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
Monday, 14 April 2014 20:23

Gospel-Centered Biblical Counseling

Among the most prominent paradigms in biblical counseling is that of idolatry. The profound and pioneering work in this area by men like David Powlison (1999), Ed Welch (2003), and Paul Tripp (1999) served as an iconoclastic force for my personal understanding of human motivation.  During my initial years as a counselor, I operated in a perpetual feeling I had discovered a parallel universe in which all my previous perceptions of human psychology were eclipsed by the piercing light of Scripture.

As a believer in Christ, these truths were water to my soul. Yet, as a neophyte in biblical counseling, my methodology evolved from a secular model (in which I was trained) to a model that often bordered on legalism. My error was not in helping people understand the idolatry that shaped their souls, but in doing so to the exclusion of a sound Gospel theology in the process of human change. Here are few truths that have helped me continue to refine an ever-refining approach to biblically helping others.

Published in
Monday, 16 December 2013 15:36

Good News... For All the People!

As the Christmas season comes each year, I try to read the story of the birth of Jesus in each book where  we find it in the Bible.  The story in Luke 1 and 2 is the longest and probably the most famous.  Matthew 1 gives us a very brief narrative following the genealogy of Jesus.  Mark skips it entirely and John begins  his account with a testimony about Jesus but no details about His birth.

Published in Christian Living

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

 

Published in Hope
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:

Published in Grace

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, 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
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 20:36

When Shame is Your Middle Name

 

For as far back as I can remember, Shame was my middle name.  Of course, that is not hard to imagine if you also grew up in the generation I did and the adults around you used the phrase, “Shame on you!” to control your behavior.  We don’t seem to hear that as much since John Bradshaw and others wrote on shame and its effects during the decades following the 1950’s but it was a fairly common expression when I was growing up.

My shame began at birth.  I only realized this when my mother wrote a chapter for a book for Christian women.  She asked me to listen to the tape and edit the copy for her.  She told the story of her remarkable life and when she got to my birth, the story became sad.  She described her alcoholic mother coming to the hospital intoxicated while her Sunday school class was there visiting.That event, coupled with the fact that she had given me her mother’s name as my middle name, only added to the shame.  Every time one of the relatives called me by all three of my names, I felt a pang of shame.  People in our community and family associated that middle name with dysfunction, sin, rebellion, and addiction.  In addition, I looked like that grandmother so it was not hard to identify with the association that everyone had made with that name.

Published in Christian Living