Necessary or Unnecessary Suffering

Necessary or Unnecessary Suffering

Is suffering a good thing? Is suffering to be embraced? Or avoided?

Suffering never feels good. That’s why it’s called suffering. Some Christian believers seem to embrace suffering and grow from it personally and spiritually. Other believers seem to avoid it at all costs, wonder why God doesn’t always relieve their suffering, and wonder what’s wrong when suffering continues.

Much of that confusion, I believe, comes from a failure to understand the difference between necessary and unnecessary suffering.

Unnecessary Suffering

There are countless ways in which we suffer – physically, emotionally, spiritually. But not all of that suffering is necessary or inevitable. It’s not a pleasant thought, but sometimes you cause the suffering yourself.

What about the suffering of material lack – poverty? Have you invested your time and energy well, refusing to blame others for where you are in life? Have you learned good money management skills, staying away from debt? Have you learned to be a wise steward of any physical resources you have?

What about the suffering from the breakup of a marriage? Did you give up too soon when your marriage might have been saved with hard work? Did you neglect your spouse too long in too many ways? Did you compromise your boundaries, or refuse to deal with damaging things in your own character?

What about physical suffering? Are you experiencing the consequences of a lifestyle of unhealthy eating, no exercise, or substance abuse? Have you cared for your body well, with appropriate rest and medical care?

Wallowing in shame and guilt about any of this is not useful. But it is sobering to realize that some of our suffering was caused or at least made worse by the decisions we made and actions we took.

That’s actually good news! Because it also means we can now reduce our suffering in those areas by making new decisions and taking different actions.

Necessary Suffering

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How to Have a Spiritual Conversation with Your Spouse

How to Have a Spiritual Conversation with Your Spouse

You know you need God in your marriage for it to grow and remain strong and healthy. But you may feel as though you and your spouse are on very different pages when it comes to your spiritual life. Having a deep spiritual conversation may feel intimidating or downright scary. Perhaps you’ve tried in the past and things didn’t go well. You ended up frustrated, more isolated, and feeling like a failure.

Here are steps that will help you get started having those conversations. Don’t make the mistake of trying to talk about all these questions in one sitting. Choose one to three to begin with, and see where the conversation goes.

There is no greater intimacy than that which can develop between a husband and wife who commit to regularly bringing God into their relationship. Having these kinds of conversations will help you do that.

Before You Begin

For this kind of conversation to work well, you’ll need to be intentional. Before you begin, these points will help you set yourself up for success.

Choose the Setting

Don’t use these questions to ambush your spouse as they’re rushing to leave for work or dropping into bed with exhaustion. Find a time when you will both be free from distractions and able to focus on each other. It might be date night, Saturday morning coffee, or some other setting when you are both relatively well rested and able to listen well.

Listen to Your Spouse

Talking about these questions won’t get you very far if you use them purely as an intellectual exercise. Look for what your spouse is trying to communicate underneath the words. Reflect what you hear them saying, and then share from your own heart. See yourself as investing from your heart in the spiritual foundation of your marriage.

Listen to God

Above all else, be looking for what God is doing – in your own heart, in your spouse’s heart, and in your marriage. Look for where He is already at work, and see how you might cooperate with that. It’s best to begin with prayer – short and simple: “God, we are here seeking You in our marriage. Please show up and minister to us where we need it most. Thank You. Amen.”

20 Questions

Now for the questions – the conversation starters that can help you explore your spiritual lives together and nurture what God wants to do in, through, and for you.

  1. What is your picture of God? Who is He to you?

Biblical phrases and images are great, and it’s wonderful to start there. But go deeper. Who is God to you experientially, emotionally? What kind of feelings or thoughts come up when you think or talk about God?

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Heavenly Perfume: How to Smell Good as a Christian

Heavenly Perfume: How to Smell Good as a Christian

Jesus smelled good. Do you?

I don’t mean Jesus showered every day; He didn’t. People used various methods to try to smell nice, but cologne as we know it wasn’t available 2000 years ago. But no one could come near Him without feeling an almost irresistible attraction. The heavenly perfume of Jesus’ goodness and holiness was undeniable.

The attraction to Jesus was not some sappy happiness or momentary feel-good “love”. It had nothing to do with religious stuff. Yes, He healed people and gave them hope for a better life. But everything about Him – not only but including His words – radiated fierce courage, jealous love, and a call to a deeper, fuller, wilder, and more purposeful life than anyone had previously imagined.

You couldn’t meet Jesus and not be changed. Not everyone who sensed the fragrance of Jesus responded positively. But no one could leave His presence or His life without facing a choice – to either follow Him on a journey to goodness and holiness and purpose themselves, or to reject His offer and follow evil instead.

You Have an Aroma Too

Everything about you has an effect on others. You can’t keep that from happening any more than you can keep your body odor or perfume to yourself.

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How Can I Get My Spouse To . . . ? Facing a Miserable Marriage

How Can I Get My Spouse To . . . ? Facing a Miserable Marriage

One of the most common questions I am asked is some variation of “How can I get my spouse to . . ?” I hear from men and women every day who feel stuck in a miserable marriage. Is that you?

In a healthy marriage many of your mutual needs are met. But too often that doesn’t happen. You can easily become trapped in a cycle of trying everything you can think of to get your spouse to meet your needs – without success. But the harder you try things only seem to become worse. You’re tempted to believe your spouse has made it their mission in life to make you miserable.

You don’t have to remain stuck in marriage misery! You have a lot more power than you think. Your needs can be met.

In this video I offer 3 suggestions for how to get your wants and needs met in marriage.

In this video you’ll discover:

  • where your power and influence lies in your marriage
  • the single most important “trick” to get your spouse to do what you need or want
  • the key to getting your deepest needs met

Watch the video here.

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3 Keys to Help You Manage Emotions

3 Keys to Help You Manage Emotions

Have you picked up the habit of expressing yourself with emoticons? They fill our text messages, Facebook status updates, and more. Expressing emotions can be helpful, but “expressing emotions” can sometimes also be dangerous. Stuffing your feelings can be just as dangerous, resulting in serious physical and mental distress. There must be an alternative – a way to manage emotions without letting them completely manage you.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have strong feelings. Rage, grief, terror, pain, shock, ecstasy, excitement, desire, joy, love – those are just some of the emotions our minds and bodies feel. (Some of those are more than just emotions, but you get the idea.) A life or even a day completely devoid of emotions is almost inhuman. (If that’s you, you need a different kind of help than this post. Find some help right away!) God built into us the ability to feel deeply; it’s part of the way we are created in His image.

Emotions have been called energy-in-motion, and there’s a lot of truth to that.

Two Dangers in Managing Emotions

In our humanness emotions often get us into one of two dangerous situations.

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