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)

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“I want my marriage to change, but my spouse won’t come to counseling.”


These words are riddled with pain and brokenness, hopelessness and frustration; they display a willingness to work hard and a longing to redeem broken places, while revealing years of unhelpful patterns and wounds.

As people talk about the difficulty of this season, their stories capture an array of experience and their pain varies in appearance: teary eyes, cold-hearted resignation, animated anger, or deep bitterness. Although I do not know your specific story, you may be sitting with a similar longing, feeling a bit paralyzed between what you want to see change and how to make change a reality. You may be sitting with someone who is carrying this burden, unsure of how to encourage them in the midst of deep discouragement. As I have walked through these seasons with others, I have noticed several common themes behind the change that occurs, a path that has been helpful to those who have gone before you.
 

Pray


If you are anything like me, you crave practical, tangible solutions. I don’t always think of prayer as practical and tangible. Often, when I see prayer listed as “Step One,” I am tempted to skip over to what I consider the real stuff. However, prayer is the foundation upon which all the real stuff must stand - it orients us around what is true, reminds us of our need for our Father, removes us from a position of control, and it is powerful. We know that this is true about the Lord: He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34) and He alone changes hearts. As you seek to bring change into a cold or indifferent environment, take your concerns before the Lord in prayer. Share with Him what you long for, how you are hurting, where you feel most discouraged, and when you’re rejoicing in a victory. Through this dialogue, lean on the Helper For, no matter how holy, gracious, and Christ-like you are toward your spouse, you cannot bring change by your own efforts (Psalm 3). Instead, you can rest in the truth that the Lord changes hearts - both your spouse’s and yours.
 

Look Within


Each of us acts based on what we want, what our heart desires. We do or don’t do things, say or don’t say things according to what we want. Even more, our desires blind us from seeing ourselves clearly. We are quick to notice our spouse’s sin and brush our own aside. James goes so far as to say that our fighting and arguing is caused by our desires, the things we want but do not have. He points to both the horizontal and vertical implications of our wants – we experience conflict in our relationships and we make ourselves “an enemy of God.” Our hearts pursue our wants above all else, including what the Lord commands. To begin examining what lies in your heart, try asking yourself these questions, responding with honesty to the Lord.

In this particular situation, what do you want?

How are you playing God? In what ways do you attempt to control the situation in order to get what you want?

Do you tend to focus on your spouse’s sin over your own?

Are their times your desires have become more important to you than anything else?

As we look to Him to reveal and reshape our heart’s desires, we begin to change the ways we behave and interact with others (Psalm 139:23-24).
 

Try Something Different


Begin to show appreciation. Criticism is one of the most harmful tactics in a marriage, creeping in when we are tired, frustrated, or discouraged. Speaking critically breeds defensiveness and clouds your words’ intended purpose. Your spouse no longer hears your concerns or requests, only an attack on their character. An effective way to combat criticism is by intentionally showing appreciation.

Are you intentional about noticing where your spouse is succeeding?

Do you notice when she listens instead of argues?

Do you notice when he considers your preferences when suggesting a restaurant for dinner?

Do you notice when she does the dishes, even though she hates doing the dishes?

Do you notice when he asks a question as you share about your day?

Genuinely express your appreciation as the opportunity arises, and praise the Lord for the good gifts He gives.

Seek to understand. We all want to be understood by our spouse. We want to know they hear us and are with us. In a marriage that is struggling, both spouses spend a large portion of their conversations trying to be understood. The end result leaves both spouses frustrated and isolated. One way to affect this dynamic is to become a good listener.

Are your devices (phone, TV, computer, etc.) distracting you from listening to your spouse in conversation?

Do you make eye contact and turn toward them when your spouse is speaking?

How do you use questions to draw out their point of view and ensure your understanding?

Try some of these things before (or even instead of) explaining your alternative position. We all want to be validated and heard, especially after we have been hurt. Take the time to grant this gift to your spouse.

Practice confession. As you begin to change the way you interact without observing any significant change in your spouse, it's natural to become defensive. Similar to criticism, defensiveness can also erode your relationship. It creates an environment where no one is heard, no one ever admits they are wrong, and no one is willing to walk in humility. I imagine you’ve experienced both sides of this issue firsthand.

Can you think of areas where you can intentionally confess where you’ve been wrong?

Can you identify how you contributed to a recent conflict?

Are their ways you’ve approached or responded to your spouse arrogantly or selfishly?

As you examine your heart and begin to take responsibility for your part of the problem, practice confessing where you have sinned to your spouse. Consider the Gospel; we have all fallen short, yet are eternally forgiven through Christ.

The path that has been laid out here is difficult and unnatural. It goes against what comes easily for our human nature (Romans 7:15-19). As you put some of these things into practice, surround yourself with people who will encourage you in the Gospel, pray for you, and remind you of what is true. As you walk alongside those who are struggling in their marriage, point them continually toward grace, truth, and loving community. As we all learn, grow, and fail, may we walk in our Father’s abundant grace.

Kelsey Hollis is an LPC-Intern at Metroplex Counseling. She counsels couples, adults, and adolescents as they walk through seasons of suffering and helps them navigate the stresses of daily life.

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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.

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During my postdoctoral fellowships in neurology and neuropsychology at UT Southwestern Medical Center I was blessed to work and train with many talented people. It was an honor to be a part of the efforts of these men and women who worked tirelessly day and night, fulfilling a passion they have to care for their fellow man. Theirs is a passion to relieve, as best as possible, the physical and emotional burdens of another’s often unfathomable suffering.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, a profoundly intense response to profoundly dangerous experiences, manifests itself in fear, terrifying vulnerability, and lack of a sense of control. While these responses are often involuntary, Jeremy Lelek reminds us that they are still responses . . . and, thus, different responses are possible. Here he relates the narrative of creation, fall, and redemption to the experiences of PTSD, reminding us that the gospel speaks to our experiences with danger as part of its redemptive message. He points to the wisdom of God in our suffering and reminds us of the saving grace offered by Jesus, guiding readers to the peace and contentment found in seeking God’s glory.

Sample Chapter: /sites/default/files/files/Sample chapter(1).pdf

 

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Monday, 25 March 2013 17:33

Cutting and Self-Harm

Recently I had the privilege to do an interview with Kurt Goff at www.wdcxfm.com on a very difficult topic- cutting.  If you need a resource to use in helping someone you know and love who is struggling with this issue, I've included a free handout here.  If you are interested in my booklet on cuttingyou can find it here.  In the end, if you or your child is a believer in Christ, Jesus is committed to redeeming this problem.  Consider this passage:

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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.

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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?

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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. 

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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
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