What is Your Coping Mechanism: Dread or Hope?

Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
–W.H. Auden, 1940

Limitations. That’s not a word that most of us like to consider. Especially if we are used to being an authority figure, someone in control, independent, pro-active and successful. Yet, sooner or later, we shall all bump into that wall in some form or another: a concrete barrier called health, a stone wall labeled children, a blockade brought on by misfortune, deceit, or crime. Over the years, most of us become conditioned to an electrically charged, invisible fence that marks the borders of our potentiality, and as long as we don’t dare get too close, we believe that we are safe, free, and empowered. Living in America , this is especially significant. It is in our DNA to see open vistas and unlimited horizons, even as we congregate in self-made corrals for safety. After all, if we don’t go to the edge, we are free to believe it does not exist and that there are no limits.

So what happens when, as clinicians or pastors, we meet the clients who are stuck at a roadblock that is just in front of an entrance ramp that could finally lead them down a new road towards a new beginning, and instead of staying on course, following the detours that could lead them in a new direction, they quit? Or worse, they don’t just give up and sit still on the side of the road. No. All too often, they choose to sit in the path of oncoming traffic, under the guise or delusion of hitchhiking? We get slammed. We run right into our limitations as therapists, and get pinned in by our own existential fear of seeing the other’s future unfold because we know all too well their history and life patterns: The battered wife who returns to her abusive husband; the addict who quits rehab, the suicidal person who ends treatment.

What else do we feel in those moments? Dread.

Dread is the inescapable awareness of an outcome that is beyond our own control to prevent yet is inevitable in its onslaught. It differs from horror in that horror stems from those events which are beyond belief—outside the realm of normal expectation. 9/11 was horrific. Watching the Challenger explode was horrific. Everything goes along normally until some cataclysmic or evil event happens. But dread is different. Dread is expected. Dread is when we know that something awful is about to happened, and we are helpless to stop it.

The ancient Greeks understood the power of dread. One can not avoid it in the plays of Sophocles. Oedipus is the anti-hero of the genre spawning children who, also, inherit his doomed fate. For the ancient audiences who gathered at daybreak, they would encounter dread and experience catharsis. If Kings, Queens, and Princesses could not be spared outcomes that they had no control over, then it was comforting, by comparison, for ordinary Spartans and Thebans to deal with their own small burdens. Dread was normalized in a world where faith was a belief in inescapable fate. For Oedipus, Creon, Jocasta, and, even, Antigone…their fate was pre-destined, and no attempt to outwit it, however well intentioned, could thwart it. For the audiences, fully aware of the tales in advance, knowing that the characters’ attempts to seize control of their lives would not work, they learned that dread is an inescapable emotion that must be accepted and acquiesced to. In other words, dread was the emotion that underscored their relationship between the Gods and man. Dread was the precursor emotion that led to accepting humanity’s limitations, and, thus, their own limitations, too.

How different it is for us, today! Especially for those who espouse a more Christian perspective, for the element of free will in relation to a higher being is an essential element in our approach to life. Nowhere can the comparisons be more on display than in the films of Hitchcock. Unlike Sophocles, Hitchcock’s characters are not larger than life Kings and Queens. They are us. The innkeeper, businessman, doctor, or mother. Ordinary people going about ordinary lives who stumble upon some truth that is about to lead to destruction. The genius of Hitchcock was that, although he, too, created characters who realized that they were helpless to change an inevitable, negative outcome, (e.g., The Man who Knew Too Much); nevertheless, he gave them the ability to act, or attempt to act, to thwart it. And, in true Hollywood style, it would work.

In other words, dread was the emotion that the audience felt long before the characters did, but as soon as the characters’ experienced their own self awareness of that dread manifesting, they did not give up. They did not accept fate. They did not acquiesce to destiny. In fact, right to the edge, they attempted to change the outcome, and they succeeded—not with superhuman intelligence or godlike effort but with sheer will power using simple, human touches: a high note, a melody, and a song.

This is catharsis with a twist of hope! This is a paradigm shift that says to humanity, yes, there are limitations, but if one perseveres and keeps struggling, one can change the outcome of one’s life—despite the odds of succeeding. In other words, fate is not a predestined fixed outcome by God; rather, it is a fluid, dynamic process that is determined by the choices each of us makes, even if it comes at the last possible moment.

Herein is the significance for us as clinicians with those clients who confound us. In the midst of experiencing our limitations as therapists, we can bring into it the awareness that the inevitable does not necessarily have to happen. That the dread we may be feeling may be averted at any moment—even if we never get to see it. We may like to think of ourselves as the director, but in reality, we are, merely, the audience to the dramas of our clients, and it is they who, as the actors in their own life stories, can change their roles at any moment to write a new and unexpected ending—or a whole new script! Limitations? Meet the new screenwriter, Free Will. The sequel is called Hope.

© copyright 2010 by Lucia Seyranyan. All rights reserved.

Powerlessness And How It Can Help You

Most of us hate feeling powerless and indeed, it is not very good for us especially for extended periods of time. It can lead to depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, alienation from others, physical symptoms and, in it’s trauma form, it can lead to the symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and loss of concentration or memory to name a few)

Sometimes powerlessness comes from circumstances we have little or no control over. Other times it comes from the consequences of our actions. The latter can be even more frustrating because we may say, “I could have done something different”. We ruminate and replay the situation over and over. This can be helpful if we can process it into lessons learned, insight, awareness about others, or ourselves and character growth.

It is interesting to note that sometimes powerlessness can be very powerful. When Jesus surrenders to the cross, His powerlessness redeems the whole world. This is illustrated, again, in the fictional Star Wars movie were Obe Wan allows himself to be slain by Darth Vader only to come back as a ghost to aid Luke in fighting the Empire. The Apostle Paul talks about his powerlessness with an affliction he has and how it helps him grow and be empowered. Joseph’s powerlessness in the Old Testament is the seed for his rise to power in the house of Pharaoh. Despite his brother’s plot against him, he is faithful and God sends him before his family to redeem them in their day of need. After they realize that the brother they sold into slavery is now in power over them, the brothers hear him say “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good”

Dealing with powerlessness is a tricky matter sometimes.

First we must realize that powerlessness in not necessarily, hopelessness.
Powerlessness may just mean you are not in control right now.

Second, it is important to admit our powerlessness to God and others.
This gets us out of the way sometimes and allows God to work in areas where we do not have the ability or opportunity to change things. Telling others about our powerlessness can be a request to help with need and, as a part of that, a place to get emotional support through listening, different perspective, advice, shared troubles/grief and accountability to change course as well as giving us structure.

Third, deal with powerlessness by processing it.
Write down what you are feeling and thinking, what you believe about yourself, the situation, what you may have done that contributed to the situation, what others may have contributed to the situation and what is purely circumstantial. Try to avoid “All or Nothing” thinking. The “All Is Lost” mentality is not very helpful. Slowing things down and evaluating the situation is usually better in the short and long run. Nehemiah puts this into action when he feels powerless at first to deal with greedy nobles who are loan sharking their fellow Hebrews right back into slavery. He slows down his anger and brings the nobles to task.

Fourth, after the initial shock wears off, try seeing where the processing leads you.
What does it tell you about the situation, yourself, others involved, your motives, your priorities, lessons learned, and how you can grow from it.

Over all powerlessness is not something to be desired but it is, essentially, unavoidable in life. How we deal with it and use it to grow and move closer to God and others is the key.

Seeking God and Finding Happiness

But happy are those . . . whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Do you sincerely want to be a happy Christian? Then set your mind and your heart upon God’s love and His grace.

Happiness depends less upon our circumstances than upon our thoughts. When we turn our thoughts to God, to His gifts, and to His glorious creation, we experience the joy that God intends for His children. But, when we focus on the negative aspects of life, we suffer needlessly.

The fullness of life in Christ is available to all who seek it and claim it. Count yourself among that number. Seek first the salvation that is available through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then claim the joy, the peace, and the spiritual abundance that the Shepherd offers His sheep.

True happiness consists only in the enjoyment of God. His favor is life, and His loving-kindness is better than life.   ~Arthur W. Pink

Pleasure-seeking is a barren business; happiness is never found till we have the grace to stop looking for it and to give our attention to persons and matters external to ourselves.   ~J. I. Packer

No matter how hard he searches, nothing beneath the skies and nothing above the skies can make any man happy apart from God.   ~C. H. Spurgeon

God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.   ~A. W. Tozer

Dear Lord, I am thankful for all the blessings You have given me. Let me be a happy Christian, Father, as I share Your joy with friends, with family, and with the world. Amen

Facing Fears

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for  I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

We live in a world that is, at times, a frightening place. We live in a world that is, at times, a discouraging place. We live in a world where life-changing losses can be so painful and so profound that it seems we will never recover. But, with God’s help, and with the help of encouraging family members and friends, we can recover.

During the darker days of life, we are wise to remember the words of Jesus, who reassured His disciples, saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 NIV). Then, with God’s comfort and His love in our hearts, we can offer encouragement to others. And by helping them face their fears, we can, in turn, tackle our own problems with courage, determination, and faith.

God knows that the strength that comes from wrestling with our fear will give us wings to fly.   ~Paula Rinehart

His hand on me is a father’s hand, gently guiding and encouraging. His hand lets me know He is with me, so I am not afraid. ~Mary Morrison Suggs

Adversity is always unexpected and unwelcomed. It is an intruder and a thief, and yet in the hands of God, adversity becomes the means through which His supernatural power is demonstrated. Charles Stanley

Facing our deepest fears means making peace with our seen self and with our unseen self.   ~Sheila Walsh

Father, even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because You are with me. Thank You, Lord, for Your perfect love, a love that casts out fear and gives me strength and courage to meet the challenges  of this world. Amen

Finding Peace

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Oftentimes, our outer struggles are simply manifestations of the inner conflict that we feel when we stray from God’s path. Jesus offers us peace, not as the world gives, but as He alone gives. Our challenge is to accept Christ’s peace into our hearts and then, as best we can, to share His peace with our neighbors. When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we are transformed by His grace. We are then free to accept the spiritual abundance and peace that can be ours through the power of the risen Christ.

Have you found the genuine peace that can be yours through Jesus Christ? Or are you still rushing after the illusion of “peace and happiness” that the world promises but cannot deliver? Today, as a gift to yourself, to your family, and to your friends, claim the inner peace that is your spiritual birthright: the peace of Jesus Christ. It is offered freely; it has been paid for in full; it is yours for the asking. So ask. And then share.

Prayer guards hearts and minds and causes God to bring peace out of chaos.   ~Beth Moore

Before God changes our circumstances, He wants to change our hearts.   ~Warren Wiersbe

When we do what is right, we have contentment, peace, and happiness.   ~Beverly Lahaye

Peace with God is where all peace begins.   ~Jim Gallery

To know God as He really is—in His essential nature and character—is to arrive at a citadel of peace that circumstances may storm, but can never capture.   ~Catherine Marshall

Dear Lord, let me accept the peace and abundance that You offer through Your Son Jesus. You are the Giver of all things good, Father, and You give me peace when I draw close to You.
Help me to trust Your will, to follow Your commands, and to accept Your peace, today and forever. Amen

In Turbulent Times, Consider the Possibilities

For nothing will be impossible with God.

Are you afraid to ask God to do big things—or to make big changes—in your life? Is your faith threadbare and worn? If so, it’s time to abandon your doubts and reclaim your faith in God’s promises.

Ours is a God of infinite possibilities. But sometimes, because of limited faith and limited understanding, we wrongly assume that God cannot or will not intervene in the affairs of mankind. Such assumptions are simply wrong.

God’s Holy Word makes it clear: absolutely nothing is impossible for the Lord. And since the Bible means what it says, you can be comforted in the knowledge that the Creator of the universe can do miraculous things in your own life and in the lives of your loved ones. Your challenge, as a believer, is to take God at His word, and to expect the miraculous.

Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.   ~Matthew Henry

God specializes in things thought impossible.   ~Catherine Marshall

If all things are possible with God, then all things are possible to him who believes in Him.   ~Corrie Ten Boom

Do we not continually pass by blessings innumerable without notice, and instead fix our eyes on what we feel to be our trials and our losses? And, do we not think and talk about our trials until our whole horizon is filled with them, and we almost begin to think we have no blessings at all?   ~Hannah Whitall Smith

Dear Lord, give me the courage to dream and the faithfulness to trust in Your perfect plan for my life. When I am worried, give me strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Today, Father, I will trust You and honor You with my thoughts, with my prayers, with my actions, and with my dreams. Amen

In Turbulent Times, Guard Your Thoughts

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

Are you an optimistic, hopeful, enthusiastic Christian? You should be. After all, as a believer, you have every reason to be optimistic about life here on earth and life eternal. As English clergyman William Ralph Inge observed, “No Christian should be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism.”  Inge’s words are most certainly true, but sometimes, you may find yourself pulled down by tough times. If you find yourself discouraged, exhausted, or both, then it’s time to ask yourself this question: what’s bothering you, and why?

If you’re worried by the inevitable challenges of everyday living, God wants to have a little talk with you. After all, the ultimate battle has already been won on the cross at Calvary. And if your life has been transformed by Christ’s sacrifice, then you, as a recipient of God’s grace, have every reason to live courageously.

Are you willing to trust God’s plans for your life, in good times and turbulent times? Hopefully, you will trust Him completely. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes it clear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV).

A. W. Tozer noted, “Attitude is all-important. Let the soul take a quiet attitude of faith and love toward God, and from there on, the responsibility is God’s. He will make good on His commitments.” These words should serve as a reminder that even when the challenges of the day seem daunting, God remains steadfast. And, so should you.

So make this promise to yourself and keep it—vow to be a hope-filled Christian. Think optimistically about your life, your profession, your family, your future, and your purpose for living. Trust your hopes, not your fears. Take time to celebrate God’s glorious creation. And then, when you’ve filled your heart with hope and gladness, share your optimism with others. They’ll be better for it, and so will you.

Dear Lord, I will focus on Your love, Your power, Your promises, and Your Son. When I am weak, I will turn to You for strength; when I am worried, I will turn to You for comfort; when I am troubled, I will turn to You for patience and perspective.  Help me guard my thoughts, Lord, so that I may honor You this day and forever. Amen

The Blessing of Pain

Jonathan Daugherty

I was sent an article earlier this year that was a transcript of a speech Tony Dungy gave before the 2006-2007 Super Bowl. This speech was given shortly after his son died. And as amazing as it was that he would speak so shortly after such a tragedy, I picked up on something else he mentioned in the speech.

Dungy spoke of his youngest son, Jordan, who has a rare condition that doesn’t allow him to feel pain. If cookies are baking in the oven, Jordan doesn’t realize that if he opens the door and reaches in he will be burned. Or that if he places that steaming hot cookie in his mouth it will scorch his tongue. Jordan can’t feel pain. Because of this Jordan could seriously injure himself without even knowing it.

If I was given the choice to feel pain or not, I must admit that I would probably choose not to feel pain. But such a decision would be short-sighted
and foolish. Pain is actually a gift; a blessing. I know it is hard to envision
pain this way all the time. But think of Jordan and the Dungy family. Would
they not consider it a tremendous blessing for Jordan to feel pain? Not to have to worry every moment of every day whether he is going to poke his finger into an electrical socket or turn on the hot water in the bathtub and climb in? Pain truly is a blessing.

But is all pain a blessing? Tough to say, but I’m becoming more convinced that pain is more often a blessing than it is not. For example, I was pretty ill back in mid-February. Hadn’t been that sick in a while. Just a funky sort of sick. Stuffy head, fever, aches all over, and fatigue like I had never felt. Weird, uncomfortable stuff. Pain. Was it a blessing? Actually, yes. You see, I had been on the road for three straight weeks, working myself to the bone, unwilling to slow down and get the rest my body needed. Getting sick was actually a blessing because it forced me to do that which I wouldn’t do on my own. Pain often works as such a tool of correction in our lives.

I see pain as God’s agent of mercy. I know this sounds weird, even contradictory, but go with me for a minute. How often do you or I force our way in a certain direction even though it may not be good for us? We say we are going to make self-centered decisions in our marriage regardless of God’s
instruction to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). We choose to lie to our boss (just a “little” one) to make him believe we are doing more work than we are, even though God’s Word tells us “do not lie to each other” (Col. 3:9). We choose not to go to church or worship with other believers for whatever reason, regardless of God’s clear exhortation to “not give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25). Well, whenever we choose to make our own way without regard to God, pain ensues. The self-centered spouse reaps the pain of a tension-riddled marriage. The lying employee reaps the pain of a reprimand, demotion, or layoff. The stay-at-home Christian reaps the pain of loneliness and growing bitterness toward other believers.

How, then, is such pain the agent of God’s mercy? Because, if we will allow it,
this pain draws us back to the truth and invites us to once again seek God. It
is merciful for God to allow the natural consequences of our stubborn pride to bring us to our knees. The Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance…” (2 Cor. 7:10a). Pain often produces godly sorrow. This sorrow reminds us that we have needs that go beyond our own ability to meet. We remember in our pain that we weren’t designed to live our lives independently, but rather in total dependence upon God. And even though our dependence on God
doesn’t forever eliminate pain, it does give us a point of reference for
understanding and enduring it.

Is pain a blessing? It can be if you will let it. However, we often only intensify our pain by squirming in our pride to find some solution apart from surrendering to God. Just as a child would increase his injuries if he refused
to listen to his parents when they instructed him to remove his hand from a hot burner on a stove, we too increase the injury to our spiritual and emotional selves when we refuse to respond obediently to God’s loving instruction. It is pain that often drives us to eventually surrender when we otherwise would not. Therefore, pain does act as God’s agent of mercy, preventing us from further injuring ourselves and instead embracing the grace and truth that God offers.

Why don’t you begin today to allow the pain in your life to draw you back to
the promises of your good and loving God? After all, he made you. He does
know what is best for you. And He wants you to enjoy His goodness, even if it requires getting some scraped knees and blistered hands along the way.

It can be incredibly difficult to see pain as a blessing. If you are in pain, we’d like to help. Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Thoughts for the Holidays

Deborah Tyrell

‘I dread the holiday time of year’ is a statement shared with sadness from many of my clients that trust me enough to be completely honest with their feelings and thoughts. Even though most of us long for the warm feelings evoked by images portrayed on greeting cards of ‘roasted chestnuts and open fires’ shared with loved ones, for many people this happy and loving picture is far from their reality. Instead, they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of obligatory gift buying, feigned merriment at parties they would rather not be at, frantic eating, and nostalgia from memories of times past with people who for various reasons are no longer part of their holidays. If you can relate to a vague sense of bewilderment elicited by this time of year, the following thoughts may help.

Many people have unrealistic expectations about the holidays that are promoted by the media showing extravagant presents underneath the tree being opened by families looking ecstatic about their perfect gifts. What cameras don’t capture are the worried faces of the people wondering how they are going to pay off the debt when they get their credit card bills in the mail.

It is important to remember what really matters. Do not confuse giving love with giving gifts. Although gifts can be an expression of your love, so are your time, your affection, your words of affirmation, and your willingness to forgive an offense. Decide on a budget and invite someone to hold you accountable for keeping it.

Next, you do not have to go to a party just because you were invited to it. Be a good steward of your time and energy. Even Jesus, the Son of God knew He had to retreat from the clamor of the crowds for quiet times with His Father to renew His strength. Pace yourself and find the balance between togetherness and separateness. Also, understand your personality to know if you are the type who is energized by a party or drained by the demands of interacting. Discover and do more activities that nourish rather than deplete your soul. When you take care of yourself you remind yourself that you are worth caring for.

Holidays do not need to be a time to binge on food. Learn how to celebrate Christ’s birthday in other ways. Although you can grant yourself the freedom to eat without guilt when you are hungry, savoring the tastes of your favorite holiday foods with pleasure, you can also make the day special by playing games with your friends, singing, attending church, praying together, or serving the less fortunate together. Remember that it’s creating and sharing positive memories together that are important. Do not confuse receiving love with eating food that you love. When you ‘numb yourself out’ by overeating, it’s difficult to feel the subtle but tender moments of being in the presence of those that you love and you may leave the encounter feeling physically stuffed but emotionally empty.

Finally, don’t let your fond memories of past holidays sabotage your enjoyment of the present by comparing then with now. Although you may realize that loss is inevitable because there will always be those moments of happiness and special meaning that can never be recreated because certain people are no longer part of your life, your sadness is no less genuine. Give yourself permission to grieve ‘what was’, but be careful not to warp the past into a time so perfect and flawless that it can never be achieved in the moment. Sometimes when we recall past favorite holiday seasons, we see our significant loved ones giving us what we have always dreamed of instead of what actually was. But we can only begin to accept our losses when we honestly evaluate the people we loved who are gone for who they were, both their good and their bad.

It helps to remember that all of us are part of broken humanity in need of God’s redemptive love, and sorrow is part of living even in the midst of the season to be jolly.

My prayer for those who struggle during this holiday season with loneliness or sorrow is that you will find God’s peace, comfort and hope in the midst of your pain. And that as you press into the presence of God, the power of the Most High will overshadow you and the Christ Child will be birthed in your heart revealing to the world His unfailing love and faithfulness.

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New Life Ministries

When in sorrow – Call John 14

When people let you down – Call Psalm 27

If you want to be effective – Call John 15

When you have sinned – Call Psalm 51

When you worry – Call Matthew 6:19-34

When you are in danger – Call Psalm 91

When God seems far away – Call Psalm 139

When your faith needs strength – Call Hebrews 11

When you are lonely – Call Psalm 23

When you grow bitter and critical – Call 1 Corinthians 13

The secret to happiness – Call Colossians 3:12-17

When you want peace and rest – Call Matthew 11:25-30

When you travel – Call Psalm 121

When your faith needs help – Call Psalm 66

When you want courage – Call Joshua 1

For harmony at church – Call Romans 12

If you are depressed – Call Psalm 27

If you are out of money – Call Psalm 37

If you feel angry – Call 1 Corinthians 13

If you need encouragement to read Scripture – Call Psalm 19

For dealing with fear – Call Psalm 34

For security – Call Psalm 121

For motivation – Call Mark 8:35

For wisdom – Call James 1:5

Also call on our daily devotionals New Life Every Day or New Life Bibles.