The Problem of Suffering (Mysteries Revealed)

The Problem of Suffering:
God,  Free Will and Consequences

Everyone encounters suffering in life. For some—the happy few—pain and problems roll through their days like small waves in the surf. A sunny optimism keeps them bouncing above the water at least for a season. For others, suffering invades their life like an armed man, holding them captive not only to troubles, but also to negative attitudes every bit as troublesome. Suffering comes in all sizes and shapes: physical, emotional, mental even spiritual. How we hate it!

Elizabeth Elliot (whose first husband was speared to death while she was pregnant with their only child) summed up suffering nicely by saying that it’s “Having what you don’t want and wanting what you don’t have.” By this formula suffering may gnaw on us slowly, relentlessly over the years, or take harrowing, hurtful bites out of us in an instant. Am I leaving anyone out?

Suffering is a true “cross to bear.” I once heard Derek Prince describe the cross as “The place where your will and God’s will cross.” That stuck with me. At the time, I was impaled on a cross of suffering and couldn’t get off no matter how hard I tried. Several things that I had but didn’t want were “killing” me. Had been for over a dozen years. So, trust me with this, I thought long and hard about suffering, not from a theoretical standpoint, but one that was intensely personal.

What’s the point of it? Who’s to blame for it? Why does God allow it? How can I avoid it? How can I get free of it? Why is it so hard to get free? Those last three questions anyone can ask. The first three require faith. That’s what makes it so thorny.

Tears of SufferingSuffering Is a Faith Issue

The truly thorny questions about suffering all grow out of faith in God. If God is good, then why? If God is all-powerful, then why? If God loves us (me), then why? The idea of God intensifies these questions. If there is no God and everything came about by chance, then there is no rhyme or reason for suffering. It just exists like everything else in the cosmos. It is a natural part of life. Deal with it. Or better still, fight to survive it and pass your genes along.Thorny Issue of Suffering

Until my conversion, I didn’t have a problem with God about my suffering. I had no faith in God’s existence, goodness or power, so there was no point in blaming Someone who wasn’t even involved. No, my problem with suffering was me: Why did I have to be such a bone-headed fool as to keep making my life miserable? Others cast the blame outward, pinning it squarely on the ones who brought suffering to them. The world’s a dangerous place: either you or someone else can louse it up. Watch out!

Faith Is the Spoiler

It’s only when you become a believer in the true God, that suffering stops making sense. When I first met Jesus, it thrilled me that He was saving me from all my self-induced suffering. He overwhelmed me with His love and His matchless power. Then it sank it. Within a few years I began blaming Him for letting me wreck my life in the first place. Big time. One night I yelled at God so loudly and long, I lost my voice the next day. Ironically, the women at church thought I was “suffering for Jesus.” By then I was over it (for the moment), but that deep well-spring of anger remained, now that I had Someone to blame.

Fortunately, I wasn’t always angry. Mostly, I was trying to trust Him with everything and that meant I was willing to let Him show me anything He wanted to in His Word, especially when it came to explaining suffering to me. I had seen enough to know that if you carry your hard doubts and accusations against God into His Word, even the answers you think you are getting will be wrong. It is simple, trusting faith that receives grace. So, I buried a lot a question marks and (mercifully) lived long enough to harvest them as exclamation points. If you have anger around these issues, make sure that you, too, set it aside, or risk staying stuck.

Tears of SufferingSovereignty and Free Will

The question of suffering leads directly into two mysteries: God’s sovereignty and our free will. Imagine these as two mountains. We want to walk through the valley that lies between them. If you climb the heights of God’s Sovereign will, the sight of His immense, unequaled wisdom and power makes it difficult to see how any other will could hinder His. On the other height is the very real experience we have of our own freedom to think, act and choose, under-girded by the Lord’s declaration that we have just such a power (Deuteronomy 20:19).Cloudy Peak - Suffering

Some who gaze too intently at the peak of God’s sovereignty conclude that nothing happens except what He chooses, wills and desires. This easily makes God seem a monster. On the other hand, if we look too closely at the immense stubbornness of some people we know (never ourselves!), we may conclude that even a sovereign God cannot change a freely set will. Then there’s the question: Are our wills truly free? Augustine said unaided by grace we are free only to sin. There is a truth to that, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Lack of knowledge and insufficient motivation hinder the use of our wills, but by God’s own design, we are free to make choices all day long. Indeed, He will judge us by our choices.

Navigating the Valley

The middle path we will be taking keeps both these salient truths in view. Keep in mind that fogs and clouds abound in the mountains, obscuring sight even in the valleys. Our vision of truth necessarily includes learning when to step back and allow mystery to cloak some unanswered questions. Happily, we can still make progress by walking with balance and humility, because the boundaries are clear (as you will soon see).

To see even better, let’s be sure to put on our “gospel glasses.” The great Luther said that we can only rightly understand scripture through the lens of the gospel, because the New Testament gives us the clearest image of what God is like by showing us the Person and Work of Jesus. Let’s see what it shows us.

Papyrus - 1First Question:
Where Did Evil Come From?

Since suffering is an evil, we must trace it back to the origin of evil.

1) Suffering exists because evil exists.

In a perfect world, there would be no suffering. We are clearly shown that is exactly what heaven is like: It is gloriously free of evil and suffering. We are also told in Genesis that this is what the world was like before everything became disordered by the Fall

2) God is not the author of evil.

The New Testament emphatically declares that God is innocent of any wrongdoing. He cannot and will not do anything evil. God is a thoroughly good God. He is all-powerful, but His power is never used apart from His wisdom, love and holy perfection.

3) Evil exists because God gave free will to the angels.

The Fall didn’t begin with us. According to scripture, God created everything good, including the angels who later fell away from Him by choosing to follow Satan, the one who first chose to rebel. In seeking self-will over God’s will, Satan set evil loose in creation.

Tears of SufferingThinking Inside the Boundaries

These revealed truths provide important boundaries for how we are to think about evil. First of all, there is nothing (thank God) wrong with God. He never does evil, nor does He want it for anyone. All evil traces back to the free will decision of Satan to go a separate way from God. Since God is entirely good, separating from His will can only lead to evil. Indeed, even the desire to separate is itself evil.

Why then did God give Satan free will? Couldn’t He have stopped all the suffering right there? Yes, but that would have created something far worse: slavery and a kind of living death. For created beings to have true life (modeled after His own), freedom is required. For love to flourish, freedom is required. God in His love and wisdom apparently foresaw that giving true life and cultivating genuine love would be worth the suffering, even if the gift of free will became abused.

Another way to see this is that since God is entirely good, it must have been entirely good of God to give free will to the angels and to us. The thing that was not good, was the way some of the angels choose to fall into the Great Rebellion and all humanity joined in with them. We cannot blame any of that on God, especially since all of us rightly cherish whatever freedom we enjoy, wishing only that we had more of it.

God’s Response

We also cannot find fault in the way God responded to this cosmic tragedy. It proved impossible for a single fallen angel to be made right again (Curious? See this). They were immediately and eternally judged. Fortunately for us, the Father opened the Way of Return: repentance. And to throw the door wide open He sent Jesus to the cross. You know the rest (but if you want a primer on salvation go here: Getting to Heaven).

We are now living in the In-between: between the beginning of God’s reversal at the Cross and the final elimination of evil with the Return of Jesus. You don’t need me to tell you how badly many of us feel the pinch of suffering while we are being squeezed between those two tremendous appearances of Jesus. So, let’s turn from the evil that God suffers (allows) to exist to the evil of suffering which afflicts us.

Papyrus - 2Second Question:
Where Does Suffering Come From?

All suffering is due to one or a combination of these three things:

1) Human free will.

The consequences of our own sins of thought, word, and deed can bring a landslide of suffering into our lives. The sins of others also afflict us with suffering. Then add to this the sins of earlier generations. That’s a lot of sin and suffering! And it all traces back to free will.

2) A real-world setting.

We don’t live in padded cells. This world is exquisitely responsive to us in all kinds of ways, not all of them pleasant. And it can be very unforgiving. The law of gravity, for instance, enables us to walk and climb, but it guarantees pain if we fall. That’s just the way it is.

3) The sins of an invisible enemy.

You didn’t ask for this and neither did I, but Satan and his dark kingdom have been sinning against us from the beginning. All temptation, accusation, deception and destruction traces back to him. He and his team struck us first and they keep striking whenever they can.

Tears of SufferingResponding to the Conditions

Our response to this is inconsistent at best. I stated earlier that we all want freedom to make choices. Nevertheless, we may cherish significant qualifications that just aren’t being offered to us. For instance, we want freedom of will, but don’t want the real-world consequences that go along with it, not if those consequences go against us. Again, we want freedom for ourselves, but not for others, especially if they are about to hurt us with theirs. I don’t want anyone grabbing at the wheel when I’m driving, but I secretly hope the Lord will control everyone else. Do you see a problem?Suffering - Road Rage

God, however, is the heart and soul of consistency. He has placed all of us in a real world in which even the devils have freedom of choice. To live with a free will in a real world under assault by a real enemy, means that we will have to learn to love God’s ways or face the consequences. The chief way we must learn is the way of surrender to Him.

The Key of Surrender

The reason heaven is so free of sin and suffering is because everyone there has freely surrendered their will to Him. We see this in the way people “make peace” with God before they die by letting go of their own will and placing it in His. In this way, they enter heaven ready to experience perfect freedom, because His will for us is freedom: freedom to make right choices, freedom from suffering, freedom from sin. How bad is that?

It’s not bad at all; it’s fantastic. And yet many a devoted Christian has confessed to me in private that the single hardest thing for them to do is “give up control” and surrender themselves entirely to the Lord! How ironical: We actually fight against surrendering to the Lord, thinking that somehow it won’t be good for us, when the opposite is the case.

Our lack of surrender, our sinful choices, give the enemy countless open doors to bring sin and its consequences into our world. God allows us to say “No!” to Him and to His ways. He does this for the sake of preserving our free wills (though He gets roundly blamed for what we do). He even works through the evils our free wills allow, to restore us to love and to our lost humanity. Fortunately for us, He has many ways of turning our no’s back into yes’s, but in the interval much suffering can happen.

One Difference Between God and Us

I like to say that the One Person who rarely gets what He wants upfront is God. Think about it. God doesn’t want anyone to sin or to suffer sin’s consequences. He doesn’t even want any thoroughgoing sinner to go to hell. He wants all of us to surrender to Him in every moment and experience the exhilarating power of His Holy Spirit lifting us into a river of peace. Does He get that? No, we crowned Him with thorns instead.Crown of Suffering

We, however, always choose to think, say or do exactly as we please. We just don’t like the results! We may complain about how we are using our will retrospectively, but up front, we’re not about to move out of the driver’s seat. We are so strong-willed that we can even resist conscience, the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the warning of friends around us. Even those who seem to have weak wills cling to their doubts and second guessing by a stubborn tenacity that defies all reason.

So far, it seems like our free wills are triumphing over God. What happened to His sovereign will and power? Let’s admit right away that all God has to do is show up in Person and like Job (or Isaiah before the throne, or Saul on the road to Damascus) we would all be thrown for a loop. Nothing brings our will-full pride crashing down like meeting face to Face with the One who has no pride—and yet has everything to boast about going for Him. But He rarely does that. The Lord seems to prefer working with us by slow degrees, rather than sudden, blazing revelations.

Sovereign Oversight

My hunch is that many of us confuse the idea of God’s sovereignty with control. When President Abraham Lincoln was shot, panic began breaking out in Ford’s Theater. Then someone stood up and declared, “God is still in control.” The crowd immediately calmed down. Did that mean that God wanted Lincoln shot, or that He in some way aided and abetted his assassin? Of course not. But it did mean that God foresaw what was coming and had a plan for how to go forward despite the tragedy.

In our own lives when disaster strikes we are tempted to think that God is somehow against us, or that He saw it coming and didn’t care enough to stop it, or that He has no interest in removing it. These are temptations to believe a lie. Believing a lie, any lie, will always put us into further pain and bondage. That’s why knowing the truth about suffering is so liberating. It may not free us from the original suffering, but it certainly frees us from the tormenting questions that try to come with it.

Tears of SufferingGod’s Permissive Will

God hates sin and suffering and always works to prevent it. He grieves over what grieves us. It gives Him no pleasure to see us reap the negative consequences of our actions. But He also works to preserve our freedom of will. For instance, He won’t take the bottle away from an alcoholic as much as He may want to. He will work with him until he freely gives it up.

In some ways, we have too low an opinion of God’s sovereignty. He could easily overrule anyone’s will and anything the devil desires to do. He does this occasionally. I know a man who came to conversion because he was trying desperately to murder someone in his power, but knew at the last moment that God created an invisible barrier against him beating the man to death. God simply wouldn’t allow it.

What God Allows

On the other hand, Christians I talk with seem reluctant to acknowledge what God does allow, as in “Do you think that what happened might have been God’s permissive will?” Of course it was. If something happened, it was only because God permitted it to happen. He permits everything going on in the world! That doesn’t mean that He desires it, only that He has made room for free will to operate (and has a plan to overcome it and redeem it).

This proliferation of free wills (7 billion and counting), working at variance with His will, seems to put God’s purposes at a disadvantage. As I said, He doesn’t get what He wants up front. But He will get what He wants down the road. Time is on His side. He works through time by intricate and infallible means to guide our mis-guided creation toward the Restoration He plans. Paul saw this and boldly proclaimed that our present suffering couldn’t hold a candle to the glory God is leading us towards. How is He doing it?

Tears of SufferingOur Graceful Transformation

Just because God rarely exercises what we could call direct control over our wills, doesn’t mean He is sitting on His Hands with nothing to do. Nevertheless, what He refuses to do makes a very impressive list. He refuses to terrify us or bully us with fear. He refuses to use guilt and shame to get us to do what He wants. Remember that it is the Enemy who accuses and condemns us, or dives us along with fear, never God. Our God even refuses to hold our sins against us as a way of motivating us. He held them against Jesus and punished Him instead (2 Corinthians 5:19). All parents should heed His example!

So how does God correct the world? He uses love, truth and consequences. He draws all who are willing by His love. As unbelievable as it seems, our Father’s heart is ALWAYS open to us in perfect forgiveness and acceptance. His unconditional, all-loving embrace of us is what everyone experiences who turns to Him. Such love is a true miracle, one that none of us deserves. Because He loves us so thoroughly and so consistently, those who catch on to it are drawn to Him like bees to honey. As His love draws us, we are inevitably drawn out of our fallen ways. This is the transformation of heart that love kindled by faith produces.

He also transforms us by the renewing of our minds by His Word. He turns and leads all who are willing by His Word as He sends it to us in conscience, in nature, in scripture, through others and by His Spirit. Every truth has the power to turn us from a wrong way (of thought, word or deed) into His right way—if we can receive it. Don’t just think of truth as something Biblical only. All truth comes from God, from two plus two equals four to that stove is hot, don’t touch it. If we could know and believe every truth that we need to know, we would be entirely free always. This is the transformation that truth produces through a renewed mind.

Tears of SufferingThe Reality of Consequences

Love and truth are God’s grace-filled means of transforming the world, beginning with (but not limited to) the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we are not turned to His ways by these “polite” methods, then He allows some of the consequences of our wrong choices to help us realize that we are heading in a wrong direction. Consequences come in all sizes and shapes; they can come immediately, or tarry a long time before arriving. It is crucial for the Christian to realize that what Jesus did at the cross removed both the wrath and the punishment we deserved for our sins, but not the consequences. We still live in a real world with real world consequences.

Heart peace, trust and mercy-giving love are the ONLY way of life offered to us by God. Things that represent the “curse of the Law” (the consequence of sin) don’t come to us accidentally. We choose our way into them.

As the bird by wandering… so the curse causeless shall not come. Proverbs 26:2 KJV

Our will does not operate in a vacuum. Every thought we have—conscious or unconscious—has consequences in our bodies in terms of neurological or hormonal responses that affect our organs and even individual cells. That is the universe within (see “What Causes Disease”). But our inner life also affects the universe beyond our body through our words, actions and prayers. What we think, say and do “reaps” a response from the world around us—for good or ill. The Bible calls this the law of sowing and reaping. Our choices truly matter.

The Necessity of Repentance

This is why the God of all Grace insists upon the necessity of our repentance. Even grace as good as His cannot (or will not) do everything for us. In the same O.T. passage in which God reveals His glorious grace, He also tells us that He “by no means clears the guilty” (Exodus 34:7). There is only one way of removing sin and its consequences: repentance. Until we repent and return to Him He “keeps” mercy for us (Exodus 33:7), but mercy cannot do its full work until we repent and return to receive it.The Valley of Decision

When the children of Israel were about to enter their Promised Land, the Lord told them to create a visual picture by having some stand on Mt. Ebal calling down the curses that would come to those who would not listen and obey Him. Others stood on Mt. Gerazim calling down the blessings on those who would listen and obey (Deuteronomy 27:1-10).

This created a graphic picture for them of the law of sowing and reaping at work. Just as every action in the physical universe produces an equal and opposite reaction, so the moral/spiritual universe is also finely attuned to us. When it comes to reaping blessing or cursing, we are in the driver’s seat. The choice is ours!

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Tears of SufferingHow Does God Help Us?

My principal desire has been to discuss the why of suffering, not the how of getting free. But I don’t want to leave this discussion of transformation and consequences by leaving an impression that we are stuck with the consequences we suffer. Not at all. Some like Paul’s thorn may remain, though transformed into a reminder of dependence on grace. Others, God works relentlessly to remove.Suffering - Jesus

Consider the suffering that came into the world through small pox. How the Lord must have hated that one, which so horribly disfigured people created in His beautiful image. The history of our modern medicine, seen in this light alone, is His Story of working through us patiently and persistently down through the interminable centuries to bring us to the place where His cure could finally be revealed. Now, small pox is eradicated!

Raising an Army

We can be sure that God is working through every means at His disposal to overturn the causes of suffering and bring His restoration. But He will not break His own rules. That includes allowing free will to work within real world conditions, all the while besieged by an invisible enemy. Even so, He is teaching us to fight back. One day the church may again rise to the faith of the Early Church which saw demons driven out and all diseases cured by steady successions of supernatural power. Already the Third World church is leading the way.

In the meantime, while we wait for our healing (as “patients”) upon the advances of medical science and the overcoming church, He has given us the Magnificent Promise of Romans 8:28 that everything—including all we may suffer—WILL be made to work for our good. And that One Day, even our worst afflictions, will seem “light” compared to the glorious outcome He has in store for those who believe (2 Corinthians 4:17). See “How Our Worst Things Become the Best.”

The Nut Cracker: Break free of any hard shell of unbelief you encounter with this powerful list: 25 Ways God Works All Things for Good (One page PDF). It’s free – download now.

Tears of SufferingPutting it Together

Let’s take what we’ve discussed and try to frame the question of suffering around the issue of disease. As we have seen, all suffering traces back to the existence of evil and God is not the creator of evil. God is the giver of every good gift. Disease is not a good gift! Thankfully, no one with a disease needs to imagine that God desired them to be cursed with it. He desires freedom from sin and its consequences (the curse of the Law) for everyone.

Did God allow it? Of course He did. Nothing can happen without His permission, but that doesn’t mean that He caused it or desired it, and it certainly doesn’t mean that He isn’t grieved by it or that He wants it to stay. The truth is we are the ones who “allowed” every disease, because our sin generated it through the Fall from grace. Sin and disease were never parts of what God created life to be like in the beginning. So disease traces back to us and to the dark kingdom that tempts us.

Zeroing In

How then does the curse of disease target an individual? The curse of the Law may enter our lives through any one of three ways:

1) The sins of others, including the Enemy’s kingdom acting against us

2) Un-repented sins of our ancestors (generational sins in the family or on the land going way back)

3) Our own sins of thought (wrong attitudes, desires or motives), word or deed, known or unknown, including things done or left undone.

Considering how pervasive sin is—we are simmering in the “witch’s brew” of original sin—it is a wonder any of us are sane and healthy. The above list points us in multiple directions that we can explore as spiritual/emotional pathways for healing. We can go to doctors, but we can also go to God in prayer and bring our lives to God for deep mending of anything He might consider sin (see Three Paths to Healing). I have often seen this lead to cures.

For instance, we don’t think of being worried or anxious as sin, but God does. It not only separates us from Him (on our side), it also ushers in the stress effect upon our bodies, a principal cause of many diseases. That He loves us no matter how sinful we may be, should mean that we have a God-graced ability to take a real look in the mirror and start naming things as wrong which we may have glossed over. This includes things in our family line, as well as in our emotional state. In this way, we can use the disease to bring us into greater peace and freedom and a deeper sense of the Lord’s presence. That alone would be worth the pain of the passage…

Horizontal Red Slash

A Caution in Closing

Every theory must be tested by reality and still stand, if it is to be believed. The severest test of our understanding of suffering and the realities that surround it, comes from the reality of suffering itself. When you are hurting, or when your loved one is suffering, you want relief first, answers second. But you won’t want answers at all if they seem to add to the suffering.

That’s why I feel compelled to repeat that there has to be an allowance for mystery surrounding the truth of God’s sovereignty and our free will, especially when it comes down to why this disease, why this suffering. NEVER take on an understanding of truth that puts you under condemnation or casts God in a negative light. The truth rightly understood ALWAYS sets us free. That doesn’t mean it won’t make you mad when first introduced. I hope I haven’t made you mad by advancing these truths. My desire is always to shed light not fire!

Go now for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the entire original article, “The Problem of Suffering” (5078 word PDF).

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What Causes Disease? Dig down to the Spiritual Roots!

What Causes Disease?

One of the most unsettling things about disease—apart from the thing itself—is the lack of any clear answer about where it came from and why we got it. We want to know what causes disease, especially the one that just jumped on us! Of course with infectious diseases we know that it’s germs, even if we can’t identify the moment of contact. But it would help to know wouldn’t it? Because then we would have a fighting chance to avoid it the next time. Nevertheless, it’s a relief to know that the problem didn’t begin with us, even if we were careless. We caught something due to a viral or bacterial attack from the outside.

Such understanding is almost never the case with the worst diseases of all: heart disease, cancers, diabetes, asthma, migraines, stomach disorders and a host of others. They seem to drop in on us “out of the blue”—we are stunned, shocked and utterly in the dark, wondering “Why me?” and finding scant answers. What’s worse, this whole class of illness is something that is really giving our medical system a run for the money, because they can usually only treat the symptoms, not cure the disease.

Just Like Job

Job: What Causes Disease?

Job with his Friends

One can’t help but remember poor old Job. All the way back then (over 3000 years ago), this thorny question—what causes disease—was raised to his extreme discomfort. As you recall, Job held out bravely against his outrageous misfortune, but he was feeling mighty bad about the boils, not to mention his personal losses. Then, adding insult to injury, his insensitive friends began hammering him with accusations that it was his own sins which brought him so low, so confess up! Job exploded, protesting his innocence and railing against his friends and his fate. Who can blame him?

Well… actually, the Lord showed up with a few words of correction. He rebuked the friends for condemning Job, but Job was also rebuked for not trusting God. Let’s take that into our situation. Like Job we really don’t know what it is that we MAY have done wrong, so the idea that we brought it on ourselves truly stings. On the other hand, can we honestly say that our trust in God is perfect? This gives us two clues. To follow the trail of truth, we are going to need to steer clear of self-condemnation AND steer towards that distant goal of gaining a greater trust in God.

Along the way towards understanding what causes disease, we will go over three main areas:

1) The mind-body connection

2) The role of negative emotions

3) The Lord’s antidote to disease


Brush Script - 1The Mind-Body Connection

Mind Body Connection

Mind Body Connections

Ever since Pavlov got his dogs (they were “labs”—old joke) to salivate at the sound of a bell, scientists have been digging into the mind-body connection from every possible angle. That breakthrough was just over 100 years ago. In our day there is a positive landslide of evidence linking the two together. This is not speculative science, but fully mainstream. It is now beyond question that our soul (our conscious and unconscious being) is intimately involved with every system of our body. Just as our body impinges on our consciousness, so our soul—our inner life—affects our bodies.

Consider that we are 100% chemical in our biological make-up; 100% electrical in our neurological system; and 100% filled with thoughts, beliefs and emotions in our soul. This is going on all the time. It is sheer fantasy to believe that there is no connection between our minds and bodies, yet people believed it nevertheless.

Five hundred years ago, Enlightenment thinker Rene Descartes proposed that our minds and all matter were radically disconnected. For centuries his reasoning held sway over many, which left a cultural legacy in the West against inter connectivity. Now we know better. Every thought (conscious or unconscious) translates into a chemical reaction in the body—all the way down to the cellular level—and a corresponding electrical impulse in the neurological system.

A Doctor’s Diagnosis

In his bestselling book, Deadly Emotions, Dr. Don Colbert describes the mind-body connection in this way:

No person experiences an emotion just in his “heart” or in his “mind.” Rather, a person experiences an emotion in the form of chemical reactions in the body and the brain. These chemical reactions occur at both the organ level—stomach, heart, large muscles, and so forth—and at the cellular level.

He continued by noting that due to the “impressive” amount of research on how our inner life affects our health, “what we feel as emotions results in how we feel physically.” Just to cite one of his many examples, he stated that a Mayo Clinic study “found that stress was the strongest predictor of future cardiac events, including cardiac death, cardiac arrest, and heart attack.” Wait a minute, what happened to diet and exercise? Has it been stress all along?

The Stress Effect

The role of stress in tearing down the body’s intricate systems of health is all-pervasive. Let’s look at  just two ways: its effect upon hormones and upon the immune system.


We all have something that the medical world calls the General Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S.). This gives us the extra “gas” we need for flight or fight responses to the perceived danger which triggers it. Certain hormones, most notably adrenaline and cortisone, increase dramatically. These supply instant strength for running from a bear, or rushing to save a child from a speeding automobile, while other (equally important) systems dial down. That’s just what we need in the moment of threat, provided we use it as intended.

The problem comes in when we perceive danger when there is no way to work off the chemical surge. Most of the “dangers” that cause stress cannot be resolved by fighting or running away! Think of the stress from co-workers, or of in-laws coming for the weekend, or of getting through traffic in time for the next meeting.

Modern life is characterized by a mounting sea of stressful events and daily pressures coming at people from every conceivable direction. And yet the real culprit isn’t the situations which surround us—it is the emotional reactions going off inside of us. These create a witch’s brew of powerful, unneeded chemicals that have nothing better to do than contaminate other systems of our body. Dr. Colbert writes that “chronic stress is always negative in the long run.”

The Immune System

Another way to examine the negative effect of stress is upon our immune systems. As a barrier to illness, our immune system is an absolute marvel. If fully operational and thriving, our immune system can fend off or throw off any disease that tries to cross the boundaries. If the immune system is up to strength, germs cannot cross over to infect us. We wouldn’t have to worry so much about being around them. But it goes further.

Those pesky “incurable diseases” I mentioned earlier (that our doctors rarely cure), can be thrown off by an immune system operating in full health. However, there is something that can bring this strong man down—emotional stress! One study found that just six minutes of a negative emotion can suppress the immune system for more than 21 hours. A little stress can block a lot of health, but not just any emotions. Certain negative emotions are more damaging than others. Dr. Colbert writes:

We have something of a stress gauge in our bodies. The emotions that are most damaging are rage, unforgiveness, depression, anger, worry, frustration, fear, grief and guilt.

Unhealed Memories

What Causes Disease: Stress

Are you Living Free of Stress?

These negative emotions which place so much stress upon our bodies come in two forms: those that arise out of present situations and those that are “embedded” in our deepest memories. Doctors Alexander Loyd and Ben Johnson in their book, The Healing Code, state that embedded negative emotions are the most damaging kind, producing “physiological stress” (at a subconscious level), as opposed to “situational stress” (at the conscious level).

These unhealed memories are actually stored as false beliefs and negative images which form “destructive cellular memories” in the cells of our bodies! In terms of the mind-body connection they list three “one things” which we need to know: There is one thing that can heal anything—our immune system; there is one thing that turns off the immune system—stress; there is one thing that will turn the immune system back on—healing “the issues of the heart.” It is to those issues that we now turn.

What causes disease? It appears that we do! Not intentionally of course. Like Job, we are innocent of doing anything consciously or intentionally wrong. Who would want to sabotage their own health? The Lord certainly isn’t condemning us, but He may be using science in an effort to open our eyes to something we have been overlooking. For instance, have we really stopped to connect the dots concerning the mind-body connection? Our inner state affects our physical well-being! We can’t allow emotional stress to pound away on us and not experience damaging consequences down the road. But how do we get free of stress?


Brush Script - 2The Role of Negative Emotions

Typically, stress takes the form of emotions we call negative. These are emotions that we don’t want to have in the first place. Things like fear, anxiety, bitterness, shame, despair and jealousy (remember Dr. Colbert’s “deadly” emotions?) aren’t emotions that we desire or enjoy.

Like pain negative emotions may perform at times a necessary function of alerting us to things that need our attention, but as with pain we want the alert to end quickly. So, we’d love it, if something could help us get rid of those pesky varmints AND free our bodies from the disease-inducing stress they generate. That’s coming up in section three. First, let’s take a closer look at the negative emotions.

The Good Negative Emotions

Ironically, not all the negative emotions are negative. From the Bible’s perspective there are a few “good” emotions that we might perceive as negative ones due to the way that they feel: godly fear (awe and respect for God as both holy and all-powerful); “danger fear” (in life-threatening moments); righteous anger (hating the sin, yet still loving the person); and pure grief (mourning uncontaminated by anger, fear, doubt or guilt). These emotions are actually very good to have, even if they don’t feel like it at the time. My hunch is that none of them are damaging to our health, precisely because they are wholly good.

The problem with this group of good negative emotions is that it is so easily contaminated by the truly bad ones. Many mistake being afraid of God or being fearful of what God might allow for godly fear when it is nothing of the sort. Those kinds of fear come from spiritual darkness, not from God. Danger fear, on the other hand, only applies in threatening situations where immediate action is required—not when you see your mother-in-law’s car pull into the drive! What I have heard many call their righteous indignation has all-too-often been their wounded pride and self-righteous anger. Pure grief is what God feels so it cannot be anything but good. Yet, our grieving is easily stained by our self-centered or unfaithful reactions. You see the problem.

The Bad Negative Emotions

The far greater problem comes from the thoroughly negative emotions themselves. From a medical point of view the truly bad emotions are stressors to the body. Scientific studies prove conclusively how damaging they are to our physical health. However, from a Christian point of view they represent something that is also damaging to our spiritual health—they are sins! Now this may seem like adding to the bad news: The negative emotions we don’t like feeling in the first place are not only causing disease, they are also sins, separating us from God. Isn’t this very bad news indeed? No, not at all: It is wonderful news! It shows us there is a way out, both from disease and from the entrapment of negative emotions.

Negative Emotions: What Causes Disease?

Is Your Life a Thicket of Negative Emotions?

If the negative emotions, causing us so much loss of peace and joy as well as health, are actually things in our personality that God has given us and wants us to have, then we are stuck with them—and the diseases they induce. However, if they are sins, then He has provided a way of freedom. Let us remember that Jesus died to free us from sin’s power as well as from its penalty. He died to bring us into a whole new way of living—the “glorious liberty” of the children of God. That way of freedom will be the subject of future articles. For now, let us consider the negative emotions with their polar opposite—the peace of Christ.

[LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a two page download, “Negative Emotions: Lying Bullies Exposed,” complete with a full color illustration, explanations, and scripture. It’s free—download here.]


Brush Script - 3The Lord’s Antidote to Disease

The Lord never created us to live with these negative emotions. Just as the body was designed for health, not disease, the soul was created for peace, not dis-ease. Emotional stress feels bad because it is bad: It is the absence of the peace of Christ. Jesus made His peace always available to us. It is what our souls crave. It is what are bodies require. What keeps happening to it? We often act as if it’s the fault of our situation or of someone causing us problems—that’s why we have no peace. But the truth is that His peace is under our control.

The Power of Choice

We always have a choice how we will respond to life: Will we give in to stress, take on the negative emotions so close at hand, or will we choose to find the path of peace that comes from trusting and obeying God? Even under the terms of the Hebrew covenant, it was possible to live with perfect peace, but there was a condition: Keeping one’s mind fixed or stayed on the Lord. How does one do that? In a word—trust. Trusting God is how we “live by faith”.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

Peace comes to us on the basis of our actual “heart trust” in God, not the doctrinal rightness of our beliefs. Our minds judge right and wrong, but it is with our hearts that we judge who to trust. Whenever we actually release our hearts to trust God, our minds naturally become rested or stayed upon Him, until something else disturbs our rest. In the New Covenant Jesus also promises us peace and His peace goes far beyond any of the outward things that disturb us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

The “World’s Peace”

How does the world give us peace? Anyone can get it this way: “I see the problem; I go to work on it; I begin to see the thing get better; I get peace back.” You don’t have to believe in anything but yourself to get peace in this way. This is the way of enthroning Self as your savior. Nevertheless, getting peace this way is riddled with frustrations. Our experience might go like this:

I can’t always make things better so I lose even more peace in the attempt. I have to wait until things look like they are getting better before peace begins to return to me. And as soon as one trouble is fixed, I may lose peace over two more things that just flared up. Round and round and round I spin.

This way guarantees to produce many seasons of significant stress over the course of a lifetime. We know it all too well—it is trying to live in our own strength.

The Peace of Christ

Life in the Spirit is a River of Peace

Life in the Spirit is a River of Peace

Jesus gives believing, trusting hearts peace at the first sign of trouble. The peace immediately shows up when we cast our cares on Him as our one and only Savior (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:7). All of us get a daily report card on how well we are doing at trusting and obeying the Lord.

Our “score” is personally delivered moment by moment as the Holy Spirit reveals our actual peace levels to us. In any moment the peace of Christ is either going up, holding steady, or going down—all according to our ability to trust and follow Jesus throughout the day (Colossians 3:15).

When our hearts and minds fully trust Him with the whole of our life and that of our loved ones, we are at peace. Our bodies can then experience peace (homeostasis or physiological equilibrium) and all systems work in balance to maintain health. As Dr. Art Mathias of Wellsprings Ministries in Alaska likes to say, our bodies are barometers of our spiritual health.  Seen in this light the diseases and disorders we can’t ignore are “warning bells” alerting us of our need to return to living in the peace of Christ.


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What Causes Disease - ShovelThe Pathway of Disease

Having looked at the mind-body connection, negative emotions and the peace of Christ, we now can put together a pathway of disease. Pay close attention to this pathway for it is also the way by which mental illness, addictions and all sinful behaviors become entrenched:

1) Loss of health comes from loss of peace in the mind or heart. This is the overwhelming evidence of mainstream science. If peace is what produces health, loss of peace is what causes disease. The dis-ease of our soul, contributes to the diseases of our body.

2) Loss of peace comes through the entry of negative emotions. This is simple displacement. After an internal “tug-of-war,” either the peace of Christ or stress will always win out. As my daughter once said when she was a child, “Daddy, the devil came in and pushed Jesus right out of my heart!”

3) Negative emotions draw power from unresolved issues carried from the past. These are the root causes, the hidden well-springs of our unwanted emotional reactions. If we don’t deal with these roots, we will have lots of bad fruit showing up as negative emotions that continually need pruning. See Mastering Your Emotions: Roots and Fruit.

4) Unresolved issues always reveal that we have broken relationships of trust and love with God, self or others coming out of our past. The two Great Commandments were breached (Matthew 22:37-39). Into these wounded areas, the Lord of the Flies (Beelzebub) sowed his lies in the form of false beliefs. These issues are crying out to be healed, not buried. See How to Forgive the Unforgivable.

5) Loss of peace indicates a sin issue to deal with. We have turned from God, not towards Him. This is why His peace was lifted. Each of the negative emotions represents a sinful attitude or disposition of the heart. The Holy Spirit lifts the peace so that we will stop and deal with the problem by carrying that emotion as a captive to Christ, praying for His help and following His guidance to get free of it. See The ABCs of Emotional Intelligence.

6) Loss of peace warns that the other kingdom is manifesting through us. We have turned to the enemy, which is why un-Christlike thoughts and feelings are beginning to grip us. Just as peace, love, and joy manifest the life of Christ and the working of God’s Kingdom through us, negative emotions actually manifest the “emotional life” of the enemy, coming out of our carnal or fallen nature, and advance his dark kingdom through us.

We are paying a terrible price for not living in the peace of Christ.

[FREE BONUS: Download a great way to cast off your cares: “Praying Through to Peace” (two page PDF). Living in the River of Peace is worth a little extra praying! It’s free—download now.]


What Causes Disease - ShovelA Message of Hope

The Lord says that His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Not knowing the stress connection, not seeing our negative emotions in the right light, has kept us battling disease in the usual ways with the standard results. Knowing  what causes disease gives us new things we can do, things we may never have considered about the intersection of our health and our emotional life. This understanding opens a whole new avenue for healing to reach us.

In our deep heart we hold the key to our own health. With God’s help we can find the issues that need attention and deal with them. As we do, His peace will come flooding back into us. That’s a tremendous blessing in itself! Wouldn’t it be great to live each day in the River of Peace?

Beyond that, His peace just may provide the tipping point for our bodies to return to peace and proper functioning. Nothing is guaranteed for we are marvelously complex in our inner life and in our bodies. But this gives us a fighting chance to set things right. With His help, we might not only get free of disease, we could enter into the “glorious liberty” of the children of God!

Go now for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the entire original article, “Disease: Dig down to the Spiritual Roots!” (3514 word PDF).

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Pray for Healing Using All 5 Biblical Ways

Did you know that there are at least five Biblical ways to pray for healing and other concerns? My guess is that many of us are missing out. The examples are in scripture right before our eyes, but maybe we haven’t connected the dots. Or perhaps, we have (mistakenly) believed that prayers like these aren’t intended for regular folks like us.

I can’t promise you that praying all five will always get the outcomes you want. That’s not realistic. However, I can guarantee that your sense of adventure in the Lord will expand exponentially, as will your ability to pray for healing in concert with Him. Jesus prayed using all five and He will certainly help you learn to use them, too.

The first step into this brave, new world is to understand the five different approaches and recognize the situations that call for them. I’ll get you started with all that, but the rest will be up to you (and the Lord). Enjoy your voyage of discovery, my friend.

LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a four-page download, 5 Biblical Ways to Pray, complete with sample prayers. It’s free—download here.]

True Life Illustration

Does God heal through prayer? Yes! Even prayers for cats…

Prayer Video - Pray for Healing of a Cat

Watch Video At YouTube







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Papyrus - 1Petitioning Prayer

Asking God for healing is always right. It is a natural, heart-felt and direct way to pray for healing. It hardly needs to be taught, though learning how to build up one’s faith is a helpful element for adding confidence to any request. Sometimes God brings swift and profound answers! However, since the answers may not come by means of petition only, it is wise to learn the other ways. There is an art, too, to learning how to release prayers of petition with expectant, believing faith.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:5-6 ESV

An Easy Starting Point

Keep in mind that there is no “formula” for praying that always works. Our relationship with God is the key element of effective prayer. The Lord Prayer Of Petition - to Pray for Healingdesires us to get to know Him personally through conversation (talking all kinds of things over with Him), fellowship (spending time with Him), and intimacy (getting to know Him through His Word and life experience). Think of it this way: If you want to ask a lot of favors from someone, it helps if you know them well and have built a good relationship, right? The Lord starts us off with tons of grace—He will answer desperate, honest prayers from anyone, even if they have zero relationship with Him. But it really helps to grow “favor” (for an enhanced effectiveness in prayer, for instance) by growing the relationship.

Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” though it really could be more accurately termed “The Disciples’ Prayer.” This is a truly wonderful model, or pattern for how to form our own prayers. By it He shows us to approach God as you would a loving father whom you know to be good, whose power is supreme and whose will can be trusted in all things. Place your requests before Him in a simple, straightforward way describing your need (“give us this day…”). Be sure that you let Him search your heart while you are there, especially in terms of forgiving others (you are asking for God’s merciful help for yourself—remember?). Then pray that He free you from any attempt of the enemy to overtake you.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

Praying it Through

According to the teaching of Jesus, we are to carry our prayers of petition to the Father (as He showed in the disciples’ prayer) or to Jesus in His own Name (as He shows in John 14). Everything else we have to say can come freely out of our heart, our need, and our understanding. Just let your requests flow like you would to a wise or trusted friend.

With prayers of petition the main idea is to offer our requests to God and (with thanksgiving) leave them with Him. I like to say that effective prayer is moving the concern “out of our heart into His Hands.” The old timers used to call this “praying through”, meaning you pray it to the point of effectiveness when the concern leaves, and the peace returns. Until we have prayed through like that, we not through praying!

[FREE BONUS: Download a great, 12 step model for casting your cares on the Lord: “Praying Through to Peace” (two-page PDF). Never again stay crushed under the burden! It’s free—download now.]


Papyrus - 2Prevailing Prayer

Prevailing prayer is more than persevering with petitions, though it certainly includes that. The main theme of petition, as mentioned above, is release of the burden to God. We leave everything about the answer entirely up to Him. With prevailing prayer, we persevere until the desired breakthrough comes. The image is that of the widow Jesus recommended as an example of “importunity” in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). She couldn’t get the judge to pay any attention to her requests, but she refused to give up. She prevailed upon him—not by seeking compassion (he had none), but by making a general nuisance of herself!

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1 ESV

Appearances to the Contrary

A thing sometimes missed in reading scripture, but which often appears in regular life, is the phenomenon of the Lord’s seeming reluctance to act. You Prayer Of Prevailing - to Pray for Healinghave to press past the apparent indifference or resistance that seems to be in God. Don’t take “No” for an answer: God’s stated desire is for us to be healed in every facet of our being (3 John 2). However, in some sense He actually wants us to “call Him out” and pray for healing by “storming heaven’s gates.”

We see this strange way of the Lord amply portrayed through Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite mother who was pleading with Him for her child’s healing. Jesus seemed to be dismissive of her request, but when she persisted (using good humor to boot), He happily gave way and declared that she was a woman of “great faith.” How’s that for turning a delay into an advance!

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:25-28 ESV

Prevailing prayer is persisting in prayer until the answer comes. Our model for this aspect of prayer is not how the prayer is shaped, but how persistently prayer is made. Frequently this means taking prayers of petition and, rather than offering them once, continuing to offer them until either an answer comes or a word from the Lord arrives concerning the request. Other kinds of prayer may need persistent application as well, but the two examples of prevailing prayer given by Jesus in Luke 18 describe petitions being offered.

Don’t Quit!

No matter what the hidden reasons might be for the opposition we sense, we need to follow Jesus’ advice to “always pray and not lose heart.” We may be up against the enemy’s interference, or perhaps it’s a stubbornness in someone’s flesh that has to be overcome. Who knows? Just persevere! The Lord placed a wonderful promise in scripture that all of us can be inheritors of any of the promises simply by being determined to practice “faith and patience” (Hebrews 6:11-12).”

Jesus is our greatest exemplar of persevering, prevailing prayer. He prayed for our salvation, our sanctification and our unity in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the cross (see John 17). No one could hope to have a better understanding of prayer or a better faith relationship with the Father from which to do their praying. So His long prayer in the garden settled these issues once and for all, right? Apparently not. According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus is persevering in prayer to this day on our behalf. (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Prevailing Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 ESV


Papyrus - 3Rebuking Prayer

Many physical sicknesses and emotional disorders were healed in the New Testament by either Jesus or his followers rebuking the spirits that were causing the illness (Luke 4:33-36). It is a fact of scripture that we have been given awesome power to command the evil one and his kingdom, to curb their power and to overturn their works. This is not meant to make us arrogant or proud—not even against the evil spirits, but it is intended for our relief and protection from oppression by the enemy (Luke 10:17-20). Commands can be issued of either a defensive or offensive nature.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. Luke 4:35 ESV

Are We Lacking, or Slacking?

Jesus and the first disciple rebuked demons regularly. Why don’t we? The problem is not in any lack of power on our part. We have been given the Prayer Of Rebuking - to Pray for Healingsame Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence—you can’t have more power inside you than that! We have the same authority as believers which the first disciple possessed. Better yet, if we want further empowerment we can seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit and God will surely send it to us or lead us to it, however that is meant to work out. So the problem cannot be that the necessary power is unavailable to us.

Have the demons “thrown in the towel” and slunk away? Highly unlikely! Demons are difficult to discern, but fairly easy to deal with once exposed. Even so, some are stubbornly entrenched. In situations of personal ministry, I have experienced a few knockdown, drag out fights that went on longer than I would have liked. I have also been unable to dislodge some even after repeated attempts. But most often, once the demon is identified and the person has repented of what it represents (hate, lust, jealousy, etc.), then the rebuking or casting out of the spirit is simple.

Nevertheless, the demons are absolutely subject to the Name of Jesus and they know it. They have been utterly defeated by the Blood of Jesus and they know it. If you are a believer and you also know and have confidence in the power of that Name and of the Blood He shed, then they know that as well. They know it the way a disobedient dog knows when your command “means business” and when you’re just mouthing words you heard other people use, hoping for the response they got.

The one thing that the demons have going for them (other than being invisible, intelligent and very crafty), is that the person who needs deliverance from them, somehow gave them tacit permission to come in, or outright agreement to what they represent. That is why deliverance works so much better if the person seeking it is led through steps of cleansing by repentance first. This also helps them hold on to their freedom once they are delivered.

Don’t Get the Big Head

As in all areas of healing, however, we are dealing with great mysteries, as well as invisible realities that are complex beyond our imagining. There is no place here for presumption or complacency, as the seven sons of Sveca found out (see Acts 19:13-16). Rebuking prayer is similar to commanding prayer. The difference is that prayers of command are directed at things of the created order (nature, animals, human physiology), while rebuking prayer is directed at the infernal kingdom—the demonic henchmen who serve the enemy. Since the created order only turns against the purposes of its Creator when it is under the influence of the evil ones, this can become a fine distinction.

I was driving back from a church camp once, just beating myself to death over some inept thing I’d said. The usual ways of getting release weren’t working. The Lord said to me, “That’s a spirit of self-hatred. It’s never going to let you off the hook.” I said “I’ve got you now,” and turned my inward vision against it. Then I commanded, “You’re a spirit of self-hatred and I don’t have to think what you think or feel what you feel. Go now in Jesus Name!” Suddenly, all was peace and freedom. And I heard the faint echo of a song, “Ding dong, the witch is dead, the mean old witch, the wicked witch.” By now, I was laughing… (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Rebuking Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)


Papyrus - 4Commanding Prayer

Not only are we invited to command the invisible spirits, we are also invited to command the natural realm. Disease can be commanded to leave. Creative miracles can be commanded to come. Even the kingdom of God can be commanded to come. We all know that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom, come!” (Luke 11:1-4). Less well understood is that in the Aramaic the language is quite emphatic: “Kingdom come!” Of course we leave it up to the Lord to decide in what way and at what time His Kingdom should best arrive. Even so, He leaves it up to us to issues commands under His authority and leadership as needed.

Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 AM

We’ve Got the Power!

In speaking forth prayers of command we certainly are not presuming to issue commands to the Lord. Nevertheless, the powers He gives us include Prayer Of Command by Jesus to Pray for Healingdoing what He did. Jesus commanded healing and he commanded even storms to cease. Command was His primary way to pray for healing. He hasn’t changed His ways! He is in us still seeking by His Spirit to do more now than He did then, more even than “we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 ESV

The prayer of command is real; it is also really hard to get right. Let’s take these points one at a time. First, we have been given the prayer of command and the expectation is that we will use it. Jesus and the disciples almost always commanded healing. We go at it differently and our results don’t match up with theirs.

Normally, we rely on prayers of petition which are also used in the Bible, but which are not nearly as much in evidence under the New Covenant as direct commands. The way Jesus healed the ruler of a synagogue’s daughter is typical of the way He healed everyone in the gospels.

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. Mark 5:41-42 ESV

How did we miss this? It seems to me that we get overwhelmed by a religious appreciation (which is thoroughly correct) that Jesus is Lord and can still heal today just as He did then. Therefore, we place ourselves in the position of the people who came to Jesus for healing during His earthly ministry and we bring our petitions to Him. We seem to have missed the point that He has long since ascended to heaven, having committed to us His authority and given to us His Spirit by which to do His works. Jesus is not only our Master; He is also our Example. During His time on earth, Jesus was demonstrating how to live by faith, how to walk in the Spirit and how to pray for healing—among other things.

The disciples may have been slow to understand that Jesus had to die on the cross, but they seem to have quickly grasped that they were now to do what He did in the same way He did it. Shortly after the Ascension and the great events of Pentecost, the disciples commanded healing just as they had observed Jesus doing it. When leaving the Temple one day, Peter and John stopped to hear the petition of the man born crippled—just as Jesus would have. Then they took that petition and turned it into a command—just as Jesus would have.

Do We Really Have This Power?

We believe God can command nature. But us? Yet, the reality is that under the New Covenant, God is now inside of us ready, willing and able to act through us in any legitimate way that is in accord with His will. In a very real sense the New Covenant has created a new “reality” for those of us who believe. Not only are we “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we also have access to new ways to pray for healing. What can we command? By the example of Jesus and the disciples, we can command disease to leave (“He rebuked the fever”), healing to come (“little girl, arise”), the kingdom to come, winds and seas to be calmed, and even mountains to move.

If this kind of praying feels strange and seems strange that’s understandable. Nevertheless, we are called to live by faith under the leadership of our Lord. Just as He trained His first disciples in the prayer of command, He surely desires to pass the blessing on to us. In fact, He didn’t say “pray for the sick,” He commanded us to heal the sick—that’s a very different thing. Evidently, the responsibility is on us to learn how to do what He did!

The second point from above, is that this is hard to get right. Fortunately, there is abundant grace to cover us as we seek to learn, and prayers of petition can always be made when prayers of command don’t seem to work. Don’t expect people not to be healed (that would be “active” unbelief), but don’t be shocked when they aren’t (that would be naive).

Once, I was racing to put some home repair back together before leaving for a conference and dropped a heavy door on my naked big toe. I’d been a carpenter long enough in my earlier life to know what kind of injuries are emergency room worthy. This qualified in spades. As I instinctively bent down to hold my injured toe, wondering whether I would curse, scream or praise the Lord, He said, “Praise me and rebuke the pain.” I started praising God, rebuking pain, and commanding healing for all I was worth. Even the cats came around to see what the fuss was about. Five minutes later I was looking at a completely headed toe! (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Commanding Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)


Papyrus - 5Submitting Prayer

Our last place to stand is in the place of entire surrender to His sovereign will. When you have done all, stand (Ephesians 6:13). At first glance this seems to be the exact opposite of commanding prayer and from our perspective, no doubt, it is. Rather than commanding events we are throwing ourselves into an abyss of Mercy instead. Ironically, our very vulnerability—when it is absolute—“commands” the Lord’s response. He will NOT allow His Beloved to suffer without divine intervention coming to the Rescue of one so completely dependent upon Him.

God is not asking us to accept disease as His desire for us, or as His best for us. Never! He absolutely wants us to pray for healing. He is the Giver of every good gift and the sworn Enemy of all that is dark, fallen and evil (James 1:16-17). Nevertheless, there came a time in Jesus life when the only honorable way forward through the suffering He was facing, was to make sure that His heart stayed firmly surrendered to the Father’s will. God greatly blessed Jesus for His willingness to prove the trustworthiness of God, even through the hard passage of the cross.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:41-43 ESV

Our Secret “Weapon”

The prayer of surrender is no faint-hearted, resignation-weary, fallback position, as if yielding to God’s mercy was the last and worst alternative Prayer Of Surrender - Woman Kneeling to Pray for Healingavailable to us. Sometimes it is the best way from the beginning, but only if you have the faith-confidence to believe that the Lord’s desire is to liberate you. Then, the release of your spirit into His may be the very thing He needs to effect your release from the illness, or whatever is hindering your walk. Above all, Jesus desires our inward and spiritual liberation.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB

The reality of our spiritual health is the primary concern of the Lord and it should be of ours. Spiritual health is the bedrock for emotional and physical health as well. It is easily identified: Spiritual health is the ability to trust God entirely no matter what He is allowing or what He is asking of us. The way we know we are trusting God is through the peace of Christ.

We can easily be tricked out on this by the enemy who is a past master at tempting God’s children to trade their inheritance for a bowl of porridge. We may rightly chide Esau who did just that in the natural realm (see Genesis 25:27-34), but our inheritance is the Person and Presence of Jesus who has come to live with us and in us. Being with Jesus in eternity is the fullness of our inheritance; living is His peace is the enjoyment of our inheritance right now.

Trusting God in the Trial

Just because trouble, suffering or disease have been allowed, doesn’t mean God caused it, desired it to happen, or wants it to stay. He wants us healthy in every way! Nevertheless, the fact that it has been allowed is always a test: Will we trust Him for allowing the trial and will we trust Him to show us the way through it that leads to life? Submitting to God in the midst of any trial restores us to peace and allows Him to raise us up.

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:6-7 AMP

Normally, if I feel led, I go after unwanted natural events by rebuking the enemy and/or commanding the storm. The same applies to the wider world of politics and economics. I’m not saying I have the greatest batting average, but I’ve gotten enough hits to stay encouraged. However, there have been times, even in the midst of this kind of intercession, when I felt impressed by the Lord to go to Gethsemane and release everything to Him on the emphatic ground of “Thy will be done!” Usually, at those times there is an over-riding, sincere desire to see exactly what His will is in that particular situation. All I can say is that I have been truly astounded and instructed (as well as rescued more than once) by prayers of submission. (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Submitting Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)

LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a four-page download, 5 Biblical Ways to Pray, complete with sample prayers. It’s free—download here.]

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A Wing and a Prayer

OK! I’m sure I haven’t answered all of your questions about these five Biblical ways to pray for healing. I couldn’t even if I tried, since I certainly don’t have all the answers myself. But if you don’t have more questions, it can only mean you’re not eager to grow these prayer abilities, or haven’t yet launched out in the attempt. But that’s not who you are, or you wouldn’t have read through to this point.

Try to remember (never easy when the battle is on) that it is faith which gives wings to our prayers. What we don’t know is immense, but our God-given faith ability to trust God with our ignorance and our vulnerability gives us the edge over the dark empire every time. So, it’s great if you know these five ways to pray. It’s better if you believe in them. But best of all is trusting God no matter what…

Go now for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the entire original article, “Pray for Healing 5 Biblical Ways” (4364 word PDF).

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Three Paths to Healing (One Is Bound to Work!)

Amazingly, there are three genuine paths to the healing of our bodies and these exactly correspond to the three parts of our nature: body, soul and spirit. The world around us focuses upon one area, that of physical healing, and one means for healing, that of doctors and medicine. Before I go any further, let me hasten to say that I love doctors and medicine! I’ve got no beef with them at all, nor am I advocating for any of the “alternative medicine” approaches. I cast a baleful eye upon anything that can’t explain how it works, or where its power is coming from. But using material means to heal physical bodies (as our science-based medical field does) is straight-forward, totally legitimate, and of immense, though limited potential.

Path In Autumn Woods

Explore this Third Path to Healing

As a Christian I naturally believe in the second legitimate path of healing: prayer. By going to God in prayer, we are moving through the spiritual side of our nature to seek God for healing the physical part of us. Jesus has healed me many times over the course of my 33 years of knowing Him. He has also healed others through me, though prayer for physical healing has not (so far) been one of my strongest gifts. Nevertheless, this path to healing—so long as it doesn’t stray into shamanism and the dark arts—is genuine, well-known and unlimited in potential.

There is, however, a third legitimate path to healing that is not as well-known, and certainly not as vigorously practiced as the other two. It costs nothing. It requires no special equipment or training. It is practically guaranteed to work, if worked rightly. Curiously, it always has side benefits that are, themselves, superior to the physical healing which is its goal. And finally, it has scientific support, but best practiced with faith and prayer—an odd conjunction to say the least. What is this mysterious marvel? Nothing other than healing the body through mending the soul!

This is so tasty a truth that I hope you will stay with me as I seek to prepare (what I hope will be) a feast for your understanding. The basic ingredients are ones you are familiar with; the way they combine may surprise and delight you.

1) Three Parts to Our Nature

2) Three Paths to Healing

3) The Order of Creation

4) The Boundaries of Healing

5) A Progression for Healing

Three Paths To HealingThree Parts to Our Nature

That we have three parts to our nature is a truth we draw from scripture, not science. Science can tell us nothing about the most important part: our spirit. The Bible, however, is very direct in listing the three parts and in reassuring us that the Lord desires to fully restore us (“keep blameless”) in all three areas of our being.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV

This scripture not only tells us that we are body, soul and spirit in our makeup; it also indicates that our complete “sanctification” in all three areas requires a work of God. If we think of sanctification as purifying and cleansing us, we will easily see the connection to healing us, so that we may be re-made “whole” in every sense of the word.

Healing necessarily requires sanctification, because everything wrong in creation traces back to some originating sin, never to God’s good will. That’s good news, because as Christians we know that God dealt with the curse of sin at the cross. Our God of “great grace” is committed to our total healing no matter how the disorder came about. Watch how this plays out in the three parts of our nature.

1. Body. We all know that the body needs healing at times, but let’s break it down into the main categories. Setting the issue of aging aside, there are three conditions that our medical science seeks to remedy: injury, infectious disease, and the so-called “incurable diseases.” The medical field has made huge advances with mending injuries and curing infectious diseases. The real problem is with the third group. From heart attacks to headaches, from constipation to cancer we are vulnerable to a tremendous array of diseases and disorders which our medical science cannot cure, only manage. One doctor told me most of the time all he can do with his patients is assign a “maintenance protocol”—an improvement, but not a solution. There will be more on this as we go on.Blue Butterfly

2. Soul. I shy away from using this word most of the time, because a) it seems too pretentious to use it, or b) it really can’t be used without explaining just what you mean by it. Once the poets and song writers got hold of it, “soul” became an indefinable quality of life. Let’s set the mysticism aside and go with the classic description of soul as intellect, emotion and will. That pretty well covers the non-physical part of us, so long as we add conscious and unconscious to the mix.

Basically your soul is you, including the stuff in the basement. In the realm of our soul, we need healing like a river bed needs water. We need truth for our minds, right believing for our hearts and yielding to God for our wills. Only then is our soul at peace. All else is dis-ease and that is something we were never intended to experience. Anger, worry, fear, depression, shame and guilt (just to name a few) are genuine and wide-spread diseases of the soul. Our need for healing of the soul is immense!

3. Spirit. This is the side of ourselves that we wouldn’t even know is there, were it not for Christian revelation. We certainly would never have guessed that we were born spiritually “dead”, if scripture hadn’t set the record straight. Yet, the disconnect from God that everyone is born with and everyone senses, confirms the Biblical view. That dead spirit is the seed bed of the flesh—our carnal or fallen nature. Strictly speaking, what our spirit needs is not healing, but resuscitation or replacement. God opted for replacement, telling us long ago through Ezekiel that He was planning to put a “new spirit” within us.

This is exactly what happens when we place our faith in God, believing in and trusting to what Jesus has done for us at the cross. We are “reborn from above”—given a new spirit that is forever alive to Him. From that point on we don’t have to worry about our spirit. God seals us to Himself by the Holy Spirit who now indwells us and seats us (spiritually) with Christ in the heavenly realms. However, our spiritual healing and wholeness can only become complete in this life when we yield to God enough to trust and obey Him in the present moment. Only then do we live in the deep peace our spirit already enjoys.

Three Paths To HealingThree Paths to Healing

Isn’t it interesting that we have three parts to our nature and three paths to healing? Of course you may not have thought much about the third path or have had much belief in the second. I would have been totally in that boat, had not Christian conversion intercepted by life over 33 years ago. Since then, I have had the good fortune of seeing all three of them work stupendously for me at different times. As much as I am in debt to the first two, it’s that little-known third path that really has captured my heart. Let’s go through all three.

1. Doctors and Medicine. This is the one we think of first, especially if we live in the developed countries. Naturally, we go to doctors for anything that goes wrong with our bodies and with good reason. Modern medical science is a true science (unlike psychology, sociology, etc.). It deals with identifiable problems in the material realm by experimentally proven material means: surgery, vaccines, and medicines. For the most part it makes no pretense about healing the soul or spirit; it sticks to what it does best, which is concentrating on mending our physical being.

The main problem with this approach, as we have seen, is that there is a whole huge class of disorders for which no cures are available. This pain-filled gap in its progress pushes some people towards seeking cures (or relief of symptoms) through “alternative” medical practices, diet and exercise, or the two remaining paths for real healing.

BONUS MATERIAL: Check out this free PDF download, The Bible on Diet and Health. You’ll be surprised at what the Bible has to say. It’s free—download here.]

2. Prayer to God. As Christians we know that prayer works. Only when it comes to healing, it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should. We need it to work with immediacy and with totality—just as it usually did in the Bible. This tells me that we still have a long way to go to recover the faith and Holy Spirit assisted power that was so clearly available to the Early Church. Just as with medical science in the issue cited above, this represents a painful gap in our knowledge and experience.

The statistics from double-blind studies prove that people who are being prayed for have better outcomes from hospital stays and procedures, than those who aren’t. But those who are in Christian healing ministries know that our batting average for divine healing is getting better, but it isn’t out of the cellar yet. Nevertheless, when we go to God directly in prayer, we are clearly attempting to access a tried and proven, totally “legitimate” pathway of healing. Our frustration with it, however, is pressing us towards the third path.

LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a four-page download, 5 Biblical Ways to Pray, complete with sample prayers. It’s free—download here.]

3. Mending the Heart. Because of research into the mind-body connection, we now have a scientific basis for this third path to healing. A landslide of scientific evidence has shown that emotional stress (conscious and unconscious) undermines, even destroys, our physical health. Emotional stress is already a sign of dis-ease in the soul. But it goes further, because the peace God can give us, if it is ruling in our hearts, also upholds our physical health. The one thing that ensures our bodies can throw off any disease, especially infectious ones, is a fully functioning immune system. Stress pulls the immune system down. The one thing that ensures that all of our body systems will be functioning at ideal levels—homeostasis—is inner peace. Stress is the antithesis of inner peace.

The Spiritual Roots of Disease

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I have seen amazing cures happen when people got free of what was deeply distressing them—by carrying their heart to God and getting His release. There’s far more it than this, but even this cursory view is enough to show that if we could mend our hearts and minds, so that we live more fully in the peace of God, our bodies could live more completely in freedom from disease.

Joy, peace and emotional freedom are the greatest boosters of our immune systems! Remember the “incurable diseases” that our medical science is unable to defeat, only maintain? These can also be called the stress-related diseases. If stress isn’t the cause every time, it may be an important contributing agent. Why not deal with it?

These three paths can be taken in any order, though most of us probably go to doctors first. If that fails, we might call on God. If that doesn’t get results, we might in desperation work on the heart. Many people probably don’t know that the third option exists. That’s one reason I’m writing this article.

A greater problem is that people (in my experience) are usually reluctant to work on their hearts. Some of the reasons are: a) we don’t know how to do it ourselves, b) we have tried in the past and failed to get free, c) we would rather bury the past than put the effort into mending it, d) we don’t trust anyone enough to open up, or e) we don’t really believe that God’s ways work. In fact, the Lord has 5 proven ways of mending anyone of past or present emotional pain and mental stress. That’s another article (See “Mending the Broken Heart” at our website). For now, let’s see what the order in creation can tell us about these paths.

Three Paths To HealingThe Order of Creation

Is there a hierarchy to our three-part nature and, if so, how might this impact the paths of our healing? The Bible reveals to us that a spiritual Being, God, created everything. That puts His Spirit squarely into first place in the universe. Our spirit, therefore, takes first place in the ordering of our three-part nature. This is evident in two ways: Unless our spiritual being is mended, our soul and body will never be able to come into proper alignment. In addition, our spiritual being is also the everlasting side of us. According to Jesus, both body and soul can be “destroyed” in hell. Not so the spirit which is left to endure eternal punishment.

Ok, that’s a depressing thought, so let’s quickly turn to see what’s next in line. Our soul, certainly, takes second place, also for two reasons: Our bodies are servants of our soul. Whatever intellect, emotion and decides, the body does, not the other way around. Furthermore, when we do die (let’s say as Christians this time), our soul will rise with our spirit to heaven, though it may need cleansing along the way. Our bodies will be left for burning or burial, clearly indicating their inferior status.

We are spiritual beings who have a soul and who live in a body. There’s the hierarchy: first the spirit, then the soul, then the body. Now, what can this tell us about our paths to healing? This divinely established hierarchy, sets boundaries. If we don’t understand the realities we are dealing with, much heartache or wasted effort can result. Since our God has placed hierarchy and order in creation, we will move most powerfully into His purposes, if we stay attentive to the boundaries He has set.

Three Paths To HealingThe Boundaries of Healing

Now that we have the basic ingredients assembled, let’s see the fascinating ways that they can combine. The divinely created hierarchy sets the boundaries for what is normally possible:

1. Spirit. Our spirit can only be healed by one means: by God directly. It takes God’s Word, faith and the working of God’s Spirit to restore genuine spiritual life, where there had once been only death. Nothing else can accomplish this. The spirit cannot be healed by the workings of our own inner life (soul) or by any physical exertion on our part.

2. Soul. Our soul (our inner life) can be healed by two means: by God directly, or through the mending of our heart. The heart is the deepest thing about us, so deep only the Lord can effectively search its hidden depths. The heart holds images and memory, retains our deepest beliefs, influences our thoughts and releases our emotions. Jesus said that “out of the heart” both good and evil issue forth. Solomon urges us to “guard our hearts with diligence” for that very reason (Proverbs 4:23).Prayer Outside

Mending the heart can be done by God directly through prayer alone. More often, however, God works through many things that require our active cooperation to produce the transformations which heal our hearts: the renewing of our mind by His Word and by carrying of the deep thoughts of our heart captive to Christ, especially during times of trial. These are two common means.

Things in our deep heart cannot be cured by merely physical remedies. A pill, for instance, can change the way a person feels, but only as long as the medicine is working. But let a person, effectively deal with any issue before the Lord, and they can resolve that issue forever.

3. Body. Our body can be healed by three means: by God through prayer, through the heart by freeing it of stress and restoring our soul (our inner life) to the peace of Christ, and by natural means (doctors, medicines, procedures, and other remedies).

This ordering of creations explains why there are three legitimate paths for healing our bodies and shows us how we can go about it, fully expecting that the Lord is behind each one. It does show us, however, that there is a progression for healing that we need to understand, if we want to become more fully healed and more completely free.

BONUS MATERIAL: I’ve prepared a PDF download, 33 Biblical Blocks, as a way of checking to see if anything is hindering healing. It’s free—download here.]

Three Paths To HealingA Progression for Healing

Turning this dynamic hierarchy around we see that through our spiritual connection to God any area of our life (mental, emotional, physical) can be directly healed or restored by God. This not only gives us our three paths to healing, it also shows us their limitations.

1. First. The first, highest and best path to healing is prayer. God’s power supersedes all else. If we are healed directly by God through prayer, what could be better? This prayer pathway is well-known but underdeveloped in anything like its true potential. However, it does have a drawback. It sometimes happens that, if the cause of the disease of body or dis-ease of soul is not mended, then even the healing God produces by His Spirit can be overthrown. A person’s broken heart may reasserts itself in some other way.

2. Second. The second path is healing the soul by mending the heart. This path has the potential to produce the deepest and most elegant cure. The root issue of many, if not all, disease is the stress effect upon our bodies. Relieve the soul from carrying its burden of stress (either from past trauma or present problems) and the body can spring back into life. Not only is the heart mended, but the body might be as well. That’s a tremendous bargain—two for one!Good News Leap

Admittedly, this is not as easy as it sounds, for we are only at the beginning of tracing the mind-emotion-body connections and mending the interior life. Too few people take this path seriously, though most everyone acknowledges the reality of stress’ effect upon the body. Nevertheless, if a disease has its root in the soul, then the most direct path for healing the body is to heal the soul of that which is wounding it.

3. Third. The third path is seeking to heal the body through natural, physical means. This is the one we spend the most money on: doctors, medicine and natural remedies. We have absolutely nothing against doctors or medicine, provided that the Lord is always consulted first and that a person looks to God to lead the way. However, since this path bypasses the heart, which may hold the true answers, the disease might return, the medicines or surgical procedure might lose their effectiveness, or the nexus of symptoms will show up elsewhere. How much better would it be to “take the axe to the root of the tree” and deal with any emotional stress that might be triggering this disease or this array of symptoms?

You can’t lose: If your heart gets mended and your body doesn’t, you still come out ahead!

Why don’t you consider taking our eCourse for healing? It’s absolutely free and just may be the best investment of your time you could every make.

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In Summary

1. We can go directly to God through prayer—bypassing both our hearts and our bodies.

2. We can go after the root of the problem embedded in the heart. This can lead to physical healing and always leads to spiritual release and freedom.

3. We can relieve the symptoms and sometimes produce a cure by dealing directly with the body itself through doctors and medicine.

May the Lord bless you with fully restored health to your body, soul and spirit!

Follow this link for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the expanded original article, Three Legitimate Paths (3494 word PDF).

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2 Strategies for Mastering Emotions: Fruit and Roots

What do you do when stuff happens? Do you get stressed or depressed? Do your emotions take over? How hard is it to get free of the negative ones? What is your strategy for mastering your emotions and returning to the river of peace Jesus provides?

Many Christians are held captive by their emotional life. If this is you, there is hope, but you will have to learn how to fight for your freedom. Be forewarned, I don’t mean fighting to make events and other people go the way your emotions would prefer. That kind of quest for control is doomed from the start. There is nothing Christian about it.

Negative Emotions

Is Your Life a Thicket of Negative Emotions?

People will be people no matter how hard you try to please them or pressure them to “behave” in ways that give you peace. Neither can you keep unwanted events from showing up. In a world filled with problems and problem people, we need effective strategies for gaining and maintaining our freedom. Since we can’t “fix” what’s outside of us, why not work on what’s inside?

The number one rule of the spiritual life, in terms of our inner state, is that the real problem is not what happens, but how we respond to what happens. Will we look to find a way to respond as Jesus would want us to, even in the midst of things the enemy launches against us or our loved ones? If so, we will have peace. Or will we react based on emotions pre-programmed into us by the world, the flesh and the devil? In that case there will be no peace.


Fruit and Root PlantThe Fight You Can’t Avoid

The truth is that you are in a fight whether you want it or not. Everything and everyone you care about—including your peace of mind—is under attack by a relentless enemy. What are you going to do? Rather than be crushed by the realization that you have to face opposition, you can learn to fight back!

The focus for this battle is our emotional state, because it holds the key to all the other victories needed in the spiritual life. Jesus told us to seek the kingdom of God first. Through Paul we know that the kingdom is readily identified by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Who doesn’t want peace and joy? Yet, even though the Holy Spirit is always in our hearts, the peace and joy often go missing. We would do well to heed Solomon’s warning:

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 MKJV

Under the incredibly generous terms of the New Covenant, our inner state is meant to be characterized at all times and in all situations by freedom, peace, bright hope and confidence in God. This is our birth right. This is our inheritance in Christ. This is what Jesus died to give us. Anything less than this is an oppressive invasion by the enemy into our interior space!

Mastering Your Emotions Is a Battle

Let’s Learn to Fight Back!

Jesus desires to “dwell” in our hearts at all times—not be shoved to the side. The sign that He is being properly attended to by us is His peace. Naturally, the enemy is going to try to steal the peace of Christ from you—using you to do it.

No amount of saber-rattling is going to win this battle for you. It takes learning how to guard our hearts God’s way, and doing it with “all diligence.” Oh, but it is worth it to float through the day in that river of peace!

When events go against us, when people are unkind, when our hopes or plans are dashed, an array of negative emotion assails us, seeking to become a stronghold, robbing us of the peace of Christ.

Many Christians often lose their peace connection, yet still stay within the moral boundaries. This lack of peace, however, slowly turns their life into a barren wilderness with no life-giving river flowing through their heart, leading them out into each new day. The springs of life are blocked.

There are others, however, such as the men I work with at the Mission, who not only lost the peace regularly, they overran the moral boundaries and fell even further—into life-wrecking addictions. This is almost an advantage for them now, because it will make warriors out of them, if they seize the opportunity. Unlike “normal” believers, they can’t afford to lose the peace of Christ and not deal with it. They have to learn how to quickly recover an empowered emotional state when they lose it.

Whatever your situation is, I hope you will use this article to better equip yourself for the battle we all face if we want to live in the river of peace.


Fruit and Root PlantAn Empowered Emotional State

The peace of Christ, bright hope and confidence in God form an empowered interior state. With it filling our heart, we are energized for facing the many challenges of life. Without it, we are already suffering defeat before we head out the door. Your interior state is well worth fighting for!

Father God delights in giving us victories, but just like the ancient Israelites, we have to fight for the “land” that is promised to us. Our land—our inheritance—is the kingdom of God as Paul described it, a kingdom that lies within our hearts. To live with an empowered emotional state, we have to be willing and able to go into our hearts and do battle there.

The chief task of the [spiritual] athlete is to enter into his heart.
Macarius the Great, Desert Father (300-391 AD)

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Where there is fruit, there’s a root”? Past emotional brokenness (the root) always means messed up emotional reactions in the present (the fruit). Because we didn’t learn how to restore our heart to the peace of Christ over issues in the past, we are ill-equipped to deal with similar emotional turmoil in the present. We won’t make satisfying progress unless we deal with both sides of this equation.

That’s why, if we are ever to live in the river of peace on a regular basis, we will have to learn two highly effective strategies for mastering our emotions: one for the present and one for the past. We need to learn God’s ways for recovering from past brokenness and gaining true mastery over present emotional reactions.


Fruit and Root PlantTwo Strategies for Freedom

I call these two strategies “Basic Discipleship” and “Inner Healing.” Basic Discipleship enables us to survive emotional reactions in the present, restoring us to Jesus’ peace. Inner Healing enables us to gain victories over emotional brokenness from the past. The first helps us to survive; the second enables us to thrive!

These two strategies are what the Lord began teaching me many years ago as He led me out my own emotional ruin left in the wake of a dozen horrific years of occult oppression (see Rescued from Hell at Amazon).  My new birth was a marvel of deliverance, but it soon became clear that it was one thing for the Lord to save me from my sins; it was wholly another to free me from my emotional brokenness.

By turning to Basic Discipleship whenever my emotions went haywire, the Lord kept me growing steadily towards my destined purpose while keeping me well within the moral boundaries—stumbling at times, but not falling away. Then, as Inner Healing mended the deeply broken places in my heart, He greatly enlarged the flow of His peace and joy within me. I could not have made it without either one.

Every Christian needs these two strategies at some level. Sadly, only those who know that they have been losing a battle for their inner state, will go to the trouble to gain the equipping that is needed. Is this you? Are you yearning for the peace of Christ to be more than sprinkles and puddles? Do you want to be carried each day in that river of peace Jesus said would flow from the heart of His believing people?

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:37-38 ESV


Fruit and Root Plant

Mastering Basic Discipleship

The first thing we need to master is Basic Discipleship. Without it each new “emotional ambush” will rob us of peace and carry us off course. This is the lifeline that connects us to the Lord in the present moment. It has three main components: 1) trust and obey, 2) cling and call, and 3) contain and carry. I know that sounds like a lot, but riding a bicycle, driving a car and using a computer were also intimidating the first time out.

1) Trust and Obey

Jesus is our Leader. He approaches us each day just as He did the early disciples. He didn’t recruit them by saying, “Believe in Me and I will get you to heaven.” What He actually said was “Follow Me!” The elementary choice for every believer every day is “Am I going to lead myself, or follow Jesus?” That’s why “trust and obey” has to be learned and practiced first. Otherwise, we are putting ourselves first and that is definitely out of order.

Whenever we choose to trust the Lord with what He allows and follow Him in what He asks of us, we are set free to start the day’s journey at His side, enjoying the river of peace and doing “the next right thing” as His Spirit leads the way. Now, you don’t really expect the enemy to sit on his hands while all this is going on, do you? Of course not! Something always happens to disrupt the flow of peace. What is your strategy for those times?Mastering Your Emotions Requires Clinging

2) Cling and Call

Have you noticed that losing the peace of Christ and being filled with negative emotions go hand in hand? This dynamic presents us with a choice: life or death. Unchecked by us, these negative emotions will certainly carry us into attitudes we deplore or actions we would otherwise wish to avoid. Instead, we can fight back by clinging to Jesus and calling on His Name.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life… and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NKJV

The Lord guarantees that anytime we call on Him, He will rescue us—no matter what the situation is; no matter how little we may deserve it (Romans 10:13). The only qualification is that we have to call on Him and cling to Him until He carries us through to the peace and joy on the other side of the negative emotions that are now blocking us.

3) Contain and Carry

Now that you are choosing to look to God and go His way, you have to find something positive to do with the negative emotions that flooded into you. They may have to be put into “containment” for a brief period; otherwise, they will overflow on to the people around you. That never helps! But neither does stuffing them indefinitely.

Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV

Look for a time when you can carry your unwanted, negative emotions as captives to the Lord. Then hold them up to Him in prayer seeking His way of releasing them. Not only will you learn how His peace is restored, you will be growing in intimacy with Jesus—a double blessing!

When stuff happens these tried and proven measures will always return you to peace. This will mend you in the midst of present problems. The problems may remain, but you will have your peace back and be in a much better position to be guided by Him towards resolution. Best of all you will be learning how to convert a loss of peace (fairly) quickly back into greater peace!

[LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a one page download, A.C.T.! Fast to Reconnect with Jesus, complete with a full color illustration, explanation, scriptures and prayer. It’s free—download here.]


Fruit and Root PlantReceiving Inner Healing

As good and necessary as Basic Discipleship is, it will wear you out without the breakthroughs that Inner Healing provides. Discipleship is how we prune away bad fruit; Inner Healing enables us to pull up the roots that keep producing bad fruit. Then there is much less emotional turmoil to deal with.

Through Inner Healing we address those issues that broke our trust in the past and still drain away our peace when we remember them. Often, we don’t even want to look into old wounds because we had no remedy for how to mend them at the time. The truth is, however, that we could have been free a long time ago, if we had been shown how to carry our wounded heart to God and been willing to do what He requires for our mending.

As far as I have been able to discover there are five main ways which the Lord uses to mend our emotional brokenness. They all require a generous measure of our own effort and cooperation. These five ways are: our tears, the prayers of others, forgiveness, believing truth and divine interventions.Tear in a Blue Eye

1) Our Tears

Jesus says in the Beatitudes that those who mourn are truly blessed. He is definitely not saying that it is a blessing when our loved ones die, or our dreams are shattered, or when terrible things happen to us. No, the blessing is on “those who mourn”—those who carry their tears and their grief to God and give it to Him until their heart becomes cleansed and transformed. Think of tears as liquid prayers; then let them flow freely to the Lord, trusting His response.

2) The Prayers of Others

Help is promised to those who bring the issues they struggle with to others for prayer (James 5:16). Choose to become open, honest and vulnerable with close Christian friends you can entrust with your heart. God wants to use the Body of Christ as an instrument of healing. This keeps us humbled and dependent upon one another, enables us to receive the benefit of their wisdom and prayers, and rebuilds trust that was damaged in the past.

3) Forgiveness

Receiving forgiveness brings healing, but so does releasing it. You and I are required by our God to forgive absolutely anyone that we have “anything” against—no matter what it was that hurt or offended us (Mark 11:25). We will never be healed of our past and become the grace-filled, mercy-giving beings we have been redeemed to become, if we don’t practice full forgiveness from the heart. The beauty of this is that when we do it, all the pain of the past is gone and a childlike innocence is restored!

4) Believing Truth

The Lord has gone way out on the limb promising that no matter what happens, He will always make it work for our good. He will do this whether we believe it or not, but what a difference it makes if we really believe it. Don’t demand to see how it will come true; embrace the truth and experience the immediate benefit of believing it. Most of the mending of my damaged emotions happened as I fought to actively believe the “Magnificent Promise” of Romans 8:28 over every painful event in my past. It really works! Now (many years later) I am also seeing the evidence of His work.

5) Divine Intervention

The Lord gives dreams, visions, healing of memories, visitations and prophetic words—these have tremendous healing power. Although they are sovereign acts of God, we can increase our availability for receiving them a) by cultivating greater intimacy with the Lord and b) by going “on pilgrimage” to places where the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power is being manifested. He bids us to seek Him where He can be found…

LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared A Check List for Building Emotional Intelligence (One page PDF) to help you walk your heart through these ABCs the next time you get tangled up in those pesky negative emotions. It’s free—download here.]

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The River of Peace

Obviously, seeking to be healed of our emotional baggage from the past requires a journey of growing in understanding and working through many, if not all, of the five ways God heals us. It takes time, plus focused effort on our part for our lives to become a river of peace. In the meantime, Basic Discipleship is always available to come to our rescue when the enemy robs us of peace through our reactions to some unwanted or unexpected events. Together they form an incredibly effective strategy for mastering your emotions and living in the freedom of a fully empowered emotional state!

Mastering Your Emotions like a Peaceful River

Follow this link for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the expanded original article, Fruit and Roots: For Mastering Your Emotional State (2865 word PDF).

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What Causes Addiction? (It’s Not a Chemical Hook!)

What? Substance abuse isn’t due to a chemical hook?

You may have heard this all your life, but it isn’t true. There are four excellent reasons why it’s not and the first three of them are already known to most of us. Somehow, the facts don’t register like they should. Even the men in our yearlong recovery program typically come to us programmed (by culture) to believe that the substance itself was all-powerful. They should know better, they need to know better, but they don’t. Not surprisingly, this false belief is a cause of ever-deepening bondage.

In fairness the crack, alcohol, heroin or meth seemed all-powerful. It’s effect upon their body and their need for it could only be explained (in their minds) by the power of a physical craving. Every time they came up against the temptation, their physical desire rose with such urgency that resistance seemed futile and they caved in to it. This giant was bigger than they were and worse, their own body had turned traitor and was hooked on it.Powder Cocaine

Tragically, this kind of thinking gives the addiction even greater power. Addictions have at their core a lot of false beliefs. Every lie believed adds to the inner bondage. In this case the lie of the chemical hook reduces the struggle to a will power contest which they lose consistently. How can you fight what your own body wants so badly? The death grip of the substance was too tough to beat. This is what they came to “know” by bitter personal experience. Beware what you think you know. If it isn’t the whole truth, it will wreck you.

They all know, of course, that there was definitely a time—a very long time—in their life when they saw nothing wrong with the substance. Those were the days of chasing it like a bridal lover. They knew what they wanted and raced after it with near-naked abandonment. Typically, they only come to us when they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The chase has exhausted all their energy and resources; worse, it’s taking them down. At long last they are craving freedom from the substance, rather than the substance. They don’t want it now. Why do they still crave it? It must be the chemical hook!

Their eyes widen when I tell them their addiction was never due to a chemical hook. It goes against what they believe and all they have experienced. But once I walk them through the facts of the matter, they come around. Then, it’s truly wonderful to see the light of recognition being switched on as furrowed brows lift and eyes go back on bright. Every step into the light leads them further away from darkness and bondage, and brings them one step closer to understanding what AA calls the “cunning and baffling” mystery of addiction. Let’s take some of those same steps now and grasp these keys of freedom for ourselves and others.

Key to Freedom

A Glance at the Facts

There are four reasons why addiction isn’t due to the power of a chemical hook. Three of these reasons are observable facts, studied by science and fairly well known to the average person. The fourth is the most powerful reason of all. It provides all the clues we need to discover the real power at work.

Fact 1:

Our bodies are our friends. They “hate” anything they can identify as toxins. Within days the chemicals from most of the addictive substances are eliminated, leaving no trace behind. For some chemicals the detox may take a few weeks. After that your body has fully recovered, but have you? Everyone with an addiction knows that you can be in sobriety for months, even years, and still feel the cravings, still cave in to the desire. The mere sight of a substance is enough to trigger the old familiar urges with all the old unwanted intensity.
Where is the chemical hook in that?

Fact 2:

Doctors and nurses should all be arrested! They are giving out highly addictive narcotics with a frequency that rivals any drug dealer. They’re not of course, but why not? Post-surgical procedure often includes giving tremendously powerful opiates to even little children and little old ladies. These substances are medically pure and far more potent than what’s usually available on the street. Yet, precious few get hooked.
Where’s the chemical hook in that?

Note: Ironically, it is the actual physical need for pain to be relieved that allows the narcotic to work without causing addiction. Patients are carefully monitored. As the pain goes down, so does the dosage. In this way they rarely form a psychological dependence on the substance. The problem comes when some patients are sent home with prescription pain killers. They may begin abusing these by using them for the high, rather than for pain relief.

Fact 3:

This one everyone knows. Many activities are just as addictive as substances seem to be. Just recall what you know about the epidemic of pornography that infests our nation. All manner of sexual sins, gambling, and other compulsions can easily reach the level of full-blown addictive behavior, but there is no substance involved. Nothing ingested, nothing swallowed. We could even cite anorexia as a bizarre form of denying the body those very substances it should otherwise receive. Yet, these addictions are absolute bears to defeat.
Where is the chemical hook in that?

Note: The first two of these reasons are explored in a TED talk called “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong” by Johann Hari. It’s fascinating, funny and filled with insights about the underlying root of addiction from a secular point of view (which by the way fits nicely into a Christian perspective). He also makes a sensible and impassioned plea for de-criminalizing substance abuse. Follow this link to view and enjoy it.

BONUS MATERIAL: Go deeper to gain more freedom over addictive behaviors with Addiction’s Three Lies (Three-page PDF). It’s free – download now.

Key to Freedom

The Power of Choice

Just keeping to these three facts alone should be enough to free us from thinking that substance abuse is a substance issue. Body chemistry and the chemistry of the substance may play a role, but it is clearly a minor one. The main action on stage is psychological, not physical. Don’t think psychologists or psychiatrists. By psychology I simply mean everything else about us other than our body. This used to be called soul (psyche = soul), but soul sounds so esoteric or pretentious that I rarely use it. Oh, and let’s be sure to add in the spiritual side of life as part of what’s not physical about us.

Another reason I like using psychology is that I’m playing with words. Addictions are truly “psycho” logical! It seems crazy and convoluted—that’s the psycho component—but there is a reasoning process going on, Logical Fallaciesnevertheless. As Paschal said, “The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.” The “logic” of addiction is springing up from deep within, often from dark places the addicted one cannot see and no longer remembers burying. Are you ready for this? Before anyone becomes addicted to a substance, they have had to become “addicted” to believing untruths.

What hooks the addict is not chemicals, but deeply “cherished” beliefs, beliefs held so tenaciously in the deep heart that there is only one thing that can produce genuine and lasting freedom: revelation. It takes the blasting power of revelation to bring freedom from our deepest beliefs. Revelation can come painfully, slowly, through repeated experiences, or like lightning in moments of stunning clarity, but it must arrive for the false beliefs to be satisfactorily displaced. Here’s why:

Fact 4:

The Lord has gone on record that He has given to us the power to choose between good and evil, life and death, blessing and cursing. We may not think we have that power, but we do. Consider this: If you (mistakenly) think that something evil such as crack cocaine is actually going to be radically good for you, then you will do everything in your power to get it and use it.

For this reason, God pronounced the woe of Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good.”  This is what I call “the lie of the substance”: the idea that using it will somehow mend or enhance our life. If we buy into it, we are hooked! It feeds into other lies just as deeply buried, that will form the core of another article later on. (To learn more about the three lies underlying addiction, see No More Idols, a three-page PDF free at our website.)

This perspective from scripture is such a major key to understanding addiction that we will spend more time exploring Fact 4, than all the others combined. Let’s look more closely at what the Lord is telling us.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV

Why would God call “heaven and earth to witness” against us? Why are witnesses called in a court of law? To establish truth. It is well-known that defendants cannot be trusted to tell the truth. There is a long history of blame-shifting that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for his sin, rather than take full responsibility.

It is as if the Lord is saying, “I know one day you will try to tell Me that your wrong ways weren’t your fault. You will say that you were victims of your biology, or your upbringing, or your circumstances, or that you were addicted and couldn’t help it. So, I’m making sure that what I’m doing today is being witnessed by heaven and earth. Don’t even think about wiggling out of this one!”

The power of choice has been given to everybody. Each and every one of us has stupendous power to choose life or death, blessing or cursing. We may try to deny it, but our denials will never be vindicated by the One who has given us this privilege and power. Let us at least begin here in our attempt to sift through the smoke screen of rationalization and misinformation that surrounds the issue of addiction.

The power of choice is an excellent place to begin, not least because God is so emphatic about us having it. However, there are other excellent reasons for making sure that we believe this truth about ourselves. If we don’t have this power, then genuine freedom and real life can never be restored to us—our situation would be truly hopeless and we may as well give in to our compulsions. If we don’t believe we have this power, then we won’t put out the effort that it takes to choose life and make our choices stick. This belief places the responsibility for our life right back on our shoulders, where it needs to be, if we are ever to make any headway towards becoming that freer, better version of our selves.

As we will see, this power of choice is nothing like the simplistic slogan, “Just say no.” There are things that we need to do and things we need to pursue in order to use this power effectively. We will get to that in a moment, but first we have to take a brief, but necessary, diversion.

Key to Freedom

Which Came First?

I am well aware that there is a great divide among good-hearted, well-intentioned people who work in this field. There are many who take a materialistic approach, placing greater emphasis on the body’s chemistry, or that of the brain, or of the substance itself. In this respect the role of chemical “hooks” in substance abuse is akin to the question: “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”Chicken and Egg

These larger issues surrounding addiction influence everyone’s approach. Does biology control destiny or does the inner life of the spirit? Are we controlled by our chemicals, or are we controlled by our choices and by the deeply held beliefs that they spring from? These questions aren’t confined to the realm of addiction, but infuse the discussion about depression, mental illness and all the stress related diseases.

Many in the medical community take the side of chemical determinism. You are whatever the physical and chemical structures of your body declare you to be (and no more): Your genes rule over you. You are also controlled by your brain’s chemistry. You are fated to live bounded and driven by elements of a physical universe that cares nothing about you and about which you can do nothing. Nature triumphs over nurture every time.

On the other side is free will and a God who can lead you out of any bondage, if you let Him. Neither the physics nor the chemistry of the universe He created is of any hindrance to Him. All He needs is your freely surrendered will. I’ll go with God and freedom every time!

Let’s see how this plays out with addiction. Some propose that those who suffer with addictions have a biological destiny to fulfill. They can’t help it. It began with their genetic inheritance which now programs their brain chemistry. These chemical hooks to the substance can’t be removed from their bodies. Hence, the addict is trapped in a lifelong struggle against their own biology.

That’s not the way our God sees it or says it. His teaching in Deuteronomy 30:19 and Isaiah 5:20 clearly show that the deep root of any addictive behavior goes back to the “woe” of choosing to believe (mistakenly) that some evil thing is good. OK, but that’s religion they might counter. Oh, but it is also science!

This new thrust of science may have gotten off to a slow start, but on the other side of the medical-scientific divide are scientists studying how thoughts of the mind create structures in the brain. In this view it is the mind which creates its own brain structure. Believe something long enough and it becomes structured in your brain. Scientists are even now in the process of proving that we create new brain cells and new DNA structures as we go along—something previous scientific wisdom had declared to be impossible.

It was discovered that the brain continually changes in response to mental and sensory signals throughout the human life span.  This process has now been termed ‘neuroplasticity’. It was thought that, as adults, we had the full complement of nerve cells (neurons) and that we basically lost neurons until we died. Now we know scientifically that we continue to produce neurons in certain areas of the brain constantly, a process known as neurogenesis… There is thankfully now a growing opposition to the materialist view even among mainstream scientists. “The Mind Changes the Brain,” Blog by Dr. Caroline Leaf.

Interested in seeing more? Watch “Hooked, Hacked, Hijacked – Reclaim Your Brain from Addictive Living” by Dr. Pam Peeke at TEDxWallStreet.

The interactive influence of the mind-body connection makes perfect sense. We are 100% chemical, 100% electrical and 100% spiritual. No need to deny any part of this equation. You and I cannot have a thought, conscious or unconscious, without a corresponding electrical and chemical response taking place in the body. But which one is on top? That’s the real question.

Some would say that body chemistry got there first. They have no explanation for this other than a (supposed) genetic predisposition. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Even if there were a genetic predisposition, might it have been there because earlier family members in the generational line also had a similar belief structure which restructured their body chemistry and which eventually compromised the genetic code? The Lord says that unrepented sin stalks the generations like a slinky going down stairs, colliding with our best laid plans. Is this “Biblical determinism”? No, because the whole process can be reversed through any generation that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Fortunately, we don’t need to wait for further deciphering of the genetic code to see that the origin of the belief structure of the child has more to do with their home environment than with any body chemistry they inherited. Almost always the future addict is grown in an environment where there are addicts to begin with, or trauma, or a bad dad, or no dad—things that deeply damage the interior belief structure of any child. Why look further? (Learn more about how mal-nurture affects addiction. DOWNLOAD Addiction’s Three Lies, a free three-page PDF at our website.)

This debate is called “nature versus nurture” and it is a variation on the original chicken and egg problem I brought up. Does the predisposition come out of the home environment or derive from genetic inheritance? I stand squarely on the side of nurture, but It hardly matters in practical terms, since what is needed is freedom not determinism. Freedom is promised by God to anyone who will cling whole-heartedly to His version of the truth and go after Him ninety to nothing. The spirit of bondage is empowered by lies filling a gullible heart with untruth. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, as we will soon see in the next section.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” is a truth more everlasting than the (sometimes) inconstant pronouncements of our still embryonic science. See “The Power of Believing” at our website.

Key to Freedom

The Power of Revelation

Jesus says that if you continue with Him and learn to recognize and believe (“know”) what truth is, then anyone on earth can be set free by learning to believe truth (John 8:32). That’s the power of revelation combined with an active faith. Jesus puts our will squarely on top. Don’t think about this just in religious terms. Revelation is simply the “ah, ha” moment when truths are perceived which free us to make better choices and/or increase our motivation to persevere. The problem with calling our will a “free will”, however, is that imperfect knowledge and insufficient motivation can sidetrack or stymie our will, greatly limiting our freedom to choose wisely and persevere steadfastly in the right path. That’s why we need liberating truths to come to us “from the outside.”

As a revelation comes into the heart and mind of a person their brain structures change. This is because the spiritual life comes first—not the other way around. So what went wrong? The brain chemistry that was created around the addiction had everything to do with what the person believed before encountering the substance, and which he/she believed during the experience of initial euphoria created by contact with the substance. The addict-to-be declared on the inside, “This is great; I need it; I want it; I’ve got to have it; This will fix me.”

Such believing strong-arms everything else out of the way: Conscience is silenced; the voice of wisdom is silenced; the opinion of others is silenced; even one’s own prior beliefs are silenced. A greater truth has now supplanted everything else he or she had formerly believed. Naturally enough the body takes note and records the new truths in the chemical structure of the brain. The body is the servant of the mind and the deep heart. If you put the right believing in, the body works just fine. Put the wrong believing in and the body will be enslaved. The real problem is not the body, but the false believing. Without realizing it, we plunge full-bore into the “woe” of Isaiah 5:20.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

Misidentifying things is deadly when the belief goes deep enough into the heart. The Lord clarified the issue for us with an earlier verse in Isaiah. We are carried into “captivity” by something that enslaves us just as surely as the Israelites were enslaved and carried into captivity as a consequence of worshiping idols. The central issue is still the same: Addiction is essentially idol worship. It is “bowing down to” and putting some ungodly thing first. This inevitably brings the consequence of being carried as a captive, enslaved to the idol.

Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude are parched with thirst. Isaiah 5:13 ASV

Considering the vast power of the addiction to enslave the addict, this whole discussion of “knowledge” may seem naïve. It isn’t. The Lord Himself has weighed in on this issue and He is all of the side of false “knowledge” enslaving us. After all, it was feeding on the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which led to our present disastrous condition, as “slaves of unrighteousness” needing Jesus to liberate us.

This “knowledge of good and evil” is a far deadlier thing that we have been conditioned to believe. For instance, if you fail a test in school by getting a few facts wrong, you aren’t punished for the rest of your life for a lack of knowledge. But this isn’t about facts and life isn’t a school room quiz.

Every struggling addict can say with their head that they want to be free and that the substance is killing them, but until the victory is more fully won in their deep heart, the years of conditioned, passionate belief in the wrong thing(s) will fight against them. Does this mean it’s hopeless? Not at all. But it does mean (as we all know) that they will have a battle royale on their hands—and the resistance isn’t coming from their bodies. They are fighting against their own beliefs.

Key to Freedom

Three Excellent Choices

Let’s take a closer look now at the Lord’s remedy for our problems with the power of choice He has given us. I like to say that as soon as He handed out the keys to the cars and put us in the driver’s seat, He told us what to do if we want to stay out of the ditch.

19“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV

BONUS MATERIAL: Go deeper to gain more freedom over unwanted emotions that can trigger addictive behaviors: Negative Emotions: Lying Bullies Exposed! (Two-page PDF). It’s free – download now.

We would be making a terrible mistake if we ever separated verse 19 from verse 20, yet this is exactly what so many of us do. We take our powerful freedom to choose and set off with our defective wills to try to gain freedom and life under our own leadership and on our own terms. The results are in. That way never wins the race. The Lord says that for this to work, we need to a) love Him, b) obey His voice and c) hold fast to Him. These “recommendations” apply to all of us, not just those with addictions, but they do throw a sharp light on three things the addicted ones typically fail to do and desperately need to learn.

Choice #1

Loving the Lord means putting Him first. Not to do this is already choosing death in the most absolute and disastrous way possible for He is life. We are easily fooled by this one. Few Christians, or anyone else for that matter, would want to put Satan first, but Self is the devil in disguise. Jesus said that if we want to walk with Him we have to deny Self daily. Putting the Lord first brings Him into our daily life and leads us into eternal life. This is the ultimate qualitative choice for life and it has to be made again and again for it to remain real. The formerly addicted ones that I work with can honestly say that this is a choice they rarely or never made. They put Self and the substance into first place and kept the Lord (if they knew Him) waiting in reserve. That’s not choosing life!

Choice #2

The second thing the Lord mentioned is that we must “obey His voice.” Again, many of the men in our program would have come to us sooner, but they weren’t willing to obey the inner leading that was telling them to come our way. If we are in a burning building, it makes no sense to argue with the fireman who has come to lead us out. Learning to let the Lord lead us into life is the essential second step after putting Him first. We don’t “surrender all” to Jesus and then walk away from Him. We listen for the inner leadings of His Spirit in order to walk with Him each new day. This transforms the world into a place of wonder and our lives into an adventure.

Choice #3

Last but not least, the Lord says to hold fast or cling to Him. He knows that opposition, temptation and tough times are coming. His way of choosing life includes calling on His name and clinging to Him whenever we feel weak or wobbly. If we call and cling, He can and will help us to stand. He promised flat-out that “all who call” on His name will get the help that they need (Romans 10:13). But He didn’t say how long it would take to arrive or how desperately we might need to call at times. So, don’t give up. The very effort made in calling on Him, turns us towards Him and refocuses our attention from Self and onto Him.

These three ultra-powerful “recommendations” from the Lord are themselves, choices for life which we are free to make or reject. With these choices held firmly in place, all the rest of our deciding and doing becomes so much easier to make. These choices not only lead us out of the hard bondage of our addiction, they also guide us into whole new levels of freedom. The great thing about the Lord and His grace is that none of us has to do this perfectly. He sees our heart and knows if we are honestly trying to move in His direction.

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Deeply Held Beliefs

Not being able to recognize the difference between right and wrong, between things that will bring blessing into our lives and things that will bring the curse, ensures that we are dooming ourselves to captivity. Sadly, these rules even apply to young people in the innocence and ignorance of childhood. I’ve known hundreds of addicts whose false believing began when they were extremely young as they gathered with a circle of friends to secretly try out cigarettes, alcohol or marijuana. The sense of fellowship and the pleasure of the substance seemed so good at the time that despite the warnings of adults and of conscience they declared it “good.”

Now that they are trying to get free of these things, they can’t understand why they keep reaching for them. The truth is that with addictions (and other compulsive behaviors) our current beliefs are up against our more deeply held ancient beliefs. Our “new heart” has to fight our “old heart” with all of its passions and deceits.

These former beliefs work to hold substance abusers in the vice-like grip of a desire they no longer fully want. But do they fully want to give it up? When they have crossed over to that side of the line, when nothing is left on the inside that desires the substance or believes in it, we can finally say (with them) that the lie of the substance has finally been exposed: There is nothing good it can possibly bring into their life—and they know it. Knowing that—beyond the shadow of a doubt or the twinge of a desire—is the truth which finally makes them free.

In summary where does passion for the wrong thing (the substance) spring from? Deeply held false beliefs. What restructures the brains chemistry? Deeply held right beliefs. Biology is not destiny; faith in God is. With a sufficiently activated and rightly attached faith, the Lord can free anyone and then lead them into His predestined plans for them. Now, that’s a truth well-worth believing!

Follow this link for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the expanded original article, What Causes Addiction? (4821 word PDF).

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How Our Worst Things Become the Best (Thanks to God’s Promise of Redemption)

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead our Father displayed a power which goes beyond forgiving our sins and getting us safely to heaven. I have no desire to diminish these well-known works of the cross—they are stupendous sources of joy impossible to reduce. I do, however, want to draw your attention to an all-too-often overlooked and unclaimed power always available, ever at work, which also flows from the cross: the power of God to bring good out of evil. Listen well to this incredible promise of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

Let that “all things” give you pause. I have been a teacher long enough to know that every Christian believes this verse, but few draw out of it the all-conquering power it contains. This is hardly surprising, because what it is saying is practically unbelievable.

This amazing verse is trying to tell us that in every situation we face, God promises that He is more than able to bring a greater good out of it, a blessing far greater than anything we are experiencing of by way of pain or loss. No matter what the situation is. No matter how awful or tragic our experience. Astoundingly, this verse is telling us that the very worst things that happen to us will become the best things by the time God has finished working with them.

I know this to be true, because the very worst thing in my life—an occult deception that bound me in indescribable terror—became the best thing that ever happened to me. Unfortunately, I never knew it until ten agonizing years later when the soul-destroying power of those experiences finally brought me to conversion. Sadder still, I didn’t fully believe it until many years after that. I dragged the shame, regret and self-blame of those “lost years” along with me, unable to grasp the lifeline the Lord was throwing my way. But oh, what joy and peace I take in knowing and believing it now!

In fact this one truth—the truth of our Father’s incredible redemptive power—works for us in the present every bit as well as it does over things in the past. It glues all the painful pieces of present problems into something I can honestly say grace over and rejoice about anyway. I hope you can already access this power even in your worst moments, but if not, please keep reading.

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What God Does

This is a promise that was hard-won and not just by me in learning how to believe it. Jesus won it the hard way by paying the most terrible cost imaginable. He had to become our sin, and then be punished for it. Once the Father raised Him out of the depths of our darkness back into glorious light, the stage was set for each of us to be raised completely out of any darkness we would ever fall into.

God first proved it true through Jesus. The very worst thing for Jesus (the horrors of the cross) had to be made into the best thing for Him, or the Father would have allowed the curse to gain a lasting victory over His victorious Son. That could never happen! Jesus received a Name above every name and was given an inheritance (through His death) of a glorious Bride, forever grateful, impossibly alive, and filled with unending love for Him.

Now, we follow in His footsteps a path of redemption that Jesus pioneered. As I wrote earlier I neither knew this, nor fully believed it, when my Christian life began. This weakness of understanding greatly hindered my walk with the Lord. I kept looking back at the terrible suffering and devastating loss I had experienced, wishing it had never happened and hating myself that it had. How little did I realize that the worst things always become the best things if we continue with the Lord.

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How God Does What He Does

How is this possible? In the beginning God created good out of nothing, didn’t He? We can’t imagine how He did it since we can’t create even a mere idea out of nothing, let alone matter and living matter at that. All we can do is accept it by faith. The same applies for redemption. At the cross God redeemed good out of evil. We can’t imagine how He did that either. It defies our understanding. But we can trust Him that He did it then and He can still do it now!

Under the new “logic” of redemption, therefore, the worst thing that happens to us has to become the best, or God has failed to redeem our life from the enemy’s Black Hand. This is not even a hard thing for the Father to do, now that Jesus has paved the way for unlimited redemption to be poured into our undeserving lives. The tricky part is getting us to believe it, so that we can relax and rejoice, even when confronted with the worst things imaginable (to us) being embedded (for a season) in our lives.

What a difference it makes once you learn the way of believing in such a mighty redemption! Talk about a Place of Immunity—there is nothing that the enemy can do (by our sins or by the sins of others) that can rob us of our joy in believing this Magnificent Promise (Romans 8:28). You don’t even have to see how redemption is coming your way; you can “know” by the life-giving power of an activated faith, and rejoice.

You see, the blessing of being forgiven is a backward-looking blessing. The sin happens, we go to God and He helps us be restored. The blessing of heaven is forward-looking, but it lies beyond our present moments. This blessing of the cross—the redemptive power of God’s mighty Hand—is a fully present blessing that lifts us above any obstacle once we learn to believe it. Then, no matter how bad the experience, we can actually begin looking forward to the good that will come out of it, long before we come out of the experience!

[LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared a one page download of scriptures describing God’s promises about His redemptive power. Let His Word confirm this truth to you and establish you in believing it. It’s free—download here.]

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Why God Does What He Does

There is a definite, divine purpose at work behind this promise. In the very next verse in Romans the Lord states that His Hands are always working everything that happens (or fails to happen) toward one great purpose. We need to know, understand and be in agreement with that purpose, or our lives will not make sense, the promise won’t seem to be true, nor will we realize the focal point of the enemy’s attacks. God’s Hands are always at work to conform you to Christ—shaping you from the outside in.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:28-29 ESV

Picture the Lord reaching through all the outward circumstances of your life, seeking to center you on the Potter’s Wheel. What is His goal in eachCentering Clay and every moment? To draw out of you a Christlike response, or (if you can’t yet do that) to prepare you to respond as the New Creation you are at some point down the road. The ultimate good that God has in mind is not helping us get what we want when we want it, but the incomparable blessing of actually becoming more like Jesus in all of our ways in this life—no matter what’s going on.

Let’s see how this plays out. The Father has His hands on our lives like a Master Potter working with absolutely everything (the good, the bad and the seemingly indifferent) to accomplish His great desire—to “conform” us to the nature of His Son. As a potter exerts great pressure with his hands to center clay on the wheel, the Father also works through the stress in our lives to bring us again and again to the place of inward surrender, where we throw our hands up, pleading: “If You’ll just get me out of this mess, I’m willing to trust You and let you do it Your way.”

Like un-centered clay we often try to fly off the wheel! We want out of our circumstance, but His Hands hold us in it. Then, under the pressure (“humble yourselves under the mighty hand…”) we finally stretch our faith vision to see something in the Lord that helps us to yield our stubborn resistance and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” The work of His hands helps us to seek His Face! From this hallowed place of surrender the Father is able to raise us into new life—just as a potter raises the centered clay into the form he envisions.

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What This Does for Us

Stuff happens and there is nothing you can do about it, right? Actually there is. Knowing this truth and seeking to believe I Will Never Get Over This - NFit at all times and in all situations gives us a new way to fight back. We can now turn things to our advantage by using them to work on our attitude, even when we can’t work to change our situation. With the right attitude our spirit can take wings! We can soar over problems that used to pin us to the mat.

Here is something that I wrote to encourage myself a few years ago. Do you remember how King David “encouraged himself in the Lord” after the disaster at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:6)? I figured that if it worked for him, it could work for me. My Bible is usually full of short messages of encouragement that I leave for myself to find at times when I may need a good word. Try printing this one out to use as a bookmark.

No Matter What Happens

Since you can’t keep the bad stuff from happening no matter how hard you try, isn’t it good to know that “no matter what happens…” you still have a Savior you can count on!

No matter what happens
I will always have You with me—and You are my greatest joy.

No matter what happens
You will always be loving me, forgiving me, accepting me—just as I am.

No matter what happens
I can always be growing in knowing You, loving You and trusting You.

No matter what happens
You will never leave me or forsake me.

No matter what happens
I can always cling to You, call on You, seek You and find You.

No matter what happens
You will always share wisdom, guidance and encouragement.

No matter what happens
I can always find something to do to worship You and serve You.

No matter what happens
You will always be redeeming the bad and making good plans for the future.

No matter what happens
I can always be learning to believe in You and fighting to live for You.

No matter what happens
You will always be carrying me to heaven.

No matter what happens
I can learn to let go and let You be the God who saves me.

FAST FOOD: Keep this where you can reach for it when you need to feed on divine encouragement: No Matter What Happens (One page PDF). It’s free – download now.

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How to Make This Work

Many of us go through our lives lamenting, “I will never get over this!” That’s just what I used to think about all kinds of awful, evil stuff that had wrecked my life. I couldn’t see how my past could possibly be made to work for my good. I told God, “There’s a mountain of ruin back there. It will take me forever to process all of that pain and brokenness!” In the quiet that followed my outburst, I seemed to hear Him say, “If that’s the case, then you need to go ahead and get started.”

They say a mountain can be moved one bucket full at a time. That is certainly the way it seemed for me. It was slow, hard going at first with a very feeble faith in the hope of the promise to guide me. I have to admit, however, that a certain excitement grew as I began to realize that one hated, hurt-filled event after another slowly became a place of joy and wonder as the pain that once filled it was replaced by a faith Backhoe Loaderexpectation of good things to come. Nowadays, I am shoveling away with genuine anticipation whenever fresh manure comes down.

In our seminars I often asked classes to list five things God can do to bring redemptive good things out of our worst experiences. It is an exercise to grow the eyes of faith to see the Father’s Hand in all things. Often, believers are completely stumped by the mental block their negative thoughts have cast over the past—and can’t even put one thing down on their papers. Good thing we never graded class work! So before you read the list below, try to name five good things that have come out of your own worst events.

Done? Now, consider these generic good things that our loving Father is always working for our good through experiences of brokenness, weakness and pain. This is by no means complete as a list, nor can it include the individual, specific things God may do just for you, but, taken together, you will have to admit that the Lord is never sitting on His Hands—He is always at work to start bringing good out of whatever happens. Let’s go to work believing it!

1)    Our brokenness humbles us.
2)    Our brokenness helps us realize our dependence upon God.
3)    In our brokenness God draws near.
4)    Our brokenness enables us to have compassion on others.
5)    His strength is made perfect in places of our weakness.
6)    In our weakness we discover that His grace is sufficient.
7)    He comforts us.
8)    With the comfort we learn to receive from Him, we learn to comfort others.
9)    He grieves with us—and we learn to enter into His sufferings.
10)    We learn (in our hearts not just in our heads) that He is not the author of evil or of suffering and that He grieves with us. Follow this link to see 15 more!

The Nut Cracker: Break free of any hard shell of unbelief you encounter with this powerful list: 25 Ways God Works All Things for Good (One page PDF). It’s free – download now.


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Time to Bring the Hammer Down?

If you have experienced a traumatic event long enough to have sufficiently grieved it, then it is high time to bring “the hammer” of God’s Word down on it. The Magnificent Promise assures us that God can and will bring a greater good out of anything the enemy intended for evil. This is the astonishing power of the redemption Jesus won for us, but it does us little practical good if we don’t believe it over and above our areas of hurt and loss.

Fall totally out of agreement with the perspective that the enemy tried to feed you. Your past now represents a treasure trove of future blessing—once you give it to God. So, forgive all, release all, repent of unbelief, and confess the truth until your heart fully believes God’s promise of redemption. Leave no room for doubt or self-pity. Feed instead on the sweet meat of a redeemed life!   

“Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29 ESV


A Model Prayer

Father, You have given me this promise of total redemption so it must be true. You have commanded me to forgive everyone so that must be what needs to happen for my life to be healed and restored. I choose by an act of my will to forgive the people in my past who have hurt me or wronged me, including myself. I release them from all my bitter judgments and give them to You for You to redeem. I also repent of my unbelief in Your Word and now choose by an act of my will to believe that the promise of Romans 8:28 is true for me—that greater good will come out of my past than all the pain and loss the enemy sowed into it. I choose to believe in You!

There are so many applications for this one promise. Naturally, it takes exercising and growing our faith to believe it to the point of being set free on the inside. To learn more about how to fully believe God’s promises (and mend your heart, overcome anxiety or depression, and enter into more joy and peace, etc.) see The Power of an Active Faith.

Follow this link for a FREE DOWNLOAD of the expanded original article, How Our Worst Things Become Our Best (2945 word PDF).

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The ABCs of Emotional Intelligence (How to Live Free of Negative Emotions)

Everyone has emotions. The question is: Do they have you? Are you the head, or have you mostly been the tail? Do your emotions feel like a pack of wild dogs that require a lot of effort just keeping them under control, or are they like a herd of reindeer moving as one? If they’re like wild dogs, your first need is for recovery. If they’re like the reindeer, you have already passed into mastery. Learning how to get free of negative emotions (past or present) will get anyone there. That’s the beginning stage—the ABCs—of emotional intelligence.

It astonishes me that emotions have the power to overrule our better judgment and drive our lives entirely off the track, yet few of us were ever instructed in the ways of the heart when we were growing up. Perhaps the older folks didn’t know what to say; perhaps they thought we would figure things out on our own. Wrong! I have worked for years with people who don’t have a clue why they have the emotions that besiege them, or what to do with them to get free. I was in that camp myself, so this is far more than an academic interest: I had a lot to learn, if I was ever going to come out from under mountains of emotional chaos and confusion.

The great thing is that emotional intelligence can be learned. We can actually recover from past emotional damage and learn how to successfully manage our emotions in the present. This is of paramount importance to anyone who is living jammed up with negative emotions, rather than the peace and freedom that are available. Interestingly, it is also of crucial importance for those of us who have responsibilities in the workaday world for emotional intelligence (EQ) rivals IQ as a predictor of success in business.

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Four Sections of the Basics

In this article we’re going to look at the chaos agents of the emotional life—negative emotions—and seek to understand them from a thoroughly Christian point of view. Then I’ll lay down seven principles of emotional intelligence. We’ll close by looking at the difference between recovery and mastery. These basics will help you make real progress in “taming” your emotional life!

1) What Is Emotional Intelligence?

2) What Are the Negative Emotions?

3) Seven ABCs of Emotional Intelligence

4) From Recovery to Mastery

BONUS MATERIAL: Go deeper to gain more freedom over unwanted emotions: Negative Emotions: Lying Bullies Exposed! (Two page PDF). It’s free – download now.


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What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s 1995 international bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, drew tremendous attention to this field, especially from the world of business. Andrew Coleman gives the following definition.

Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. A Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press

A person with emotional intelligence, therefore, has the ability to understand their own emotions as well as those of others and can act appropriately using those emotions. Understanding one’s own emotions (and what to do with them) is a necessary first step forward towards understanding the emotions of others. For now it is enough to know that once you begin to gain mastery in your own emotional life, a lot of the mystery about other people’s emotions will evaporate. We are not nearly as different as it seems.Negative Emotions

Emotions can be conveniently separated into “positive” and “negative” emotions. This is something that we all instinctively do, though we don’t necessarily get the dividing line set in the right places. Psychology tends to take the approach that all emotions have a positive value and that we need to learn how to manage them. I’m going to make the Christian case that certain emotions were never meant to be in us in the first place and that what we need to do is not manage them, but eliminate them when they show up. Furthermore, we have the best Counselor in the world—Jesus—to help us do just that!

In Christian terms, therefore, emotional intelligence includes the ability to exercise sovereignty over one’s own emotional state, carrying every negative emotion (that seeks dominance) captive to Christ and being restored to confidence, trust and peace—His emotional life. Carrying negative emotions captive, exercising sovereignty over them and gaining your release back into the marvelous peace of Christ may be hard work, but it is certainly a sign of intelligence to do it. Like anything worthwhile it requires effort and perseverance to gain the ability. This is why the Lord tells us to keep our hearts with “all diligence.”

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 NKJV


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What Are the Negative Emotions?

The negative emotions are those that are unhealthy for both our inner life and our physical bodies. (See Spiritual Roots of Disease.) Generally speaking we don’t like them because they don’t feel right, but this gets murky around the edges. To see the negative emotions in the clearest light we need to look at the positive ones first, for there is a set of emotions that we were created to live by and a whole other set that we fell into.

The truly good emotions are listed for us in Galatians 5:22: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (self-restraint).” Other emotions such as gratitude, adoration and right desires could be added to this list. The Bible calls these the fruit of the Spirit. I call them the emotional life of Jesus. Now that He lives inside us, His emotional life (supporting our own) is an ever-present possibility for us to experience. But that means that there are other emotions—ones that He would never have—which we are not meant to dwell with either.

Many of the negative emotions that distress us are fallen, distorted versions of the positive ones that God created us with when He first made us in His image. There is, therefore, a higher purer form of jealousy, hatred, and vengeance than we will ever know. But there is no higher form of lust, gluttony, bitterness, despair, conceit, etc. Some of the negative emotion may even feel good to us at times (like lust), but there is nothing good about them—they have no “higher” side. Try imagining Jesus in any particular emotion and you will immediately see either its rightness or its wrongness. This is our unfailing test of what is right for us now that He lives in us.

There are, however, a few healthy emotions that we may think are negative ones because we don’t like the way they feel. One is godly fear. It is an awe of God’s majesty and a reverence for His person which can become dread in His presence. However, being afraid of God—of what He may do, or require—is a craven, unhealthy fear which needs to go. There is also immediate danger fear which alerts us for instant response to situations of perceived peril. This fear is only “good” while the threat is present—at other times fear is a sign of distrust in God and unbelief.

Righteous anger would quality as a good emotion, if we were ever actually experiencing it. Such anger is never directed at a person (as our ungodly anger almost always is), but at sin itself or the enemy.  Guilt, too, is good, but only so long as it is accurate and we are unrepentant. Once we have repented, guilt feelings are always scoundrels we should eject! Finally, pure grief should be mentioned, because our Lord sorrows too, but never as one without hope. Once grief becomes detached from hope, it easily becomes contaminated with negative emotions, such as anger, despair, and guilt. In their pure form and in the right context these five emotions are all good to have whenever they show up and serve a wholesome purpose.

From a medical point of view all the truly negative emotions are stressors to the body. As such they can be extremely damaging to our physical health. From a Christian point of view they also represent something that is injurious to our spiritual health. They are sins.  Now this may seem like adding to the bad news: The negative emotions which we don’t like feeling in the first place are also sins, separating us from God! Isn’t this very bad news indeed?

No, it is good news, because it shows us there is a way out, both from disease and from the entrapment of negative emotions. If the negative emotions, causing us so much loss of peace and joy as well as health, are actually things in our personality that God has given us and wants us to have, then we are stuck with them—and the diseases they induce. But if they are sins then He has provided a way of freedom.  That way of freedom will become clear once we look at the ABCs of emotional intelligence.

BONUS MATERIAL: Go deeper to gain more freedom over unwanted emotions: Negative Emotions: Lying Bullies Exposed! (Two page PDF). It’s free – download now.


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Seven ABCs of Emotional Intelligence

Negative emotions are definitely a commonplace source of dis-ease (as well as disease), but we can learn how to overcome them. Remember, EQ, unlike IQ, can be learned. You don’t have to be dominated by your emotions. You can learn to exercise true sovereignty over them and live in the Spirit. Study these seven building blocks of emotional intelligence, then put them to work!

1) We are sovereigns over our own hearts. Not even God is in charge of your heart. You are! Everyone has been given a realm of authority where they can exercise “kingly” power. It’s right there on the inside of us. Our hearts hold tremendous power for good or ill. Out of them flow the issues of life. Our minds may know right from wrong, but unless we learn the secret of ruling our hearts, we will fall prey to wrong choices empowered by emotions ruling over us instead. The first step to emotional freedom is realizing the power you have been given by God to “guard” your heart (Proverbs 4:23).

2) We can rule over our emotions. Emotions are so powerful as motivators and guides that they need a lot of looking after. Left to itself your emotional state will tend to overrule your reason, will and right desires. That doesn’t have to happen! We have been given the power of choice and the name of Jesus to call upon for help. For the most part no one can help the emotions that go off inside of them—that’s just a reflection of things going on deeper inside. Don’t waste time blaming others or yourself for what you are feeling. Take charge over your feelings and “banish” the ones you don’t want by carrying them as captives to Christ. You have that power.

3) No one else has power over your emotions. Nobody can put an emotion into you and keep it there. What they do may cause emotions to come up inside of us, but it always our choice if we are going to let them stay and pester us or drag them to the door. You can even reach the point where things that people say or do no longer have power to trigger any unwanted feelings in you. That’s real growth, but it won’t take place unless you grasp this principle that no one (and no circumstance) has power over your emotions, but you. God has made it that way so that nothing on earth can come between you and the peace, joy and freedom He desires you to enjoy with Him.

4) Don’t force your feelings or ignore them. As rulers of our hearts we are meant to be servant shepherds, not tyrants. We cannot “force” the ones we want to come or the ones we don’t want to go. That is the wrong way to try to exercise your sovereignty. Ruling over our heart is not a will-power contest. Nor is the victory gained by ignoring the emotions our hearts are generating. Don’t push down your feelings, pretending they aren’t there—that only makes them more powerful and harder to deal with. Instead, honestly listen to and recognize what you are feeling no matter how unsavory it is; then do the right thing with it. Our loving God is never ashamed or scandalized by the feelings we might be having, but it will grieve Him if fail to deal with them responsibly.

5) Listen to but don’t believe your feelings. It is important to be aware of what our feelings are reporting to us, but it is even more important never to believe them without an inquest! Feelings are flagrant liars. Without exception all negative emotions are lying to you whenever they appear. Fear wants you to be afraid, or at least worried, but God says, “Fear not.” Who is lying? Hurt feeling want you to stay angry with someone, but God says, “Forgive.” Who is lying? Shame says you’re worthless, but God says “I love you.” Who is lying? And many positive emotions are no better! Desire wants to eat the whole bag of chips, but God says “Moderation is best.” Who’s lying? There is a message worth listening to contained in the emotions we have, but it is rarely the one on the surface seeking our immediate attention (see point 6).

6) Your deepest beliefs control your feelings. Feelings don’t drop in on us out of the blue. They spring up from things that we deeply believe. Many of the beliefs which generate our feelings—especially the negative ones—got planted in us in our earliest years, or during times of trauma. Without realizing what we were doing, we entered into deep agreements with the fallen nature about how to respond to people and situations. These core beliefs are now hidden from sight. Our present emotional reactions reveal what this fallen side of our heart still believes. That past programming will hold our emotional life captive unless we learn to fight back. These beliefs can be changed by prayer and by carrying our negative emotions as captives to Christ.

7) Freedom comes through believing truth. The trouble is that it is never good enough to recognize a truth with our minds. Our hearts have to be persuaded as well! How is that accomplished? First, recognize the emotion you are feeling. If it is a negative one that needs to go, grab it and carry it to Christ. This is not a will power contest between you and your feelings. It is a truth encounter in which you choose by an act of your will to agree with God. In the light of Christ we see the inner lie exposed (as in “You’re right, I don’t need to be afraid, I need to settle down and trust You.”). Then we renounce our agreement with that negative emotion and ask the Lord to break its power over us. In this way we choose to believe what He tells us to believe and do what He shows us to do. Eventually, the thoughts of our heart give way to the new believing and our emotions shift.

What you really believe and therefore what you feel is between you and God. No one, not even God, can change your emotions or your beliefs without your permission. Your will is free. You are free. So, when you notice that your emotional state is being robbed of peace, don’t be passive like a department store “dummy.” Exercise your emotional intelligence by carrying every negative emotion (that seeks to dominate you) captive to Christ and be restored to confidence, peace and freedom—His emotional life.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 WEB

In carrying our emotions to Christ, how quickly can an emotional state be shifted? In a nanosecond! How can we speed up the shift of our emotional state? By getting our eyes back on something about the Lord that releases us from the grip of the negative emotion and re-empowers us to keep our focus on Him. Just imagine Jesus showing up right now. Would seeing His love for you shift your emotional state? Of course it would. Well, our eyes of faith enable us to see Jesus—and get the shift—whenever we exercise them. We call this “Getting the Look that Gives the Shift.”

LIFE SUPPORT: I’ve prepared A Check List for Building Emotional Intelligence (One page PDF) to help you walk your heart through these lessons the next time you get tangled up in those pesky negative emotions. It’s free—download here.]


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From Recovery to Mastery

When the peace of Christ enters our hearts it feels so good and liberating that we merrily float above all our old feelings. Eventually, however, we discover that our former host of negative emotions keeps showing up and dragging us down! To stay in Christ’s peace we have to first learn how to get recovery over past issues that wounded us; then, we can use these same “tools” to gain mastery over our emotions in the present. Where our inner state is concerned, there are two great assignments which are actually gracious invitations to experience the surpassing vitality of new life in Christ:

1) Restoration: Preparing our inward state to hold up under the pressures of daily life requires recovery of the natural grace that got lost along the way. For countless reasons—not least of which is getting free of the pain—we need to recover from any emotional brokenness emanating from our past. But there is another level…

2) Mastery: As we learn to manage our emotional life, we not only receive freedom from the past, but we gain the graced ability to reign with wisdom over our own emotions, making it possible to live even the most active or embattled days with deep peace and Spirit-led resourcefulness!

By a process of recovery leading to mastery we can experience our own life, no matter how damaged initially, becoming just what Jesus described to Nicodemus so long ago:  weightless and free. Being “born again” is only the entry point. Those who learn this new way of yielding to His Spirit will become like leaves floating on the wind:

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7-8

We truly can learn how to be lifted and carried by the river of peace that God is sending our way each day. Being born again ushers us into the new life; the Holy Spirit within us provides the power to live the new life. He is the River of Peace. Are you only experiencing trickles and puddles of that peace?

Our free online eCourse for Healing will show you how to bring your heart to God and how to receive His Heart for you. That is the essence of the Great Exchange—our dis-grace for His grace—and it is always available for us to access through the faith He has given us. Take these lessons to heart, learn the way of the heart, and the peace will soon become a slender, steady stream. Persevere and it will grow into a mighty river leading you into great adventures in company with your Lord.

One Day it will carry you all the way to God’s throne in heaven!

Go now for a FREE DOWNLOAD of this entire original article, The ABCs of Emotional Intelligence (3,456 word PDF).

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How to Forgive the Unforgivable (And Set Your Spirit Free!)

This world is a dangerous place. Every one of us knows what it is like to be hurt by someone else. Some things are easier to recover from than others. Many things we can readily excuse. But, when we can’t just let it go, when the damage was too great, when the wound seems incurable, what can we do to set our spirit free?

Our God has one outstanding answer: forgive! It is the path He chose for Himself when humanity’s incessant sins against Him were wrecking His own Great Heart. He went to the cross and made a way to release His pain and His wrath once and for all. Now, He is telling us to do the same whenever we, too, feel bound by pain and anger.

How much should be forgiven, how often, and how thoroughly? Absolutely everything: as much as needed, as often as needed, and as thoroughly as needed. Now, let’s flip the question around. How quickly would you like to get free of those negative emotions? How thoroughly would you like to regain your lost peace and joy? How great is your desire to recover a childlike sense of wholeness—with all thoughts of emotional damage long forgotten? Then you will need to do what Jesus says to do and learn how to forgive even the unforgivable.

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions. Mark 11:25-26 WEB

Freedom through Forgiving

The incredible truth is that a childlike heart of joy is actually waiting for us on the other side of that wall of unforgiveness we keep building and defending. Take it down! It ruins the Enemy’s day to see us releasing to God’s mercy the very ones he used to wreck and ruin us. We were supposed to stay bound in pain and brokenness and they were supposed to stay “cursed” by us. Just as our own unforgiveness unwittingly binds us and them to their sin, so our forgiveness releases both of us into God mercy and His grace-based ways of bringing correction and redemption.

God really wants to turn the tables on the Enemy, but He needs our total willingness to go at it His way. When injustice, sin or offense comes against us, we have to be willing to work with the Lord, not against Him. Unforgiveness in all of its forms is an agreement with the Deceiver, not God. By holding unforgiveness, we are doing the opposite of what God says is necessary for righting those wrongs. And it hurts us more than them! It not only hardens our hearts (separating us from peace and joy), but it also damages our bodies (through the stress response). These strongholds have to be torn down.

FREE BONUS: Download a quick checklist for getting free of all unforgiveness: 5 Motivations and 10 Steps to Freedom (single page PDF). It’s free – download now. Live with childlike freedom of spirit once again!

Bad Fruit from the Root

Consider the terrible effects upon us of our own unforgiveness. First and foremost, it holds all of the pain in place, constantly reminding us of the past and hindering our way into the future. Besides stirring up a witches brew of anger, self-pity and depression, bitterness also becomes a major block to healing for two reasons. It leads to unanswered prayer (Mark 11:25) and it holds in place a host of deadly emotions that wear down the immune system. Someone said that it is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. Grudges do bad things to our bodies, minds and hearts. We simply have to choose between getting even and getting well. The writer of Hebrews warns that if we have a root of bitterness it will trouble us and defile many others through their contact with us.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

Bitterness is a stress-or to the body and can lead directly to illness, but it also keeps past trauma from being healed and that adversely affects our health as well (See “The Spiritual Roots of Disease“). How does that play in?  Unmended trauma of the past increases the levels of anxiety and fear we carry which are so damaging to health, since the pain from unforgiven offense is always telling us that God and others can’t be trusted. Do you want to get free of fear, anxiety, shyness or worry? Forgiving everyone from the heart will go a long way towards restoring your lost confidence and peace!

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Four Sections to Help You Do It

To help you regain your freedom by “forgiving the unforgivable,” I have assembled some of the most powerful things I’ve learned in seeking my own recovery from pain, injustice and abuse. Take your time going over these four main sections. Stop and pray as you go along. Then, put your heart into the final ten steps and give it all you’ve got. Honest effort never fails to gain the Lord’s help and favor.

1) Seven Things that Forgiveness Is Not

2) What Forgiveness Is

3) Five Motivations to Forgive

4) Ten Steps to Freedom


Papyrus - 1

Seven Things that Forgiveness Is Not

This may seem like the wrong place to begin. Why not just cut to the chase and say what it is? That’s coming of course, but forgiveness is something that we have attempted all our lives, often without anyone explaining it to us. There are lots of well-intended, but completely misguided ideas floating around that really muddy the water. It’s no wonder that people don’t want to do it, or fail to succeed fully when they do.

Genuine forgiveness, however, is not only highly desirable, it is eminently doable. God Himself is committed to helping every last one of us learn how to do it. If you are a Christian then you already have right inside of you the same Holy Spirit who helped Jesus fully forgive everyone’s sins at the cross. Let Him work with you to bring you into that liberated place where inner peace and spiritual freedom fills your heart.

Let’s clear away any confusion you may have about this by taking a closer look at seven things forgiveness is not.

1) It’s Not a Feeling. The Lord commands us to forgive because He knows we won’t naturally want to do it. He doesn’t have to command us to eat ice cream or drink hot chocolate, does He? No, He knows we’ll go for that, so He only advises us to “do all things in moderation.” Instead, think of forgiving others like going to work when you’d rather be at the beach. You do the right thing—the harder thing—for the sake of a paycheck or your career goal. With forgiveness our “pay check” is emotional healing and a fresh lease on life; our “career goal” is to please the Lord!

2) It’s Not Minimizing the Wrong. Saying to yourself, “Oh, that’s OK, it didn’t really bother me” may work at times, but it’s like training wheels on a bike. They helped us get going in the beginning, but they got in the way once we really wanted to go fast and free. Downplaying the harm that was done or the hurt we felt may have worked in the beginning, but it’s not the same thing as forgiving the wrong. Besides, some things eventually show up that just can’t be minimized. Genuine forgiveness sees sin for what it is—and forgives it. Only then is our spiritual health restored.

3) It’s Not Replaying the Memory. Have you ever been caught in a holding pattern with your plane circling the airport waiting for its turn to land? A remembered wrong grips our heart with a similar kind of “holding pattern.” No matter how we try to refocus our attention elsewhere, our thoughts keep returning to it. When we fully forgive “from the heart” (as Jesus requires), our feelings come in for a landing. Wonder of wonders, all the pain is gone! Our minds are free to move forward, because we joined our God in His ability to forgive and forget.

4) It’s Not Excusing. Wrong is wrong. There are no excuses for it when someone sins against us or our loved ones. We may wish to find reasons why they did what they did. We would even be wise to seek reasons for having compassion on them. God certainly sees past our sins to see the hurt or confusion which prompted them. The sight of our inward wretchedness moves Him to have pity upon us. Even so, He doesn’t condone or excuse anyone’s sin. He hates sin so thoroughly He punished it at the cross. It was also there that He made a way for sin to be forgiven. That was hard for Him; it is hard for us. But it is well worth doing!

5) It’s Not a Reward. When someone wrongs us that makes him “the bad guy.” But if he regrets it and tries his best to make up for it, then we become “the bad guy” if we don’t forgive him. Why? Simple justice. Justice actually demands that we forgive the person who genuinely repents and seeks reconciliation. As good as this is, however, it is not the same thing as Christian forgiveness. Our life in Christ is mercy based, not justice based. Nobody has to make anything up to us: We forgive by Jesus’ command and by following His Example. True Christian forgiveness is a pure gift of mercy that the offender might never do anything to deserve.

6) It’s Not a Divine Pardon. Somehow we seem to think that the fate of the person who wronged us is ours to decide—as if we have a giant meat hook and can hang people on it at will. So, forgiving seems like we’re “letting them off the hook” when in reality we are putting them in God’s Hands. No one cares about the justice issues more than our God! Yes, in His goodness He will seek to lead them to repentance, so that their lives can be freed from the sin we have forgiven. Hasn’t He led you and me to repentance at times? We didn’t get any real relief until we came clean and confessed up, did we? Trust Him to work with them His own way.

7) It’s Not Blindly Trusting. There is a huge difference between forgiveness and trust. We are required to forgive every offender, but we don’t have to trust ourselves to anyone. Our forgiveness can (and should) be given away. Our trust, on the other hand, has to be earned. If a visitor steals your TV on the way out of your house, you have to forgive him (or her). But you don’t have to let them back in for a second visit. You can even call the police on them, but you cannot call down wrath. Forgiveness is always required; trust is optional.


Papyrus - 2What Forgiveness Is

If forgiveness isn’t those seven things, what is it? Here is the best definition of forgiveness I ever heard. I was deep in the Amazon basin on a mission trip in 2006 with Global Awakening, when I heard this preached by Tom Jones. I immediately took notes and have used it ever since.

“Forgiveness is giving your pain, the person and the injustice to God and trusting God with it all!”

That’s it! Keep it clear and focused. This is exactly what we are being asked to do by our God: Give it all to Him and trust Him with it. Trust Him with why He allowed it and with what He’s going to do to redeem it now that you’re giving it back to Him.

Forgiveness means being open to loving and even liking the other person, accepting them just as they are, just as we would desire to be accepted and loved if we were them. It means releasing them, setting them free, letting them go, letting them be themselves, and setting our own hearts free in the process!

Cast off those seven tattered misconceptions that may be causing you to cling to your hurt when you need to let it go. Restoration, inner peace and joy are waiting for you just around “the bend.” Bend your will before the Lord and this command, give it all to God, then breathe the sweet air of freedom!


Papyrus - 3Five Motivations to Forgive

In ordinary life the harder and more irksome a job is, the more we need powerful motivations to stay with it and finish it. It is no different with forgiveness. Bitter feelings stick to us like caked on grime. Our feelings against it seem so much stronger than God’s reasons for it. And we suspect it will take some concerted time and energy to get free. How can we stay powered up to go the distance? Let these five powerful reasons come to your rescue.

1) Your Freedom. Not releasing the person from our bitter judgments guarantees that we will stay a victim of the pain of the past. But we are never victims! Scripture says that we are “more than conquerors” through Him who loved us. How? Why? Because God has promised to make anything that has ever happened to us work for our good—if we will only give it to Him. By not forgiving we imprison our heart behind walls of hard feelings, then say to our enemy, “You did this to me!”

The truth is that you are the only one who can lock up your heart. Others can put the pain in by their actions, but only you can keep it in by your choice. No one can inflict damage that your God cannot redeem. Turn the key that sets captive hearts free!

2) Their Ignorance. When they are sinning against someone, all but a very few completely hardened and deceived individuals know deep down that what they are doing is wrong. That is due to conscience and the whispers of the Holy Spirit. However, no one ever makes an action (for good or ill) in the full knowledge of all consequences, of all effects on others, and how it is going to impact their lives in the long run, or even what their own heart will think about it later.

We know this, yet we easily fall into thinking, “How could they do that? They knew perfectly well what they were doing!” That’s not the way Jesus saw it. At the cross He declared, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” If this motivation worked for Him, then it is genuinely based on truth and it will work for us also.

3) Our Loss of Perspective. Typically, two things can go off in our minds. Well, one goes off like gangbusters and the other is mysteriously silenced. First, we may rise into righteous indignation saying something like, “I would never have done that!” This makes it terribly hard to forgive. While that may be true about that one particular misdeed of theirs, what about all the others wrongs for which we are rightly guilty? Or did Jesus not have to die a brutal, pain-wracked death for us, too?

Funny how it works that when we focus only on the other person’s sin, we lose all sight of our own. Yet, if we allow the knowledge of our own appalling sinfulness to stay in mind, we marvel at the mercy which so willingly covers us. Then, it becomes easier to pass it on to some other poor, sinful soul not so very different from ourselves, after all.

4) Compassion for Them. This is the one which works best for me. The unassailable truth is that the person who hurt me or my loved one didn’t come into the world with doing that in mind. That person began life as a baby whose only desires were to be held, loved and nourished. Something obviously went wrong. An attack from an invisible enemy broke through their God-given innocence and began carrying that person down the darkened, twisted corridors of self survival. They are “acting out” of their own pain and brokenness.

We ought to know. The same thing (in different ways) has happened to all of us. Whenever I remember this, I realize that I deeply desire everyone to be set free from what spiritual darkness has done to them. I want the real enemy punished, not them.

5) The Inheritance of the Lamb. Here is where the gloves come off—at least for devoted Christians. That person you or I may hate and blame is someone for whom Jesus died a horrible death to make atonement for their sins. He deeply desires to have that person in heaven with Him. Why hate what He loves? Why deny Him what He worked so hard to gain? By refusing to forgive, we are saying to the Lord, “No, Jesus! You’ve made a terrible mistake. This person should never be forgiven. He deserves to burn! And I’m not going to release him to You!”

It’s shocking when we see it that way, buy may this hard look at truth always shock us back into our right mind. Let’s give the Lamb the inheritance He deserves.

Our bitterness is the complete opposite of what Jesus did in going to the cross. It is actually the nature of the evil one in us, not the nature of our new life in Christ. If we have been deeply wronged, then we are in the best possible position to pray with real authority for the release of that person from a snare of the evil one–their enemy and ours. We join Jesus on the mercy seat interceding with Him!

FREE BONUS: Download a quick checklist for getting free of all unforgiveness: 5 Motivations and 10 Steps to Freedom (single page PDF). It’s free – download now. Live with childlike freedom of spirit once again!


Papyrus - 4Ten Steps to Forgive

Hard jobs not only need stronger motivations, they also benefit from being broken down into smaller steps. Take these steps one at a time, making sure that you fully accomplish each one in your heart and mind before going to the next. Inevitably, they will lead you out of the place of bitterness and pain, into the bright sunshine of a liberated and restored life and you will discover that Jesus has been walking with you all along the way. It is only fair to say, however, that for my hardest tasks, I had to take these ten steps repeatedly until my stubborn heart released its “death grip” on bitterness and finally opened wide to grace (See “Stuff’s Gonna ‘Splode“). Don’t give up! Review the motivations as often as you need to and press in to gain that break through.

1) Pray for God’s Help. You can do this on your own and many unbelievers have, but why not invite your best Friend to help you? Grace means that God wants to help us to do everything that He requires us to do. A good way to begin is with the “want to want to prayer”: “God, help me want to want what You want and hate what You hate.” The power of this honest prayer is that it gives God permission to work inside our heart.

2) Confess the Pain. Don’t try to minimize the wrong that was done or the harm you felt. Sin hurts! Be honest with the Lord about how wounded you may feel. But don’t stop there. Acknowledge the ways that God has sent people to comfort you. He weeps with those who weep. Your pain has wounded Him, too. Believing that God cares for us and shares in our sorrows, helps us entrust our pain to Him. This is crucial to see and embrace for we would never give what wounded us to an uncaring God.

3) Ask God to Forgive Them. Father God reconciled Himself to everyone at the cross, “not counting” their sins against them. In that sense there is no further need for God to forgive anyone. However, there is a great difference between God having mercy stored up and that same mercy being released. He still needs our prayers in order to work with anyone who is separated from Him by sin. If we cannot ask God to forgive them, how will we declare it ourselves?

4) Punish the Real Enemy. Justice demands that someone suffers punishment. That’s why we’ve been holding the grudge. Even though Jesus took the full punishment they deserved, and even though we now want them to get the full benefit of His suffering, there is still plenty of punishment to go around. The invisible kingdom of darkness needs to get its due! Many Christians are angry at people; few are they who know how to hate the real enemy. Ask God to make sure that the dark kingdom gets pushed back, even as the Lord’s kingdom is advanced through the forgiveness you are releasing today.

5) Ask to Be Forgiven. It may be hard to see at first, but through the lens of scripture we can learn to recognize that the sin of bitterness is a very dark thing indeed—a sin that cannot be excused for it goes against everything that Jesus died to achieve. Being honest with God about our own hardness of heart, allows the Lord to release fresh grace to us. Don’t take that mercy (as we might have in the past) as something to claim for our self alone. Rather, use it to liberate others, beginning with this person who needs it from you.

6) Declare Your Forgiveness. This is the key moment. Hold them in your mind’s eye, setting all the past feelings aside. This isn’t about your feelings. This is all about a choice, a decision to obey God and the act of your will to declare that choice and seek to live by it. Speak forth emphatically, “I forgive you and release you from all my bitter judgments.” Forgiveness is giving the person, the pain and the injustice to God and trusting God with it all. Keep releasing everything about what happened to God. His Spirit will be working in your heart as you do.

7) Forgive Yourself. This is rarely difficult even though the unsuspecting accomplice has been our self. The truth is that we could have been free a lot sooner, could have suffered far less pain, had we only been willing to do the forgiving from the beginning. By the way this proves what was mentioned in motivation number two. We kind of knew that our unforgiveness was wrong; we just didn’t realize how wrong it really was. We sinned by not really knowing what we were doing—just as Jesus said of all who sin.

8) Believe What God Promises. What an incentive this is! The magnificent promise of Romans 8:28 is that God will make all things work for the good of those who love Him. Jesus defines love as obedience. Now that we are obeying His command to forgive, we are in position to receive this promise in its fullness. Open wide to believe that nothing is impossible with God—He really can bring a greater good out of all this pain and suffering than the enemy put into it in the first place. Don’t ask how; just believe He can. And rejoice!

9) Pray for Them. Just as Job’s fortunes were restored when he prayed for his false friends, so now it is our turn to pray for our former “enemies.” Pray vigorously for God to bless the one(s) you have forgiven. Join Jesus on the Mercy Seat. Make sure you can honestly ask Him to do for them all of the good things you would desire Him to do for you. Otherwise, return to steps 1-6.

10) Thank God by Faith. Now that you are feeling some release, begin thanking God for being so patient with you. Acknowledge that His ways really work. Even if you feel nothing yet, thank God by faith. He loves it when we trust Him enough to believe His Word is true, even when the “evidence” hasn’t shown up. Finally, why not fully surrender to Him in love, recognizing that He really does know how to mend you and has your best interests at heart?


Saying Yes! to God

Nobody said forgiving deep injuries is easy, only that it is necessary. Walk your heart through these ten steps. They are guaranteed to work, but only if you work them through to the end. Don’t wait any longer: Say “YES!” to God and do what Jesus does. He forgives everyone for everything—from the heart. He did it for us. Now, we do it for Him.

Then, a glorious resurrection of life and love can happen! 

Go now for a FREE DOWNLOAD of this entire original article, “How to Forgive the Unforgivable” (4,297 word PDF).

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Cures for the Common Cold… Heart (Don’t Catch this Bug!)

What do church-going Christians want? Only a novice at seminary dreams of parishioners calling him or her to expound on books of the Bible, or to interpret the deeper doctrines of the faith. What people actually want to know is what to do about the pain they get from other people, especially people they care about. In a word: offense! In three words: hurt and offense! I certainly know what they are talking about: I get my share of it too.

How can you live without being hurt? How can you avoid being offended by the words or actions of others? The closer you live to people the more it happens. Perhaps that’s why so many of us have chosen to live “cocooned,” isolated from contact even with our nearest neighbors. Yet, it can’t be avoided.

We see offense happening all of the time in the close confines of our “religious community” among the residential members of the addiction recovery program at the Old Savannah City Mission. Every one is a genuine Christian, yet everyone gets hurt and/or does the hurting—usually both. Some leave angry. Some stick it out by trying to “keep to themselves.” Either way they miss God.

I tell them when they first come in that the Lord has a very different idea about spiritual growth than they do: They think living with other Christians is going to be peaches and cream. He knows better—and seeks to use the inevitable times of hurt and offense to provoke spiritual growth. Now that He has them committed to staying with us, He wants them to learn how to deal with the pain of their emotional reactions within the boundaries of substance free living and within the rules of a Christian community (no violence or threats of violence allowed).

For those of us in church life, this means staying in the church despite times of offense—without spreading tales about what others have done, especially if they have done it to you!

There’s got to be a way out. There has to be a cure for the “common cold heart.” And there is! Here are the rules of what we call “relational recovery”:

Number One Rule? Forgive!

Rule Number Two: Go to your brother (it’s all male) and try to work it out.

Rule Number Three: Turn the other cheek (ie. don’t go to your brother; go to God and let go of the insult with His help). Beating your wounded pride down won’t kill you; it will actually give you an advance.

These three rules all come from Jesus. He loves them and practices them Himself. What’s more, He seems to be quite serious about us learning to apply them with His help. Fortunately for us, He is already on the inside wanting to live though us. These ways really work, though not always in the way we might prefer to see up front. Like anything else that is worthwhile, they require persistent practice to become perfected. I wholeheartedly recommend them to you.

Rule #1: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 ESV

Rule #2: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15 ESV

Rule #3: “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Luke 6:29 ESV

Being a part of this close Christian community as chaplain to the men, I completely understand why one of the top four rules of monastic life was stability (poverty, chastity and obedience being the other three). Even a thousand years ago the monks wanted out if their feelings of hurt and offense made them feel fed up with their current companions. The rule of stability they swore to uphold forced them to stay in place when the going got tough. That way it was either be filled with the garbage of junked up emotions, or seek hard to learn the Lord’s way of casting those cares on Him. Close Christian community is a hot house for spiritual growth!

For steps to help you forgive anyone for anything see “How to Forgive the Unforgivable” at our website for healing.

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