Wednesday, 03 May 2017 15:35

Empty Spaces

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30, ESV


Lately, as I’ve sat across from people – whether they be my clients, a friend in a coffee shop, over the phone, or as I look into my own heart, there has been this theme of emptiness. Empty spaces. You know, those unmet longings and expectations and those seasons of restlessness. Maybe you have been trying for years to get pregnant and nothing has worked, over and over, and just when you think that the Lord is opening a door, it closes. Maybe in your marriage, your spouse has been withdrawing from you and you don’t know why. Maybe you just moved cities and are starting over. Maybe you’re single and desire to be married and you ache with longings. Maybe you just lost a relationship that you have been praying for. Maybe your child just moved away. Maybe a loved one just died. Maybe your health has been fading. Or maybe you just lost your job, or you’re still looking for that elusive position. Or perhaps you are in retirement and feel like you don’t have a purpose anymore. All of us, in many seasons, in different ways, will deal with empty spaces.

What do we do with them?

We try to fill them.

We fill them with a myriad of things. People. Stuff. Degrees. Relationships. Social Media. Drugs. Pornography. Eating. Movies. Sex. Busyness. Work. Service. Money.

Lately, I was asking the Lord for a promise for the empty places that I see around and within me. And this is what He in His gracious pursuit, whispered to me:
 

Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” -Psalm 107:9, ESV


Jesus wants to come and fill your empty spaces.

Do you notice how many of the things we fill ourselves with apart from Jesus are not bad in and of themselves? I find that it is the tendency of the human heart to restlessly wander around looking for something to fill the emptiness rather than to sit in the pain of that empty place and tell Jesus how much it hurts. We cry out to Him to let Him know the overwhelming sense of loss or hurt that we feel. We beg Him to come and fill us with good things.

How easy it is to jump on social media or numb ourselves with other things rather than to just sit. To be still. To do NOTHING. To just trust. Whew. How easy it is to want to rush onto the next thing to fill that seemingly empty season or to rush in to try to fix it. Rather than to just… let... it... be. Empty... because when it’s empty, that’s when we are hungry and longing. That is when Jesus works best.
 

Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV) says, “…for my people have committed two evils: they have forgotten me; the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”


I love how this passage starts with reminding our wayward hearts that the problem is that we forget. I forget. I forget how much Jesus loves me. How much He wants to fill and satisfy me. And THAT is when I go and hew out broken cisterns for myself, to try to fill that void.

What about this?
 

Psalm 107:35 (ESV) says, “He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.”


Sounds like an oasis.

Sometimes what seems to us to be a desert of unmet longings is exactly where the Lord is in the midst of doing a new work that we can’t even see.

The miraculous thing is that the oasis formed from your desert isn’t just meant for you. It’s meant for others. Just a verse later:
 

Psalm 107 says, “And there He lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in…”


Let Jesus come and fill your empty places and watch Him turn those into places of refreshment for your soul as well as for the souls of others.

Your empty spaces can either become a broken cistern or an oasis. Which will it be?


Contributor: Rachel Kuchem, LMSW (Intern)

Published in
Friday, 09 December 2016 22:47

Marital Mud Pies

“…It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis
 

As any parent or grandparent has certainly experienced, it is the perplexing tendency of children to disdain those things that adults so treasure. Waking up slowly on a lazy Saturday morning doesn’t hold a candle to the exhilarating experience of rising at terminal velocity with the sun. Decadent home-cooked meals are obviously no match for a couple of pop-tarts or nothing at all. A relaxing bubble bath? Out of the question! Though many of us would gladly trade our right arm for these luxuries, children simply have no interest in them.

C.S. Lewis, in his oft-quoted sermon published as “The Weight of Glory,” offered an explanation for these childlike preferences: half-heartedness and weakness of desire. According to Lewis, children would rather “go on making mud pies in a slum because [they] cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” In other words, because children are unable to comprehend the value of these treasures, they are content with trifles. Though the imagery employed by Lewis draws upon childish conduct, we too must recognize the weakness of our desires.

As a biblical counselor, it is often my privilege to sit with couples whose marriages are in a state of disrepair. These ordinary men and women are often those whose calm and composed exterior would arouse no suspicion of the despair harbored in their hearts. When these couples begin counseling, it is common for the brokenness of their union to burst forth as the weariness of “keeping it all together” gives way. It is nothing less than remarkable how often the word “tired” is used in these conversations.

Upon peeling away the layers of each spouse’s experience, it is common to find that this emotional exhaustion can be traced back to the desires that rule the heart. Many couples simply desire that things “go back to the way they were before.” Some couples place the burden of change upon their spouse and so desire a transformed husband or wife. Others take the previous desire and flip it, wishing that they would be transformed for the sake of their spouse. And when these desires go unfulfilled, frustration and weariness multiply.

Though it is likely that there is a godliness to these desires, they are, as Lewis described, too weak. Though many marriages fail when husbands and wives discount the significance of their union, many others fail when the marriage is viewed as supremely significant. God designed marriage to be a unique demonstration of His glory and a chance for sinners to know His heart. Marriage is not mainly about happiness, stability, or the raising of children. These are good things, but they are mud pies next to the eternal offerings of marriage.

If your desire for your marriage is rooted in yourself, your spouse, or any benefit your marriage may supply, your desire is too weak. Your husband may love you dearly, but he did not die for you. Your wife may be remarkable, but she did not suffer the wrath of God on your behalf. Earthly marriages are not designed to bear the weight of worship; they will crumble under the strain, and you will be left broken and weary.

If you are in Christ, you are members of a far more perfect union. Above all else, set your heart on Jesus, your maker and true husband. He alone gives rest and satisfaction. When your desire is to know and love him, love of husband, wife, and neighbor will be added to you as well.


Contributor: Scott Busby, MMFT, LMFT-A

Published in Christian Living
Thursday, 01 May 2014 21:28

Be the Church

If you read popular Christian books about waiting on God to send you a spouse, you will eventually hear the suggestion that you “become the kind of person you would want to marry”.   That is probably good advice because you will be preoccupied and productive as you are becoming better marriage material yourself. 

 

Is it possible the same can be true about finding the church you should attend?  I live in an area where there are church buildings on almost every corner.  They have labels like traditional, missional, seeker-friendly, and orthodox.  Some are mega large while others are small enough to meet in homes.  Some cater to the younger crowd with rock bands and coffee, while older folks seem to prefer more traditional services and knowing where their funeral will be held.

Published in Christian Living
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:12

Parenting: The Joyful Impossibility

Guest Blogger Paul David Tripp

It was eleven o'clock on a Sunday night and I was pulling out of the grocery store parking lot exhausted and overwhelmed. After we’d put our four children to bed later than we’d planned, Luella discovered that we had nothing in the house to pack for lunches the next day. With an attitude that couldn't be described as joyful, I got in the car and did the late night food run. As I waited for the light to change so I could leave the parking lot and drive home, it all hit me. It seemed as if I’d been given an impossible job to do; I’d been chosen to be the dad of four children.

It’s humbling and a bit embarrassing to admit, but I sat in my car and dreamed of what it would be like to be single. No, I didn't want to actually leave Luella and our children, but parenting seemed overwhelming at that point. I felt that I’d nothing left to face the next day of a thousand sibling battles, a thousand authority encounters, a thousand reminders, a thousand warnings, a thousand corrections, a thousand discipline moments, a thousand explanations, a thousand times of talking about the presence and grace of Jesus, a thousand times of helping one of the children to look in the mirror of God's Word and see themselves with accuracy, a thousands "please forgive me's" and a thousand " I love you's." It seemed impossible to be faithful to the task and have the time and energy to do anything else.

Published in Children

Reality, to a large degree, is constructed subjectively through the processes of the mind.  ”Facts” are perceived, variables of that perception shape an interpretation, and these interpretations ultimately serve to shape a person’s experiential reality.  By no means does this diminish the fact that objective, absolute truth exists, but it is important to recognize that this process of perception,

interpretation, and conclusion has a significant impact on the way people experience life.  Understanding this can have a profound impact on helping people walk through difficult seasons of suffering.

Published in Suffering
Monday, 29 October 2012 16:35

Christ in You: The Hope of Glory

I first heard this part of Colossians 1:27 “Christ in You…the hope of Glory”  in 1976 when Major Ian Thomas came all the way from England to teach at a small Baptist church in deep East Texas where my new husband and I were members.  We were used to a “visiting preacher” coming every year to preach a “revival”.  They usually held revivals in the springtime and this was no exception.  We were expecting someone to come tell us again how to “be saved” or that we needed to repent and turn from our sins.

Published in Christian Living
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 17:16

Do I Worship My Own Approval?

When a counseling intern sits down to write a blog that he/she knows is going to be published on a website that supervisors will read, clients might read, and potential clients might stumble across, all kinds of thoughts go through the head of that intern.  Is my writing going to be doctrinally accurate? Is it going to be inspiring? Is it going to be helpful?  Will what I write make sense?  Will it make me look like a spiritual first grader?  Do I have anything to say that has not already been said?  Will it bring glory to God? 

 

Taking my cues from Alcoholic Anonymous literature, I decided that my best bet is to stick to writing about where I have experience, strength, and hope.  Maybe I will sound more spiritual if I say that I am going to aim to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” from 2 Corinthians 1:4.  How about the radical thought that others struggle with the same things I struggle with and what God teaches me might also be helpful to them?

Published in Counseling
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 21:26

Married Life and the "Why" of Behavior

Cultivating a marriage that sings the glory of God begins with God.  Relational dynamics, spousal roles, communication patterns, families of origin, financial peace, and sexual fulfillment are all working variables in the covenantal relationship called marriage, but they are not the final contexts in which marriages develop nor are they the causal core of why individuals in marriage relate the way they do. 

Published in God
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 22:12

God’s Measuring Stick

As I have been trying to get more exercise lately, I have been riding my Schwinn “comfort” bicycle with its padded seat that looks like it goes on a tractor, not a bicycle.  To make sure that I don’t stop before I actually exercise, I bought an odometer so that I can see how fast I am going and how far I have been.  This little device has made me acutely aware of speed and distance as measured with numbers.

 

I can just be as happy as a lark in my less- than- fashionable gym clothes, riding down the bike trail, basking in thoughts of how good I am to be exercising when suddenly, a young athlete whizzes by me.  They are all decked out in the “proper attire” for the sport, on a bike with very skinny tires, and saying irritating things like “passing on your left”. 

Published in Christian Living
Monday, 23 July 2012 19:11

Manna

 

If you’ve been around church for years or maybe not at all there’s a pretty good chance you would be able to name or describe a story or two from the Bible. Whether it was the story of creation in Genesis or the birth of Christ in the book of Luke. Maybe it’s the story of God parting the Red Sea or feeding the masses with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. Many of the stories are hard to forget because often times they seem so crazy to us. Can you imagine the Red Sea parting and the ground beneath the water being dry enough for hundreds of people to pass! How I wish I could have seen something like that in real life.

Published in Christian Living
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