3 Lessons We Can Learn from the Woman in Proverbs 31

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As a starry-eyed bride 18 years ago, I vowed I would never turn into some of the old boring married women I had seen growing up in the church. I would never snap at my husband, let the fire in our sex life die, or allow a divide in communication to grow.

But then I got married and realized that marriage is not that easy. Like many women, I have often surveyed the list of attributes describing the woman in Proverbs 31 and felt that I don’t measure up. It’s impossible to be like her, so why try? But I think what Proverbs is really saying isn’t just that we should abide by a list, but that we should continually look for ways to bring good to our family and community.

Proverbs 31:10-31 models for us three ways we can be wise and do just that.

3 simple principles we can implement as wives from Proverbs 31:

1. Keep faithful instruction on our tongues.

We as women have the unique opportunity of speaking into the lives of our children or those in our immediate realm that we can mentor. Often, our children are around us the most. They will come to us with all sorts of questions and concerns — at times that are extremely inconvenient or unexpected, and we have a choice to engage or stay silent.

Some time ago, while driving with my kids to a friend’s house for a playdate, my then kindergarten-age daughter launched a question from the backseat that I wasn’t expecting: “Mom, why doesn’t Jessica like me? She likes Haley better. Haley is prettier.” (*Names of friends have been changed.)

Whoa! I wasn’t expecting my daughter to drop this morsel of information in my lap at this juncture. We had made it through the school year without her ever mentioning this specific concern. Sure, this particular girl’s name had come up, but not in this way. I realized underneath my daughter’s question was fear: A fear that she didn’t measure up to this “prettier girl” in her class. So I asked her a question of my own from the front seat, “Elsbeth, who made you?”

“Jesus,” she responded.

“Did Jesus make Haley look exactly the way He wanted her to look?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Jesus made Elsbeth pretty and special in her own way. You don’t have to look like Haley to be pretty,” I explained.

I then told a story about how I had latched onto some girls I wanted to be friends with as a middle-school student that weren’t good friends for me. Because of my desire to earn the attention of these girls, I hadn’t noticed the friends that I already had in my path. I told her that I had learned a secret: Jesus would provide friends if you asked Him, but they wouldn’t always be the friends you necessarily thought you wanted or needed.

This conversation we had was a chance for me to help her root her identity not in what others thought of her or her appearance, but what God said about her and what the truth of Scripture said about identity. Rather than ignore those concerns or questions when they come or brush them off because we’re busy, we can see them as golden moments of opportunity to speak God’s truth into the lives of our children or the young people we serve as an example/mentor to.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (v. 26).

2. Provide for the members of our household.

I remember once in a preschool orientation for my daughter how the director shared that all she ever did was go to the store. When teachers needed supplies, she went to the store and bought what was needed. And because she ran a daycare with many teachers and students, she was always at the store. I can relate.

Though I am not a preschool teacher, I am a mom of three and I spend a whole lot of time at the store buying groceries, household supplies, essentials for my children’s school projects, deodorant for my husband, clothes for my growing kids. Someone always needs something. And, oftentimes, the someone that picks it up is me.

While I spent a whole lot of time shopping for myself as a single girl and young married wife, now our limited money is usually divided each month to meet my children’s needs: Who is in need of shoes? Who has no shorts for summer? Who has outgrown their underwear? Off I go to fill the ever-evolving list. Clearly, this can be exhausting, but the passage tells us that women have a unique role of providing for their families’ needs. I can tell you that my husband has no idea what size shoes my kids wear or who is running low on underwear.

The roles don’t necessarily have to be defined the same in every relationship, but women have been gifted to both assess and take care of the needs of the people in their households.

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants” (vv. 14, 15)

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (v. 21)

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27).

3. Bring honor to our husband.

The fiction novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, focuses on a small Southern town in the 60s where the white women of the town have racist attitudes and often mistreat their African-American maids. Encouraged by an up-and-coming journalist, the African-American women get the courage to tell their stories of mistreatment, and a fallout ensues after the book is published and their white employees learn of their truth-telling. Granted, although I like the idea of marginalized women getting a voice and speaking out against injustice, I don’t agree with the way some of the women go about doing it, as their methods are about retaliation.

However, there are so many insights that one can learn from the characters, even beyond racial ones — even if it’s what not to do in a situation. In particular, one character that stood out to me is a woman shunned by the other women in her community. She is a white woman that is not liked by the other white women in town because of her lack of family connections, which makes her undesirable for the other status-obsessed women. But she doesn’t help matters any. She wears tight, revealing clothing and acts in ways that don’t stack up women in the friend department. At a social gathering, she gets drunk and makes a scene in front of the whole town.

Clearly, though she isn’t intentionally trying to disgrace her husband, her actions are those that don’t exactly make people think highly of him. Elsewhere in Proverbs it tells us that a wise woman builds her house while a foolish woman tears hers down (Proverbs 14:1). A wise woman acts in ways that will help people think highly of her husband and family. While we shouldn’t pander to the opinions of others, we can show self-control by the way we dress and present ourselves at work and church functions; we can keep our words in check by not rebuking or speaking ill of our husband in public; we can build him up on social media; we can make ourselves available to him when he comes home from work.

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (v. 11).

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23).

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her” (v. 28)

Conclusion:

The points I mentioned don’t encompass all of what we can learn from the woman in Proverbs 31, but these are a few practical things we can do to begin to emulate the example of a godly woman given to us in this passage. The book of Proverbs is bent on helping us to live wise lives — and as it shares with us at the end of Proverbs 31, such living is not without reward. Orienting our actions and lives in such a way that brings good to the members of our household and others around us is ultimately going to bring good our way as well.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (vv. 30,31).

*Updated March 10, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Marital Intimacy: Practical Tips to Enhance Your Sex Life

 

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As this is the month of love, I wanted to take some time to give a few practical points of encouragement and advice, as well as resources, to the married readers out there.

This will be an overview of some of the most common issues that arise in couples’ sex lives. I hope to provide some practical tips and resources that may be beneficial. I also hope to normalize some of the very common struggles that arise. As one of my good friends would often say, “Two of the most healing words in the English language are, ‘Me too.’ ” Know you are not alone in any problem or struggle. Many have walked through it before you, and you have Emmanuel — God with us — by your side every step of the way. With that, let’s dive in!

Practical Advice to Improve Your Sex Life

1. Discuss what is pleasurable and appealing to both partners.

Talk about your sex life with one another! For some reason, we often think sex should just come naturally and we don’t need to communicate about it, but that is so untrue. We need to talk to our spouse about the things he does that arouse us or the things he does that are, well, not-so-arousing.

This conversation is best had after the heat of the moment where it can usually be received with more grace and less embarrassment or offense. Giving each other insight into your experience allows it to be more pleasurable for each of you. There is freedom in the marital bed to explore, learn, and have fun. That being said, 1 Corinthians 6:12 (CSB) states, “Everything is permissible for me — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me — but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Freedom must always be balanced with self-control. To me, this means that if both couples cannot say “yes” with their whole heart, then it does not have a place in the marital bed. No sexual act should ever cause a spouse to feel used, less than, or hurt. The marriage is about a partnership, and we are called to love one another as Christ loves the Church. He loved us so much that He died for us. If we are forcing our spouse to do something they are uncomfortable with or do not feel peace about, we are placing our needs before theirs and possibly causing one another to sin.

2. Make intimacy the goal, not orgasm.

If there was one message I could share about sex, this is it. To me, this encompasses so much of God’s heart. While I believe He gave us orgasms as a complete gift (fun fact: they are completely unnecessary to reproduction and most living creatures do not have them), I do not believe God ever wanted them to be our focus. He knows our hearts so much better than us and created us to be in community.

While orgasm may help us to feel close to our spouse, the nearness does not last near as long as a deeper intimacy. This type of intimacy is fostered both inside and outside of the bedroom by mutual submission, service, quality time, and a foundation in the Lord. I encourage you to check your heart’s motivation as you engage sexually with your spouse. I so often find myself feeling like an encounter was a failure if one or both of us did not experience an orgasm, but that is such a deceptive way of viewing that interaction! I end up feeling more distant from my husband than close to him, which I believe is exactly where the enemy would like us to be.

Orgasms can be impacted by so many things — stress, hormones, and performance anxiety to name a few. This cannot be the standard by which we measure our sex lives. I believe God’s standard is intimacy, yada sex — truly knowing and connecting with our spouses. Seek pleasure with your spouse within that covering and make intimacy and honoring one another the ultimate goal.

3. Talk about frequency.

Again, talk about it! I cannot tell you how much this simple conversation changed my sex life with my husband. We too frequently put unrealistic expectations on ourselves or on our spouse that could be greatly changed by some clear communication. In every couple there is going to be what is called a desire discrepancy — essentially one spouse is going to want to have sex more often than the other. That is because we are uniquely created human beings, so we are rarely going to spontaneously desire one another at the exact same time (as much as the movies and TV shows would lead us to think otherwise).

It differs in each couple which partner has the higher desire. Both roles present their own unique blessings and challenges. The most important way we can avoid conflict and hurting one another as a result of this discrepancy is to communicate about it and lay out our hopes and expectations. Instead of assuming that you know what your partner wants, ask him!

I will never forget when I finally got up the courage to ask my husband what he desired and expected regarding the frequency of sex — it was so different that what I thought and lifted such a weight off my shoulders! I had been placing an expectation on myself that was unrealistic and constantly had me feeling like a failure. Discuss your desires and set achievable realistic goals. Keep in mind that these goals will likely change with seasons of life. Also, if you are the lower desire partner, begin to recognize receptive desire (saying “yes” to your higher desire partner’s initiation) as desire. Just because you may not be the initiator the majority of the time, does not mean you do not desire sex.

4. Don’t push through the pain.

Pain is a very common issue in sex. It is important that if you are experiencing ongoing pain during sex, you do not just try to push through it or accept it, but seek help, whether it be through reading resources that give tips for better understanding or seeking counseling from a Christian sex therapist. This is important because when we try to push through pain, we stop associating sex with intimacy and pleasure and start associating it with pain and disappointment. This then decreases our desire for sex, which can become more painful if we are less aroused.

For a practical tip, I greatly encourage you to use lubricant if you are experiencing pain during sex and see if that helps. Wet is a great one to try and PreSeed is a great option if you are trying to conceive. (Don’t lubricants just have the best names?) Keep in mind that some lubricants can make it more difficult to conceive, so do your research if that is your stage of life. If this does not help, please refer to some of the resources I will provide or seek counseling. There is victory for you in this — please do not give up!

5. Seek help if you are struggling with the aftereffects of sexual abuse.

It is heartbreaking to know how common this is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006), statistics show that 1 in 3 girls will be abused and 1 in 6 boys. As I discussed in my first article, sex is an incredibly powerful act and the enemy will do all he can to use what God created for good to bring about pain and destruction. But we serve an even greater God who is faithful to redeem and heal. He says, “I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).

His testimony in you will be great. I encourage you to seek healing through discipleship, small groups, counseling, and Christian sex therapy. God often chooses to heal us through His people, and this is a journey that is so difficult to recover from alone. Press into the more He has for you, friend. He weeps over your pain and seeks to heal the hurting places. He will honor your bravery as you take courage and seek the healing He offers.

6. Make an effort to keep things fun!

I know this can sound so cliché, but it truly is a challenge for most of us married couples. We get into our routines and sex can often become an afterthought or just something we need to check off our weekly to-do list. It can become something we dread if there is no excitement or fun in it. Some ways to incorporate more fun into your sex life:

  • Be willing to try new positions or plan to be intimate in a different room of the house if possible.
  • Plan a vacation or a mini-weekend getaway. Make sure that where you go and what you do are things that are refreshing and relaxing to you as a couple so that you have the energy to invest in time making love. For most women, our bodies are very sensitive to stress, and it can shut down our sex drives when we are overwhelmed. (Now, how often are most women in modern-day America not stressed?) Taking time to re-connect and enjoy one another’s company will likely help your body get ready for intimacy and make you more attracted to your spouse as you connect more deeply with him.
  • Prepare yourself and allow the Lord to stir desire in you for your spouse. This is sometimes a strange concept to grasp because we often want to think that God is somehow separated from our sexuality, but as we have discussed in the past two posts, He is the One who created our sexuality and intended sex as the ultimate way to connect with one’s spouse — mind, body, and spirit. That being said, I believe God is very faithful to answer the prayers of a wife who longs to enjoy sex and please her husband. What a blessing it is to our spouses when we enjoy the intimate act with them! Invite God to stir up desire in you and to bless your sex lives. Also, practically prepare yourself. For women, this may mean making time to shave your legs that morning or having a cute pair of underwear on that make you feel attractive and sexy. I have become convinced that lingerie was invented as much for women as it was for men because it reminds us that we were created as sexual beings, which can often be a part of ourselves that goes unnoticed or is pushed back behind work schedules, children’s needs, meal planning, running errands — you name it. Spending this time to prepare and invest in your sex life can make a huge difference.
  • Set the atmosphere — that may mean dimming the lights, putting on clean sheets, lighting up that favorite candle. Anything that helps you relax and be present goes a long way.

Bless you, sweet friends! It has been a privilege to come alongside you for these past few weeks. I pray that God would continue to mold us and our relationships increasingly into His likeness as we seek to know Him more intimately and honor Him with our thoughts and actions. Thank you for taking the time to read (or listen!). May He continue to whisper sweet things to your hearts as you trust in Him.

Related Resources:

A few of the Christian resources Amy recommends to help you navigate issues related to purity, sex in marriage, struggles with homosexuality, sex abuse, etc., to aid you in whatever season of life or stage you find yourself in:

A Celebration of Sex, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Christopher and Rachel McCluskey

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide to Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under God’s Control, by Elizabeth Elliot

A Celebration of Sex After 50, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Dr. Jim and Carolyn Childerston

Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, by Dr. Mark  A. Yarhouse

Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Dr. Kevin Leman

Soul Virgins: Redefining Single Sexuality, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson

If you need to find a certified Christian sex therapist in your area, check out the following link: http://abcst.sexualwholeness.com/abcst-therapists-list.

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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When the Heart Leads Us Astray

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One of the most popular phrases we tell others when trying to guide or encourage them is, “Follow your heart.” It seems harmless and altruistic enough — and I am quite sure it is often delivered with the best of intentions. But what does that mean exactly — and what are the implications to our sexuality?

Recently I read a chapter in When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch that really convicted me about this topic. It is something I had been pondering for a little while as I wrestled with how to identify when we are following God’s guidance using spiritual discernment versus following our own wishes and believing that is what He would have us do. When I read this chapter, it felt like the author was speaking to my heart and I think I underlined almost every sentence. I would like to share some of this with you as I believe it is very pertinent to our culture today and has direct implications on our sexuality.

What the Bible Tells Us About Our Heart

Let’s start with the advice of “follow your heart.” Within that piece of advice is the assumption that the heart is ultimately pure and can lead us to the “right path.” Unfortunately, this is not the truth. In fact, Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). I have always struggled with this verse because as a Christian and a counselor, I want to look for the best in people and find their strengths. I want to believe that under even the most tough exterior is a softness and a pure heart. While I do believe that each person is touched by the fingerprint of God and has His unique giftings and qualities within them, I cannot forget that in Welch’s words, “If we fail to recognize the reality and depth of our sin problem, God will become less important, and people will become more important.”

In other words, if we begin to rely on ourselves to be our guides through life, then Jesus is not truly our Lord. He becomes smaller than ourselves. We turn from His Scripture and voice, putting more faith in our emotions and wishes. Welch then states, “If you exalt the individual and make emotions the path to truth, then whatever you feel most strongly will be considered both good and necessary for growth.” We are encouraged to go after what we want and the thought of discipline or patience is often ignored, or worse, viewed as oppressive.

You may be starting to see how I believe this concept of following one’s own heart can relate to our sexuality. As we have become a more self-centered culture, integrity, discipline, and service have lost standing in our minds as priorities. Discipline is often viewed as repressing our desires — some may even say “God-given desires.” Let’s take premarital sex for example. In His Word, God asks us to reserve the sexual relationship for within the confines of the marital covenant. Song of Solomon 8:4 (CSB) says, “Don’t stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” Our Heavenly Father urges us to practice delaying gratification because it will build character that will support our marriage and will ultimately lead to increased satisfaction. It is not to oppress us or test our loyalty.

Though our heart may wish to be intimate physically with the one we love, God has asked us to be patient and trust His wishes. Submitting to God’s will over our own is a practice that we will have to walk out daily in marriage as we struggle through financial issues, infertility, buying a house, job loss, illness, miscarriage, child-rearing, and so many other challenges. If we enter marriage following our hearts first rather than God’s will, we are often placing ourselves in a position that can result in serving self first, others second, and God last. His intention is the exact reverse. This example of waiting until marriage is just one way this concept can affect our sexuality, but can apply to masturbation, pressuring our spouse to try a sexual act that they do not feel peace about, pornography, and so much more. The heart can easily give way to lust if we follow it.

God’s Will Over Our Feelings and Desires

When feelings and desires become our highest authority, we can often find a way to justify any action and can start to become controlled by these desires, which are frequently labeled as “needs.” Welch states, “Whatever you think you need, you come to fear. If you ‘need’ love (to feel okay about yourself), you will soon be controlled by the one who dispenses love. You are also saying that without that person’s love, you will be spiritually handicapped, unable to give love to others.” If these words are challenging you, please know that I am right there with you! As a counselor, I am quite familiar with discussion of desires and needs. I think it is very healthy to discuss and communicate with your friends and spouse (and God!) what you wish for and desire. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” After reading Welch’s chapter, however, I am encouraged to look at this verse in a new light.

Previously, I always focused on the second part of the verse. Now I notice just how important that first piece is: “Take delight in the Lord . . .  and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If we take delight in something, let’s say new babies, we spend time adoring them and just being in their presence. We long to get to know their personalities and just genuinely derive joy from their existence. If we were to spend time with God like this, I cannot imagine how much He would change our hearts! The desires of our heart would be molded into His own as we were made increasingly into His likeness. I truly believe that as we seek Him, He even removes or weakens our desire to sin because our desire to glorify Him is so much stronger than our flesh.

In Welch’s words, “There will be some situations where we should say that Jesus does not intend to meet our needs, but that he intends to change our needs.” He will mold these desires and needs into His will for our lives. He will provide a community around us who pushes us towards a pursuit of purity and freedom in Him. He wishes to partner with us. Our emotions truly are a gift when surrendered to Him, but we cannot be ruled by them. If so, our hearts can lead us astray. And they will. All of us will sin and fall short at times as we put our desires above God’s call on our lives. But He is faithful to forgive if we will repent and come back to Him. Then, my friend, take delight in Him, for in His Presence is freedom and joy and healing!

Related Resources:

Amy is with us for the month of February to talk about intimacy and give us a biblical perspective on relationships and God’s will for us when it comes to love and sex. Check out her first article, “3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex,” in this 3-part series and corresponding podcast episode by clicking on the link here or one provided below her author bio.

Next week she will wrap up the series with a candid look at issues that often arise in sex in the married relationship.

 

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex

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As I look around in culture today, the thought so often enters my mind, “Lord, where are you? How did we get here?” It seems that so much of our media is sex-crazed, almost to a point of worshiping it. Sex has become confused with the notion of love and intimacy. While it can certainly be an act that represents and expresses precisely those things, the way it is often portrayed in movies or shows is quite the opposite. It tends to be self-centered, greedy, and far more depictive of lust than love in the world. What are God’s thoughts on sex? What does His Word provide as our guidance on how we can align our thoughts, actions, and speech with His?

Coming into college, I had no idea what path I was going to choose for my life. On one hand, I had been introduced to Jesus and had been invited to a student ministry that I knew had been a large part of changing my sister’s life. On the other hand, I still struggled with a lot of insecurity, and my primary way of finding security in the past had been by seeking romantic relationships or friendships to give me a sense of value, so the partying side appealed to me greatly too. Through a series of events, I wound up attending a prayer and worship service with my sister, and God’s love touched me in a way that I had never experienced. I felt His conviction heavy upon my heart. As I repented of my sin, I felt His freedom and nearness like never before. I was sold and fell in love with Jesus and His people.

Shortly afterward, the student ministry advertised a new small group being offered that semester on God’s heart for sex. I was very intrigued because all I had ever been taught regarding what the Bible had to say about sex was that Christians were supposed to wait until marriage. Most Christians I knew would never dare talk to me about sex, so the idea that someone was inviting me to a group where we would openly talk about what the Bible had to say about sex was fascinating to me.

As I joined this group, God began to fill me with His passion for His creation of sex. I saw how He created boundaries around sex to protect us, not to deprive us. It was His perfect love for His children that created these laws, not His desire to test our obedience to Him. He knew what would be best for our hearts and spirits because He is the One who made us precisely as we are in the first place.

That being said, I would like to share with you a few of the Scriptures and truths that God revealed to me through this group. I pray that as you read His Word, God would ignite a fire in you to seek after and pray for His righteous sexuality to grow in us and in our nation.

What Scripture Teaches Us About Sexuality According to God’s Design:

1. Sex is innately pure.

The first commandment God gives to Adam and Eve as a couple is, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The Lord saw that it was “not good for man that the man should be alone” and gave him a helper in Eve; similarly, he made it so a man and woman would leave their mother and father and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24). God created sex and He made us to be incredibly relational beings. He is the one who formed our anatomy and chose for this to be the path through which He creates new human life.

How sweet that He chose to bring children from an act of love. Our sexuality was present before the Fall, so we can know that it was His intention from the beginning and was originally marked by complete purity. Now that we are living in the world after the Fall, however, this purity must be sought after with vigilance. In 2 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” because it is a sin again one’s own body, which is a “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

2. Sex is powerful.

In Ephesians 5:31, 32 (ESV), the apostle Paul begins by citing Genesis 2:24 regarding marriage and explains he believes marriage is a metaphor of Jesus’ union with His Bride, the Church: “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” No wonder it has such power! The act of sex not only has the potential to create life, but also the potential for the most intimate act of unity a couple can partake in, as it is an opportunity to connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Although we rarely do engage in this potential because of our own wounds and baggage, the potential remains there.

Just as in all things that God creates for good, the enemy will try to use them for destruction, so sex also holds the power for great harm as well. It is often used to abuse, shame, control, or exploit others. This is a heartbreaking reality that must be addressed as it is often the source of many women’s pain and skepticism in approaching sexuality — and rightfully so! But we know that God is a miracle-worker and whatever the enemy intends for evil, He will use for our good. He offers healing in His Presence and the presence of His people. He is faithful to make any experience a testimony to His goodness and power.

3. Sex offers potential for intimate oneness.

The Hebrew word often used to describe sex in the Bible is “yada” which means “to know.” Any sexual act requires incredible vulnerability and openness. Our physical nakedness represents a full bearing and surrender of ourselves. And this is the first thing that Satan attacked. In Genesis 2:25 (ESV), prior to the Fall, Scripture tells us, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” However, after Adam and Eve took of the fruit and ate, both of their eyes were opened. Therefore, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths in an attempt to hide their nakedness (Genesis 3:6, 7). Shame covered them and kept them from engaging in intimate relationship with the Lord and others.

It is so common for us to hide our sins, especially sexual sins, allowing them to grow in the darkness. Instead, we are urged to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12, ESV) and to “walk in the light . . . [to] have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). We are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

In other words, shame holds us back from true healing and reconciliation with God and others! Our Lover urges us to come out of hiding. In Song of Solomon 2:14 (ESV) He cries, “Let Me see your face. Let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” This vulnerability takes a great deal of confidence and trust, which is why I believe God has gone to such great lengths to warn us of its potential for harm if used outside of His good purposes.

Conclusion:

This is just a beginning into what God’s Word has to say about His divine plan for sex and includes some of the highlights that I have learned on my own journey of studying this topic. As our nation continues to indulge in the world’s way of viewing sexuality, I believe God is calling us to be lights in the darkness to offer hope and healing to those who have been hurt, disappointed, or disillusioned by what the world teaches. In the words of Chris and Rachel McCluskey in their book When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, “The church must take back sex and claim the truth that it belongs to God and it is good — but only when practiced within His guidelines . . . Our union as husband and wife bears testimony in the heavenlies to the promised consummation of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.”

Related Resources:

Like this article and want to read more from Amy? This article is the first in a 3-part series on love and sex. Check out Amy’s article next week about the deceptiveness of our heart and the following week for her tips on enhancing sex in the marriage relationship.

Don’t have time to read a post or prefer to listen to the points in podcast form? Check out the podcast episode above this article where Amy explains the major ideas and concepts discussed in her writing.

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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3 Things to Consider Before Entering Into a Dating Relationship

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I sat in the seat of the mini-van and watched my mom’s lips curl downward into a frown. She turned to me, “I think you need to be careful about how much of your heart you give away.”

I sulked in my seat, “I know what I’m doing.” In my head, a rebellious litany broke forth, Why does she have to be so strict. I am just fine! At 16, I didn’t think I needed her advice. I was pretty sure I knew everything I needed to know about myself and the object of my heart’s affection. However, years later, I would have to reflect back on that conversation and realize my mom was right.

I hadn’t been very careful about guarding my heart in a dating relationship, and I got burned. Just at the point when I thought our relationship would take off, he dropped me. It would take me years to get over the hurt and find healing. I should have heeded my mom’s advice and never entered into a relationship with him.

While we can’t always foresee how a relationship will turn out or protect ourselves from disappointment, we can be wise about whom we enter into a relationship with. Song of Songs 8:4 warns us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” In other words, we should be careful about allowing romantic feelings to be stirred in our heart.

As detailed later in the same passage, love is strong and “burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Songs 8:6). It is a wonderful connection God allows us to feel with someone else. Because the emotions are so strong, we need to be careful about opening our heart to just anyone.

We need to consider a few things before we enter into a dating relationship with him:

1. Our relationship with God.

While this may not sound like a logical place to start, we need to evaluate if we are in a good place with God at the moment. Are we regularly spending time with Him? Are we seeking His will for our life in prayer?

In order to have any hope of entering in to a godly union with another person, we need to focus on getting ourselves in a place where we are strong in our own relationship with the Lord. If we are solid in our spiritual walk, we will have better discernment about whom we should and should not date, and our priorities will be in the right place. If God isn’t the center of our life, we will be more likely to seek out someone to take that “savior” place and enter into an unhealthy relationship (where we are not consulting God about life or His will for our life).

2. His relationship with God.

The Bible talks about not being “unequally yoked” with another person (2 Corinthians 6:14, NKJV). In other words, we don’t want to choose someone who isn’t making God a priority. The reason for this is that no matter how handsome or charming or amazing this person is, we can’t foresee how this person will treat us years down the road. We may think he will change into a more spiritual person, but we can’t count on it.

A good way to know whether or not this person has a great relationship with the Lord is to not only observe his actions in various scenarios but to pay attention to what other people say about him. What kind of reputation does he have in the community? In his church? With mutual friends?

Once I went on a date with a good-looking guy in my college, He had just broken up with a previous girlfriend. He spent most of our first dinner date talking about her. Shortly after that date, a few of her friends urged me not to go out with him again. Apparently, his behavior toward his girlfriend had been less than desirable. We never went out again after that first date. He ended up moving away, but I felt uneasy because the things he said about himself didn’t match up with what people said about him.

Obviously, he had some baggage to work through, and he wasn’t a good candidate for a new relationship. When considering whether or not to enter into a relationship with someone, we should do our homework and find out a little about this person and what others say about him. Someone who has left behind a string of broken relationships or displayed a pattern of undesirable behavior is someone we need to stay away from.

3. Warning signs.

Perhaps some of you reading this struggle with people-pleasing. You struggle to say no and try to please those around you. In a dating relationship, you may make excuses for a person’s repeated bad behavior and disrespect of you because you don’t want the relationship to be over. You want to believe that it will get better, and you may struggle to assert yourself for fear that you will lose the relationship.

However, pay attention to the warning signs, that feeling in your gut that something isn’t right. Personally, as a young person I discovered that a guy’s actions say much more than his words. If he says great things in your presence and says he will call you, but then doesn’t, he isn’t really that committed to the relationship.

Years ago, a book called He’s Just Not That Into You came out. The author wrote it because he got fed up with the denial his female friends were living in. His main point in the book is this: If a guy is not calling and is evasive and doesn’t have time for you, He’s just not that into you!

Chasing after someone who doesn’t treat you well is never going to be a good scenario for you. While it may be painful to break if off initially, you will be happier in the long run. You will make space for a person who does treat you well to come along and practice setting boundaries that show you respect and value yourself and expect others to do the same.

Not too Late to Make Good Choices

If you are reading this and you know that you haven’t been wise in your dating relationships, it’s not too late to start. In addition, if you are feeling bad because not only have you chosen poor candidates to be involved with but have also veered outside the boundaries of God’s Word by getting too physical before marriage, know that there is no condemnation for you as a believer (Romans 8:1). You can repent and allow God to cleanse you and make a new beginning.

By making a conscious effort now to use wisdom in choosing a person to date, you will set yourself up for more peace and fulfillment down the road.

Related Resources:

If you need help breaking free of emotional connections from past unhealthy relationships, check out the articles on soul ties listed below the author box in the “Related articles” section beneath this post.

Also, if you struggle to form healthy relationships and allow others to love you because of low self-worth, these articles can help: Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks, Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself, Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself, and 4 Reasons Why You Should Forgive Yourself.

*Updated February 15, 2018.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships

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You enter into romantic dating relationships with the best of intentions and high hopes, but often, those relationships that you hoped would work out end, and you are left with feelings of regret, obsessive thoughts about the other person, and emotional baggage. In this age of serial dating, you can be married or in a dating relationship and still feel emotional ties to people from the past.

Is there a way to break soul ties from a past romantic relationship so that you can sever the thoughts and feelings holding you captive and fully embrace your current relationship or a relationship in the future?

The answer is yes. You can break free of unhealthy soul ties and get over past romantic relationships. However, to do so, you must understand what soul ties are and how they formed in the first place. God’s desire is for you to live free of emotional baggage and break negative ties with the past, but there are some steps you need to walk through in order to get free.

What are soul ties?

Soul ties are deep emotional connections with other people. Soul ties can form in friendships or romantic relationships. In fact, healthy soul ties are what God intended for us in friendships, family relationships, and the marriage relationship. The Bible doesn’t use the term “soul tie” but does speak of being connected on a soul level with others in a positive way — with friends, our spouse, family members and fellow believers (Ephesians 5:31; 1 Samuel 18:1). However, unhealthy soul ties can form in romantic relationships when you allow a person to rise to an unhealthy status in your life, or you are sexually involved with a person outside of the confines of marriage. (There are other reasons for unhealthy soul ties as well, but I will just focus on these two reasons in this article.)

God created sex for your enjoyment and pleasure, but He set sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage to protect you. When two people are physically intimate in a relationship outside of marriage, a deep soul connection is created that exists long after the relationship is over. Therefore, even if you try to move past a break-up with a person that you were physically intimate with, you won’t be able to without taking some key steps to sever the soul tie.

In addition, soul ties can form in romantic relationships even if a sexual relationship doesn’t occur. One way this can happen is by elevating a person to an unhealthy position in one’s life. Even as a Christ follower, another person can become a savior. Perhaps if you were lonely, you looked to another person to fulfill you in a way that only God can. When that relationship ends, even if the person didn’t treat you well or wasn’t right for you, you may still fantasize about getting back together with this person. Perhaps you have faced rejection in previous relationships so you latch onto a new relationship to help you feel good about yourself.

Whatever the case, here are a few steps you can take in order to be free of the emotional bondage an unhealthy romantic soul tie creates:

1. Repent and confess wrongdoing to God.

If you haven’t done so, confess your sexual sin or unhealthy obsession about a person to God and ask Him for forgiveness. Even if the relationship happened long ago, if you have never confessed to Him your sin, you can do so understanding that He grants full forgiveness for your wrongdoing the second you ask. If there are many people that you have been sexually involved with, go down the list and ask forgiveness for the wrongdoing in each relationship. If you have bitterness or unforgiveness, confess that to God and ask Him to help you forgive the other person. You may feel ashamed to go to God with your confession because you know that your actions departed from His Word. However, He already knows what you have done and repentance puts you in right relationship with Him and frees you of the guilt and shame you have been carrying.

Many people have a negative connotation of repentance, but repentance means simply to change one’s mind and go a different way. If you are currently involved in a relationship that has veered outside of the boundaries of God’s design, you can repent and go a new way by confessing your wrong and deciding to allow God’s Word and will to dictate your actions in that relationship. Confession means simply coming into agreement with God on the issue. So after you repent, allow God to help you draw boundaries so that you can be in alignment with His Word.

2. Turn to God.

After the process of repentance, continue to turn to God for healing and guidance. Severing romantic soul ties, even those forged a long time ago, can be a painful process. The reason that you most likely formed the soul tie to begin with was because the person or relationship provided something for you that you thought you needed. Even if you were not treated well in the relationship, breaking your soul connection with the person may be initially traumatic. You may have always hoped that you would get back together with that person. Or, perhaps if you are currently in a relationship that is unhealthy, you may not want to terminate the relationship because of the comfort and companionship the person provides.

Because of these reasons, you may go through a period of grieving for the relationship or not feel the effects of healing immediately after breaking the soul tie. You may feel empty and despondent. However, know that while breaking unhealthy soul ties in the short-term may be difficult, you will reach a place in the long-run where you feel lightened from your emotional baggage. In the process of healing, God needs to be the One you turn to in your pain. Otherwise, you will automatically turn to another person or thing to fill the void that you experience after your repentance.

3. Apologize for your wrongdoing to the other person.

Certainly, there are scenarios where you repent of an unhealthy soul tie and move on with your life. End of story. However, in some cases, there may be another component to the process of breaking free of negative soul ties. You might feel bitterness or anger against the other person for wrongdoing they have done to you or the way the relationship ended. In those cases, you need to apologize to the person for any wrongdoing you have done in your anger against them. The Holy Spirit will help identify the right course of action, but have you talked about the person maliciously behind their back? Have you hurled angry words in their direction? Have you retaliated in wrong ways in your place of hurt? If so, the Holy Spirit may prompt you to apologize to the individual for the wrongdoing.

In addition, another step I know was necessary in my own journey was to apologize to the other person for my part in the sexual sin. I know this is not going to be a popular step, and I have read many books and advice blogs on the subject that simply advocate confession (without apology to the other person for our part in the sexual sin). However, the Bible urges us not to be a temptation and stumbling block to another (Luke 17:1-4). If we tempt a person into sin or participate with them in sin (as we do when we are sexually involved with others outside of marriage), we should apologize to them for our wrongdoing in the matter.

Clearly, you need to use caution in this endeavor. I would advise keeping contact minimal and asking another person to keep you accountable in the process. A letter in most cases is most likely better than a meeting or phone call. You may have feelings re-ignited if you come into contact with an old flame, and it is advisable to simply state what needs to be stated and then no longer be in contact with the person.

I encourage you to pray about the right step for you in your circumstance. Obviously, certain scenarios exist where this step is not advisable, particularly in certain abusive relationships. If possible, seek out a Christian counselor or wise pastor to counsel you through your situation.

4. Let the past be in the past.

Sometimes, unhealthy soul ties can form with family members or friends for reasons not mentioned here (such as manipulation and control), and it’s possible to cut the unhealthy ties and set boundaries with the person and still maintain the relationship.

However, in terms of past romantic relationships, it’s best not to have contact with the other person once the unhealthy soul tie is broken. Continued meetings or contact with the other person will make it difficult for you to heal and move on. You may have to take some extreme measures such as discarding gifts or letters that the other person gave you, unfriending the person on Facebook, or requesting a transfer to another department. Sometimes the act of cutting an unhealthy soul tie in your life means making adjustments and setting boundaries so that you are not constantly reminded of the person.

You may feel like these acts are unloving, but truly, a past romantic interest that is interrupting your ability to be present with your spouse, fully engage in the relationships in your life at the moment, or grow in your relationship with God is not someone that you need in your life.

Conclusion:

Unhealthy soul ties in romantic relationships can form when we walk outside of God’s plan for relationships and sex or elevate a person to an unhealthy place in our lives. Thankfully we have a God who is in the process of restoration. Even if you have made many mistakes in your past and have a string of past relationships that are tying you down, there is freedom for you.

Unhealthy soul ties can be broken when we apply the remedy of repentance given to us in Scripture and take steps to turn from unhealthy relationships and find healing through Christ.                                                                                                                      `

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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As Christian Parents, Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Sex

Untitled designIt happened at dinner the other day.

The sex talk with my kids. I expected it to go differently.

My 7-year-old daughter posed a question about babies, and somehow the stage was set for me to explain what Mommy and Daddy do to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy.

After the blurting out of key body parts and necessary actions, I felt my stomach do a near back-flip and the color leave my face, but I felt proud of myself. I had conquered the Mt. Everest of parental duty: I had explained the birds-and-the-bees to my offspring.

I had even accomplished this feat in a fairly timely, age-appropriate manner. Granted, my 4-year-old was listening in on the conversation, and I hadn’t exactly intended for him to be part of the audience, but overall, I felt it went pretty well.

After my explanation, I waited for screams of shock, my daughter fainting from the trauma of hearing me speak of, gasp, sex. But no such moment happened. My daughter wrinkled her nose and said, “Ewww!” with a giggle. My son chimed in an enthusiastic comment which doesn’t seem appropriate to repeat here and then finished up his plate. A minute later, both kids pushed back their chairs, got up from the table, and noisily requested permission to play the Wii.

I shrugged. Well, OK. That wasn’t so bad. Is it possible that as a Christian parent I might be able to navigate this topic with grace and ease? I had assumed otherwise.

In all honesty, communicating with our kids about sex as a Christian parent is not without its challenges. We may not know how to approach the subject. Therefore, we may just avoid the topic altogether or bumble our way through it in a way that is awkward for ourselves and our kids. However, kids need to have honest discussions with their parents about sex. Therefore, even though I am learning as I go, here are a few things I plan to do with my own kids when it comes to talking about sex:

The Decision to Talk Openly About Sex With My Kids as a Christian Parent

1. Make it an ongoing conversation.

Obviously, I described a big moment at the dinner table where I explained sex to my kids using correct anatomical terms. However, I had decided before that point that I would make sex and growing up an ongoing conversation with my kids. Rather than white-knuckle my way through one big uncomfortable conversation (or avoid it completely) well past the time my kids had heard it from someone else, I decided I would answer my kids’ questions when they came up and give the information that was age-appropriate as they progressed.

Therefore, even though we did have a conversation that was big at the table in terms of me revealing with honesty what happens to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy, there were several small conversations before that point where I told them a fraction about sex and baby development that contributed to the dinner conversation. As my kids grow, I want to continue to provide them with information and materials that will help them to know what is happening to their changing bodies, as well as God’s plan for sex. Although not every parent needs to have the exact same approach, I believe that it’s far more effective to have a series of small conversations about sex and the body as our children grow rather than one enormous conversation that we never touch on again (or no conversation at all).

2. Take shame out of the equation.

Because I didn’t hear many adults in my life (other than the educational figures at school) talk about sex when I was growing up, sex had an air of secrecy to it. I got the impression that sex was bad. It was too bad to talk about. There must be something dirty about it. It wasn’t until I watched a Song of Songs series as an adult that I realized that it’s OK to talk about sex in the appropriate context. God talks about sex, and it’s not shameful to mention certain body parts or acknowledge that they exist. God spends a lot of time talking about His design for intimate relationships and sex in His Word. We should follow His model and not make our kids feel bad or ashamed when they come across a word that they are curious about or have a question about sex or their bodies. Answering their questions and engaging their concerns without shutting them down or looking at them in horror when they bring up a query helps our kids to have a healthy view of sex and takes shame out of the equation.

3. Discuss sex in terms beyond just “Don’t do it.”

As Christian parents, our discussion of sex needs to be in the context of “Here’s God’s Framework for Sex and Why,” rather than just “Don’t!” 

For many of us who grew up in the church, the main message we got was just that: “Don’t do it!” I received this particular message of “Don’t” in a myriad of ways: through talks at youth groups, the encouragement to sign a purity contract at church, articles I read in Christian teen magazines, etc. Although the message of purity needs to be one that is given to young people, we need to tell our young people why, not just don’t. If we take time to explain to our kids that God has created boundaries for relationships and sex to protect us from forming unhealthy soul ties and hurting ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually, kids might be more inclined to get on board with God’s plan for sex, instead of hurting themselves by engaging in promiscuous behavior.

Breaking the Silence: Talking About Sex With Your Kids

Not being open about the topic of sex with kids can cause them to receive confusing or misleading messages about sex and God’s plan for intimacy. Never telling your child about sex in the hopes that he or she won’t do it isn’t realistic. Similarly, acting embarrassed or alarmed when your child asks questions about sex may cause them to view sex as shameful.

As parents, we need to teach our kids what God’s Word says about sex, but also prepare them for the reality that the boundaries for sex and marriage given to us by God will be challenged by the culture. If we create a safe place for our kids to talk with us about sex when they are young and continue the conversation with them with age-appropriate information as they grow, they will be less likely to find out their information from erroneous sources that do not have their best interests in mind — and be more likely to develop a healthy view of sex they will carry into adulthood.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How to Deal with the Pain of Rejection and Find Healing

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As a middle school student, I remember sitting at a lunch table with my much cooler best friend, hearing a boy ask, “Why is she sitting here?”

He, of course, was talking about me. As his words washed over me, I sat frozen in shame. The boy’s inquiry was especially horrifying to me as he had been in my fifth grade class, but here he sat pretending like he didn’t know me. My best friend stumbled around with a defense. But as a few more incidents like that happened, and she skyrocketed to the top of our junior high social infrastructure, our friendship began to dissolve. By the time we reached high school, the only time I ever went over to her house was when her mom asked me to babysit her younger brother.

Obviously, that was middle school, but the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

As Kristin Weir notes in “The Pain of Social Rejection,” acceptance is a deep primal need. She cites the following research finding from C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky: “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships.”

However, the truth is that at times we will get the boot in a relationship or a pink slip at a job. There will be times that we don’t measure up to the standards of others or fail in our execution of duties. Yet, if we let our hurt and anger turn to bitterness in the course of the rejection, we will find ourselves enslaved to out-of-control emotions that destroy our future relationships and opportunities.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a painful rejection:

1. View rejection as protection.

In a recent article, Lysa Terkeurst writes that there is “usually some element of protection wrapped in every rejection.” I never thought about it like that until I read her statement, but her words are true. While most of us do everything we can to be in a certain group, there are times when God may lead us away from a particular relationship or opportunity because He is protecting us.

In the case of the middle school scenario I described, the rejection felt unbearable at the time because I wanted to be liked by his group of kids. They were popular — and my best friend from my neighborhood, the one whom I had invited to attend public school with me (she was a former private school attendee), was someone I desperately wanted to impress. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was for me to be shamed in front of her by kids I had grown up with. However, rejection from that particular group was actually a good thing for me. They were a fast group of kids who ended up doing a fair share of partying, bent on wordly pursuits.

Because I was blindly pursuing inclusion in this particular group, I could not see that God had given me friends that were more my pace. While I wasn’t as thrilled about the bookish girls at the table I usually sat at, I had much more in common with them. They liked to read books and involved themselves in activities like student government and yearbook. Instead of looking for a grander friend base (when it clearly wasn’t working out), I needed to recognize God’s protection steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

2. Everyone experiences rejection: what matters is how we deal with it.

For those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection, we may think we are the only ones. Perhaps we have developed an unhealthy dialogue in our head that goes something like this: This always happens to me. I am always the one who gets left out.

However, the truth is that everyone, at some point, experiences rejection. Whether that be by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, a co-worker, or a sibling. What matters is how we react — what thoughts we allow in our heads as a result of our rejections.

In his article “How to Cope With Rejection,” Dr. Frederic Neuman notes as a psychiatrist he had one self-confident patient who didn’t have much going for him in the looks department, yet he managed to never have a shortage of girlfriends. Conversely, he had a fellow psychiatrist who by all appearances had everything going for him, yet had terrible anxiety (after the breakup of his marriage) about dating women.

What was the difference? When meeting women in a social setting, the patient usually was rejected by several prospective women in a night before he would meet one who would talk to him. He just shrugged off the rejections and kept moving. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, was paralyzed and defeated after his divorce to the point that he was afraid to put himself out there.

If we have numerous rejections or a traumatic experience that rocks our sense of worth, we may be more susceptible to rejection. While our more stable peers may brush off the slights and jeers they receive — we may internalize them and believe everything negative we hear about ourselves. The key is to know what God says about us and, as the pastor at the new church I have been attending says, preach the truth to ourselves every day.

What does God say? We are loved. We are treasured. He delights in us. He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us before we were born. His version of us needs to be the filter we use to accept or not accept the words and actions that come our way.

3. Past rejection shouldn’t define our relationships in the present.

Beth Moore makes an adept observation in a recent Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional that the biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be a previous one.

Recently, I had a situation where I dreaded a certain conversation I needed to have with an individual. I had offered some candid comments, and because my honesty had at times in the past caused people to cut off relationships with me, I was sweating this person’s response to me.

However, the person surprised me by not reacting in anger but rather thanking me for my honesty. We were able to have a good conversation after that, and I appreciated the person’s ability not to take offense at my words. My fear over the reaction I anticipated was unfounded. I assumed that the reaction would be one that others had to me, but I found that not to be the case.

As Moore stresses, just because we have been rejected in a past instance does not mean that we will be rejected in a future one. In fact, according to Moore, the very next person we meet may be the most key person to us on our journey. Therefore, we can’t let what has happened in a few relationships ruin or define the new relationships God wants to send our way.

We Need to Work Through Rejection

Rejection is not easy. No one wants to have a middle school type moment and be the one no one talks to or invites to the party. But we should know that rejection is something that we will all experience.

Rather than avoid new relationships or people altogether, we need to work through our rejection, forgive those who have hurt us, ask God to forgive us where we have held any grudges — and keep walking with open hearts knowing that rejection in one’s past doesn’t have to ruin the good God has for us in our future.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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When Jesus Asks You to Go Into a Storm

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into A Storm

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon that dug into the marrow of my soul. The sermon was about the storms of life that come up suddenly — like sudden squalls on a calm lake.

The sermon made an impression on me not only because it was a compelling talk and gave a slightly different take on the story of the disciples on the sea, but because it touched off a little warning signal in my spirit. I felt a whisper all around me. Something is coming.

Though I am a firm advocate of looking for good and not projecting bad in the future, I also know that sometimes God warns us of things to come. I felt that He was giving me an oh-so-subtle heads up. I buckled down in prayer. I braced myself in spirit for the phone call, the conflict, the problem to emerge.

But, as so often happens with God, I got the slow dawning realization that perhaps the storm was one that I was going to have to walk into on my accord. A hurricane wasn’t necessarily going to brew up outside my control and leave me in the middle without a choice (as has often happened). I was going to have to choose to walk into it and trust Him to meet me in it and get me through it.

As I have shared many times on my blog, I have been through some healing these past few years — and the end result had been peace. I had set boundaries in relationships that had never been set before. I had made amends and apologies. I had experienced great gains in sifting through emotional baggage and negative unresolved emotions that had built up.

But in a way that is His own, God showed me that I was in danger of falling back into some of my old people-pleasing patterns. I had backed away from some confrontations, had remained silent when I should have spoken up. God was prompting me not to lose the lessons He had taught me, but to keep walking head-long into difficult conversations and initiate tough calls as He led me.

To stop hiding and being cowardly about facing people. To walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and not backtrack into avoidance and escapism when He directed me to places that were difficult.

Jesus Directs His Disciples Into a Storm

As the pastor pointed out in the sermon on the disciples, in John 6:16-21 Jesus directed the disciples onto the lake knowing that there was going to be a storm:

When evening came, his disciples went down into the sea, got into the boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

What is interesting to note here is that Jesus sent the disciples into the boat without Him. He left to go and pray. We must know that there are some decisions we will have to make. He will direct us — but we ourselves are the ones who must choose to walk in that way. He won’t force us.

And — even when we do our duty and listen to Christ’s command, we will find ourselves in adverse circumstances, afraid. Many of us assume that doing the will of God will lead us away from difficulty rather than towards it. But as we see in this Scripture, the disciples’ obedience led them straight into a squall.

However, just at the right moment, when the storm was reaching a fever pitch and tossing the disciples about — Jesus came to them, walking on the water, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (v. 20).

As commentator Matthew Henry notes, Jesus walking on the water revealed His complete command over the situation. He walks above our trouble and circumstances and can teach us to do the same. However, as the accounts in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 relate, the disciples were afraid when they first saw Jesus because they didn’t recognize Him at first. Jesus, to them, looked like some sort of apparition. In the darkness and the winds, they couldn’t make out His face.

And perhaps we don’t recognize Jesus in our circumstance at first either.

It was only when Jesus spoke that they recognized His voice and invited them into the boat. Again, just as they chose to go into the boat at His command, they also chose to welcome Him into their boat in the midst of the storm.

And it was only then that they “immediately” (as the passage says) reached the other side. Was Jesus being merciless, then, by sending them ahead of Him into the boat into the storm? No, not at all. Sometimes, the only way to get to the other side is through an incident than around it.

My self-protective tendencies make me want to always look for the easy way, the way where no one gets offended, no one gets upset and no one gets their feathers ruffled.

But that’s not always the way Jesus would have me go.

Did He send His disciples to die in the middle of the lake? Did He send His disciples to a place He couldn’t see or control?

No, He sent them into a storm that He would meet them in the center in, even though it looked, by all appearances, that He would be sitting this one out.

Is God Asking You to Walk Into a Storm?

Perhaps God is asking you to do something hard. Confess a wrong to someone else. Confront a friend about a sin. Set a boundary in a relationship where the other person has freely walked all over you for years. Say no to a situation that is tempting you to act in ways you know you shouldn’t.

But to do so may mean a storm. It may mean a loss of a relationship. It may mean people mocking you for your beliefs. And you tell God you don’t want to go. You want to stay on the shore.

I want to as well, friend. But I know I have to go. So the Holy Spirit and I have been sifting through relationships. I have been consulting Him about what to say, which direction to go. And one by one, as I seek Him and seek His Word, I am launching out in actions that will continue to provide the boundaries around me in relationships, that will help me navigate those in a healthy way with His strategies rather than my own.

Is it easy, friend? No, it’s not. His way never is.

But is it life-changing. Life infusing? Spirit-dependent living? Yes it is.

I urge you — take His invitation. Step out. Leave behind the safe dock and embrace the winds — because it is in the storm where He will meet you.

If you would like to join in for a chat about emotional healing and maintaining that healing after you’ve walked through it, I will be talking more about that as well as the inspiration for this post. You can subscribe for free to our live video chat this Monday, August 7 @ 9 p.m. EST, watch the replay, or leave a comment below.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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The Secret to Being Content in any Circumstance

The Secret to Being Content in any Cirumstance

“Mom, our playground is so small. It’s like a baby playground,” my daughter announced as I eased the minivan into the carpool line that snaked in front of her school.

We had recently moved into a new community, and after only a month in her new first grade class, my daughter had been giving me an earful about the inadequacies of her new surroundings: The “baby” playground that did not compare to the one at her old school. The cafeteria that smelled like “stinky green beans.” The public library near our house that didn’t have the chapter books she liked.

She continued, “The only thing I like playing on are the swings, and you only get one turn.”

“And you probably can’t swing that long because everybody else wants a turn, right?” I ventured.

“Yes!” She sighed.

Although I forced a positive tilt in my voice, my shoulders sagged as she conveyed her displeasure over her playground situation. As she walked into school and I drove away, I reflected on the fact that lately I felt frustrated every time I talked with her. Our conversations over the past few weeks had left me feeling like a complete failure as a mom.

Later in my quiet time, I confessed my feelings of mom-inadequacy to God. Why did I feel like I couldn’t connect with my daughter lately? Why was I so irritated and exhausted by her litany of complaints?

As I poured out my feelings to God, I didn’t really expect to get an answer. But almost immediately after I expressed my frustrations, a little question bubbled up in my mind: Is it your responsibility to fix everything?

I pondered over that for a moment and realized that God was helping me pinpoint what was going on: every time my daughter expressed a disappointment, I felt like I had to fix it.

When she complained about anything, my mind immediately went to ways I could smooth over the situation, make it work the way she wanted. Without realizing it, I was equating how I was doing as a mom with her satisfaction level in her environment.

Perhaps this situation presented a lesson not only for me as a mom and a Christian but a lesson that I could impart to my daughter about life.

Yes, I wanted her to be happy, and I wanted to consider her needs, but perhaps I was doing a great disservice by allowing her to grow up thinking that the world could and should be changed according to her demands. Because it couldn’t and wouldn’t.

And perhaps our conversations could be a little less stressful for me if I took the pressure off myself to fix things I couldn’t fix. (Yes, I admit as she was talking I was thinking about how I hoped perhaps the PTA was looking into designating funds for a new playground.)

The Apostle Paul: A Lesson in Contentment

We need only look to the apostle Paul to learn a lesson in contentment. Paul certainly knew what it was like to be in adverse circumstances. In the book of Philippians, Paul is imprisoned in Rome. He had limited mobility, no permanent residence, scarcity in his food supply at times — yet he has this to say:

 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12, 13)

The Philippians had sent him a gift but had lamented over the fact that they had not been able to support him recently in the way they had done in the past. With his words, Paul assures them that he is content with little or much. He mentions that he has “learned the secret of being content” (v. 12). His words suggest that he had been learning this lesson over the course of many situations — both lean and prosperous. His secret?

He finds contentment “through” Christ (v. 13). He is able to endure any situation not because of his own strength but because of the strength of Christ who lives within him. As the Pulpit Commentary suggests: “It is only in Christ, in spiritual union with him, that the Christian is … self-sufficient. His presence gives strength to do and suffer all things.”

The self-sufficiency Paul mentions is not a sufficiency of looking to one’s own self, but a “Christ-sufficiency” — an ability to “accept whatever came his way, knowing that his life was not conditioned by either [want or plenty]” (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series).

Not only that, earlier in Philippians 1:12, Paul shares the method by which he measures his situations. He finds cause for rejoicing, even in trials, as long as his greatest mission — to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ — is being accomplished.

Learning to Be Content in all Circumstances

This afternoon I plan to turn what I was seeing as a communication gap between me and my daughter as a communication opportunity: I am going to sit down and read Philippians 4:12 to her and explain that we can be content no matter our situation looks like.

That, yes, I too had noticed some new things I didn’t like since we moved (and had found myself missing our old house and old community in moments), but dwelling on those thoughts had led me to discontentment.

Rather than just considering if our situation brought us comfort or suited our every whim, we could use both Paul’s source of strength and means of measurement by which to approach our circumstance.

God’s words in my quiet time and my later reflection on Paul’s words to the Philippians reinforced to me that the next time my daughter began grumbling, and I felt the urge to do mental gymnastics thinking of solutions, I could relax and just listen.

I could consider whether or not the situation really needed to be changed or if God had us right where He wanted us — living out His will — in a place that didn’t necessarily need “fixing” at all.

Want to listen in to learn more about Philippians 4:12 and chat about the topic of contentment? To join in for a discussion on confrontation, subscribe to our free video chat this Monday, August 1 @ 9 PM EST, or leave a comment below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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