All posts tagged Community

A Sample Letter to Help Cultivate Community While Struggling with Depression-Anxiety

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element of five from “Step One: PREPARE Yourself Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually to Face Your Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

What is the most painful part of depression-anxiety? Each person will have to answer that question for themselves, but one of the leading answers would have to be “the alone-ness.” Unfortunately, it is hard for us to admit, “I am depressed” or “I am controlled by fear” to those who care about us.

For too many people, the dysfunctional and unspoken rules of depression-anxiety are:

  1. Don’t talk about it.
  2. Everything is fine.
  3. No one will understand.

It is sad that we use the same logic to isolate ourselves in the experience of depression-anxiety that is commonly used to silence an abused child or a spouse experiencing domestic violence. With our silence about our struggles we become the warden to our cell of isolation.

How do we break through the barrier of our own silence? We speak. What do we say? The following letter is a sample you could write in your own words to a friend. It is meant to be a prompt for conversation with those who already care for you. In it, we include the basic requests you might make of a friend at this stage in your journey.

Friend,

Thank you for the ways you’ve cared for me and valued our friendship. That means more to me than you know. It is because of that trust that I feel like I can tell you something that is hard for me to admit. I struggle with depression-anxiety. That may not seem like a big admission to you, but it is something I have resisted telling anyone for a long time.

The worst part about not telling anyone about my struggle is that I have felt very alone with it. For some reason, I have treated depression-anxiety as if it were a secret about which I should feel ashamed. Because of that I have wondered if people would still like me “if they knew.” The implied answer was always “no, they wouldn’t.”

The main thing I would ask of you is that you do very little different when we’re together. It is would be nice if you ask me how I’m doing periodically and show concern for my response (as I trust you would). But the biggest benefit will come from you knowing and still valuing our friendship.

If there are times when I share with you that I am especially down or fearful, it would be great if you would pray for me and find a way to spend some extra time together (i.e., getting lunch, sending a card, offering to do a project together, etc…). I don’t like to ask for those things when I’m down, but they would greatly help me get outside my own thoughts and emotions.

I’m going through a study right now to help me assess how I can best respond to the challenge of depression-anxiety. If you are interested you can look over the study, you can find it at bradhambrick.com/depression (note: this link will not be active until after the live presentation is recorded).

It would be nice if I could share with you what I’m learning about myself and my struggle. I like that this study has structure and provides a process for finding hope and relief for depression-anxiety. In the first step it asks me to be more honest with friends, so I can quit believing that these emotions make me a person less worth caring for.

If there are ways I can pray for you, I would be interested to know those as well. Part of the struggle with depression-anxiety is that I think a lot about myself and my experience. Being able to reciprocate by praying for you would be an effective way for me to weaken that emotional habit.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go through this study, but, for now, I have a lot more hope that I’ll see it through to the end because I’m not doing it alone. It is probably too much to ask that I will never be down or anxious again, but I like the idea of learning how to make those emotional dips more shallow and how to maintain my trust in God during those times.

Thank you caring enough to listen to my burden. Like I said, I don’t want much to change in our relationship. But it is a big relief to allow talking to you to break the silent sense of shame I was living in. That is a great gift you’ve given me already.

How well would those words capture how you would like a conversation like this to begin? What parts would you change?

You will need to make this your own by putting it in your words. As you think about having this conversation with a handful of friends, between two and five, is it intimidating or exhilarating? How different would your day-to-day emotional experience be if you had a few people you could talk to this way?

Who are the people to whom you would send this kind of letter or have this kind of conversation?

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Depression” post which address other facets of this subject.

Biblical Whining

I cannot tell you how many folks come in and start a counseling session by saying, “I don’t want to come in and just be a whiner,” or “I feel like I am just whining about my circumstances.”  Then they begin to talk about legitimately challenging situations in an awkward tone of embarrassment. When they are finished they apologize again.

This strikes me as odd. First, why would people schedule a counseling appointment and then apologize for discussing their struggles? I don’t think I apologize to my doctor when I am sick. Although I did when  I got a bad case of poison ivy while doing something stupid, but that’s another story for another post and I should have apologized to my wife not my doctor.

I fear that the answer to this first question is rooted in how disinterested and detached our culture and (too often) our churches have become. This leads me to my second question.

Second, why do we feel like discussing our struggles is whining? By this definition of whining large portions of the Bible would have never been written.

  • Job would have been gutted
  • Psalms, which discusses suffering, would be omitted
  • Proverbs would not contain many verses on getting counsel or listening to others
  • Ecclesiastes would be unnecessary
  • Lamentations would be unbearable
  • Paul would have had little information to trigger the writing of his letters
  • James would have never known of the suffering of the dispersed Christians
  • I Peter would also be missing

Consider Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The implication of this verse is that if we are not bearing one another’s burdens, then we are not fulfilling the law of Christ (strong charge!). This requires knowing each other’s struggles.

A quick definition of true (negative) whining – sharing a problem, not wanting another perspective on the issue, with no intention of doing anything differently, hoping the other person will fix it for you or just be miserable with you.

My burden is that this is NOT what the people in my office are doing, but they still feel like they have to apologize for sharing their burden. This is wrong! Many of our struggles become so intense because we do not share them with others while those struggles are more manageable. By the point of sharing, they may be so overwhelmed that they either only feel like whining or need the help of a well-trained counselor.

THE POINT: The Bible does not expect change to occur in isolation or privately. Actually, the Bible seems to assume that the more private we keep our struggles (both sin and suffering) the more intense our struggles will become. Therefore, let us “whine” like the Bible models. Let us discuss our struggles within our community of faith seeking hope, encouragement, and direction from those God has given us to share life with.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.

7 Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

Accountability is not just for life-dominating struggles. It is part of God’s definition of “healthy.” People who do not have relationships in which they are honest about their struggles, seeking accountability and encouragement are people who are becoming “unhealthy.”

The seven points below are meant to guide you in the kind of relationships you that facilitate this component of healthy relationships and rationales for why small groups are a natural place to forge these kinds of relationships.

  1. Voluntary – Accountability is not something you have (a noun); it is something you do (an active tense verb). You must disclose in order to benefit from the relationship. If you rely on the other person to “ask the magic question” or “just know” what is wrong, you are sabotaging the opportunity for accountability.
  2. Trusted – The other person(s) is someone you trust, admire their character, and believe has good judgment. Part of the reason many of us react negatively to the idea of accountability is that we have not gotten to know people well enough to build the trust that facilitates this kind of relationship. Small group provides the time and space necessary for trust to grow.
  3. Mutual – Relationships that are one-sided tend to be short-lived. In the small group you will hear the weaknesses and struggles of others as you share your own. You will help carry their burdens as they help carry your burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).
  4. Scheduled – Accountability that is not scheduled tends to fade; even when we have the best of intentions. This is why small groups that meet on a weekly basis are an ideal place for accountability to occur. Everyone knows when to meet and has a shared expectation for how the accountability conversations will begin.
  5. Relational – Spiritual growth is a lifestyle not an event. This means that we invite accountability to be a part of our regular conversations not just something that we do at a weekly meeting. It should mean that there are times when we are doing accountability and don’t realize it.
    • Caring for people and wanting to know how they’re doing with things they asked you to pray for is a form of accountability.
    • Hanging out together, casually hearing about life challenges, and offering advise / encouragement is a form of accountability.
    • Getting lunch and remembering to ask about an area of struggle is a form of accountability
  6. Comprehensive – Accountability that exclusively fixates on one subject tends to become repetitive and fade. It also tends to reduce “success” to trusting God in a single area of life.
  7. Encouraging – Too often the word “accountability” carries the connotation of “sin hunt.” When that is the case accountability is only perceived to be “working” when it is negative (i.e., it catches the particular sin in question). However, accountability that lasts should celebrate growth in character as fervently as it works on slips in character.

The key questions to ask yourself now are:

  • Who are the people in my life with whom I do or could have this kind of relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics are strongest in our relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics would require intentionality for fortify a weakness?
  • Am I willing to take the next step to begin or improve my accountability relationships?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.

The George Zimmerman Verdict and the National Anthem

This is not a political post. It is not even a counseling reflection. Instead, it is personal reflection on what I’m learning as I have conversations with people about the George Zimmerman verdict. I do not pretend to write objectively. I’m realizing that “objectivity” is a pridefully high ideal for me to obtain.

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I do hope I write humbly. But if anything I write reveals the blind-pride of being “wise in my own eyes,” then I ask that my readers help me see those thing to which I am blind.

At our Summit staff prayer, my friend and fellow pastor Chris Green led our staff in a devotion through Romans 12:14-16. It drew out many implications of this passage I had missed; likely because I have not experienced (personally, ethnically, or in my family history) the kind of persecution discussed in this passage.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (v. 12)

Chris pointed out that when there is or has been persecution the two sides do not know each other well. We do not know the experiences of the other. We do not share the same history even if we lived during the same set of years. We do not have the same emotional attachments to events and symbols.

This makes it very easy for us to read the worst possible motives on “the other.” What we know so well blinds us to those things about which we are ignorant and the importance of questions that knowledge or experience would generate.

This point struck me most in light of what I learned from verse 14… more on that in a moment.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (v. 13)

The church at Rome was struggling to do this. The church was comprised of Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female (Gal. 3:28). They did not respond to events the same way. When they responded differently, undoubtedly, mistrust arose in the church. “How can I trust you if what threatens me seems like a victory, relief, or even just inconsequential to you?”

Paul’s first “action step” for the church was to deeply and personally empathize with how something impacts another person or group of people.

It is only through conversations with others that I…

  • … began to feel the weight of what it would be like to talk with my son about the dangers that can come with how others may perceive you because of your race and the dangers that can come if you respond to their suspicion with frustration or aggression.
  • … could feel the uncertainty that emerges from events like the Zimmerman trial when people of your ethnic background’s personal freedoms have changed radically in a single generation and court decisions were a major factor in those changes (sometimes for the better; other times for the worse).

The fact that my reaction to this case did not echo any highly-personal historical events or immediately draw me back to a formative conversation with my parents means I have work to do (in the form of listening) in order to “weep with those who weep.”

“… Never be wise in your own sight.” (v. 14)

This is where things seemed to “click” for me; at least to whatever degree I “get it” now. It is easy for me to seem wise in my own eyes because my answers only have to address the questions raised by the complexity of  my own emotions in reaction to these events; which are comparably simple and small.

How wise we appear is often directly proportional to how much the observer shares our experiences related to that situation.

This reminded me of another illustration that helped me understand the various responses to events like the Zimmerman verdict. Remember what it was like for you when you heard the national anthem for the first time after events of 9-11. Please note, I am not trying to draw a moral comparison between 9-11 and the recent verdict, but to draw upon an experience that helped me better understand the responses of those for whom this verdict was deeply unsettling.

I can still remember, it was preceding the New Yankees playing the New York Mets. Television cameras scrolled across the players faces as they felt the significance of the opportunities our country afforded them.

My emotions stirred deeply. I was angry. I was proud to be an American. If honest but without pride, I hated anyone who would assault “my people.” I wanted to do something to right an injustice. Sitting and watching seemed utterly inadequate for that moment. Even today, my emotions can easily be stirred by video of those horrific events with a patriotic song playing in the background or a picture like the one above.

Why? Those atrocities did not happen to me or geographically near me. I didn’t know anyone who was in the towers. You could easily say my life was not directly affected beyond increased airport security and the price of gasoline.

Chances are everyone reading this post agrees and sympathizes with my emotions at that time. You do not question my response, although hopefully you would counsel me not to harbor or act on hatred. It is “natural” enough to you that I likely seem wise, even noble, to react this way… because you share something comparable to my experience of 9-11.

What do we do with this reflection?

I’m not going to advise others in this post. Here is what I believe I need to do. I need to have more conversations. I need to understand those whose reactions are different from own enough that I can join them with deep sympathy for what generates their fear, anger, or other strong emotions. Even a few conversations have shaped me enough to realize I’m not sure how much I still need to change and learn.

As those who have experienced persecution have blessed me with conversation (v. 12) I have grown in my natural response of experiencing unrest with those who are unsettled (v. 13) and grown more humble towards the ways my ignorance made it easy for me to seem wise in my own eyes (v. 14).

I’m not sure what to do with the complex political decisions that are being discussed in the media. I don’t know what “justice” would look like.

I do know I am grateful for friends and fellow pastors like Chris, ChuckDarrickJuliusOmar, and Sam who will walk this road and have these conversations with me. I am beginning to realize how I cannot even watch the evening news in a thoroughly Christian manner without men like this, the full Body of Christ (Rev. 7:9), around me.

C.S. Lewis on a Community Vision for God

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body. Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together (p. 165).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The idea of knowing someone best in community (rather than one-on-one) was an idea that Lewis did not apply only to God. It was actually a concept that he learned by accident and was surprised to discover.

Lewis was a part of a group of three friends for a long time when one of them passed away. Initially he tried to console himself by telling himself he would get to know his remaining friend better, because he would no longer have to share him.

But what Lewis found was that there was a side of his living friend that was only brought out by his deceased friend. Even the increase of time and attention allowed by heightened exclusivity of their friendship could not generate the same type of knowing.

I believe this is comparable to what Lewis is saying about our knowledge of God in the absence of participating in authentic, vulnerable Christian community. There are aspects of God’s grace, power, wisdom, and holiness that I will never draw out in my limited life span and experience.

But when I immerse myself in the lives of others whose life’s story reflect distinct aspects of God’s grace, power, wisdom, and holiness I come to know more of God. God does not change, but I know more of Him than I could have comprehended in isolation.

I believe this a key element of humanity’s collective mission to reflect the image of God in two ways. First, we can only reflect God’s image in community. God exists in community (Trinity), so when we live isolated lives we do not fulfill the first aspect of our creation mandate.

Second, we know more of the God whose image we reflect as we live in community. The question is, “For whose benefit do we reflect God’s image?” We reflect God’s image for His glory and our benefit. As we know / reflect more of His image through community, we come to know more of who we were created to be.

This extends Lewis’ insight after the loss of his friend. We not only know more of others in community; we come to know more of ourselves. We come to know our need for grace and our capacity to love when we live with other people.  We come to know our unique gifts / passions and how they can be used to serve God when we live in community.

This both combats and compliments the relative notion that each person has their own truth. The reality is that each Christian has their own experience of the Truth (John 14:6) and is called by God to share that with their community to bring to life the timeless truths of Scripture. Each experience, measured by Scripture, balances the errors and adds depth to the others.

The Ultimate Scary Movie

I have periodic nightmares of various kinds. They can involve pirates and adventures gone awry at sea or losing a member of my family. I am not sure what causes them. My television viewing is largely restricted to sports, news, cooking shows, cartoons (for the kids, of course), or shows with talking animals (I’m a sucker for Narnia and Aflac commercials).

Recently I had one where I was being chased by a serial killer. It was eerily like the stupid movies I’ve seen commercials for. I was running and running through this old house to get away. After much effort (my wife says I didn’t wake her up), I was out of the house. Then I went back in the house to use the restroom.

The real me was screaming at the dream me, “Don’t be stupid!” But dream me didn’t listen. As I walk through the house (no longer running or fearful) looking for the restroom, from out of nowhere a butcher knife takes a hack at me. I spent the rest of the dream keeping the blade away from my neck.

When I woke up strangling my pillow, my heart was racing and I had time to think. I don’t have the spiritual gift of dream interpretation, but as I thought of how foolish it was to walk back into the house, I had a thought – that is how foolish it is for me to sin in private.

Any time we sin and fail to confess to those that God would use to point us back in the right direction (Heb 3:12-13), we are like dream me walking back into the house with the mass murderer (1 Pet. 5:8). It was a picture that resonated with me. Rarely had I viewed sin in that fashion.

If I were advising dream me, I would have said, “Run like the dickens (in my dreams the main character usually has a strong country accent) to the first phone that you can find with the line not cut and call 9-1-1.” Why would I treat sin any differently?

Is it macho pride because I want to show that I can handle it?

Is it twisted insecurity that values my reputation more than my life?

Is it immaturity that believes sin is “no big deal”?

Is it brute pleasure that enjoys the thrill?

What reason would I have accepted from dream me? Answer: none. There would be no reason that would justify wandering through a house with a mass murderer lurking to look for a rest room.

The next time that you struggle with sin and are hesitant to reach out to a Christian friend for accountability and encouragement, remember this post and don’t become “my dream come true.”

The Therapeutic Benefit of Community

Millard Erickson makes an important point when he says, “The church is one of the few aspects of Christian theology that can be observed (p. 1036 in Christian Theology).” If his statement is true, then the place where theology should have its most tangible impact is in the community of people who strive to live in its truth.

Secular researcher Barry Duncan in his quest to determine what makes counseling effective found that 40% of what determines whether counseling will be effective is the quality of relational resources an individual has outside counseling (in The Heart and Soul of  Change).

Too often we only ask the question, “What does the profession of counseling have to offer to the church?” In light of this research, I believe the question, “What does the community of the church have to offer to counseling?” is at least equally valid.

In my counseling, I will frequently ask people, “Who do you have that you can talk to about this struggle? Who are you honest with and don’t have to pretend like everything is okay? Who asks you ‘how are you doing?’ and really wants to know the answer? When do you meet with another person(s) just to discuss how life is going and encourage one another?”

Most often the answer are no one and never. But it is being able to answer this question that accounts for 40% of the success rate in overcoming a life struggle. Notice that counseling will never be able to provide this kind of resource. Even in an ongoing support group you are forever defined by your struggle even as you seek to overcome it.

But the church (when operating as God designed – a living community) is precisely this kind of resource. This becomes even more profound when you consider the second largest variable in success: the level of trust between the counselor and counselee. This accounted for 30% of the success rate.

This means (by secular standards) that if the church operates as the community God designed and its members demonstrate the desire/ability to understand one another in a way that builds trust, the relationships within the church have achieved 70% of what is necessary for a successful helping relationship.

To this point we have not broached the subject of Scripture’s ability to provide a superior theory of counseling. We have only been considering the incredible benefits of living in community as God designed even in life’s toughest moments.

I want to be careful not to imply in this blog that formal counseling training is of no value. I am immensely grateful for the education and counseling experience I have received. I believe it does play an important role in understanding people’s struggles.

But my point here simply this: the church is the kind of community counseling would try to create if it thought such a therapeutically powerful reality could exist. My role as Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church is not to try to solve the church’s problems with counseling knowledge. My role is to encourage the saints that with a biblical equipping to love and understand people that they live in a community designed to transform lives in a way no professional structure can (Eph.4:11-16).

What is the take away? Going to counseling without being meaningfully involved in a church and small group is like going to the dentist when you refuse to brush your teeth each night after eating chocolate covered caramels. In light of this, reflect on Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desires;  he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Are you in a small group?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.

God’s Words for Our Insecurity: Psalm 139

Case Study: Jeff would tell people he was a private, introverted person; that he just didn’t want people to know “his business.” But it was more than personality or temperament. It was an insecurity that made relationships feel dangerous. Jeff had a hard time putting his finger on what it was that made him want to withdraw when conversation moved (or might move) beyond casual.

As Jeff got older, the reason that he settled on was that “nobody really understands me; nobody gets me.” He included his wife, kids, and fellow church members in “nobody.” The more he thought this way, the more he felt like an outsider and the more irrelevant every piece of advice for his loneliness and fearfulness became. If nobody understood him, then nobody could speak into his experience.

This belief began to crush Jeff’s marriage and overall sense of hope. Depression became his only comfort, his only friend, and painful reality. Repeated messages of “being misunderstood and alone” were the only thing that made sense of his life. But the explanation he sought as a means of comfort quickly soured into despair. The answer he created eliminated the opportunity to share his insight with anyone else. Jeff’s answer fed Jeff’s struggle.

Even when people (especially his wife and kids) shared that they loved or cared for Jeff, he would smile, but shrug it off thinking, “They cannot love somebody they don’t know and nobody gets me.” His unwillingness to receive their affirmation resulted in receiving less of it. That only confirmed his suspicion that they were only words of obligation.

When Jeff would get down he would often replay in his mind past experiences of being mocked or on the stinging end of jokes. These experiences gave more cold comfort to his pattern of insecurity-isolation-withdrawal as “the only right/wise course of action.”

It was in one of these dark times of reminiscence that Jeff mustered up the strength and courage to read his Bible. That day he turned to Psalm139 he had his life story re-written. Jeff saw that he was both understood and loved by God. This was uncomfortably comforting in a new way. It gave him the needed courage to begin to risk being known by his wife, then his children, and even a few close friends.

As Jeff risked being known by others he found that he could receive their love in a new way. With each good interaction his old story made less and less sense of his life, although bad (or even neutral) interactions still caused him to shrink back into the old insecurity. So Jeff decided to rewrite Psalm 139 in his own words to help him personalize the message that was transforming his life.

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 139. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • What is the difference between being introverted and being insecure or fearing relationships?
  • How did Jeff’s fears become self-fulfilling?
  • How could Jeff’s family and friends have helped earlier as Jeff’s fear of relationship caused him to retreat from their overtures of interest/concern?

Read Psalm 139 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 139 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Jeff to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Jeff would need to pray many times as he struggled with insecurity.

A re-write of Psalm 139

1. Wow! You know me, Lord. You get me, all of me!

2. You not only care to know the trivial happenings of my day, You are concerned about what I think.

3. You understand my fears and all I do to “protect” myself. The awkward things that I do which make other people pull away in confusion, You get them!

4. I may speak to others and they look at me funny, but you understand what I am saying, why I am saying it, and the response I am longing for to comfort me.

5. I am safe with you. Like a good parent with a fearful child, You hold me close with Your hands and do not let me exasperate my fears by running from my source of comfort.

6. This is overwhelming! It kind of makes me uncomfortable, but I like it. I am not sure I have the categories (yet) to make sense of what I’m saying. I know the words but not the experience.

7. But my fearful running really doesn’t make sense any more. Where could I go to escape being known by You? My fearful running was as foolish as it was impossible.

8. If I go to church and try to do lots of things and keep busy to keep people away, You know and love me there. If I do lots of bad things and withdraw to make You feel far away, You are still with me and love me even then.

9. If I wake up early to make earnest plans of how I can avoid as many people as possible, You understand what I am doing and never leave my side.

10. More than not leaving my side, You are prompting me through my pain and loneliness to turn around and return to Your community. Even in my fearful resistance, You are content to hold me in Your hands until I finally “get myself” and see my insecurity for what it is.

11. My old lies seem silly now. I would say, “Nobody understands me; nobody gets me; nobody can see into my darkness.” I would say these things even when You sent family and friends to penetrate that darkness.

12. My old lies were not too thick for you. You saw through them as if they were crisp morning. I thought I had convinced everyone, including You, when I had only deceived myself.

13. How funny! I thought I was unknown to the one who knit together my DNA and set me apart by name before the foundations of the world.

14. Praise God! I am known from the inside out, because I am made by the hands and in the image of the God of deep, personal, compassionate love! I am finally letting that truth penetrate my soul and spill into my relationships.

15. There was no hiding from You even when no other eyes had yet seen me. When I was a fetus you knew me like a quilter knows her quilt.

16. Before I was literally anything, You knew me and loved me. Even then You could write my life story and would enjoy reading of Your redemption for my struggles. But somehow I had convinced myself I was unknown and unloved.

17. Lord, these thoughts liberate my fearful heart! I feel a freedom to love and be loved emerging that is larger than I can put into words.

18. The thoughts of Your presence and love are more numerous than my previous thoughts of being mocked and alone. I used to wake up and fear the day because it had people in it. Now I awake and embrace the day because You are with me!

19. Lord, I see now that you hate mockery. You are against those who speak hate and use words to harm. Before when I heard words of destruction, I assumed they were true. And if they were true (false assumption), then You must agree with them (terrifying reality).

20. You are against such words and actions. They spoke falsely as if their words were true. I wrongly accounted the power of their words as Your confirmation of their words.

21. I can now reject what You reject, my God. I do not have to receive as true what You declare to be false and worthless.

22. I can now completely reject and despise what I once feared to be true. Those thoughts and memories were my enemies which held me as their captive in a prison of fear and isolation.

23. I invite You to search me, O God, know me completely. That is the key which has unlocked the prison of my fear and isolation. I AM KNOWN AND LOVED! Read my thoughts and see that I now draw comfort from that reality.

24. Whenever I begin to act as if that is not true, as if I am not known and loved by You, lead me back to the truth that unlocks Your freedom, peace, and joy. Remind me that You are with me and for me all the way to eternal life.

Passages for Further Study: Psalm 136; John 1:48; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 4:14-16

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 139, examined how Jeff might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How does the reality of being known and loved by God create the courage to allow ourselves to be known by others?
  • When we fear the harmful words of others and in our mind declaring them true, how are we also ascribing those harmful words to God?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 139?
  • For what instances of work or performance-based identity do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 139?