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The Uniqueness Of Each Person

I’m always amazed when I think of how God created a world that’s filled with incredible diversity and variety. There are different kinds of colors, tastes, sounds, foods, scenery, animals, ideas, types of leisure… (and the list just goes on and on). But one area that is especially intriguing to me is the variety of people He has created. In fact, everyone is different. There are no two of us alike. We are each special.

In spite of our great diversity, the Bible says that we were all created in the image of God. Therefore, we all have some things in common, things that make up our ‘humanness.’ We’ve already noted that all humans have the capacity to think, reason, make decisions, worship, communicate, create, appreciate beauty, etc. We also have similar limitations and needs. We all need food, shelter and clothing. We also need to be loved and to love others. We are also constrained by our physical capacity and strength, knowledge, mortality, and senses, to mention just a few of our limitations.

But do these similarities make us all identical? Not in the least! Though we have certain traits and characteristics that we share, we’re also very different from one another. Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a-kind, special, limited edition! This uniqueness doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also part of God’s grand design and plan. Even our striving to affirm our own identity isn’t accidental. When a child pulls away from his parents to assert his own unique personhood, he’s really just trying to discover more fully who he really is. This is healthy and normal behavior, part of God’s plan for self-awareness.

God’s Involvement

God forms each one of us lovingly and intentionally. We’re not just an “accident-of-nature” (as many atheists and evolutionists would have us believe). There’s purpose, planning, and design that led up to our existence. Our parents were certainly involved (obviously), but so was God. Whether our parents rejoiced when they received the news of our pending arrival, or regretted their decision to procreate and conceive, we are here nonetheless, because God wanted us here!

David talks about the unique role that God plays in bringing us into existence in Psalm 139:13-15.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

David has become a voice for each of us, expressing gratitude to God for His creative involvement in making us. God was intentionally involved in making us who we are, both inwardly (“inmost being”) and outwardly (“my frame”). The inner man has to do with our personalities, our mind, will, and emotions, our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses. The outer man is our physical bodies, our appearance, physical strength, natural coordination, etc.

To show God’s personal involvement in making us, the Bible uses words and phrases that capture the notion of nurture and creativity: “knit together,” “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and “woven together.” The psalmist also indicates that God created us with a purpose and destiny in mind, even determining the number of days we would live. Though this passage doesn’t tell us exactly what that purpose is, elsewhere the Bible makes it clear that we exist to bring glory to God (Ephesians 1:11-12), and to live in a personal and eternal relationship with Him (John 3:16).

Unfortunately, in spite of God’s affirmation to the contrary, there are many people who have become convinced that their life is unimportant or useless. Some even consider themselves a burden to society, thinking it would have been better if they had never been born. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has created each of us in a way that is unique and special. Each of us is designed to bring Him glory in a way that no one else can. He wants to accomplish His good works in each of us and through each of us.

Individual Uniqueness

Some social theorists affirm that children are born as a ‘blank slate’ and our surroundings alone are responsible for determining who we become. In other words our environment determines who we are. According to Scripture that is not totally true. God makes each person unique in many special ways. While the environment has an ongoing and significant impact on our lives, God has already written on our ‘slate’ when He created us (Psalm 139:13). He has given us each a unique personality as well as natural strengths and weaknesses. He has given us unique abilities as well, such as hand-eye coordination, ability to play an instrument, artistic ability, intelligence, etc.

Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a- kind, special, limited edition!!

When we become a Christian, God’s creative work in our lives begins again in a different way. When we trust Christ, God gives each of us spiritual gifts through the person of His Holy Spirit. These abilities enable us to have a unique ministry to believers and unbelievers (I Corinthians 12:7). In fact, most of us have a combination of several gifts. These gifts become evident as we go about helping others in effective and enjoyable service. God also calls us to specific ministries where we are able to employ our special gifts in ways distinct from others. For example,Paul was called to have a ministry to the Gentiles while Peter was called to have a ministry to the Jews
(Galatians 2:8). Sometimes He will even change our ministries as we mature.

God continues to bring about change in us throughout life. He employs agents that work internally (the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures) and agents that work externally (angels, circumstances) to conform us to the image of Christ. There are other forces that God uses to shape us, but one of the most profound is the influence of our family. This environment creates a climate for both good and bad in our lives. It takes wisdom and maturity to process this influence in a healthy way. Fortunately, God assures us that He can even use the bad to bring good into our lives (Romans 8:28). He uses all of our experiences, even the unique culture and era that we live in, to bring us to Christ and to mature us (Acts 17:26-28).

Conclusion

God has made each of us special and unique. He’s created us in amazing ways and made it possible for us to contribute to what He’s doing in this world. Every person who comes to Christ brings something that no one else is able to offer. Rather than making us arrogant, this knowledge should cause us to remain humble as we celebrate our special place and affirm God’s sovereign plan for us.

Application:

• Write down the strengths God has given to you, and thank Him for them.
• What are some of the experiences that have shaped your life? Thank God for them
and what He has done in your life through them.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.


Have you ever felt confused and frustrated by the behavior of another person? Or been confused by your own behavior? “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” Understanding people—both ourselves and others—is important to our own personal growth and to our ability to impact the lives of others.

This series of Pocket Principles is designed to help us begin the process of understanding people.

We begin with several benefits that understanding people can bring us.

First, understanding people helps us to understand what motivates their behavior. When God created man, He created him incomplete, and this incompleteness drives a person to try to get his needs met. For example, one of the greatest needs all of us have is for value and worth. We see this need revealed in the ways people seek acceptance, recognition, and approval. From the child’s attention seeking to an adult’s basic insecurity, this need is evident. Driven by this need, a child will often act out to get negative attention, which is preferable to being ignored. An adult will make all kinds of sacrifices to win some positive feedback and may even demand it from others. Even if we deny our needs, we still are driven by them, and our words and actions betray us.

Second, we need to understand people so we can be sensitive to them. The more we understand people, their struggles and needs, the more we can come along side them in helpful, significant ways, communicate their “specialness” and show them their need for God and spiritual growth.

A third reason to understand people is to correct inadequate views of man. There are many wrong views of man both outside of Christianity and within. Our understanding of people must be derived from the Bible. What does God say about man? Since God created us, He knows even more about us than we do about ourselves. In the Pocket Principles that follow we will explore how God has created us, the effect of the Fall of man and the restorative ministry of Christ.

In this Pocket Principle we will begin to define and understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

Biblical Teaching about the Image of God in Man

Scripture makes many clear statements about the image of God in man. The first one is found in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”

Although it seems so, this passage is not redundant. The repetition is a Hebrew expression designed to communicate emphasis and builds to a climax. In fact, everything in the creation account builds to a climax: God creates something, steps back from it, admires it and pronounces it “good”. He does this over and over until He comes to the creation of man.

God saved the best for last. It was as if He said, “Okay, what We have done so far is pretty good, but now We need to do something that is even more spectacular. Let’s create man. We need to make him greater than everything else in all of the universe. Let’s do that by creating him in Our image. Let’s make him like Us.”
Mankind was God’s masterpiece, His high point, the climax of creation. Indeed, everything else was made for man, not God. The rest of creation was to be the place where man would dwell and live and move. Man was to rule over, maintain and develop God’s creation. Though all other parts of creation bear God’s mark and design, only man bears His image.

Often Christians don’t appreciate the unique place that God has given them. Psalm 8:3-7 puts it this way: When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than “elohim” and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 

Christians may become too focused on the problem of sin and lose sight of the dignity of man. While it is true that all men, including those who are believers, have an ongoing serious problem with sin, it is also true that all men, including nonbelievers, have been created in God’s image. Psalm 8 tells us that man was made just a little lower than “elohim”. The Hebrew word “elohim” is the name of God used to reveal His might and sovereignty. It is probably best to understand this passage to be saying that God created man just a little lower than Himself. Out of all of creation, man is the only one who reflects God’s image. There is none other like him.

The Meaning of the Image of God in Man

Being made in God’s image means that we are like God in many ways, but not in all ways. We are like Him in that we have a personality, an intellect, a will and emotions. We are also creative, as He is. Look around and see what man has done in architecture, art, medicine, science, and technology. We are advancing in our understanding and in our ability to control the world we live in because God has given us the ability to learn, invent and create, to plan and carry out those plans. We communicate with complex, abstract language. No other animal is able to do this, only man. Man alone bears God’s image.

God’s image is shown in still other ways. Because God is the standard of right and wrong, all men have an inner sense of right and wrong, a moral compass of sorts, a conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Man has a spiritual dimension so he is able to have a relationship with God. He has an innate desire to worship God, although at times it may be misdirected toward false gods (Romans 1:21-23). He has deep longings for a better world, deeper relationships and a more meaningful life. He is capable of having significant relationships and joining with others to do incredible feats (like putting a man on the moon) and creating almost unimaginable objects (such as a space station). Man reflects God more than any other created being.

The Restoration of the Image of God in Man

The fall of man damaged the image of God in man. Although God’s image was marred, it was not destroyed (James 3:9). Mankind is like a classic car that has deteriorated; that seems like a piece of junk. It is rusted, dented and broken. It is easy to discount it as something that needs to be discarded. But it is not a piece of junk. It is a classic car desperately in need of restoration. This is how man is. God’s image in him is marred, but he is an image-bearer who is desperately in need of restoration.

God sent Christ into the world not just to win our salvation, but to restore what has been lost. The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). So to become like Christ is to restore the image of God in fallen man. This is God’s goal, His commitment to us.

Although God is renewing us on the inside (our spiritual selves), the outside (our physical selves) is increasingly wasting away (II Corinthians 4:16). This wasting away of the outside will eventually cause us to die physically. In eternity God will instantly finish the work on the inside, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will also restore the outside. We will have a new body fashioned after Christ’s resurrection body that will be suited for the new world that God will create.
In light of what it means to be created in the image of God, we should celebrate the majesty of man. Man is God’s supreme creation. All men, whether believers or nonbelievers, are created with great worth because they are created in the image of God. It is that image that makes the weak, the downtrodden, the defenseless, the old and the disabled significant. We cannot reject them as the world often does because as image-bearers they reflect Him and represent Him in this world.

While God’s image in man gives him value, it does not give him salvation. Although all men were created for eternal life, no man is guaranteed eternal life. It is only as a person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that he receives eternal life and Christ begins to restore God’s image in him. As God’s image is restored, the person begins to be changed from the inside out. He begins the process of becoming more like Christ and is enabled by God’s power and guidance to use His abilities to glorify God and advance His Kingdom. Man was created for great things but his true and full purpose cannot be realized without God. The great tragedy of hell is that some who were created in God’s image and therefore were destined for great things will spend eternity separated from Him.

There are many significant implications of being created in God’s image.

• It should bring forth praise to God for the unique place and abilities that God has given mankind.

• All people have worth and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

• It removes all basis for racism or feelings of superiority or inferiority.

• It is the basis for saying that only God has the right to take a life or prescribe when a life should be taken.

• It is the only true basis for having a high view of man.

• It provides a basis for the argument that man should play an important role in living the Christian life (Colossians 1:28,29; Philippians 2:12,13) as opposed to God doing it all.

Application Suggestions:

• Meditate on Psalm 8.

• Meditate on and worship God for the high place He has given man in the created order.

• Celebrate the majesty of man as you see God’s image reflected through music, art, architecture, technology, etc.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Blog_Banner_Ebooks2.2I have wondered over the last few years if WDA should publish our Guided Discussions as a ebook. Could we actually deliver a meaningful experience for our customers who might not want to carry a book to their group.

One younger leader mentioned that he was excited about the new workbooks we publish for Cornerstone but after looking at the format said, “when are you going to create a ebook version. None of the people I work with will bring a book to small group but all of them have their iPhone®.”

I was also talking to a friend who is creating curriculum for church leaders in Africa, and as we talked he mentioned that there are many challenges to creating and publishing materials for their ministry partners. Our International staff has taken digital pdf books or even hard copies of materials to people by hand.

As you can see printing materials in many countries is very challenging. Not only is it a challenge it can be costly.

Because WDA’s mission is to serve the church worldwide, we are always looking for new ways to deliver our materials and training to as many people as possible. I think ebooks is a good option for some people! So what do you think?

cornerstoneJust this week we published all the books that are part of “Cornerstone” in a Kindle format. You can now get Getting Started, Knowing God, Understanding People and Growing Spiritually to use on  your device.

At this point we are offering them for Kindle, which can be also used on other devices that use the Kindle app as well.

They are available now on Smile.Amazon.com.  There are both student and leaders editions available for you and your church to use.

If you want to know more about these books, please visit our WDA store, and read about them.

You can then follow the link to the smile.amazon.com website, where by buying with Smile.amazon, Amazon will give a portion of your ebook purchase to WDA as a charitable gift at no cost to you!

We hope you like the Cornerstone books in the Kindle format.  We are also working on versions for epub/ibooks.  Please contact us if you desire those formats as well.

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amazon-smileWhat is Amazon Smile? By logging into smile.amazon.com rather than the regular Amazon.com site you can choose Worldwide Discipleship Association as a charity and Amazon makes donation to WDA with each purchase!

Learn more about the program and how to choose WDA by following this link. WDA Amazon Smile

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Buddy, David, Jeff, Dan and Woody

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier faced off in the 3rd matchup of their boxing careers. The previous meetings had them tied one win each. In what was an amazing fight, Ali won by technical knockout in the 15th round. The bout is ranked in the sport as one of the best in the sports history.

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Philippine Bible Society Staff

WDA sent a team of five men to the Philippines this April, and it was a “Thrilla” as well. For over the last nine months WDA has been establishing a relationship with a ministry partner, James Tioco (pron ch-eo-ko), who leads a ministry called Sowers of the Word (S.O.W). James had contacted WDA after reading many of our books and looking at our website. He believed that WDA had the comprehensive approach that would serve the church in the Philippines. Our Exec VP and C.O.O., David Partfitt, began a dialogue over the phone and by Skype which allowed us to learn about them and them about us. It was clear that James wanted to see WDA help him roll out a discipleship ministry. So this brought us nine months later to our trip to Manila.

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James Tioco: Sowers of the Word

David Parfitt, Dan Horne (WDA Board Chairman), Woody Johnson (WDA Board Member), Jeff Pritchett (Chick-fil-A), and I (WDA Church Staff, Atlanta Arts Coordinator, Publishing Leader) began to develop a series of presentations for church and ministry leaders, denomination leaders and ministry partners. We flew to Manila April 27-May 7, and over a week introduce the ministry of WDA to a limited number of people who we hoped would pray, lead and/or volunteer to be WDA trainer of churches. From the beginning, we realized that James could have gathered hundreds of leaders to a one day “training” but we wanted to be strategic in our launch. Limiting the numbers would allow James and Sowers to have a manageable number of people to train.

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Monday Group of 80

On Monday and Tuesday we did full-day “orientation” meetings in which we discussed the need for discipleship, the priority of the local church as the vehicle for disciple building, the process, biblical foundation, and our Biblical Framework and the Five Initiatives of Disciple Building, R-CAPS®. Each day closed with a challenge for them to pray, lead a new or existing group using our approach, and/or also be willing to become a WDA Trainer to train churches and ministries to use our approach in their context.

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Wednesday Vision Lunch

Wednesday we met with potential ministry partners who would commit to pray and fund the ministry of WDA Philippines (Sowers). Our team also spent Wednesday morning meeting with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) who will be our in-country publishing partner. They will be printing and translating our materials for use beginning in Manila, then to other areas as God provides people and opportunity.

Our last day was a full day with the Sower’s ministry, discussing next steps, strategy and reporting on the results of the earlier meetings. We left the meeting with lots of energy and ideas for how we could move forward.

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Thursday Planning with Sowers

We were a bit overwhelmed by the many churches and pastors who already were committing to train other trainers. Many were already making plans to begin new groups or multiply existing groups and use our WDA approach and materials. They desired training as soon as possible and wanted to know what materials were ready now! We had financial backers who wanted to know more details and what would be needed to fund this initiative. James said that his phone was full of text messages each night following the meetings as people were responding very positively towards our orientations and vision.

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Tuesday Orientation

It is by the grace of God that our work in Manila is happening now. Even a few years ago WDA would not have had the ability to move forward with this type of initiative in the way we are able to do today. Over the last two years we have redesigned and printed books for our country and have the ability to take the exact same English materials and have the Philippine Bible Society adapt our format to one which is more suitable in size and affordability for the church there. After being on the ground and talking to leaders, hearing from James and his team, we are positioned to provide materials and training to over 700 people in just this first stage.

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Dan teaching on the Great Commission and Importance of the Church

We begin by providing leadership training and materials using WDA’s Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework and A Small Groups Manual. PBS will also print all of our Cornerstone (Phase 1 and 2) materials. Leaders will be using Pocket Principles® and Guided Discussions, and the students will get a version that has just the Pocket Principles®. The partners at PBS were very helpful as was the Sowers team in helping us decide how to configure our materials specifically for them.

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Jeff teaching on the process of growth

The churches want to launch their new groups as soon as possible, so we have a goal of 30 days to get new materials in their hands. Our publishing team and the PBS will be working hard in the next few weeks to get books reconfigured and to their printing press. We will also spend these weeks providing short video training segments that Sowers will use to begin to follow up from our orientation and prepare leaders to launch discipleship groups using Getting Started.  Over the next 12-18 months, they will complete all of Cornerstone. WDA will continue to work with Sowers to provide training from the U.S. while planning for second trip to roll our Life Coaching Ministry and additional training.

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David tying up all the various points

There is the potential for us to see thousands of people building disciples in a relational approach which is able to be adapted for their churches. We have seen a hunger for discipleship as person after person who connected with our presentations also saw the need and understood how our approach to disciple building was progressive, biblical and flexible. We worked very hard to show that one size did not fit all, and that WDA could help them design and build specifically for their country and culture. One leader over hundreds of churches said to us, “You know you have started a fire here.”

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Buddy teaching R-CAPS and 5 Phases

We are overwhelmed by God’s providential work in bringing our team to the Philippines, creating a desire for Biblical discipleship, providing people and organizations in-country that are primed to move forward and provide the people and resources for this to go forward.

As of this date we have 81 prayer partners, 71 leaders of new Cornerstone groups, 59 new Cornerstone trainers, 125 new small groups beginning. 35 Youth Pastors trained by a participant using R-CAPS®. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Board, approved our approach and ordered 50 copies of Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework Book.

We are humbled that God would use the five of us men to promote His work. This was not about us as individuals, but it was clear that God wanted to encourage these leaders that they and their church members can have a significant ministry to many people as they continue with us to fulfill Jesus’ commission to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching to do all that He commanded.

Our team, while still feeling the Jet Lag, returned with great joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of a launch of Disciple Building ministry with a great partner in Manila.

This certainly was a “Thrilla.” There will be much more work but also much more fruit from our trip.

 

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Woody sharing the testimony of a lay leader disciple builder

 

 

  • Pray for James Tioco and Sowers of the Word and for us.
  • Pray for the hundreds of pastors who this very moment are beginning to share what they learned in our orientation.
  • Pray for the publication of materials, training of leaders and wisdom for next steps.

Thanks for those who pray for our ministry. God is at work all over the world bringing people to himself and raising up men and women in the church who are committed to helping others grow to Christ-like Maturity.

Praise be to God!

God is in the business of healing. He came to heal us from the damage of sin, as well as to enable us to grow in our relationship with Him. In fact, if we do not heal from the damage sin has caused in our lives, our spiritual life will almost certainly be impaired.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He quoted from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah (Luke 4:18-19) defining what His ministry would be like, what it would include. It is very clear that Jesus’ ministry would be a ministry of healing as well as of salvation.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort those who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of
beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the
display of His splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
And restore the places long devastated;
They will renew the ruined cities
That have been devastated for generations.”
[Printed text – New International Version]
(Isaiah 61:1-4)

Oak Tree in Field - In these verses an interesting scenario is presented. The prophet Isaiah is speaking about One who will preach the good news of the gospel, free those who are in bondage, heal the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn. All these are healing ministries. The person who will come to do this is Jesus Himself (as He made evident both through His statements and His ministry). The text goes on to say that those who have experienced these healing ministries of the Lord will become “oaks of righteousness” which means that their righteousness will be their strength. He goes on to say that these “oaks of righteousness” will be the very ones that will restore what is ruined in the culture. They will become powerful change agents in their cultures.

He makes it clear that only those who have come to know Christ and have been set free from their emotional issues will impact the world for God. It is only those who have been healed from their spiritual poverty, emotional wounds, bondage to addictions, and distorted thinking who will be able to help others be restored from the damages of sin, renew their minds, restore broken relationships and build healthy families.

How does this healing come about? Believers can deal with emotional issues by completing the following process.

Identify emotional issues.

The following list describes unhealthy ways emotions may affect us, thus indicating that something needs correction or healing. See if any of these items are descriptive of your experience. (List can be found on Handout “Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions”)

  1. You are numb and do not feel your emotions.
  2. The emotions you feel are mainly negative.
  3. You tend to overreact or be supersensitive in certain situations.
  4. You do not know how to express your emotions appropriately.
  5. You are afraid of certain emotions.
  6. You try to distract yourself so you will not feel certain emotions.
  7. You believe that certain emotions are bad and that you should not have them.
  8. You are often confused by some of your emotions.
  9. You are depressed for no clear reason.
  10. You do not know how to deal with pain.
  11. You are bitter, negative or simply unable to enjoy life.
  12. You take out your anger on people that are not the source of the anger.
  13. You are not able to control your expression of anger.
  14. You feel out of control most of the time.
  15. You are afraid to stop and be silent with just your emotions.

Everyone has emotional issues to some degree, at some time. This is part of being human and living in a fallen world. If even one of these statements describes you, it indicates that there is an emotional issue you need to deal with. If more than one of these statements describes you, there are more serious emotional issues to attend to. Although these statements indicate that something is wrong, they do not tell what is wrong. Determining that will take more time and careful analysis.

Understand the healing process.

Emotional issues may affect many areas of a person’s life. Therefore, we must look at many areas of life in order to understand the healing process. Following is a list of actions that may need to be taken for a person to heal from emotional problems.

Stop abusive relationships – If a person continues in a hurtful relationship, emotional problems will worsen. It will take all of his energy to just survive the relationship, and therefore, there will not be any energy left to work on emotional issues. In hurtful relationships, self-worth is destroyed, distorted thinking patterns emerge, and the person is cut off from what he needs. Therefore, it is necessary to stop these relationships or change them in order for healing to occur (Psalm 1:1).

Control addictions – Severe addictions hinder a person’s ability to deal with emotions because these addictions exist, at least in part, to keep the person from feeling their painful emotions. Addictions also destroy relationships and are an escape from the real issues of life. Addictions must be brought under control before a person can make any progress in healing (Romans 8:12,13).

Learn to view and express emotions properly – Emotional problems begin primarily from not being able to deal with emotions appropriately; and therefore, it is crucial that a person learn about emotions and develop the ability to deal with them and express them appropriately (Ephesians 4:26).

Grieve pain and losses – Everyone needs to learn how to grieve losses from both the present and past. A person with emotional problems almost always has unresolved emotions from the past that are stored internally. These emotions must be felt and released, a process called grieving, for the person to heal. (Isaiah 61:2,3; Matthew 5:4).

Understand needs and how to get them met appropriately – God has created everyone with needs, and whether or not a person is aware of his needs, he is still driven to meet them. In order to live a healthy life, we need to be able to identify our needs and learn healthy ways to meet them (Matthew 6:32).

Learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy thinking and behavior – People who are hurting tend to think in extremes. They may discount positive things that happen or maximize bad things that happen. They may jump to conclusions with little evidence or deny that painful events bother them. Behaviors follow our beliefs, so if our thinking is wrong, it will lead to unhealthy behaviors as well. In order to become healthy one must develop correct thinking about oneself, others and God (Romans 12:2).

Develop healthy relationships and a good support system – One of the primary ways God meets the needs of people is through relationships with others. Therefore, we need to be able to develop healthy relationships. Because no one person can meet all the needs of another person, we need to have a network of good relationships, a support system. People were not created to live in isolation, and all of us need caring relationships, validation and helpful feedback in order to function well in life (Hebrews 10:24,25).

Learn to grow spiritually –Emotional healing and spiritual growth occur simultaneously. You cannot have one without the other. Therefore, it is important to focus on both at the same time. They need to be intermixed. Jesus wants to help you grow spiritually and heal emotionally and relationally at the same time (Matthew 5:3,4).

The first two actions in the list (stop abusive relationships and control addictions) must be addressed first because failing to address them will prevent the other six from happening. The last six do not happen in any particular sequence. Rather, they may occur simultaneously during a group session or in personal counseling. In order to explain them and show their importance, they are noted here as separate issues.

One might ask: Why is this so complex? Why are there so many areas that need to be addressed for a person to get better? The answer is that people are complex. We are made up of several interrelated systems: physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual. When something goes wrong in one of these systems, the others are also affected because everything about us is interconnected.

It is like a problem I recently had with my car. A rock was temporarily caught between a pulley and a belt and stretched the belt. Because the belt was not tight enough, it began to slip on the alternator. Since the alternator wasn’t turning fast enough, the battery ran down. Neither the battery nor the alternator was producing enough electricity to run the car so the lights would not work and the engine would not run. When one part failed to function properly, other parts that were dependent on it also began to fail.

It takes a great deal of work to align all the systems in our lives. But when our lives begin to function correctly, it leads us to new levels of maturity and enables us to function in a healthy and effective manner.

Seek outside help to deal with emotional problems.

People often need help dealing with emotional problems. In fact, God never intended for us to deal with them alone. Scripture tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). It is usually only when we can be totally honest, in the midst of safe people, that healing will take place. When we bring our struggles out into the open they lose much of their power over us, and we can find needed support and help to overcome them.

There are many sources of help for emotional issues. Sometimes several of these sources need to be employed at once, or over a period of time. The following is a list of such sources: (in no particular order)

1. Personal counseling

2. Support groups — These groups focus on a single issue that all the group members have in common (e.g. death of a child, divorce, etc.)

3. Addiction groups — These are also called 12 step groups. They focus on controlling a specific addiction. For example Alcoholics Anonymous focuses on controlling alcohol. Over Eaters Anonymous focuses on controlling eating. There are groups for almost any kind of addiction.

4. Restorative groups — These groups focus on developing emotional and relational health. Their goal is to help people learn how to handle emotions correctly, grieve past losses, think correctly and develop needed relational skills.

5. Involvement with the body of Christ — The church can provide a lot of help in the healing process. We can find encouragement and help to grow spiritually. A growing knowledge of the Word of God teaches us how to think right. It can also provide safe and supportive people who will encourage us and hold us accountable.

6. Medication — Stress due to emotional problems can cause brain chemical imbalances and other physical problems that may require medication. (E.g. A common problem is the development of clinical depression that requires an anti-depressant to restore brain chemical balance.)

There is always hope for healing from emotional problems because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). God wants to transform our lives from the inside out. If we change on the inside, external aspects of our lives will change also. Some people are able to effectively apply principles of recovery to their own lives after they hear or read them. Others need outside help over a longer period of time before their healing is complete. Regardless, it is the people who work hard at all aspects of recovery and who look to God for strength and guidance in the process who make the fastest progress in recovery. Recovery is hard work, and there are no shortcuts.

Application Suggestions:

• Read Psalm 146. List and meditate on the ways God meets needs and acts on our behalf (note verses 5 through 9).

• Using the “Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions” identify any inappropriate ways you deal with your negative emotions. (See Below)

• If, after reading through the list, you are concerned about how you handle negative emotions, talk with someone who has experience with emotionally-based problems.

Evaluating and Dealing with Emotional Issues

Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions

  • You are numb and do not feel your emotions.
  • The emotions you feel are mainly negative.
  • You tend to overreact and be supersensitive in certain situations.
  • You do not know how to express your emotions appropriately.
  • You are afraid of certain emotions.
  • You try to distract yourself so you will not feel certain emotions or you do unhealthy things to alter your mood. People often fixate on things outside themselves (food, sex, work, cleaning, shopping, spending, alcohol, drugs, etc.) in order to avoid dealing with internal painful emotions.
  • You believe that certain emotions are bad and that you should not have them.
  • You are often confused by some of your emotions.
  • You are depressed for no clear reason.
  • You do not know how to deal with pain.
  • You are bitter, negative or simply unable to enjoy life.
  • You take out your anger on people that are not the source of the anger.
  • You are not able to control your expression of anger.
  • You feel out of control most of the time.

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