Dealing With Difficult Emotions


A few weeks ago I went on vacation with my family to California and we had the opportunity to visit Sequoia National Park as well as some other sights that were simply breathtaking.  From all the sites we saw, I was most taken back by the Sequoia trees.  The General Grant Sequoia tree (third largest in the world) was so large, it would take 20 adults holding hands to be able to surround it.  Since I grew up as an East Coast boy, these trees simply fascinated me.

We happened to see a cross section of one of the fallen sequoias, which had numerous scars on it that showed it survived 9 fires in the course of its life.  Apparently, fires were good for the sequoia because it cleared the land of the other trees (allowing more sunlight & rain) and the heat allowed the seeds to expand and to be released in the area.  This provided optimal surroundings for the sequoias to flourish in the area.  Without the fires, the trees would not have grown so large.

Life certainly has its own fires, struggles, griefs, pains, conflicts, and traumas.  Some are minor inconveniences while others are real-life nightmares.  All cause enough grief to know that to experience the fires means getting burned, something to avoid at all costs.

Physical pain is something we try to avoid, but if we know it is for the better, we will be willing to endure it.  We’ll endure a dental filling so we can eat without further pain, surgery to repair our bodies so we can live or function better, or even endure strenuous exercise so we can look better.

Emotional pain, however, is a different story.  Emotional pain cuts to the heart of who we are.  To feel the emotional pain of rejection and worthlessness, or grieve losing someone so close…or to feel the emotional pain of guilt, shame, fear or loneliness…these are the parts of ourselves that we either hate to feel or fear to feel.  So we avoid it.  Perhaps we fear being fully exposed to others or fear that we truly are worthless.  If others truly knew what went on inside of us, we believe we would die.  Perhaps we are afraid of being down so low that we will never recover.  Maybe we are fearful that we will lose everything or believe that to feel such feelings make us less manly (for men) or even human.  These feelings are uncomfortable and we hate to feel them.  So what do we do?  How do we deal with them?

Everyone has their own way, but typically, we deal with our feelings by not directly dealing with them.  Rather than acknowledging what we feel and addressing them based on the circumstances, we act on them. Instead of telling someone we are hurt because of what they said or did, perhaps we will take it out on others or ignore them.  Rather than admit we are depressed and work on the why’s, we will eat ice cream or chocolate, drink alcohol, look at pornography, watch TV, play games, sex, listen to music, anger, etc. etc.  Rather than turn to a loving and actively interested God, we turn to other things to deal with our emotional struggles, and often those things become our go-to vices, some of which are addictive.

The Psalms are excellent examples of men who felt the frustrations of this life who struggled with the difficult emotions amidst the trails of their lives.  In dealing with emotions, David (and other Psalmists) wrote their anguish and struggles down and how they were able to get to the other side of the struggle emotionally.  The emotions written in the Psalms were not considered only positive emotions, such as joy and contentment, but also emotions of frustration and anger, of sadness and distress (22, 1-2; 55:4-8), and of sorrow and guilt (51, 38).  He was willing to talk to God about his complaints (64:1-6), to seek God when life seemed unfair (41:1-2), and even let out some anger and some unwholesome desires for God to smite those who have done evil (58:6-8).  He sought the Lord crying out for mercy (51:1) and sought the Lord when crying out for a savior (69, 70).

In the Psalms, all emotions that are present are worked through, but they are dealt with in relation to God.  As Christians (and an encouragement to those seeking), our emotions (positive and negative) are best dealt with in relation to God.  As we read through the Psalms, we see that ultimately it wasn’t simply the expressions of the emotions to God (though that is the first step), but the promise of His character – His strength, justice, love, mercy, and patience – is what brought the Psalmists through the fires.  As a result, they grew stronger in their lives and in relationship with the Lord, thus being able to “deal” with life’s fires emotionally and physically.

Like the sequoia, life’s fires have the opportunity to help us better grow as we learn how to deal with these fires in relation to God.  If we were to deal with the fires without Him at the center, we may miss valuable opportunities to flourish in Him and in life…and the seeds of our life-changing witness may not take root into other’s lives.  How do you deal with all of life’s fires?  How do you deal with your negative emotions (sadness, anger, guilt, frustrations, shame, grief, anxiousness, distress, and sorrows)?  Don’t simply avoid them, drown them, silence them, or ignore them, but process them…and remind yourself who God is…He is love.  He is good.  He is strong.  He is just.  He is faithful.  He is trustworthy.  He is God.

DESIRE: The Cry of our Hearts – Audio Sessions

As promised to those in attendance to our Annual Conference, the sessions below are being made available for free to those who attended.  The following sessions are by Foundations’ counselors on the topics of DESIRE.



Jeremy Yeckley – Introduction to Biblical Counseling (Plenary Session)


Fred Jacoby – Distinguishing Biblical Counseling from Others


Jeremy Yeckley, Marc Ramirez – Biblical Counseling & the Local Church


Alyssa Cathers – Living with Unmet Desires


Mark Akers – His Desires, Her Desires


Fred Jacoby – The Desire to Die: Lessons from the Jailer & Job


Fred Jacoby – Desires & Decisions (Final Plenary Session)

Is this the Real Peace of God?

Peace2bOver the years, I’ve had the privilege of counseling many people from both the church and at Foundations.  When going through struggles personally or in marriage, many of the clients shared at some point that they felt at peace with God. What is baffling to me is how people can feel at peace when their actions have been contrary to the Word.  What exactly does this mean?  Can there be a peace from God when actions are contrary to Scripture? Or is there only peace when one is acting in accordance with Scripture?

In the spirit of Paul’s explanation of “Godly Sorrow” vs “Worldly Sorrow” as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 7:10, I’d also like differentiate Peace in the same manner:  Godly Peace vs Worldly Peace.

Godly Peace, or peace that comes from God, occurs when our actions are consistent with His Word.  Our actions, of course, stem from an internal belief that God is trustworthy, loving, all knowing, all powerful, faithful, all present, etc.  When our decisions are based in our trust on His character, then no matter what happens, we are at peace because we know His way is best, wise, in accordance to His will, and that all will work out for our good.

Fourteen years ago my one son was only a day or two old when he had multiple surgeries.  We received a phone call from the Doctor stating that he took a turn for the worse.  I remember praying to the Lord and receiving that peace that passes understanding (Php 4:7).  This is the peace that you get when the situation seems bleak, but you feel at peace because you know it’s in God’s hands.  At that time, I simply trusted in Him.  I didn’t know the outcome of the situation, but I knew Who held the outcome. Whatever the outcome was going to be, He would turn it into my good as He promised (Rom 8:28).

Trust in the One who is good and faithful is where Godly Peace comes from.  It is not looking at any possible outcomes, but at the One who will turn the outcome into our good, and for His glory.

Worldly Peace is the peace that comes when our consciences and hearts have become hardened to God’s Word.  We see this often in those who have not proclaimed Christ and live their lives apart from Him.  They don’t see God’s Word as Truth, as God’s Word of Love to be obeyed, but instead have set up separate morals and values and feel at peace when they follow these morals.

But this Worldly Peace is not simply a peace that is experienced by those outside Christ, but it has also been experienced by those inside Christianity as well.  One example I have seen too frequently is when a wife leaves or divorces her husband for reasons that are not mentioned in Scripture (it can be the other way around, of course).  There has been no infidelity or abandonment by the spouse, nor has there been abusive situations at all (this reason isn’t specifically mentioned in Scripture, but one can make a really good case for it), but the wife, after prayer, etc., comes to the conclusion to leave her spouse and feels a peace about it.  At times, even claiming that this peace if from God.

Where does this peace come from?  Can this peace come from God when it contradicts His Word?  Would the Holy Spirit give someone peace when they disobey God?  I would argue that such peace is not a Godly Peace, but a Worldly Peace.  It is a peace that comes when one deceives themselves into thinking that God wants them to be happy. It occurs when passages of Scripture are twisted to fit into justifying what someone really wants…to be happy.  This person is essentially doing what they feel they need to do for themselves.  Often conclusions are made and Scriptures are found and interpreted in favor of the person so that he or she believes their actions are OK with God.

When this happens, the person then believes that their peace is a Godly Peace.  The self-deception continues and lives and relationships are broken when decisions are made as a result of this peace.

So, how can we know our peace is a Worldly Peace or a Godly Peace?  Approach the answer In humility.  If you are honestly asking the question, be ready for honest answers.  Ask the Lord for His wisdom when interpreting Scriptures.  Ask Him to search your heart and mind.  Would you honestly be willing to do whatever His Word says or do whatever He wants but __________?   Ask a mature believer, pastor, or Biblical Counselor their thoughts and interpretations of various passages you are looking at to see if you are justifying your position or decision.  Since Worldly Peace comes from a hardened heart, ask Him to give you a heart of flesh towards the person you are angry with.  Pray for them.  Do loving acts for them.  Ask God to help you to see them as He sees them.

So, is the Peace that you feel a Godly Peace, or is it a Worldly Peace?

I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly.

Encouraging Words

encouragement signOur teen years may have been pretty tough…From internal pressures to being accepted and liked, fears of rejection, hormones, desires, demands, etc…All of it was a bit much…but we got through it.

What helped you get through those years?  Was it academics or sports?  Family or friends?

For me, it was God blessing me through the encouraging words of others. These encouraging words were, in fact, life changing in many respects. I’d like to highlight two people in my life who spoke encouraging words. This is not to diminish the impact of others who have spoken into my life at all (parents, best friends who have listened and shared, etc.), but as I sit and write, these two come to mind.  Honestly, I don’t think these two know the impact of their words on my life. In fact, they may not even remember their words at all.  But to me, their kind words and words of hope were a part of God’s plan.

The first bits of encouragement I presently recall came from my sister.  It was during a time when I was feeling down and depressed and contemplating taking my life.  To be frank, I don’t remember her words to me exactly and I didn’t share with her all my thoughts.  But I remember her encouragement to me that I will get a girlfriend, grow taller, get thinner, etc. Really, she gave me words of hope that kept me going so I would not give up and hold onto just a little bit longer.  I listened and believed these words of hope…

One other bit of encouragement I received was in the form of a compliment from a fellow youth group member, Kathy.  We were on a youth retreat to Colorado (from Minnesota) and a few fellows and myself decided to serenade some of the girls at the camp. Afterwords, Kathy approached me and told me that I had a good voice.  That is something I never heard from anyone before and it stuck.  From there, I joined the High School choir the next year and earned a solo at one of the concerts.  In college, I joined a barbershop quartet and a travelling singing group in college (Common Bond).  And from the travelling singing group, I met the woman that I would marry at a Christmas party for all of the travelling singing groups.

In looking back, I am amazed at how God’s plans unfolded in my life.  I am also amazed at the impact words of encouragement and the giving of compliments can have on another person’s life, even my own.

So, for those who had given words of encouragement and compliments to me throughout life, I say “thank you.”  Fellow blog readers, do not focus on the negatives in others, but be ready to give the hope of encouragement and praise to others.  It only takes a few seconds to speak into others’ lives (for the positive or negative) and you never know how much small words of encouragement can impact their lives.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.”                                                                                             Ephesians 4:29

What Does Recovery Look Like After Traumatic Experiences?

Please click the Link below for an article / blog by my friend and former Biblical Seminary Professor, Dr. Phil Monroe.  Phil does a fine job briefly articulating recovery after trauma and compares it to the physical healing after surgery.  “The Biblical” Dr. Phil is the Director of the Counseling Program at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA.


Confessions of a Professional Christian – Going to Church

churchI was about 7 when I was pretty much forced to go to church (this pic is actually where I went to church!). I didn’t want to go. But after a short time, I actually wanted to go. Why? Because I met a friend and we were best friends til I moved away before tenth grade. For some reason, I could always be myself at church, which wasn’t always a good thing. In school, I was a perfect angel. In church, well, I got kicked out of Sunday School a few times. I didn’t always agree with my teachers. The teachers wanted to teach.  I wanted to make people laugh. I know. I know…priorities…

By the time High School came around, going to church was pretty much a habit. I don’t remember much about the services or getting much out of them, but growing more familiar with the Scriptures was pretty much all I remembered in my growth (though I’m sure there was more).  I also remember being released from my duties as a sound tech.  Guess they didn’t like the extra high pitched squeals…

College was different. No parental pressure, though there was an unwritten pressure from Christian peers (I went to a Christian college).  So I went to church sometimes on my own.  My attendance dropped a bit from High School…until I found myself in a singing group that toured the area singing at churches. That kept me in the church.  God knew what He was doing…

But what about now?  Honestly, at times, it is a struggle.  Sometimes, going to church is a way of life.  It is what you do as a Christian.  You go to church.  See people.  Talk. Learn a bit.  Serve.  Then go home.  Done.  Until next Sunday and you repeat the cycle.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat. This is what it seems like sometimes.  At least, it does to me as a professional Christian.  Church becomes a Christian tradition, a meaningless Christian activity that should help us in our walk, but doesn’t.  Sermons are fine.  Worship is OK.  People…well….most are pretty good…but going to church isn’t as uplifting as we desire.

Truth is, when church feels this way or it becomes a Christian activity, something is not right in our spirits.  Spiritual growth is stagnant at church because it is stagnant outside of church.  We’re not being fed at church partially because we’re not hungry enough.  Loving people is lacking because loving God is lacking.  Focus is often on the self while others, including God, simply become other characters in the church story life of blah.  Of course, if we stayed in this mental place, going to church would simply become depressing.

Overall, I find this to be true: If church simply becomes a meaningless traditional Christian activity of the week, than the focus of my heart is too small.  The best part about church is this: as a part of the body of Christ, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  It helps us to redirect our focus on what matters:  1) God & 2) God’s mission.  Going to church helps us to look beyond ourselves and focus on loving others and focus on God.  It helps us to see that we are not the center of our worlds.

One thing I ask the Lord, that as He changes me, that I would not implode by my own self-centeredness, but be amazed by His glory, His love, His Majesty, and His Awesomeness. I pray that church does not become a traditional thing to do, but an opportunity to leave my world of me and drink deeply of Him.  I pray that I will cooperate with Him in preparing my heart to hear His by reading His Word and reading other godly books that will draw me to Him.  Why did I write this article?  Because I am a professional Christian.  And the “every Sunday” can become mundane.  So, I, like many others, need to be reminded that I need Him and that I need His people to love and to be loved by…Overall, I need to go to church.