When You’re Troubled in Spirit


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Confession here…

Often, especially these days when there is so much pain in the world and even in my own life, I feel troubled in spirit. Even though I trust God and know that he’s in complete control of my life, my circumstances and my future, I can still be grieved by situations.

Someone’s actions or betrayal may hurt me. Sorrow grips my heart when I learn of a loved one’s struggle with tragedy, illness or death. Perhaps a difficult choice weighs on me—I know the best thing to do means putting aside my own wishes to uplift someone else.

But today, I read something that relieved me.

“Jesus was troubled in spirit.”             John 13:21

Say what?

Jesus? The Son of God, Jesus? God himself, Jesus? That Jesus?

Wow.

I don’t know about you, but that brought a thrill of hope to me. See, those words come right before he told his disciples that someone would betray him.

I’ve been betrayed. Jesus knows how I felt.

Then I remembered a couple of other times that Jesus felt troubled. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. And the hours before he was crucified, he prayed, sweating drops of blood because he was “deeply distressed and troubled.” But how can I be a Christian, trusting in an omnipotent God and be troubled?

How could Jesus?

Jesus knew the outcome of Judas betraying him. He knew he’d be tortured and hung on a cross. But he also knew he’d be alive again. And when his friend died, Jesus knew he’d be raising Lazarus from the dead. So why was he troubled if he knew that good was coming?

And if I trust God and know good is coming why would I be troubled?

Emotions are God given. When life happens, we feel joy, excitement, surprise and sometimes grief, sorrow or even anger. Feeling emotion is obviously an experience Jesus can relate to. We are created in his image so why wouldn’t we feel those same emotions?

And yet, the next words of Jesus seem contradictory.

He tells his followers to not let their hearts be troubled. But I believe he’s saying it as an encouragement rather than a command. Maybe what he’s saying is don’t allow your hearts remain troubled. Feeling troubled is normal, but staying troubled will not be helpful.

So, what do we do with a troubled spirit?

In John chapter fourteen, Jesus reminds his followers that they can trust him, and he assures them of their future with him. He also promises the Holy Spirit—a counselor or helper that will guide them, or us, through life.

And finally, he gives us peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not be troubled and do not be afraid.”       John 14:27

I believe he’s telling us that even when we feel troubled in spirit, which we will, we don’t need to continue feeling troubled or afraid because we can trust him to take care of everything no matter what our situation looks like. We can rely on his spirit to give us peace in each circumstance.

Each time Jesus was troubled, he spent time with his father, God.

God waits for us to come to him in the same way—bringing our troubled spirit, our grief, our sorrow and laying it at his feet so he can exchange them for his peace and promise for our future. When we remain in his love for us, we can rest there and not allow our hearts to remain troubled.

If your heart is troubled as mine has been recently, I invite you to join me at the Father’s feet laying down our situations and picking up his peace and his promises for our future.

Let’s remain in his love.

If your heart is troubled, I’d love to pray for you. Would you let me know in the comments below or email me at laurabennet14@gmail.com

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Why Are You Angry?


IMG_4658Anger is a secondary emotion.

That what the workbook I use to lead women through a study on relationships says. The truth of that statement recently catapulted me into a season of discovering the source of my anger.

And that what feels like anger isn’t always…well, anger.

The inexplicable rage that builds like a volcano preparing to erupt feels like anger. Looks like anger when I give full vent to it with slamming, flinging or throwing (which only a fool does according to the Bible – good job, Laura). Sounds like anger to my spouse and children…

But surprisingly, is actually not anger.

Well, it is in part. The past part. The little kid who got hurt instead of protected, ignored instead of forgiven or lashed at without warning. That little kid’s feelings of fear, confusion, being unloved or unimportant turned to anger.

Anger at self – nothing is your parent’s fault when you’re a kid. Or anger at the person hurting you but stuffed away – since nothing can possibly be your parent’s fault when you’re the kid. Anger becomes a defense.

Stop hurting me!

Rebellion, tantrums and angry outbursts are often a sign of fear, anger, confusion or other emotions when a child’s world isn’t right.

During my current season of delving into my emotions and learning what it means to control them well (not stuff, ignore or minimize), I jotted down a list of feelings I experienced in regard to a recent event. (I had the help of a list to look at. You can find the list of “Soul Words” at www.howwelove.com)

Initially, anger surged through me.

I wanted to react in anger. Instead, I took a deep breath. (Remember that count to 10 thing? Not a bad idea.) I managed to keep self-control, speak calmly and cry later, asking God what I was really feeling. Here are the emotions I listed that described how I felt:

betrayed, worried, unloved, shocked, hated, injured, beaten down, tired, unwanted, cut off, crushed, grieved, heavy, bewildered, misunderstood, let down, distrustful, unimportant and disregarded

Notice anything?

Yep. Not ONE word of anger. But truly, each of these words really described my feelings. When I read through the list of words describing anger, none of them resounded with me. Go figure.

Fascinating.

This opened up new insight about myself, my emotions and the way I respond to situations. If I allow anger to be the go-to reaction, I miss out on understanding my true feelings and communicating them to others.

Not helpful.

Not only that, but when I don’t deal with the actual feelings, anger spins around like a tornado in my heart and mind. When I try to squelch it because I don’t want it’s destruction, I end up feeling depressed and aimless. (An indication something deeper is going on.)

In addition, my outbursts of frustration hurt those I love, making them defensive. And how can they respond well to me if I am “always angry” at them? Instead, if I share accurate emotions, I invite understanding and intimacy.

Maybe even compassion.

So, here are some practical steps I’m learning to implement to get a handle on anger:

  1. Every time I feel “anger”, ask myself what I am REALLY feeling.
  2. Share those feelings in a journal, with a trusted friend and/or with God. I do all three in the reverse order: God, journal, friend.
  3. Ask myself when I felt those same or similar feelings as a child – usually where it started, but now is being triggered by a similar interaction or experience.
  4. Grieve over the past situation. Cry, pray, journal. Let myself feel.
  5. Forgive anyone that caused past hurts. Looking at the past isn’t to blame, it is for us to acknowledge so we can grieve, forgive and move forward in life.
  6. If I displayed anger in an inappropriate way to someone, I need to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. (God’s too.)
  7. Share with the person involved my true feelings. If necessary, do this with a third party like a counselor or pastor. Sometimes defenses created by our previous anger may require additional outside help to work through and heal.
  8. Move forward. Let go of the situation.
  9. Repeat as needed. Years of these patterns aren’t changed in one time.
  10. Have grace for myself as I establish new patterns.

The Bible says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) As we analyze the way we’ve thought and the emotions established due to past pain, we can be changed and healed. Not simply by “trying harder” not to get mad, but by examining our true feelings and submitting them to our loving heavenly Father.

Here’s to the journey ahead!

I’d love to partner with you in prayer as you address your anger. Please let me know how I can pray in the comments below.

 

 

 

Are You a Victim?


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And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice…”  Jesus                                                                                               Luke 18:7-8

Have you ever been robbed?

I was once. Someone broke into my house and stole $600 from my bedroom. Even though I never saw the thief, a creepy sense of violation made being in the house and sleeping at night difficult.

Have you been betrayed?

Maybe a friend gossiped about you, or your spouse had an affair.

Have you lost a loved one because of murder, an accident or illness?

And what about assault? Many of us have been physically abused, molested or raped. Even verbal abuse is an assault. When we’re a victim, we can become stuck in a place of feeling the need for the wrong to be made right. The injustice to be rectified.

We seek – we need vindication.

Most people have had some kind of injustice visited upon them. But much of the time, vindication doesn’t come. Perpetrators rarely admit their crimes let alone apologize for them. Often, our hurt goes unanswered because we kept the offense to ourselves. Maybe we even blamed ourselves.

I was stuck there. Here are a few signs that you may be too:

  • Do you notice even the slightest of wrongs whether against you or not?
  • Are you hyper vigilant to point out when your family “messes up?”
  • Do you find yourself believing that your loved ones are trying to hurt you?
  • Do you take offense at mistakes as if you were the target?
  • Are you quick to assign blame?

Recently, I read the verse above. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time that I took to heart what Jesus was saying. I realized that my thoughts and action were often the result of feeling the need for vindication for the many areas I had been victimized in my past.

Jesus’s words finally sunk in.

He is the one who defends me. He will make it right in the end. At some point, those who have hurt me will be called to account. He WILL see justice done because I am his child who he loves.

He loves you too.

He sees our distress and pain. He knows the injustices we’ve suffered. He is not ignoring us. It may seem that he doesn’t care, but his timing is perfect. It is not for us to hold onto the injustices – that only hurts and hinders us.

When we allow his timing for vindication, we can be free to live. No longer will the weight of those moments hinder our lives.

We can let go.

Sometimes we need to talk about the hurt, pain or injustice in order to let it go into Jesus’s hands. I’m happy to listen in the comments below.