About 15 years ago I was at a talk with Josh McDowell, the writer of many books and a speaker all over the world. He told us an interesting story from Ephesians chapter 5 regarding the teaching about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church. Josh loves to travel all over the world and he was on this quest to understand the definition of love for the entire year. He was talking to great pastors and missionaries and theologians and presidents of seminaries asking them all the same question: what's the definition of love in the Bible? Most of them took him back to the love chapter in 1st Corinthians 13. Josh said, no, that's a description of love, it’s not a definition. So he was frustrated all year long and praying about it. Finally, he sat down at Thanksgiving dinner with his father in law sitting beside him, and Josh told him his dilemma. His father in law looked at him kind of funny and said, Josh, the definition is in the next verse: no man ever yet hated himself, but nourishes and cherishes himself. That's the definition of love.
We're supposed to love each other. We're supposed to love God and let Him love us. Remember what love does: it nourishes and cherishes. To nourish means to provide something that is needed. God is three in one: body, soul and spirit. If you're nourishing someone's body, you're loving them. If you're nourishing someone’s spirit or their soul, you're loving them. What is cherishing? It's protecting, honoring, and respecting. If you cherish something, it means you take care of it and have a real respect for it.
When we talk about love, understand that God keeps things in tension. There's a tension that is supposed to be there, like instruments have. I play the guitar, and when someone plays the guitar, it only sounds good because the tension is appropriate for each string. You need to change the tension every time you play to get it to sound right. The Scripture is in tension too. You may read Scripture when you first start learning the Bible and see how it says one thing here, and it says another thing there, and it could be a little confusing. It's not because they are opposing each other, it's because there's a tension that we're supposed to hear and listen and learn. For example, we see Paul saying that salvation is by faith alone and yet James says faith without works is dead. That seems like a tension until you study more and realize that the works or the fruit show that the faith is there. They don't make the faith appear, they show that the faith is there.
There's another tension when it comes to teaching about love. Love covers a multitude of sins, but doesn't the scripture also say if your brother sins against you, rebuke him? That seems like tension. I'm supposed to cover every sin? No, instead, it covers a multitude of sins. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. How do you work out that tension? The C minus is something I want you to be aware of. The C minus is critical, contempt, and condemnation. We want the minus out of our life. The C plus we want added to our life. Consider the woman caught in adultery; Jesus said, neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more. Now you notice a combination of two things: He has no condemnation, but He does have correction. The correction is part of the C plus, but the C minus, the critical Spirit, says, you failed again. Sometimes we say that to ourselves, right? That's critical and contempt at the same time. So we want to get critical and contempt and condemnation out, like mocking, sarcasm, or rolling your eyes. Some people say those things to themselves, some people say to others, and sometimes we just think it. It’s important to repent for your thoughts, too.
Matthew 18 says, if your brother sins against you rebuke him. Jesus said, neither do I condemn you go and sin no more. So it turns out we need to get the condemnation out, but we have to keep the correction for ourselves and for others. We speak the truth in love, but we have to keep the correction in.
So what are the three C’s? We can have a complaint. We can have a correction, but where’s the correction supposed to start? With us. If we would judge ourselves, we wouldn't need to be judged. That's what the Bible says. If we would correct ourselves, we wouldn't have to have someone else correct us. We're going to hold on to the complaints and the correction, but with commendation, instead of condemnation. Commendation is building another person up even as I bring a correction. We have commendation, but we have a complaint or correction. And of course, it's the Lord speaking. One of the things that goes along with being loving is speaking the truth in love.
As a Christian, truth actually has three parts. The first one is getting the facts right. What's the second element? We need to get the love right, speaking the truth in love. What's the third part? We must get the timing right. The facts, the love, and the timing. So when you speak in truth in the future, we're trying to get the facts right, the timing right, and the love right. In Revelation 2, Jesus is speaking to that first church in Ephesus about the truth. “I know all that you've done for me. You've worked hard and persevered. I know that you don't tolerate evil.” This is a commendation. “You don't tolerate evil. You've tested those who claim to be apostles and prove they are not for they were imposters. I also know how you bravely endured trials and persecutions because of my name, yet you've not become discouraged.” Next he has a correction or a complaint to add to the previous commendation. “But I have this against you, you've abandoned the passionate love you had for me at the beginning. Think about how far you’ve fallen. Repent and do the works of love you did it first, I'll come or I'll come to you remove your lampstand from its place of influence if you do not repent. Although to your credit, you despise the practice of the Nicolaitans, which I also despise.” Most people think the Nicolaitans were lording over people. “The one whose heart is open, let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying now to all the churches, to the one who overcomes I will give access to feast on the fruit of the tree of life that is found in the paradise of God.”
The Lord is showing us and revealing to us that yes, there could be a correction, if there's no condemnation. There could be a correction with commendation, but if we're going to get the truth right in any of these matters, we have to get the facts right and the timing right and the love right.
Prayer: Father, we thank you that you always get it right. You know when to correct, you know how to commend us and you continue to do that Lord. We thank you, Lord, for your great promise that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We receive Lord that freedom from condemnation, but Lord, we also receive your correction. You're so good Lord, your rod and your staff, they comfort us. Lord, we declare your rod is for correction and your staff is for protection. We receive both of them as we prepare our hearts, Lord, to embrace each other Lord, and to speak the truth in love.
Jesus said, why do you call me, Lord, Lord if you do not do what I command? From the beginning Jesus was Lord. How was He Lord in Genesis? He created everything, but how else was he Lord? Adam and Eve got a word from God. The Bible says that Jesus is the Word made flesh and dwelt among us, so when God the father said you can eat from all the trees of the garden but do not eat from this tree, that was a word. If Jesus is the Word, I believe He was in that garden.
What was God the Father asking them to do? He was asking them to agree with His word, to agree with Him, then Satan comes along and says did God really say that, is that really the word? Satan asked if they were going to listen to Jesus. He was asking, are you going to let the Word of God be Lord of your life? Are you going to let God be Lord? You're going to miss out. So what did Satan do? He came in and put doubt in that God’s way is the best way. All God said to Adam and Eve was: agree with me.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word of God is established. Psalm 23 starts with the Lord and ends with the Lord. The Lord is my shepherd is how it starts. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever is how it ends. We want to say that Jesus is Lord, but have we surrendered everything to Jesus? Your physical body has three parts: structural, electrical, and chemical, but what about your soul? You soul has three parts; your mind, your will, and your emotions. If Jesus is going to be Lord, I'll have to surrender my mind to Him and lean not on my own understanding, I have to surrender my will and my desire to him, and I have to surrender my emotions. If I hold on to any of those three parts of my soul, I'm not letting him be Lord of my life. I like to call these your thinker, your decider and your feelings.
I want you to consider for a moment that your spirit has three parts too. Your Spirit has communion, intuition and conscience. These are three areas of submission to and connection with God. What's communion with God? That's like getting in the car, getting quiet, or getting connected. It’s knowing that you're intimate with the Lord and He's intimate with you. Remember, He said I will never leave you or forsake you. He is with you always. Communion is where we practice the presence of God, the deepest part of you where you connect. Intuition is knowing when to start and stop the car and when to turn left to right. That's that still small voice. It's learning to foster the voice. You know what conscience is? It's like the rumble strips on the side of the highway. If your conscience is clear, it'll shake you when you get off track. The apostle Paul said, I seek to keep a conscience that is clear before God and man. How he did that was through Lordship. Everything was submitted to the Lord. Bowing down would be the kind of thing you would do way back in the day when a king came by. How much more should we do that for Jesus? If Jesus is Lord, then He's worthy for us to bow down, He’s a worthy for us to worship, and He's worthy for us to surrender everything to Him.
One of the great men of God named Rees Howells wrote an unnamed book on intercessory prayer they called Intercessor. He was born in 1879, and when he was about 20 years old, the Lord put a calling on his life. Some (unnamed) really important thing happened that made him find out that he was not completely surrendered to the Lord. It was clear the Lord asked him to surrender and he really believed that on 6PM Tuesday night God would give him a revelation. He was praying and fasting, trying to get to the place of surrender for hours, and five minutes until six on Tuesday night, he still hadn't gotten anything from God. The prayer he said was, Lord, I'm willing to be made willing to surrender this thing to you.
I want you to think for a minute about something in your life that you've held on to and held back from God. You are only as whole and healed as the hardest thing you’ve held in your life against God. What's a hard thing for you to surrender? Maybe it's some resentment towards your mom or dad, brothers, sisters. Maybe someone has really rejected you or betrayed you. Maybe you're angry with God, because something is very painful. Think about some deep disappointment or something that's been really hard for you to let go of and to surrender to the Lord.
Whatever it is that you’re holding onto, pray to the Lord: I'm willing to be made willing to surrender even this, my life, my spirit and my soul. I pray that you give the revelation, that you give scripture, that you give dreams of the night, that you give words of knowledge and prophecy, and exhortation, and courage, to reinforce that you are Lord and there is no other. I declare that there's only one king, and his name is Jesus. I declare that Jesus is Lord. Father may I not believe in the word only, but in deed. I ask Father that you will give wisdom and discernment to not listen to the voice of the enemy, but to listen to your voice and to agree.
In the last blog, we covered the first three stages of grieving—denial, anger, and bargaining. In this post, we will talk about how those second and third stages combine with the classic stage 4 of depression to finally help us get to the place of acceptance.
The anger is related to injustice. It's natural to feel an injustice with a great loss. Anger is a reaction to a perceived injustice. Bargaining is when I'm trying to work something out more logically, but depression is the truest form of grieving. So let's talk about depression.
Some people don't understand that depression in its purest form, is simply grieving. It's crying the tears that I need to cry in order to embrace a loss. Sad is a reaction to a perceived loss. As the loss becomes more and more real, I grieve it in various ways. Crying is perhaps the most classic way to grieve the loss but it's not the only way. There may be silence, at times but "away from it all". There may be grieving your mourning with others. The Bible says we should weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15— “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
It's important to differentiate between “pure depression” and counterfeit depression. Pure depression is grieving a real loss for a specific period of time that varies according to many factors. Counterfeit depression is depicted as a “spirit of heaviness” in Isaiah 61:3. It may not be connected to a real loss at all, but it mimics grieving and may remain indefinitely until its searched out and kicked out. James 4:7—“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
So the goal of the fourth stage of grieving is the cry the tears and stick with it until you can move naturally towards acceptance. We actually grieve as we are triggered and reminded of our loss. Many people want to minimize the triggers, thinking that will help. The triggers take us back to the loss so we can get to the stage where the grief is released. We should embrace the triggers without necessarily forcing the triggers.
We have a historic event—a loss that needs to be grieved. When we are triggered we go back to this historic event and have a Primary Emotion. This primary emotion is often intense but more short-lived. After the primary emotion, we have a time of cognitive evaluation. In this step we can MAXIMIZE and have thoughts like “ this will never end”, “I can’t make it through this” etc. Or we can “MINIMIZE” by thinking “I don’t need to cry” “I’ve been grieving long enough” etc. We have to find the middle ground with thoughts like THIS: “this hurts but God is helping me.” “I'm going to get through this grief.” “I need to cry for a few minutes.” “I need to take a little time for this.”
If I can take that middle ground during the cognitive stage I can avoid maximizing or minimizing and when I get to the step after cognitive evaluation, I enter the Secondary Emotion stage that lasts longer and is typically less intense than the primary stage. This is the stage where I will gradually come down from the intensity of the trigger. In this way, we cycle through each trigger that we experience. I tell my clients that with each loss we need to grieve, we have a certain amount of “bitter water” we have to drink. The bible says Jesus was a “man of sorrow acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3— “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” This means Jesus was “intimate” with grief. He embraced it in every way that it came to him.
I have seen so many people walk through the grief process. You can too, but don’t do it alone. Pray, read the scriptures, turn to your support system. May God bless you in your grieving process. It is something very reverent in God's eyes. “You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them.” Psalms 56:8b
There are many reasons that people don't start or continue to fully grieve at the time of a loss. One of these reasons could be family background. If it wasn't normal to grieve in the family or culture you grew up in, your grieving may be inhibited simply because it's not normal for you—it’s written on your heart that way. Another reason we can be inhibited is shame. Many people are ashamed to grieve freely and fully. I have found that shame (“I’m bad if I do this or did that”) comes in many forms. A dad could have taught his sons that real men don’t cry. A parent could have told their child, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Someone who was abused could have finally vowed: “I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry.” There are other reasons grief is stifled, but I hope you get the point. Many things can hinder or block crying and grieving, and this is a vital part of living a healthy life.
There was a study back in the 1980’s where a group of people were given onions to chop up, and most or all of them cried. They analyzed those tears and found them to simply be salt and water. The same group were shown a sad movie and those who cried had tears collected. These tears were full of toxins—things the body needed to expunge.
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. — Psalms 126:5
The Bible teaches “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NLT). I often tell people that another way of saying this is looking at it from the OPPOSITE perspective: “God does NOT bless those who DON’T mourn, for they will NOT be comforted.” Remember, Jesus came for those who NEED Him and seek Him. When we acknowledge our need, He is there for us. When we deny our need for help, we are turning away from Him instead of toward Him.
In further posts we will talk about how to break through some of those barriers, but we need to identify and define what grieving is first. I have found that the five classic stages of grieving do teach us a lot. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial is—I came to understand a few years ago—rebellion from reality. It's very natural when a tragedy occurs to resist the reality of what has happened at first. This can come in the form of numbness, not wanting to talk about the loss, putting pictures away, or other forms of denial. In the beginning of grieving, denial can serve to help me slowly move into the next stages of grief, but ultimately denial delays the inevitable need to progress through the stages of grief.
Anger is the next stage, but think of these next three stages as a circle you have to move through and in and out of to finally get to the purest stage—the sadness or depression itself. You may be angry at the people involved in the loss, angry at yourself, or angry at God (though many are reluctant to acknowledge this last one especially). Remember, anger is a reaction to a perceived injustice. As you process this anger, you need to come to discern the hurt and any lack of forgiveness you may have. Sooner or later you need to release this, forgive, and often accept forgiveness for yourself.
Bargaining can be a confusing term, but it simply means you are trying to “bargain” with yourself, others or God to figure this loss out in a logical way. You are trying to make sense of something that you often are not be able to make sense of—think of Job from the bible. We try to make sense of the timing, the diagnosis, the “why’s and the why nots?” Bargaining is part of the process of integrity coming into the grieving process. If I’m honest, I have these questions, doubts, confusion, blame, guilt, etc. that I need to own and get out in the open, but it’s not the end of grieving. Bargaining won’t ultimately bring me peace. And remember, the mind is only 1/3 of the soul.
Please come back for Unfinished Business Part 2.
1212 East Arapaho Road, Ste 228, Richardson, TX