Tag Archives: personal struggles

What Did Jesus Mean, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matthew 6:13), He was not implying that God would ever encourage us to sin. Scripture makes this clear:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13).

Nor was He implying that there is something unusual about being subjected to temptation.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV).

Rather, Jesus was modeling the healthy self-distrust that should mark every child of God. He was showing us that we must be continually conscious of our own weakness and of the wiles of our enemy. We are not to have any false assurance about our ability to do as well as Jesus did when “put to the test” by Satan in the wilderness. Instead, we are to recognize our inclination to be headstrong like Peter, thinking he was equal to any challenge that might come his way (Luke 22:31-34,54-62.)

We as God’s children never have to give in to temptation, for God will “make the way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13 nkjv), but we must be conscious of our vulnerability. Jesus therefore emphasized the need for humble dependence on God. He called us to recognize our human frailty and to acknowledge that we on our own are no match for our triple foe: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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What’s the Difference Between Sinful Anger and Godly Anger?

Like everything else in our lives, our emotions have been discolored by sin. Most emotions reflect a blend of both self-centeredness and goodness. If we are waiting for a moment of selfless purity to express our anger, it will probably never happen. However, knowing that we are flawed can lead us into deeper dependence on the One who gave us emotions in the first place. The Holy Spirit residing within us helps us monitor and learn from our emotions.

When monitoring our anger, it is important to understand that much of our anger is fueled by a hatred of injustice, whether real or perceived. Anger over injustice reflects the core longing for justice we all share. We are incensed when life seems unfair. We can know, however, if the anger we feel is sinful or godly by considering the provocation, goal, motivation, and timing of our anger.

Selfish anger is provoked when we believe we’ve been treated unjustly or unfairly. We want something, we don’t get it, we feel deprived, and now someone is going to pay for having treated us this way (James 4:1-4). The goal is revenge. When driven by vengeance, we demand that someone pay now for the injustice we’ve suffered. We impatiently demand immediate execution of justice according to our specifications, and refuse to allow time for God to work in the hearts of those who have offended us (James 1:19-20). Our anger becomes a caustic acid intended to burn those we feel have burned us unfairly. When offended, we can be ruthless, hard, unreasonable, and devoid of mercy in our response.

Conversely, godly anger is provoked in us when we witness persistent violations of God’s standards of justice (Psalm 119:53). There is an appropriate time to be outraged over those who hold God in contempt and mar the beauty of His creation. The goal of godly anger is to warn the person who has breached God’s divine law so that once exposed they can have the opportunity to change (Ezekiel 3:18-21). This kind of anger is like iodine, an ointment intended to purge infection and promote healing in the recipient (Proverbs 27:6). It is painful at first, but in the end, it soothes and heals.

Godly anger is motivated both by the love of Christ that works in us to extend His love to others (2 Corinthians 5:14), and by the fear of His coming execution of perfect justice (2 Corinthians 5:11). Godly anger is marked by a confidence in God’s longsuffering character (Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9), knowing that only He is qualified to carry out vengeance equitably. Godly anger refuses to resort to personal acts of revenge now, but is willing to wait for God’s wrath to be poured out against evil in His good time (Psalm 73:16-19; Romans 12:19).

Because we are to be like Christ in every way (Ephesians 4:1; 1 John 4:17), by implication we are also called to reflect His righteous anger. If we are to stand for the Father the way Jesus did, we need to stand for the things He’s for, and against the things He’s against. Godly anger reflects our Father’s passion for justice. While we rely on Him to execute final justice (Romans 12:19-21), godly anger motivates us to work for fairness and justice on behalf of those who are oppressed (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:17-18). It reflects dependence and confidence in God as the ultimate Judge who always executes justice rightly (1 Peter 2:23).

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Is It Normal for a Christian to Feel Stressed Out?

Everyone experiences stress. It is a normal part of life, the result of living in a fallen world under the effect of sin’s curse.

1 Everyone—both Christians and unbelievers—faces problems and hardships that simply occur in their lives. Rude drivers, illness, gossiping acquaintances, pressures on the job, and many other circumstances of life at times make it hard to be calm and self-controlled.

Even though some look for a faith that bypasses stress, stress is actually an unavoidable accompaniment of both spiritual growth and regression. Although faith enables us to deal with the pressures of stress, it doesn’t eliminate them.

When we hold ourselves accountable to God’s standards, we sometimes find ourselves with more awareness of stress than if we were not a child of God. As members of God’s family we are led by the Holy Spirit to acknowledge past sins and failures and come to terms with ways in which we have hurt one another and dishonored God. The sins of unbelievers have consequences, of course, but the sins themselves are less likely to be the cause of serious regret or sorrow. In the short term, life is simpler for people who aren’t aware of the depth of their depravity and in turn are able to rationalize their sins. (See the ATQ article Why Do Morally Unprincipled People Prosper?)2 Consider for instance a word picture, which at first does not seem to have anything to do with stress until we look at it more closely. In Ephesians 5:14 Apostle Paul refers to what may have been an early Christian hymn already in common use:

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

This quotation uses two striking images to describe the spiritual changes that occur in the transition from unbelief to faith in Christ. Unbelievers are like sleepers (“Wake up, O sleeper”) or the dead (“rise from the dead.”)

On waking, dreams and fantasies are quickly replaced with consciousness of a reality that is much more demanding. And rising from the dead? It is disturbing even to consider the kind of consciousness that might accompany the return of life to the decaying flesh of a corpse.

Just as warmth can’t dispel the numbness of frost-bitten hands without pain, Christians can’t expect spiritual growth without stress. Spiritual growth only occurs when we are ready to follow a Master who commands we radically reexamine the assumptions of our former life. Jesus said that all of his disciples must we willing to take up his cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38), and Paul vividly described the reality of stress experienced in the course of Christian service:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10 ).

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

So it isn’t abnormal for a Christian to feel stressed out. Far from it. But stress for Christians is accompanied with purpose and hope that reinforces and strengthens faith.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:1-5).

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:5-7).

  1. “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return’ ” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV). Back To Article
  2. Although Christians have forgiveness for sin, genuine sorrow for personal sin and harm done to others is an unavoidable aspect of spiritual growth. Back To Article
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Should This Cloud of Hopelessness Concern Me?

Hopelessness is a dreadful feeling. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Many people go through times when they know something is terribly wrong, but they often can’t put their finger on it. All they can explain is a strong sense that nothing is going to work out.

It’s unwise to ignore chronic feelings of hopelessness. Our souls cannot live for long in a state of perceived hopelessness. Hope is the oxygen of the soul. Without a hopeful outlook, our souls will eventually suffocate.

Our dilemma is that a hopeful perspective is as fragile as it is indispensable. Situations beyond our control can delay the fulfillment of hope and leave us in a fog of uncertainty and despair. As hope seems to be collapsing all around us, the potential exists to lose heart and slip into a state of depression.

Depression is a troubled mood or state of the soul that has a dramatic effect on our bodies. We lose energy. Sleeping and eating patterns become abnormal. And we have difficulty concentrating.

Depression can be mild or major. The more depression interferes with a person’s ability to sleep, to eat, to work, to focus, and to enjoy life, the greater the severity of depression, and the greater need there is to be concerned.

Sometimes a depressive mood lifts for no apparent reason. Usually,however, depression doesn’t work itself out over time. Left to itself, it can linger on like an old injury that slowly wears a person down.Over time, it can grow into a severe debilitating problem. That’s why it’s important for those who are depressed to seek help.

An honest reflection of the following statements can alert a person to a potential problem with depression:

  • I feel sad or shut down nearly every day.
  • I have little or no interest in doing things I used to enjoy.
  • I’m sleeping too little or too much.
  • I’m eating too little or too much.
  • I feel tired most of the time.
  • I find it difficult to stay focused.
  • I’ve lost interest in physical intimacy with my spouse.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the burdens of life.
  • I don’t hold out much hope that my life will improve in the future.
  • I shift between feeling helpless and unworthy to feeling angry and cheated.
  • I think about death or killing myself.

Those who identify with two to four of the above statements should,at the very least, consider seeing a physician for a complete medical checkup. Sometimes these are symptoms of a pure medical condition. Those who identify with five or more of the above statements should consider seeking immediate professional help.

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What Can I Do to Stop Cutting Myself?

I’m sad about your struggle with cutting. This is a painful topic and one that you may have avoided up to this point. It takes a lot of courage to talk about it and you’ve taken an important step in getting help.

Any form of self-injury is dangerous and should be taken seriously. The reasons that motivate cutting are complicated, so it’s important to seek the kind of help that will invite you to take an honest look at yourself and ask the question “What is going on in your heart?” An experienced counselor can help teach you better ways of coping, which is important, but he or she will also help expand your insight into the reasons behind the cutting and give you a safe place to process your deep feelings of shame and self-loathing.

There also can be great comfort in reading the expressions of emotion in the Bible. It’s soothing to know that we’re not alone in our pain; others before us have felt the terror of despair. As one example, Psalm 31:9-13 reads:

“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends—those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.”

It’s impossible to overlook the unbelievable anguish in this passage. As someone who cuts, you may have cried out with similar expressions. Memories of past abuse, unwanted thoughts, or feeling out of control with your life may cause you to consider cutting as a release of the pain, misery, and anger you feel inside.

As we continue reading (vs. 1-4), however, the psalmist declares that it’s his trust in God that helps him through this time of horrific misery and he rejects any other way to ultimately save him.

“In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.”

It’s hard to trust God whom we can not see. But in addition to counseling and learning how to express your feelings in a healthy way, I hope you can see that we are better off trusting God than in trusting in anything else. We’ve come up with different ways to deal with our anger and ease the pain of life, but apart from God, our methods are only temporary and don’t give us what our hearts truly need. And what we truly need is to invite God into our pain; we need Him to comfort us and give us strength.

God, in His love for you, sent His son Jesus to set you free. He knows your pain and He wants to heal and strengthen you. As a matter of fact, He came specifically for this purpose; not only to offer you life after death, but life now! He came to help you live through pain instead of trying to escape by self-injury (Isaiah 61:1-3).

I know you’re hurting deeply inside. Pain and disappointment have taken root in your soul. Cutting may seem like the only answer to your overwhelming pain, but the dark side of it is that it keeps you from what your heart longs for. So when you’re compelled to cut yourself, please don’t try and face it alone. The Bible offers you an answer. The battle is hard, and most likely won’t be won over night. But getting wise counsel from a competent therapist, and believing that there is Someone who cares for you who is fully capable of comforting you and setting you free from this prison, can give you the confidence to fight the urge to harm yourself.

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