Unwanted Feelings – Part 1

Recently I received an e-mail from a very dear friend. This is what she said:

I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.

Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy

Amy had good reason to wake up feeling sad. Her family had just found out that an adoption they had longed for and prayed for was not going to happen. They were in the midst of grieving the loss of this little one they had hoped would be theirs to raise.

We have all had feelings to deal with that we haven’t wanted to experience. It might be grief like my friend, but it could be depression, loneliness, anxiety, or anger. What we would prefer is to have the peace, joy, contentment, and comfort that comes from Jesus Christ. That sounds a great deal like the fruit of the Spirit to me. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

We want that fruit of the Spirit controlling our feelings, but how does that happen? “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

My friend started in the right place in her desire to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh—by praying and asking for prayer support. What biblical basis do we have for this first step? “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Be careful for nothing means that we aren’t to be anxious, worried, sad, or upset about anything, whether it is an adoption that doesn’t come through, a child who is rebelling, a health obstacle, financial difficulties—the list is endless. Our directive is that we are not to entertain the negative feelings, but rather we are to pray and let God know our requests.

Not only did Amy pray herself, but she asked others to pray for her as well. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). We humble ourselves as we admit our weaknesses and ask for prayer. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). We all need more of God’s grace. It is in our weakness that He is shown to be strong.

Paul was often seen in the New Testament asking for prayer. Here is one example: “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). Of all Christians, Paul’s spiritual maturity would have indicated that he could have gotten along without prayer. Paul knew, though, that his strength was not his own but his Lord’s. He depended on prayer just like we must.

These powerful verses give us another clue as to how His strength is available in our weakness. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

There is another aspect to our praying, and that is to pray with thanksgiving. We enable great power through gratitude. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is almost impossible to be sad, angry, depressed, or worried when you are being thankful. We recently hosted a young missionary who had just returned from a two-year mission trip to Ghana. He talked about how the Christians in Ghana thank God for things most American Christians never do—things like the air we breath, the sun shining, or the bed they sleep on. He challenged us to do something he had begun doing if he felt discouraged and that was to thank the Lord for five things he had never before thanked the Lord for.

When the challenge was presented, I thought it would be tough to come up with five things for which I hadn’t already thanked the Lord. The very next day I had the opportunity to try it out. Steve and I were both seeing a chiropractor, and I looked forward to our rides to and from the chiropractor together. On this day, Steve had a dental appointment before the chiropractic appointment so we met at the office and drove home separately. On the way home, I was feeling sorry for myself because I was alone without Steve’s company. So I thought, “Okay, Lord, what are five things I can thank You for that I never thanked You for before? Thank You for this street I am driving on right now. Thank You for those who made the road, and thank You for those who maintain it.” Wow, driving home was developing a thankfulness theme in my mind. “Thank You, Lord, for the engineers who designed this car that I can use to move around. Thank You, Lord, for the speed with which a car allows me to accomplish what I need to do away from home. Thank You, Lord, that we have gasoline to power this car.”

Since we will all experience unwanted, negative feelings controlling our thoughts, attitudes, or actions, as Christian women we look to the Word for direction on how to deal with those kinds of feelings. The starting place is going to be prayer. It is the foundation for the fruit of the Spirit that we desire to have ruling in our lives. Not only will we be crying out to the Lord, but we can also ask others to pray for us. Through prayer our weakness is His strength. As we turn our hearts to being thankful, that gratitude will be the bedrock of the peace the Lord Jesus brings to overcome the bad feelings from which we want to be freed. There is more I would like us to consider in overcoming unwanted feelings, so we will continue the discussion next month. P.S. I would really encourage you to read the book, Sweet Journey. It extensively addresses prayer and gives practical ideas to develop this important area of your walk with the Lord Jesus.

Crying Out Loud – Part 1

To listen to this Corner as a podcast, please see this link.

Here is an e-mail I received from a dad:

We have three children and one due in January. Their ages are six, four, and one. We have always thought it was important to have our children in church with us so we have done that from the birth of our first child. Not long ago we joined a church that was as close as we could find to what we wanted. Just recently we were asked to put our one-year-old in the nursery because of the noise and distraction he was causing. Could you refer me to any Dad’s Corners that may address this issue? A questioning dad

I agree with this father that it is a wonderful blessing for the family when they can worship together, including the babies and toddlers. However, we have noticed in raising eight children and also observing other families that children don’t automatically know how to sit still and be quiet at appropriate times such as during a church service. Therefore this family with four young ones can expect quite the challenge when bringing the children into a worship service. It is a reasonable request that a child who is disturbing others in the worship service be taken out, at least to a cry room. What saddens me greatly, though, is when a church bans all children from the worship service. If the children are quiet then they should be able to be with their parents. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). The Greek word for suffer is “eao” and means to let be or let alone. Sadly, many try to hinder those who Jesus said we were to, “Let them come.”

In our Maxwell family conferences we have the policy that children are welcome in the sessions. Normally, people are respectful of others and will take a noisy child out to a cry room, or if it is “toddler noise,” they will go stand in the back to avoid being a distraction to those listening to the session. I particularly remember, though, a conference with an extreme disturbance. There was a three-year-old girl angrily screaming while sitting on her daddy’s lap close to the front of the room. She was clearly not happy. The dad was gently trying to “shush” his daughter. His attempts to quiet her didn’t do anything except make her more upset, and so she screamed even louder.

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This dad was provoking his child to wrath, and we were all suffering along with her. The father should have taken his daughter out of the session so as not to distract others and care for the needs of his little girl. After she was calm, then he could have brought her back.

The key we found, and that I encouraged the father who wrote me to use, was practicing at home. A parent shouldn’t be surprised if his child throws a fit in church if he never has been taught to sit quietly. It didn’t sound to me as if the dad who wrote the e-mail had a child who was really carrying on but rather just being a bit noisy. Regardless of how much of a distraction a child might be in a worship service, practice is what is needed to correct the problem. No one puts a child on a bicycle for the first time and expects him to ride it without at least training wheels. So how does someone teach his children to sit quietly in church?

Our nightly family Bible time was an excellent practice opportunity for our young children to learn to sit still and pay attention. For Bible time, we included all our children from newborns on up. (I had to consult with Teri on this section because I found my memory of that time was not accurate.) Until the babies were six or seven months old, they were usually not noisy during family Bible time. As they became more mobile and vocal, the practice was needed. Teri worked with the baby while I led Bible time and concentrated on the other children. We found it reasonable and attainable to have a level of success with little ones by the time they were eighteen months old to sit tolerably quiet in church. However, with a child that young, he was not going to be absolutely perfect so we were sensitive to taking a child out of the worship service if he was noisy.

We found that the consistency of practice during family Bible time every night was the key. Before beginning Bible time, Teri would make sure the baby’s diaper was dry. If he started being noisy during Bible time, she would whisper “Shhh. Shhh.” If the noise continued, she would carry the child to his crib where the room lights were on and leave the room, telling him she would be back for him when he was quiet. She would wait a couple of minutes until he was quiet, walk in the room praising him for being quiet, and bring him back to Bible time to start the process over again. Our babies liked to be with the rest of the family and therefore taking them to the crib was a deterrent to their noise-making during Bible time. It just took a consistent consequence, and they began to learn that they needed to sit quietly. It was a gentle and harmless process, and it worked! It is amazing how smart little ones are.

The key is consistency! We must choose to invest the time and energy necessary for success. I have noticed an interesting facet of men. When something is important to them, they will do it. If they don’t do it, it isn’t important to them. What is more important than a family being together around the Word of God? If we believe that, we will be determined to make it work.

Next month we will continue with this important subject of worshipping the Lord together as a family.