusted God with the outcome. Jesus’ death for our sins wasn’t the end of the story. He overcame death and was raised to new life.

Trouble will come, whether it be in the form of persecution, terrible circumstances, or guilt from wandering from God’s truth, and that fact should steel us against life’s happenings. Looking to Jesus’ resurrection can help us live life with the hope that what is impossible for us is possible for God.

We can encourage ourselves with these words through uncertain times: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:27, 34, ESV

Talking with His disciples, Jesus reminded them of the futility of anxiety. Anxiety will often rob us of hours of our lives as we ruminate on possibilities that never happen. And even when they do, our time could have been better spent elsewhere. Take each day as it comes.

Jesus’ discourse on worry in this chapter demonstrates the truth of God being a heavenly Father Who desires and promises to take care of us. It finishes with the truth that those who seek after the good of their flesh over the good of the Lord will find themselves unsatisfied and anxious.

Therefore, taking each day as it comes takes the form of seeking after God first for total satisfaction no matter what state your clothes, food, and things otherwise are in.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Instead of allowing your anxieties to derail you, commit everything to God in prayer. Practicing gratitude helps focus your mind on the good things in your life, loosening anxiety’s grip on you. Thanksgiving can disrupt anxious thoughts, helping you replace worry with abundant peace.

Coming to a deeper understanding of the God who can preserve you through hardship can help you face anxiety squarely. Hence, the words just before this passage state “The Lord is near.” Knowing God and His presence in your life makes all the difference in the face of anxiety.

It takes time to unlearn unhelpful patterns and learn new ways of coping with anxiety. Pairing a study and meditation of Scripture with any of the tools you pursue is the most fruit-yielding approach.

If you’re looking for additional support beyond these Bible verses about anxiety to help you manage your anxious thoughts, don’t hesitate to seek out a Christian counselor who can help you release your anxiety and take hold of God’s abundant peace. Connect with our office today for help.

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Being One Flesh: Understanding Divorce in the Bible

Our various experiences in life mark us in definite ways, but we are more than those experiences and our choices. The issue of divorce in the Bible can be difficult to wade into because when marriage becomes stained with pain, alienation, and dysfunction, the fallout can be devastating, not only to the people immediately involved but also to those that are connected to them in some way.

Many struggles arise around divorce including pain, guilt, a sense of failure, and other such challenges. It’s difficult to chart a path through our culture’s easy acceptance of divorce as just another reality of life, the heavy-handed treatment of divorced people within faith communities, and what the Bible has to say about it.

To be sure, it is an understatement that life after Eden is messy, and people’s hearts aren’t always aligned and driven by the same values and sense of purpose. Not one I’ve ever met in all of my practice as a therapist, nor in life, has ever declared that they got married with the idea that things were going to be horrible and they would get divorced at some point in the foreseeable future (of course, there can be someone out there with that idea, but I would call that a ridiculous attitude).

Divorce happens under widely varying circumstances, making it hard to speak to every one of them. The Bible speaks broadly about marriage and divorce leaving the principles found in there applicable to any and all.

One flesh.

The main picture that we have about marriage is that it is a union between two people that places them in a permanent covenant relationship. The first man and woman are brought into a relationship when God creates them; they are two distinct individuals whose differences complement each other while being equal in dignity. When God brings these two together, the man says:

“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” Genesis 2: 23-25, NIV

The two are now one flesh, which denotes intimacy as well as unity of purpose. There was no discord between the man and his wife, no selfishness, or hidden agendas. They are naked in front of each other, and there is no shame. Husband and wife are open and vulnerable to each other, without holding anything back.

The situation changes, of course, as Genesis 3 describes for us. Their disobedience to God means that they break the relationship between themselves and the Lord, but also within themselves. Now, shame floods into the picture and they blame one another, their circumstances, and God for what went wrong. Both husband and wife refuse to take responsibility for their part in disobeying God and they attempt to cover themselves up while trying to hide from God.

Instead of being for each other, they are now aggressively for themselves. This is the same pattern that persists to this day. We see in those brief verses a microcosm of the world we now live in, of the tensions between the joy of vulnerability and the pain of being betrayed by the very one that you are joined as one with.

We see in these verses the seeds of husbands and wives keeping secrets from each other, using their spouses for their own ends, betraying their commitment to each other, refusing accountability, pretending ignorance, hurting one another, being insecure or overbearing, resisting intimacy and taking advantage of that intimacy, and many other wrongs that plague our marriages and relationships today.

The innocence, fullness, richness, and depth of what was there at the beginning of creation is now somewhat lost to us. By God’s grace alone do we have the capacity to break free from committing these wrongs without stopping and love deeply the one we are bound to in marriage.

Does God allow divorce in the Bible?

The answer to this question is “it’s complicated.” In the Bible, we find not only examples of divorce, but instances where there seems to be permission to divorce (with certain ways dictated in how to go about it and for what reasons it may be permissible).

Being in a country where there is “no fault” divorce laws is far from the reflection of what God desires for His people in His Word. Instead of a permanent union between a husband and wife, the culture now encourages us to configure our relationships in whatever ways seem right in our eyes.

Therefore, it is important to look for the whole picture of what God is saying in His Word when you are asking to know the difference between right and wrong and already have your own ideal or culture’s very loud voice in your head.

By looking for the whole picture, we can avoid getting stuck in certain parts of Scripture that seem to fit our desires and miss the balancing Scriptures that complete His truth. Even those who study and teach the law have fallen into this trap. Here we see an example of this in a conversation between Jesus and some religious leaders from the book of Matthew:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  Matthew 19:3-9, NIV

f there is one thing that we can get from the study of being one flesh in the Bible, it is this: God hates divorce. While divorce is permissible, that wasn’t what God had in mind “in the beginning.” It is a compromise in a broken world populated by imperfect people with “hard hearts,” as Jesus put it.

Divorce undoes something intended to be permanent, so it is a grave thing to go through with or even to consider. The gravity of the decision is often mocked in our culture and even celebrated as both a right and a passage to freedom. In complete contrast, the Bible describes ending a marriage as the tearing of flesh.

It goes on in other passages to say, “’The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.’ – Malachi 2:16, NIV

Not disqualified.

One of the key things to remember as we seek understanding divorce in the Bible is that God’s grace toward us is abundant. Divorce happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, we make choices that aren’t wise or honoring to the Lord, and sometimes choices are thrust upon us that we wouldn’t have made.

This is where the search through Scripture is rightly expanded from the topic of marriage and being one flesh to divorce and what to do from there as a believer, to also God’s grace and our need for a Savior. The Lord knows our hearts, in all their depths. Jeremiah reminds us:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”Jeremiah 17:9-10, NIV

God is all knowing and unchanging – which is difficult to relate to, as what we feel like and how we see things is constantly changing. God knows the whispers of our hearts, the deep pain residing there, and he offers comfort through truth amid our wandering and grief. Our perspectives and feelings won’t be what bring us healing, but instead our trust in God. God is gracious, and He is also righteous, which means He will not sugar coat the truth or sweep aside His law.

His plan for humanity and marriage was for that union to be permanent and exclusive, a mirror and reflection of His commitment to His people (Ephesians 5:31-33; Ezekiel 16; Revelation 21; Hebrews 11). Breaking a marriage is not what God desires, so the proper response is to mourn a divorce as tragic when it happens.

God also desires healthy relationships and healthy marriages – that is His plan for us – and He is well aware that the presence of sin and the hardness of our hearts often stand in the way of us doing what is best for us. Marriages all too often contain abuses of many kinds, and they are not always healthy spaces that promote human flourishing.

When a person gets divorced, whether with a heavy heart or frivolously, we must understand that the divorce doesn’t disqualify them from God’s grace or His love. It is in fact evidence of their very need of a Savior. The call is the same to all of us, single, married, divorced, or widowed, whatever our path has been to get to where we are today – to return to the Lord and to pursue fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are reminded that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV), and God’s people are given the Spirit by whom we can walk in obedience to the Lord. That Spirit leads us away from “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21, ESV).

He leads us to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24, ESV). We are then reminded that “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25, ESV).

Our various experiences in life can both mark and define us, but we are more than those experiences and our choices. Thank the Lord that the God of the Bible is a God who renews and restores all things. It is my hope that this has helped you in understanding divorce in the Bible.

If you are in need of support through a difficult marriage, the difficult decision of divorce, or the aftermath of a divorce, feel free to contact me or one of the other Christian counselors in our online counselor directory.

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Counseling for Spiritual Development: Faith in the Storm

We can all recall times in our life when our faith was tested and we fell to our knees and asked, “Why is this happening to me?”

The reality is, we are offered two choices when something goes awry, 1) let our frustration turn to anger and steal our joy, or 2) get on our knees and ask God to use this situation for good.

  • Maybe your bills are behind, and you feel completely defeated.
  • Maybe your best friend just told you she is moving 2,000 miles away.
  • Maybe you felt so certain of your career calling and now that calling feels so foreign.
  • Maybe your parents are now in an assisted living facility or have asked to move in with you to help with long-term care.
  • Maybe your spouse is deployed or is a first responder struggling with PTSD.
  • Maybe you have a child with special needs and feel so tired and overwhelmed, you do not know where to turn.
  • Maybe you have been battling thoughts of depression but are so overwhelmed and filled with guilt, you do not know how to ask for help.
  • Maybe you are the parent of a newborn trying to figure out how to function with no sleep, emotions are overwhelming and foreign, and have an unfinished to-do list that could reach the moon.
  • Maybe you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and feel like you are succumbing to the darkness and do not know how to let the light back in.

Take a long, deep breath. Put your hand over your heart and remember that God created you. He created you, loves you, and wants the very best for you.

As you walk through whatever obstacles are on your current journey, take to heart these reminders of God’s plans for you:

God’s Word says He will not abandon you.

Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

  • You might feel alone in the waiting room as you await test results.
  • You might feel alone as you hear the words, “You experienced a miscarriage.”
  • You might feel alone if your spouse is struggling with PTSD.
  • You might feel alone as you long for that pregnancy test to finally read “positive.”
  • You might feel alone as you walk the entryway to knock on the door to have a long overdue conversation with someone you have been distant from/angry with.
  • You might feel alone in the shower as the tears stream down your face after a terrible bout of depression.
  • You might feel alone as you sit with a pile of overdue bills, wondering how in the world things are going to be okay.

Rest assured, dear one – you are not alone.

  • God is in the waiting room, ready to hold your hand.
  • God is present for the awkward and uncomfortable conversations, ready to set the tone and soften hearts.
  • God is with you while your spouse is deployed, ready to give you a peace that comes only from Him.
  • God is with you as you battle anxiety, ready to comfort you and strengthen your faith and dependence on Him.
  • God is with you during the middle-of-the-night rocking and feeding sessions with a newborn, ready to give you the strength to endure another sleepless night.
  • God is ready to comfort you during those moments of defeat.
  • God is ever-present through every season and feeling that we endure.

Affirmations for faith

Write these down and memorize them as a reminder that God is right there with you through this tiring season:

  • I can take things one step at a time. (Matthew 6:34)
  • I know God’s love and spirit will guide me through this uncomfortable season. (John 16:13)
  • I am thankful for the gift of today. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • I know that God loves and cherishes me. (Isaiah 54:10)
  • I believe in God’s endless possibilities for me. (Luke 1:37)
  • I am open and willing to receive all the ways God wants to bless and teach me. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

We must arm ourselves with God’s Word to build faith.

If there is one thing that we can be certain of, it is that Satan wants us to feel defeated. He wants us to wallow in the guilt and frustrations that come our way and make us feel inferior. He wants us to feel depleted, alone, and insignificant.

1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

  • You are not alone.
  • You are not too broken.
  • You are not damaged goods.
  • You are not too weak.
  • You are worthy of love.
  • You are special, unique, and beautiful!

When Satan tries to whisper lies, you need to be dressed in your “spiritual armor.” Spending time in God’s Word, memorizing Scripture, having community with other believers, and spending time talking to God are all powerful weapons to stand up and ward off the lies Satan tries to tell you.

If this feels overwhelming, take baby steps.

Read the Bible.

Download a Bible app and start by looking at the verse of the day. There are unique plans you can search by topic (anxiety, depression, hope, healing, etc.). This is a wonderful and guided way to get in the Word without feeling too overwhelmed with where to start.

Find an accountability partner.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” It is essential to have other believers to encourage us, pray for/with us, and walk alongside us in life. The world is dark, and we need to find rays of sunshine wherever we can. Serve with your accountability partner. Have in-depth and authentic conversations where emotional barriers are torn down. Attend a Bible study together.

Try the “one step” mindset.

When life and circumstances feel overwhelming, take the one step approach. Take things one day at a time. Approach the person you feel distant from with one conversation. Start tackling your debt one bill at a time. Start trying to reconnect with your spouse one intentional moment at a time. Chase your God-given passions by simply taking the first step – sign up for the class, sign up to serve, or start writing a book by just sitting down for one hour at a time.

Address the things you have been ignoring.

I think we all have a desire to simply “leave things alone” and from there, the problems will disappear. While God does have perfect timing for our life and circumstances, we must trust Him with the process by surrendering our worries to Him. We must choose healing for our past wounds.

The baggage from your past can range from unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms, to negative self-talk, to enduring the pain and shame from trauma. You do not have to walk this road alone. Do not let Satan tell you that the things that have happened to you are keeping you from following God’s beautiful purpose for your life.

Moving forward in faith.

You can begin this new journey of moving forward instead of hiding your past.

Start journaling. Write down the things you are thankful for, looking forward to, and the things that have been holding you down and trying to steal your joy. You might find that writing it down really helps you process your thoughts and reset your focus.

Remember that you are not alone. God is with you, and He puts people in your path to help you move forward in your faith and healing journey. Today is the perfect time to schedule a counseling session with a counselor at our office who wants to help encourage and equip you to move forward with a faith that can withstand the storms of life.

Find the glimmers of hope. No matter what storm you are facing right now, look for the glimmers of hope – the meal that someone drops off, the kindness of a random stranger, the timeliness of a message at church, the anonymous gift card that is left in your mailbox. Find the glimmers and try to send some glimmers to those around you.

Photos:
“Woman with Lamp”, Courtesy of Guilherme Stecanella, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “My Cup Runneth Over”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible”, Courtesy of Timothy Eberly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman With Bible”, Courtesy of Joel Muniz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

28 Verses to Help Make Sense of Anger in the Bible

The relationships you have with yourself, others, and events that take place all impact your emotions. Human beings are designed with the capacity to feel, and you are often led by your emotions. This can be relatively harmless, but depending on the emotion and its intensity, your life can be derailed by emotive decision-making. That’s not a strike against emotions – they are a vital part of who you are as a being made in the image of God.

However, emotions, just like reason, should not be given free rein but must be brought under the authority of God’s Word. For example, the Bible warns of the dangers of holding onto emotions such as anger because they can negatively affect your heart and your relationships with people around you.

If someone breaks into your car, or a colleague takes credit for your idea, or your child defies you, or you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful, it can provoke anger. Even if your anger is appropriate, what you do with it matters. You need to be able to feel what you feel while not being controlled by it, letting it get out of hand, or leading you into bad decisions – in short, without letting it become anger that leads you to sin.

The Bible has many stories, aphorisms, and warnings about sinning in anger and what can happen if you give in to it. While giving full vent to your anger might feel empowering in the moment, in its wake you may regret the broken relationships or even violence (which has legal and other consequences).

And while many things ought to stir our anger and move you toward appropriate action, chances are your anger is far too often directed toward things that are best categorized as inconveniences, such as bad traffic or long lines at the grocery store, eye rolls and an upset tone. In such situations, it is appropriate to ask yourself whether your angry reaction is helpful and appropriate, or whether it is sin.

Anger in the Bible.

Below are some verses about anger in the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments to help you reflect on your anger and learn a few ways to bring that anger under control. One important point to make beforehand is that there are many instances in which people struggle with anger to the point where they have anger issues.

There are many causes of anger issues, and while all are within the control of the person, not all of them are equally easy to deal with. While this calls for a bit of sensitivity when responding to other people’s anger issues, the Bible makes clear that being controlled by anger is always a sin. “The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).

God’s anger vs. our own.

God is a righteous judge, a God who is angry at evil every single day. – Psalm 7:11

Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So, he did, and his hand was made healthy.Mark 3:5

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15

The Lord responded, ‘Is your anger a good thing?’Jonah 4:4

These verses make it plain that God does get angry, but what angers God is evil. The last verse is found in the book of Jonah. The prophet was angry with God because was gracious to the Ninevites when they turned from their evil ways and repented.

Jonah had hoped God would destroy the Ninevites and became angry because of God’s graciousness. God asks Jonah if his anger towards the people of Nineveh was justified. Be careful to allow the Lord to tell you if your anger is justified or not.

Anger has consequences.

People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm. – Proverbs 14:17

But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell.Matthew 5:22

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger causes much transgressionProverbs 29:22

Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble. – Psalm 37:8

Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbor a grudge. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

Because churning milk makes curds, squeezing the nose brings blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.Proverbs 30:33

Violent people entice their neighbors and walk them down a path that isn’t good.Proverbs 16:29

Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that murderers don’t have eternal life residing in them.1 John 3:15

As with all other emotions, what you do when under the influence of anger matters. Not only does giving in to anger likely lead to more anger and strife, but it can lead you toward a poor standing before the Lord. This is a sober warning for  God’s people to not let your anger devolve into a deep grudge or hatred.

Be careful who you associate with.

Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes. – Proverbs 14:29

Insightful people restrain their anger; their glory is to ignore an offense.Proverbs 19:11

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it backProverbs 29:11

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. – Proverbs 22:24

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. – James 4:1-2

Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.Proverbs 15:18

The Bible calls those who give full vent to their anger “fools.” When you read the word “fool,” it would be a mistake to think of someone who merely makes bad decisions. Rather, the book of Proverbs takes great pains to show the fool to be the one who refuses to live their life according to God’s commandments. The fool, in other words, is a sinner.

Who you hang out with matters. Your friends have an influence over you, and you can easily absorb and replicate unhealthy behaviors such as giving full vent to your anger. If you want to learn wisdom, hang out with wise people. Don’t hang out with fools who let their anger get the better of them. This is especially true if you think you’ll be their friend so that they will be won over to Christ by the light you share-it doesn’t work like that.

Instead of anger, cultivate positive emotions and actions.

If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. – Ephesians 4:26

Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. – Ephesians 4:29

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20

Therefore, I want men to pray everywhere by lifting up hands that are holy, without anger or argument.1 Timothy 2:8

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. – Ephesians 4:31

But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. – Colossians 3:8

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.Proverbs 22:24

As for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord.Ephesians 6:4

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:19-26

Anger is such a powerful emotion that it’s not enough to simply refrain from unleashing it. God doesn’t ask you not to be angry. Instead, you  can cultivate other actions and attitudes to help yourself react in more productive ways. As the last verse indicates, this isn’t something you do by yourself, but you are to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual formation is a lifelong pursuit that takes place in community with others.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for additional support beyond these verses about anger in the Bible, Christian counseling can help. If you struggle with anger and your life and relationships have been negatively affected by anger, seek help from a mental health professional such as an anger management therapist. They will help you understand not only the roots of your anger but give you guidance in developing tools to curb your anger and keep it in check.

Photos:
“Man with Bible”, Courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Bible Reading”, Courtesy of covenantmedia, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Simran Sood, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Getting Away”, Courtesy of Averie Woodard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

3 Stories of Worry in the Bible to Remind You that You Are Not Alone

Depending on your season of life, worry may come and go. If you are facing a life-altering decision, you may worry that you’ll make the wrong choice. When parents have children, they might worry about their children’s lives and how they will turn out. No matter where you are today, it can be encouraging to know that we have somewhere to look when we are struggling with worry. There are many stories of worry in the Bible, and in this article, we will examine three of them: Naomi, Martha, and Jonah.

Stories of Worry in the Bible

The stories of Naomi and Jonah are from the Old Testament, while Martha’s story is in the New Testament. We see that worry isn’t escapable across the breadth of the Bible except by turning to God.

In all three stories of worry, the answer didn’t necessarily lie in the problem being solved, the day going just as planned, or the way ahead being easy. The answer was found in the promise of a God who loves and provides for His people.

What does worry in the Bible mean?

The word worry in the New Testament is a Greek word, “merimnao,” which translates to anxiety. It is a combination of two words, merizo, which means “to divide” and nous, which means “the mind.” So when we think of worry or anxiety, we know it divides our minds.

It keeps us from being present, it can steal our joy, and it can rob us of peace. But the good news is that God has prepared a script for us – a story in each of these people’s life that shows us a way to find Him in the midst of our anxious thoughts.

Naomi’s story

Naomi expressed the pain she was feeling because of life’s hardships. She had lost both of her sons, and she was in a position where she had nothing except the two daughters-in-law who were left. She assured them they needed to return to where they were from so that they could be with their families of origin after both of their husbands died.

She said she wanted her name to be changed to Mara due to feeling embittered in her relationship with God. She knew that He had dealt her hand, so to speak, and it was less than desirable; it was marked with pain, sadness, and grief.

In addition to the loss of her sons, Naomi had no grandchildren – which could have signified a curse or, at the very least, lack of God’s blessing – and there was a widespread famine. If she wanted to blame God for her worries and woes, she certainly had reason.

Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? We think, “If only God would change this, my worries would clear up. Maybe if God takes this circumstance and makes it lighter, I will feel better about my life.”

So what happened to Naomi? What got her through the worry with which she struggled? Her daughter-in-law Ruth had faith and loyalty that spurred Naomi on toward a new place to live and the belief that something or someone could redeem the hardships she’d endured.

The end of Naomi’s story is that she did end up having a grandchild, and her daughter-in-law married a man who they discovered was actually a distant relative. They had food to eat and newfound security. Naomi’s grandson would become the father of Jesse, the father of David, who was in the family lineage of the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus.

What can we learn from Naomi’s struggle? We can learn to lean on others’ faith when we are struggling with our own.

There will be times in life when your friends and family members, a church service, or a pastor may need to call you from your worry and show you what God can do. Let them. When we try to hide our fears or worries from others, it doesn’t help us, and it does not allow the love of God to flow through them to our hearts.

To read more about Naomi’s story of worry in the Bible, and the redemptive ending, go to the book of Ruth.

Jonah’s story

The book of Jonah comes as the fifth book in a group of twelve that bear the names of minor prophets. Unlike the other minor prophets’ stories, which told about their oracles, the one about Jonah talks about his life as a man.

We can take great comfort from his struggle to decide: follow what God was leading him to do or take a more predictable and perhaps more peaceful route. Jonah’s worry could be summed up in a two-word question: What if?

  • What if I obey and something bad happens to me?
  • What if I do this thing God is asking and it angers a group of people?
  • What if I fail or chicken out at the last minute?
  • What if the place where I am going is hostile to me and rejects me?

It’s easy to let these two little words spin our minds into worry. Let’s look at Jonah’s story of worry in the Bible and how he overcame it.

In Jonah 1, when God proclaimed His love and mercy for a people that Jonah hates, the Ninevites, we can imagine how Jonah felt: betrayed, unworthy of God’s favor, and abandoned by God. Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s favor? Abandoned by God?

It’s not surprising that Jonah surrendered to his fear and hatred of the Ninevite people and ran in the opposite direction after God told him to specifically share about His love and mercy in Nineveh. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish, far from Nineveh, where he met some pagan sailors.

His worry was taking him away from the Lord and away from the calling God has placed on his life. As we see in this part of Jonah’s story, his worry forced him to confront his own pride.

While on the ship a great storm brewed, and the sailors recognized it as a spiritual storm. They called on Jonah, their new shipmate who happened to be sleeping at the time, and they asked him what he thought they should do. What seems like a noble instruction on Jonah’s part, to throw him overboard, was actually Jonah’s attempt of getting out of God’s call on his life for good.

But even in the act of throwing him off the boat, the sailors turned away from their own sin and placed their belief in God.

Jonah was “saved” by a whale, and this is where he should have accepted that his pride had endeared him to worry. Still, Jonah didn’t come to full repentance, he simply recognized that God had been faithful. He thanked God for sticking with him and promised he would go to Nineveh to share about God’s mercy.

Once Jonah was vomited out by the whale back onto dry land, God reminded Jonah of his promise to obey. He instructed him (again) in Jonah 3:2, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

Jonah started out on the long journey and gave a version of God’s message. However, in his version, the message missed some key points: He doesn’t mention the sinful activities for which Nineveh had come to be known, nor the way for the Ninevites to respond to God. He simply said that they will be “overturned.”

But God.

Whether it was worry or fear that caused Jonah to give halfway obedience to the prophetic call on his life, we see that God still used him. The king of Nineveh and all the people turned from their wickedness and worshiped the Lord.

What’s ironic is that Jonah’s prophetic message for this city did actually come true. They were not overturned in the sense of being destroyed (God forgave them and promised not to destroy the city when they turned to Him). No, the city was “overturned,” meaning that their hearts were transformed.

How does this relate to stories of worry in the Bible?

The book of Jonah isn’t really a story about Jonah and his worry; it’s about the source of his concern. He didn’t want to live in a world where a compassionate God would care as much about his enemies as for him. If you continue in the book of Jonah, you will find that we don’t get to see a clear resolution to his story.

The point of the story is to hold up a mirror to our worry. It can be rooted in selfishness or pride, and God in His great mercy calls us to be willing to examine the source of our worries.

Martha’s story

Martha often gets a bad rap. We remember her simply for one story when actually, she would become a dear friend to Jesus during His time on earth. But just like the other stories of worry in the Bible, we see Martha primarily as a tale of anxiety mixed with maybe a little jealousy.

When Jesus came to dine at her house with a gathering of others, Martha became frustrated with her sister, Mary, because she wasn’t helping around the house. In Luke 10:38-39, we read that Jesus was on his way somewhere when he stopped at Mary and Martha’s house, and Mary chose to sit at His feet and listen to everything He said instead of helping Martha.

On the other hand, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40a, ESV) Martha is remembered primarily because she was distracted by and probably worried about how everything would get done. Have you ever been worried that not everything would get done in time?

What we learn in Martha’s story, however, is that even our to-do lists come under submission to the Lord. In His response, Jesus showed His compassion and His authority to Martha.

He first addressed Martha with what she was facing – worry. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” (Luke 10:41, ESV) Here we see that Jesus’ compassion on Martha required that He help her see that her real issue wasn’t a clean house or a full table; it was worry. He invites her to recognize the destructive thought patterns to which she had succumbed.

Second, He reminded Martha of His authority. He instructed her to remember what the most important priority in life is: a relationship with God. In Luke 10:42, Jesus continued, “but few things are needed – or indeed only one.”

If you read to the end of the story, you see that Jesus addresses Martha about Mary’s inaction. But the takeaway from this story isn’t about Mary. It is that Martha recognized her worry and saw it next to the light of Christ.

What we learn from these Bible stories

As these stories may remind you, God cares about your worries. He would not have included so many stories of worry in the Bible if He were not a compassionate, loving Father. His call to you might indeed be to “cast your cares on the Lord.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)

One excellent way to cast your cares is to take the first step toward counseling. Call our offices, so we can match you with a counselor who will listen and help you take the next step to overcome worry. The Lord has more in mind for you, and we’re here to help.

Photos:
“Bible”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Jametlene Reskp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Bible”, Courtesy of Emmanuel Phaeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Psalms”, Courtesy of Emmanuel Phaeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Overcome Fear: 21 Ways to Be Fearless

Fear is an adrenaline rush that people pay both big money to enjoy and big money to avoid. From theme parks to intensive sports, to night lights and security guards, experiencing fear is something most people have a love-hate relationship with. In this article, we’ll look at how to overcome fear with 21 ways to be fearless.

When it comes to how to overcome fear, our ability to become fearless and manage our fears comes down to the type of fear. Is it a real fear—one that is something that is right to fear and happening in the present time? Or is it a pretend fear? Pretend fears are those that center around something unknown in the future, around a possible repetition of the past, or other fictional beliefs (i.e. monsters under the bed).

While real fears are inevitable, it can be easier to manage these fears. Pretend fears, on the other hand, can run wild and free without any care for reality. Either way, when your amygdala (the “feelings” part of the brain) engages, it can be difficult to manage whatever emotion it is because when the amygdala is activated enough, our prefrontal cortex (the “thinking” part of the brain) shuts off.

21 ways to be fearless.

I’ve been working with clients for over ten years on how to overcome fear and become fearless in the face of their worries and anxieties. Here are 21 ways to be fearless and help tackle anxiety without medication:

1. Accept fear as a part of you.

Like Sarah E. Ball (The Courage, 2019) says when writing about why we can’t just pray anxiety away, “We all feel anxious from time to time. We would be inhuman if we didn’t. But when we begin to fear the fear and do everything in our lives to avoid feeling it, we perpetuate a vicious cycle of fear.”

It’s important to understand that feeling fearless 100% of the time is likely impossible, and in fact, something you do not want. Fear keeps us alive, and often some of the greatest danger we can find ourselves in is when fear is totally absent.

2. Establish habits of routinely questioning your fear.

If you have a habit of engaging with worry, you’ll have to put in the work to consciously interrupt that habit and replace it. Put your worries to the test and find evidence that they may not be valid. Don’t just take it for granted. Connect with wise counsel and keep those fears accountable to reason.

3. Challenge it with Dr. Amen’s one simple question.

If you haven’t discovered ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and Dr. Amen’s work in helping people overcome their negative thinking, it can be summed up by two sentences: Everyone has automatic negative thoughts of different types. These automatic negative thoughts can be challenged and decrease over time.

Dr. Amen makes it so simple, he wrote a children’s book on the matter: Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. One of his super questions is to ask yourself, “Am I 100% certain this thought is true?” If you’re not 100% certain, there’s the possibility for something less scary—and that can go a long way in helping you calm down.

4. Get to know fear from a biblical perspective.

What does the Bible say about fear? Does God give advice on how to overcome fear? You can be sure that He keeps His promise of providing wisdom to those who are asking for it! Being anxious is a part of being human, but God’s Word shines a light on it that allows us to put fear in its place.

You can start by reading the full passage of a famously quoted verse in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything . . . .” You’ll find some helpful to-do’s that have inspired some of this list!

5. Know the difference between real fear vs. fictional fear.

Just as I outlined above, different fears can have different levels of intensity. When you are facing a really scary situation (like someone’s health being jeopardized), reaching out for support becomes easier. There are time frames that naturally fall into place for the most part, and there are boundaries that contain the fear to the specific situation.

When fears cross over to the fictional sense, say after a scary event you question whether it will happen again every day, the support is more difficult to find because it’s all in your head. These fictional fears have no boundaries and can do more damage. Worries that are made up need to be addressed differently.

6. Get to know who God is.

Knowing who God is in the face of anxieties can put it into perspective. When you have a right view of God, your fears can often be influenced in a way that makes them easier to manage. It’s like the soldiers against Goliath. Their view of God wasn’t even on their mind—they took a look at Goliath and then looked at themselves and the math wasn’t on their side.

Then David shows up and sees who God is in the situation and rests His mind on that and that alone. Then, without any armor or a big weapon to defend himself, David steps up to face the fears of everyone there.

7. Remember what God has done.

Number 7 on the list of 21 ways to be fearless is to look back and account for how God has shown up in your life. God set dates and rituals in the lives of the Israelites not because He wanted religion to run their lives, but because He knew it would be important for them to set aside time to remember what He did for them so that they would be stirred up to follow Him and find the strength and peace to do so. Our minds can often be set at ease when we look back on certain things we overlook when our worries take over.

8. Recount God’s attributes.

Knowing who God is can put our worries into perspective and our nerves at ease. If you’re finding your mind wandering often to places that question God’s goodness, diving deep into His attributes and reflecting on them often is a way to challenge those thoughts. The Bible doesn’t just tell us who God is, it tells us example after example of how and why He is good, will take care of His children, is trustworthy, and is with us when we are afraid.

9. Get counsel.

Finding wise counsel is a game changer. Let’s start with what wise counsel is not: it isn’t running to multiple people and telling all; it isn’t going to someone because they have the same opinion on the matter as you, and it isn’t posting on social media. Wise counsel is finding someone who is likely older than you and who will point you back to Jesus and the Bible.

10. Connect with support.

While wise counsel has a mission to gain instruction, support is something different. Support is what you can access at times of need to lean on during the worst of it or celebrate during the best. Support looks like the people you’ve got on a prayer thread, the church you attend, and the people who bring you a coffee or a meal on any given day. This doesn’t mean you can’t find counsel and support in the same person, however.

11. Memorize Scripture .

Another practical tip for how to overcome fear is to fill your mind with solid truth that can be used by your brain automatically once you’ve memorized it. Your brain is running on autopilot, but you can change the route and destination. When fear strikes or your heart starts to race, consider reaching for a favorite verse to recite over and over again until the feeling changes and your heart calms.

12. Pray Scripture.

A beautiful way to find words for your prayers when you’re simply too overwhelmed by your fears and stress is by opening the Psalms and praying through them. Personalize whatever Scripture you are reading as a prayer to God, asking for what He is promising to you and expressing gratitude for who He is.

13. Make a list of Philippians 4:8.

Philippians is one of my favorite books to go through in a time of need. God doesn’t tell you to simply stop feeling fear or anxiety, He gives you ways to be fearless.

Philippians 4:8 instructs us to direct our thoughts to Him and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise.” Sound familiar? Dwelling on the positive takes work, but it is timeless advice for any circumstance.

14. Get some prayer warriors to help you lift your burdens up.

When you’re struggling with fear and overwhelmed by worries, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Don’t have a church group? Are you the only Christian you know? Ministries like Christian radio and Focus on the Family have prayer lines open for you. Prayer is the most powerful support you can get.

15. Hold a hand.

Physical touch creates a ripple effect on your nervous system. A firm hand hold or hug can help your body know it’s safe and start to relax. If no one is around, try tensing and releasing your body one part at a time from your head to your toes, taking deep breaths as you go.

16. Minimize responsibilities for the moment.

Feeling anxious can create chaos in your brain. As the amygdala takes over, your prefrontal cortex can be challenged with getting its job done. This leaves you feeling disorganized, with difficulty concentrating, and with little ability to process information well. In other words, your normal super abilities to multitask and keep the house or office running aren’t functioning properly, so it’s a good idea to put a halt on the to-dos.

17. Hold off on making big decisions.

When your brain is on overload, it will process everything and anything as a potential threat. If you don’t have to make big decisions, hold off. If you have to make big decisions, get some wise counsel and take some deep breaths while you try and figure it out. This will minimize any rash or poor judgment that can lead to more problems later.

18. Prioritize the basics.

When you are caught in a cycle of thoughts that keep you afraid, prioritizing the basics is another tip for how to overcome fear. By prioritizing the basics, you’re sending signals to your body to reduce fight or flight mode. Making sure you eat, rest, and drink water will help you have what it takes to keep going—especially in light of a genuinely scary situation.

19. Face it anyway.

Facing your fears can be a daunting task, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that the fears won’t run your life forever. Studies show that avoiding your fears can help them grow bigger, reinforcing that you need to feel afraid and taking away from your ability to function.

20. Prayer with thanksgiving.

It’s no secret that practicing gratitude improves your mental health. Finding something to be grateful for is a great way to balance your emotions and reduce your fears. Anxiety can be overwhelming at times. Praying with thanksgiving isn’t about ignoring your worries, it’s about acknowledging them and the good that is still there simultaneously.

21. Keep going.

Yes, keep going. Becoming fearless is a journey that will lead you to face your fears and press on with life. Feeling fear doesn’t mean that you need to base your behavior on it. In fact, when the circumstances allow for it, pressing on instead of giving into your fears can be exactly the thing that will help you and give you the courage to do it all over again.

Learning how to overcome fear using these 21 ways to be fearless is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these may work at times but seem ineffective later. The tools you need to face the very real fears and anxieties that plague you, your family, and your friends are available—but they are specific to you and your circumstances. I encourage you to find wise counsel and connect with another therapist or me near you to find what will work for you.

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Bible Verses About Marriage: God’s Vision and Instructions

Marriage is not something man-made. It is the central theme of God’s Word, woven throughout the Scriptures. Following are some key Bible verses about marriage.

Key Bible Verses about Marriage

In the beginning

In the beginning, God created man (Adam) but said it was not good for him to be alone, so He created a woman (Eve) to be his helpmate. Both of them were created in God’s image, with equal dignity, but with complementary physiological and psychological differences.

The first marriage took place between them in the Garden of Eden. It was a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, united by God in a mysterious way that belongs to no other human relationship. They were to establish a family unit, and their loyalty was to be to each other before anyone else except God.

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27, ESV

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2:18, ESV

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24, ESV

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Mark 10:6-9, ESV

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and made way for sin and death to enter the world, God created a new picture of what marriage should look like by establishing a covenant relationship with the children of Israel. As part of the contract, He promised to be faithful and to set them apart as His holy people.

The Israelites were rebellious and frequently broke the covenant, but God remained faithful and was always willing to forgive them and take them back when they repented. Despite their many betrayals, He pursued them relentlessly, showing them mercy over and over.

So great was the depth of God’s love that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to redeem His people from their sins and restore their broken relationship with Him. By His death, Jesus became the living manifestation of the faithful bridegroom who was willing to give up His life for His beloved.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16, NIV

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, a new covenant was formed to include people from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation. Everyone who believes in Him and receives Him as their Lord and Savior become part of the Body of Christ, destined to be united to Him as His bride.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. – Revelation 19:7-8, NIV

God’s vision for marriage

As the following Bible verses about marriage show, God’s vision for marriage is for it to be a permanent bond that endures and that mirrors the covenant relationship between Christ and the Church. When husband and wife live in harmony and unity with God, their union becomes like a cord of three strands that nothing can overpower or damage

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken. — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV

Bible verses about marriage.

Both men and women are created in God’s image and are heirs together of eternal life. However, God appointed the husband to be the spiritual leader of the family and instructs the wife to affirm and receive this leadership for the harmonious working of the relationship. The husband, on the other hand, is commanded to treat his wife with love, respect, and understanding, and to show her special honor and care.

 

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband, — Ephesians 5:22-33, NIV

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. – Colossians 3:18-19, ESV

Husbands…be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gifts of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. – 1 Peter 3:7, NIV

More Bible verses about marriage

Consider some more Bible verses about marriage. There is no place for meanness or contempt between a husband and wife. Be patient and considerate of one another. You’ll make mistakes and your spouse will too. A happy marriage is the result of your commitment to be there for one another through the good times and bad, and to treat each other with love and respect.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:10, NIV

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:2-3, NIV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32, ESV

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8, NIV

God designed marriage as the place for the expression of human sexuality.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.

Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. – 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, ESV

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Hebrews 13:4, ESV

If you have questions, would like to learn more Bible verses about marriage, or would like to set up an appointment to see one of our faith-based counselors, please give us a call today.

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