All posts tagged Psalms

Rewriting Psalm 55 Reflecting on Sexual Abuse

In his booklet Recovering from Child Abuse: Healing and Hope for Victims David Powlison identified Psalms 55, 56, and 57 as particularly good Psalms for helping victims of abuse put their experience into words.  The Psalms were meant by God to help us put our experiences into words, but for many people (especially those who were “silenced” after their abuse) this can be difficult.  The example below is an attempt to rewrite Psalm 55 to put the experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or trusted friend into words.  It is advised to read Psalm 55 in your Bible first.  Then read this post.  Afterwards you might try to rewrite it to allow God to give words to your experience.

A song of me,
my pain, my story, and my God.

1. Oh God please hear me. Don’t pretend that this is not happening. I need you!

2. Be silent no longer. Say something. Let me know you are there. I am overwhelmed as I cry and convulse over what happened to me.  I can’t eat, sleep, or think.

3.  My abuser made such awful noises. He took pleasure in my pain and degradation. He over-powered me. There was nothing I could do. He must hate me to keep doing this. What have I done?!  What could cause such hatred and disregard?!

4. My soul quakes.  Heart-break feels romantic compared to this. This is worse than death.

5.  Panic attacks and the fear of panic attacks assail me. My body tremors in rebellion against me.  I can’t control my movements. Fear divides my heart, soul, mind, body, and will to attack them separately.

6. Like Jenny in Forest Gump, I want to be a bird and fly away.  I want to escape to a place of rest.

7. That place of rest would have to be far away, but there is one, right? I would travel however far, by whatever means, if only You promise there is somewhere I can go.

8. If you would just tell me the direction I would leave now. I would drive all night. I want peace more than sleep. Without peace sleep is useless. Sleep is just part of the storm.

9. Take justice! Do to them what they have done to my soul. Don’t let them multiply my shame by talking of this deed. Don’t let them mock me or worse talk like nothing happened.

10. I can’t believe I live in a world/country where this is “common.” It’s always being reported on the news or another documentary. Every time I hear it I am reminded. The pain echoes; worse it flashes back.

11. There is a whole industry of sexual degradation in our culture – porn. Its bigger than the NFL. They write and glorify stories like mine. There is an audience who pays for it, even with children.

12. But I can’t blame culture or an “industry” for my pain.  It is no stranger who dined on my soul. It was not an enemy who was getting even. If it were, then I could be more protected. I could appeal to family and friends for help… and they might believe me.

13. But I knew him! I trusted him! My trust was used against me. My trust was the Trojan horse that let him in. How was I supposed to know?

14. We had so many good talks before that. We went to church together. We prayed together. He taught me Bible lessons. How much of that was a lie? What does it mean to have your soul betrayed by a friend and a “friend of God”?

15.  May the death they have sparked in me explode in their own life and them live to experience it.  Oh, that they would know the full degree of pain it was possible for them to create.  Let their heart vomit its content into their own soul.

16. But I call to you God.  No one is capable of handling what is before me except You. It takes omnipotence to overpower my pain, omnipresence to get your arms around it, and omniscience to fathom it.  Only You can help me.

17. My pain is before me all day and at night when I am not sleeping.  I don’t know what else to do but cry to You.  So You hear from me a lot. Everything in my life reminds me of my pain and my pain reminds me of my need for you constantly.

18. You are the one who keeps soldiers safe in the midst of battles. I am in the fight of my life and won’t make it without You.  My abusers, pain, memories, and fears out number me greatly.

19.  God I trust the lies and deception do not outlive You.  You hear, see, and know the truth. This sin was as arrogant against You as it was ravaging to me.  He will not stand or smirk in Your presence.

20. My father/uncle/friend attacked me and violated the trust of our friendship and, with it, my willingness to allow anyone to get close again.

21. I replay his words over and over again, but cannot figure out what I should have heard. The terror of his intentions was hidden from so many. Were all of his compliments intentional instruments of death or were some sincere?

22. This was not my fault. God calls me righteous.  He calls for me to cry to Him. He is not ashamed of me.  God is angered by anyone who would shun or condemn me.

23.  But God is more angered by my rapist. Sexual predators will answer for their sin. Yet in His fury against them God is still safe for me.  I will come near, leave my shame, look in Your eyes, and have my trust restored.

God’s Words for Our Shame: Psalm 3

Case Study: David is a Christian man that (literally) everyone admired. You could hardly find anyone in his church or community who did not have ample good things to say about David. If he ran for mayor in his town, he would be a shoe in to win. He is active as a lead teacher at the church in addition to serving on several key committees. Within the community he is often consulted when important decisions are made.

David is the father of a blended family with several older children. Several years ago David’s stepson, Aaron, convinced David’s daughter, Tara, to experiment sexually. Aaron got carried away and even though Tara resisted, he raped her. Tara confided in her brother, Barry. They went to their father, but David did not know what to do so he did nothing.

David tried to explain all the legal consequences that existed for Aaron and that even if it was reported it wouldn’t make Tara’s pain go away. Barry saw this as pure weakness. He grew to despise both Aaron and his father. Aaron showed little remorse and tried to act like nothing happened. Barry was incensed and refused to be weak like his father David. Barry beat Aaron and left him unconscious in a neighbor’s yard.

Once the police got involved Barry was arrested. David bailed Barry out and smoothed things, using his political influence to get Barry out of trouble. But again David didn’t really do anything more about Barry’s physical violence than he did Aaron’s sexual violence.

Barry, sick of the whole situation, outed everything that was going on in their home. With a few descriptive liberties he was able to turn everyone in the church and community against David. Even David’s wife was ashamed of him and asked for a separation. David was devastated and ashamed to show his face in public. The only person he had left to call was God, but he didn’t think even God would listen.

[This case study attempts to mirrors closely portions of the life of David, King of Israel. To read the biblical narrative of these events see II Samuel 13-17. It was after these events that David wrote Psalm 3.]

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 3. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • If David spoke to you about his sense of failure and shame, how would you respond?
  • How would you help David sort through questions regarding his level of responsibility for these matters?
  • What should David do to gain relational support since he is isolated from family and friends?
  • How could you help David begin to shake the sense of God-forsakenness that overwhelms him?

Read Psalm 3 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 3 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give a modern David to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something David would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his shame to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 3

1. Lord, everyone I know has tu

rned against me; my family, my friends, even those who just “know of me.” They are saying that I am an accomplice to rape and murder.

2. Even those who went to church with me are openly questioning my salvation. “How could a Christian father just do nothing?” they ask. They used to eagerly attend my Bible studies, now they wonder if I’m an apostate.

3. Lord, you are my only refuge; my only protection. I realize how much the only wisdom and righteousness I ever had was yours. If it was not for Your tender hand under my chin lifting my eyes to Your face for reassurance, I would sink into despair.

4. When I prayed I was desperate. I can’t really say that I expected You to hear me. I thought You might have abandoned me like everyone else. But You heard me! You were willing, even eager, to hear my prayer! In Your holiness you are still accessible. Thank You!

5. When I sleep these days it can only be a gift from You. My mind is too tormented for sleep to be natural. When I wake from each few hours of sleep I get, help me to be grateful for Your grace to sustain my weak body and mind.

6. If You are still with me, why am I so concerned about my reputation. Even if the whole town hates me, it is only faithfulness to You that can change their heart. The same is true for my family. You are the Great Heart-Changer and if You are for me, I will fear no rejection.

7. I want to believe that. I do believe. Help my unbelief. Arise! Keep showing Yourself to Me, Lord! Do not let me lose sight of You! You are my salvation. There are many rumors spreading and slanderous thing being spread about me. Even most of the things that are true are not being shared “in love” or “for my good.” Silence the mouths of those who are not cooperating with Your redemption in my life and the life of my family.

8. I have no choice but to trust You with my whole life. You saved me from eternal hell and only You can save me from this living hell. You are a God who loves His people. I am Your child. You are even sovereign over those who reject You. As my Father, I trust You to guide me and these circumstances.

Passages for Further Study: Psalm 25; Isaiah 6:5-7; Luke 7:36-50 (especially verse 47); Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; I Peter 1:6-9

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 3, examined how David might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • Are you surprised that the Bible would include this kind of information about David and that David would be willing to share his prayer to God as part of Israel’s public worship (the psalms)?
  • What does this Psalm and its inclusion in Scripture say about the degree we should allow others to be involved in the more painful and “private” struggles of our lives?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 3?
  • How has your view of God and His response to our “big” sins with dynamic consequences changed as result of reflecting on Psalm 3?
  • For what instances of shame do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 3?

God’s Words for Our Anger: Psalm 39

Case Study: Bill didn’t think he was that different from anyone else. Sure, he “lost it” every-once-in-a-while with the kids, but who doesn’t. Idiot drivers deserved a decent heckling (even if they can’t hear it) if they are going to endanger and make everyone else on the road late. His wife, Susan, was the sensitive type, so you couldn’t really take her opinion too seriously. She probably was uncomfortable with his aggressive-assertive style, but that’s just because her family never really dealt with their issues.

At work people respected Bill. He got things done, so his boss really liked Bill and often told him how good it was to have Bill on staff to keep everyone “on their toes.” Being a self-made man who had to overcome a lot to amount to anything, Bill was proud of these comments. He always feared being nothing or nobody, so these comments told him he was on the right track.

What Bill didn’t like was the way that his boys argued with one another and their mother. The things they said sounded eerily familiar when Bill was willing to admit it. But he shook it off saying he wasn’t going to let his kids have excuses for their temper. If he had settled for excuses, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Then it got to the point where the boys were brave enough to turn their anger on him. He had always been able to intimidate them “back in line.” But now these arguments began to escalate; a couple even turned physical. When Bill told the boys they should honor their father they just rolled their eyes. Eventually they looked up the passage in Ephesians and told him not to provoke his kids to anger and mocked that they could use the Bible too.

Bill came to Susan for support when he was feeling down. She gave him little and said she had warned him many times these days would come. That turned the conversation nasty, but Susan had been silent long enough and wasn’t going to let Bill justify his anger anymore. The argument ended with Bill going for a drive (“storming off” as Susan said).

Some conviction was starting to set in, but Bill was still resisting the idea that he had an anger problem. He has never hit anyone (unless you count the recent wrestling matches with the boys). They had had some good times as a family (but nobody could remember those right now). As he drove, Bill thought he should pray, but he didn’t even know where to begin.

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 39. Use the question both to stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you define an “anger problem;” what level does anger have to reach to be problematic?
  • What should Bill do with the fact that he is often right in his assessment of Susan and the boys?
  • How should someone deal with the guilt and shame that they feel when they start to take responsibility for their anger?
  • What would the next step look like for Bill?

Read Psalm 39 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 39 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Bill to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Bill would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anger to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 39

1. I kept telling myself I’d watch what I say; that I’d try to be less gruff and intimidating. I didn’t want to say hurtful thing. I was determined to think about what I said before I said it, especially when my family was doing “stupid” stuff.

2. I would do good for a while. I’d keep my mouth shut, but nothing changed and eventually it would get to me. I could only

take so much. My silence only dammed up the anger; it didn’t decrease it. My sense of injustice mounted.

3. I got madder and madder. I was fuming. The more I thought about it the worse it got. Finally, I just let it go. My sharp tongue knew just where to start cutting. It was like old times. My anger and me were free again.

4. God help me realize these moments are that big of a deal. I act like these small events are going to define my life. I get lost in the moment. I think one act of disrespect is larger than my relationship with my sons; one instance of having to repeat what I said is larger than my marriage. God remind me how small I really am; humble me!

5. Life is too short for this kind of foolishness on my part. My anger is more foolish than whatever “stupid” thing they did. I only get 18 years with my boys and a few decades with my wife. How do we always lose sight of what really has value in life?!

6. I don’t think any of us get how transient and secondary we are. We act like we are the Real Thing and not just made in Your image. We work and work to make our name great. I was providing well but in my anger devouring those I would leave my wealth to.

7. What do I do now? I’m driving around to stall… for what? You really are my only hope. I need you. I kept thinking everyone in my house needed to listen to me, when I really needed to be listening to you.

8. My anger and the dissension it has caused in my family could destroy everything that is really important to me. Deliver me from the consequences of my sin. All my buddies told me I was right and I shouldn’t have to put up with what they were doing. Don’t leave me to commiserate my broken family with them.

9.  Before I would bite my tongue (thinking I was right and that the world needed to hear what I had to say). Now I am truly quiet, humbled and wanting to listen to You. Only You, Lord, could bring me to this point (my wife and kids tried hundreds of times to no avail).

10. The shame and guilt are too much. I don’t think I can bear what I’ve done. I see myself and it makes me sick. Your hand holds the mirror to my soul and I feel weak.

11. You showed me my sin and it wasn’t just my loud words, harsh tone, and physical aggression. You have revealed to me my idols (respect, being heard, organized home, success, and more) and you want to consume them. Those things replaced You in my life and You will not be replaced. Wow! I sure thought I was something.

12. Please listen as I pray. I realize now I do not deserve to be heard (what a change from when I thought everyone needed to hear what I had to say). I am broken and crying. Do not walk away from me like I would from my wife when she cried. I’ve got a long way to go on this journey of being a godly husband and father. Thank You, Lord, for walking with me; for letting me be Your companion… I guess that is what all of us are doing in this life.

13. Here comes the guilt and shame again. It is hard to walk with You, God, I’m used to being in charge and getting to be right. I’ll have to relearn how to be happy with You at the helm and life not being about me. I am completely undone (but I think it’s the best thing that’s happen to me in along time.).

Passages for Further Study: Numbers 20:1-13; Psalm 4; Proverbs 14:17,29, 15:1, 29:11,22; Matthew 5:21-26; James 1:19-20, 4:1-10.

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 39, examined how Bill might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How has your perspective on anger changed?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” be different now?
  • For what “frustrating” situations do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 39.

God’s Words for Living with Liars: Psalm 120

Case Study: Gabe’s father was a man that no one would trust. The adage, “You can’t be a good addict without being a good liar,” fit his old man quite well. Gabe grew up hearing his father rant that he hadn’t been drinking as he staggered through the house (at least until his mother quit asking/accusing).

As Gabe grew older his father would occasionally take Gabe around town. When his father spent money or talked to women Gabe would always hear, “Don’t tell your mother about this or we’ll get in trouble” with a wink. At first it made him feel big for his father to trust him with a secret. As Gabe grew older and started connecting more dots, it made him angry.

Gabe’s mother wasn’t much better about living in reality. As she took Gabe to church or school events, she would always talk as if their life was great. She talked about how excited they were to go on their next trip or go on and on about her new clothes. Gabe could never figure out how she could be so bitter and isolated at home yet so “peppy” in public.

At home Gabe’s mother fluctuated between talking to Gabe as a friend about all his father’s failings and betrayal, and just letting her bitterness spew out in derogatory rants about whatever Gabe did.  When Gabe would ask “What’s wrong, Mama? Why are talking to me like that?” She would scold him “Nothing’s wrong, if you would just do as you’re told everything would be fine.”

Gabe got the message both his parents were sending – if you don’t like the way life is, just make up your own reality and force others to live in it (by deception, manipulation, or emotional force). Gabe mastered his lessons and was soon an adept liar himself.

In college, however, he met his now wife for whom he gained an authentic love. It scared him, because he knew that to truly love her he must let her actually know him. He would have to surrender his power to “create his own reality” and force her to live in it. But she was worth it. As he surrendered his power (later he realized it was repentance) he found that life was more enjoyable in the “real reality.”

While Gabe was wrestling with this change, he read Psalm 120 in his daily Bible readings. It was shocking to read his testimony written thousands of years before he lived it. He used Psalm 120 as an outline for his prayer of surrender to truth and has turned to it frequently as an outline for prayer when the temptation to deceive returns to his mind.

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 120. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How is lying a form of “creating your own reality”?
  • How do bonds of family and friendship enable the liar to force others to live in their fictitious world?
  • What type of influences would Gabe’s parent’s example have on his life?
  • What could Gabe do to ground himself to live in the reality as God has created and providentially guided it?

Read Psalm 120 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 120 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Gabe to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Gabe would need to pray many times as he struggled to overcome temptations to lie and celebrate God’s faithfulness to deliver him from his parent’s lifestyle.

A re-write of Psalm 120

1. I remember when it first struck me that I was a son of liars. It broke my heart and I called to the Lord. I felt like everyone (much less God) would/should shun me, but He answered my prayer.

2. “God, pluck me from the life I am living,” I cried desperately. “I have lived a lie so long I am no longer sure what the Truth is. You must show me. Deliver me from the lying ways of my father and mother. Deliver me from the deceitful tongue I have skillfully trained in my own mouth.”

3. I have already given the first nineteen years of my life to lies. What more could my deceitful tongue want?

4. I know what it wanted. Like a savage warrior sent from the Father of Lies, it wanted to sink its deadly arrows into my heart and take my very life (every relationship, dream, and hope I have). It would kill my every dream and as I wept over the brokenness burn the carcasses to ashes. I have seen lies consume my parents. I know their end game.

5. Woe to me that I was raised by liars. That my examples were an addict, codependent, womanizer, enabler, swindler, and hypocrite.

6. Too long have I lived according to their example. I felt the pain of their empty words and pass the pain on. I hated peace because it cost truth, until You taught me to love truth and trust You for peace. Too long I lived there, but now I long to be a citizen of Your way.

7. I am for true peace now. I finally see that there is no other kind. Give me the strength to continue to speak truth only, because I know the light of truth will cause great hostility with my parent’s lies of darkness.

Passages for Further Study: Exodus 20:16; Psalm 58; Proverbs 13:5, 15:4, 19:9; Jeremiah 17:5-13; John 8:42-47; Romans 9:1; Ephesians 4:25; James 3:1-12

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 120, examined how Gabe might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How should Gabe come to view his parents as he strives to become a person of integrity?
  • How should Gabe manage the conflicts with his parents that will inevitable come as he commits to speak only truth?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 120?
  • For what instances of living amongst liars and the subsequent struggle to be a person of integrity do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 120?

God’s Words for “Bouncy” Anxiety

Jill would begin by worrying about finances. Things were tight and the economy was down. Being a Christian and knowing she should trust God (Matt 6:25-34) caused her fear to be replaced by guilt. Guilt did a good, short-term job of replacing fear, but it made her feel far from God.

The distance from God left her weak to other fears. “What if the kids get made fun of at school because we don’t get them the cool shoes… What if something goes wrong with the car… What if my fear makes me less attractive to my husband… What if…?” These fears created a new onslaught of guilt for not trusting God. Much of her life was a tennis match between anxiety and guilt over anxiety. It took one to interrupt the other.

She never realized how much God could relate to her experience. She thought that because God had nothing to fear that He was aloof to her struggle. One day a friend walked her through Psalm 121.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come (v. 1)?”

The psalm begins with David in battle. When the war is intense he looks to the hills for reinforcements. He begins to doubt. Will help make it in time? Which hill will they come over? Do I just want to believe their coming? David’s fears begin to sound like Jill’s.

“My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth (v. 2).”

David reminds himself of the truth he needed to hear. His fear made him quick to forget that the very hills he scanned for help were craftsmanship of the God who was for him. Jill can rest in the fact that David also had to remind himself of these kinds of truths. More than this, Jill can rest in the fact that God inspired David to pen these words and include them in Scripture for His anxious children.

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber (v. 3).”

David anticipates the next round of fears that will assault him and his men. Will God keep his feet strong for the journey ahead? Will God take care of him when he is asleep near the battle field? David is not living poetry; he is living a battle. The poetry came later. David remembers these things because they were hard to cling to during the battle. Jill can relate to how remembering God’s faithfulness can easily devolve into focusing on the bad situation in which God must be faithful.

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (v. 4).”

David again reminds himself of truth about God. David may sleep near his enemies, but God never sleeps on David’s enemies. David was being forced to live that “God’s strength was made perfect in his weakness (2 Cor. 12:9)” and he was easily distracted. Jill was amazed to see that she shared so much in common with “a man’s after God’s own heart” even in the moments she felt distant from God.

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night (v. 5-6).”

David anticipated another round of fears. What if we grow weak in the oppressive heat of the sun? How can we keep this up all day? Or, what will we do when night comes and we can no longer see our enemy? I know God doesn’t have limits, but I do. What happens then? Jill began to smile as she realized how much God could understand the way she thought. It was amazing to think that God have her shameless words like Psalm 121 to speak-sing back to Him in her moments of fear.

“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (v. 7-8).”

David reminds himself of the far-reaching truths of God’s protection. They cover all of life; from when he leaves his door until he returns home and from this moment as far as time or his imagination can extend. God’s faithfulness is found not only in his power and sovereignty but also his loving understanding. Walking with God in His Word through her “bouncy” fears gave Jill great confidence that she could cast her cares on God because He really did care for her (I Pet. 5:7).

How Specific Should a Spouse Be Confessing Sexual Sin?

Note: This blog was originally posted in January 2011. It is being re-posted now because it corresponds with the weekend sermon messages at The Summit Church.

This is a difficult question. Unfortunately, it is also a common question. It is a question that, even when pressing, most try to avoid. But when we avoid the question, the person who gets hurt most is the person who has been betrayed.

We must not buy the lie that we can “protect someone from the truth.” The absence of truth is bondage (John 8:31-38). When we couch our silence as “protecting our spouse,” we make a virtue out of the cover up of our sin.

Take a moment to listen to this brief (5 minute) video by David Powlison.

I would encourage you to read the biblical passages referenced from II Samuel 11-12 as you go through this post. What follows is attempt to outline key elements of confessing sexual sin (lust, pornography, infidelity, etc…) from the account of David and Bathsheba. Remember, we have this account primarily because David volunteered it after being confronted by Nathan (see Psalm 51:13-14).

11:1 – You should confess the actions that left you vulnerable to this sin. This is important as the two of you develop a “how do protect against this happening again” plan.

11:2-3 – You should confess the steps that you took as entered into the sin. Rarely does sin “just happen.” You need to see where you chose to be blind. Confessing this helps your spouse to know you are taking the sin seriously.

11:4 – You should confess sin to the full extent to which it reached. Little is more damaging than the severity of sexual sin to slowly leak out. Trust begins to build and then is broken time after time. Learn from David – the truth always comes out.

11:5 – You should confess all consequences of your sin that occurred before your spouse learned of your sin. Did you lose your job, get demoted, contract an STD, take out an unknown credit card, etc…? Unconfessed consequences will be painful reminders for both of you later on.

11:6-27 – You should confess your methods of deception, others involved in the cover up of your sin, other sins you committed in tandem with the sexual sin, and the impact the sin has had on your overall character. Notice this section is the longest part of the narrative. Sin maintains its life and mutates into other expressions when we hide our methods of lying and resist reflecting upon its impact.

12:1-15 – You should confess how you were brought to repentance. As you confess this, remember it is God’s grace (although painful) that you were brought to repentance. If your spouse “found out,” you can still share how you came to the conviction to be completely truthful.

12:7-15 – You should accept the consequences that emerge after your confession. Being forgiven should not be confused with the removal of consequences. See the blog post “The Forgiveness Trap” for more on this.

12:16-23 – You should be willing to walk through the emotional ups and downs with your spouse as they learn of your sin, forgive, and work to restore the relationship. Don’t vomit your sin on your spouse and walk away from them to clean up the mess alone. This is a key part of loving your spouse well. It will not feel loving to either of you, but choosing to comfort your spouse over your own comfort is love (Philippians 2:4-5).

Seminars:

  • False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery
  • True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin

Articles:

Booklets:

God’s Words for Our Ongoing Trials: Psalm 138

Case Study: Beverly’s preference was to avoid conflict. She was known as a hard worker and a kind-hearted person. Being in the room when people disagreed was uncomfortable for Beverly, much less when people disapproved of something she did.

Unfortunately, Beverly found herself in the center of a controversy. She has taught the 7th grade girls Sunday School class since they were in 4th grade. Each year they graduated to the next class, she decided to graduate with them. Beverly’s own children are out of the house, so she has been able to devote extra time to building a relationship with her class.

One of the girls in her class has been going through a rough family situation for the last 8 months and has begun to confide in Beverly more than her mother. A troubled marriage and a distant daughter has made this already insecure mother jealous of Beverly. The mother has spoken with the youth minister and several deacons about how Beverly is “monopolizing” the class.

When questions begun to be asked of other parents (before coming to Beverly) there were mixed responses. Some parents wanted equal attention for their children in other classes, other youth teachers felt like they were being made to look bad by Beverly’s work, and (the most silent segment) commented on how much they appreciate Beverly’s heart for their children.

Beverly is becoming the focal point of a conversation amongst many influential people in the church. But she only realizes it when comments leak back to her second and third person. When she learns all that has been done she is amazed and unsettled by the amount of talking that has occurred. She is hurt, angry, and wants to hide.

Every interaction is counter to Beverly’s nature. She likes to serve people with only mild gratitude in return. She realizes she must rely on God in new and more constant ways. As she reads her Bible she comes across Psalm 138 and finds that it echoes her situation. She even finds comfort in the fact that the situation to which the Psalm speaks does not seem to be resolved yet (like her own), so she prays it often in her struggle; making it her own.

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 138. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you comfort Beverly when she said, “I was just trying to serve God by discipling a generation of our children. I didn’t mean to upset anyone.”?
  • Assuming the youth minister and deacons knew of the family situation driving the mother’s jealousy how should they have balanced comfort and directiveness in their response to her?
  • How would Beverly begin to feel comfortable in her own church and ministry role again? What responsibility does she bear and the church leaders bear in regaining that comfort?
  • What are some of the most dangerous or tempting distractions for each person involved in this situation?
  • How should the church minister to and protect the young girl who “sparked” this situation?

Read Psalm 138 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 138 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Beverly to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Beverly would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender her work-based identity to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 138

1. Lord, You have been so good to me and I want to acknowledge that whole-heartedly. I would say that to anyone; even those who don’t believe in You or act like they should have Your job (smiling).

2. As hard as it is when I am fearful and hurt, I humble myself vulnerably before You. You have always been faithful and Your love I cannot question. My situation would make it easy for me to forget that. There are two things You have declared most important: Your name and Your word. That is why I love teaching my class; I use one to lift up the other.

3. There has never been a moment in my hurt and fear when I called and You were not there. When I felt like I lost everything else regarding my faith (my church, my leaders, my friends, my class), You always heard and answered my prayers. That is what has given me strength to continue to serve.

4. I know everyone in this situation truly wants to honor You; every deacon, parent, and teacher. They come to church to hear Your word, because they love it too.

5. They sing the hymns and I can tell they truly want to praise Your name and give You glory. I have to remind myself of that often when their sin and fear spills onto me. You must overlook (through the blood of Christ) all our sin when we sing our hymns.

6. You are the God who declared “blessed as the poor in spirit” because you delight in comforting the hurting, fearful, and insecure. You draw near to us (both me and this mother) when we will admit our need. But if we refuse to admit our need we push Your comfort away.

7. I am in a hard place right now. Keep me humble. Don’t let fear become pride or entitlement so I will remain in the care of Your protection. If those who are making my life hard are doing so with a hard heart and malice intent, I trust that they will answer to You. But let me focus on Your deliverance more than their punishment.

8. The most important thing is that Your will for my life will be done. Your love cannot be thwarted by man’s sin or time’s erosion. You never get an “incomplete” on your work. I am Your “work in progress.” Help me remember and be comforted by these things even after I say, “Amen.”

Passages for Further Study: Romans 5:1-10; Philippians 4:1-10; Colossians 1:24-29; James 1:2-4; I Peter

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 138, examined how Beverly might rewrite it for her situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How does this Psalm help Beverly maintain her focus on God in a situation that would distract her to many other things?
  • How could Beverly maintain a confidence that God does hear her when she prays even when her situation is unresolved? How might personalizing this Psalm help her with that?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 138?
  • For what instances of work or performance-based identity do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 138?

God’s Words for Workaholics: Psalm 127

Case Study: When Philip said, “I am a teacher,” he was making a true statement of his identity. If they allowed the same person to win “Teacher of the Year” multiple times, his would be the only name on the hallway plaque. Reading, preparing lectures, designing classroom projects, giving feedback on student papers, and meeting with students were all a joy to Philip. “Changing the future one student at a time,” was a motto and a drug for Philip.

Philip’s wife, however, wanted some of the attention and passion directed towards students for her. Admittedly, she had grown angry (with a strong dose of jealousy), then bitter, then distant, and now disinterested in their 30 years of marriage. Marriage was now only a convenient way to have more time and money to pursue her other interests.

When she used to try to talk to Philip about balance in his life, he would only complain that she didn’t support him and she should be proud to have a husband who works that hard. Now Philip is the one on the bitter-distant cycle as he feels like his wife only uses him for money. But when that thought gets him down, Philip pours himself back into teaching in order to “stay positive.”

What hurts Philip most is how disinterested his boys are in him or education. The boys also began to resent school when they could see it was stealing their father and becoming the definition of “being a good son.” While they wanted to be a real person worth knowing, they felt reduced to their mind and their future when talking with Dad. Dad’s connections were helpful to get into nicer schools, but they vowed not to take their education too seriously because they feared becoming “like Dad.”

Philip is wrestling with mid-life issues. He has worked for three decades on “his dreams” but it not sure what to do with them now. His relationships with his wife, boys, and grandkids are functional at best. Making a will is almost depressing. He wanted to leave something to his boys to help them pursue their dreams. But the boys seem allergic to pursuing a dream (intentionally so).

As Philip struggled with depression, he tried returning to his faith. His teacher-side likes poetry so he began reading through the Psalms. When he came to Psalm 127 he read it many times over. For him it was “he Psalm less traveled.” He saw in it a warning against his life-dominating error. He prayed through it many times and eventually rewrote it in his words to use as part of his repentance to his wife and boys.

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 127. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • What are the warning signs that a job is becoming an identity?
  • What kind of relationships should Philip have established to serve a warning system?
  • How did an over-emphasis on work become both the cause and “cure” of Philip’s family problems?
  • How did Philip’s dream become both the standard and methodology of his parenting?

Read Psalm 127 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 127 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Philip to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Philip would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his work-based identity to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 127

1. I thought I could build my own dream life. I labored hard and excelled (in every tangible way I knew to measure or pursue “success”), but I am starting to wonder if it was worth it. I built a career, but I can’t live in it and it’s lonely.  I gave my wife and boys every “thing” and “opportunity” I knew existed, but that has not made us a family.

2. I was the first one in the office and stayed up late researching or grading. My labor has not provided what was most important. I would work through lunch and be distracted during “family dinners,” but I think God (and I) would have been much happier if I had learned to rest and enjoy life. I see now that God wanted to give me rest, not because I was weak, but because He loved me and my family.

3. I thought my career was my gift from God and that with it I could reward my children. I realize now that my boys were my primary gift from God and that they were given to me to be enjoyed and loved more than rewarded and advanced. I have always seemed to miss relationships in the name of progress.

4. I thought my lectures, my writings, or my students would be my legacy. Now that they are all I have, I see I was wrong. My children are where I could have had the biggest impact on the world. My boys were God’s designed weapon with which I should have focused on advancing God’s kingdom and changing the world.

5. Fortunate is the father who pours himself into his children first; whose satisfaction is in his children more than his career or reputation. Everything I once did for my own glory now brings me shame as I see the damage it did to my family. When I speak with those I used to “compete with” for glory, I am only reminded of how they distracted me from what was most important.

Passages for Further Study: I Corinthians 6:12; Ephesians 4:15-17, notice that Ephesians 6:1-4 (parenting) comes before 6:5-9 (work); 2 Thessalonians 2:6-16

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 127, examined how Philip might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How should Philip deal with the sense of regret and guilt he feels for the damage his focus on work did to his family?
  • How should Philip respond to the anger or indifference his wife and boys may have when he comes to them in repentance?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 127?
  • For what instances of work or performance-based identity do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 127?

God’s Words for Our Gratitude: Psalm 116

Case Study: Those who know Becky today have a hard time imagining her full story of growing up in a home with no father, three siblings, and a mother who had to work two jobs to make ends meet. As a middle child, she was not the leader or the baby; she was either alone or in the way.

She spent most of her school age years trying to get attention. She would do whatever it took. As a young girl she would make good grades because the teachers would praise her. Later she would take whatever dare came along so that people would watch her. As she became older and dating was “the thing” she would do whatever it took to get and keep a boyfriend.

Eventually, she began to feel as used as she really was. She realized that no one truly cared about her, they just enjoyed being entertained by her. The thought that no one would care if she died was too much to bear, so she began to dive harder into the drugs she had already experimented with.

Becky began attending a church because they gave aid with food and clothes. Several of the women there remembered her name, asked her favorite color, and would put back clothes in her size especially if they were green. With time Becky finally understood the grace these ladies told her about and accepted Christ as her Savior. The change was dramatic.

Becky hungered to be discipled. As she learned more of God’s love, Becky found the courage and reason to finish her GED, go to Tech school, met a Christian man, married, and now has three children of her own. While she still feels out of place around people with “nice things,” she is a leader in her church and one of the most enjoyable people you’d ever care to meet.

There is a deep, abiding gratitude that marks almost everything she does. Her enjoyment of life is contagious. When she prays Becky truly talks to her Heavenly Father and her conversations are saturated with thanksgiving. One day as she read Psalm 116, she said she found “her chapter” and loves to pray it back to her Savior.

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 116. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • What would you want to ask Becky about how God has transformed her difficult upbringing and regret over painful choices?
  • How does learning of the love of God make wise/righteous living seem more “reasonable”?
  • What role did the ladies at the local church’s mercy ministry play in Becky’s life transformation?

Read Psalm 116 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 116 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Becky to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Becky would want to pray many times as she celebrated her heart of gratitude before the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 116

1. Lord, You heard the cries of my heart before I knew who to address them to. When no one knew me well enough to recognize my voice on the phone, You heard my pleas for love.

2. Lord, because you cared enough to listen, I will always enjoy our conversations. I never knew what it was to have someone to count on before You. I had always wanted a best friend, or even just a friend. Jesus You are my friend for a life time.

3. I was in a dark, dark place. As I searched for love, I placed myself in so many situations that could have been fatal or permanently changed my life. But I was so fearful and hurting I just did not care.

4. Once I realized You were there to call to (and would listen to someone like me), I cried, “God, cleanse my soul, make it whole! Lord, deliver me from this brokenness.”

5. You are so good! Your kindness amazes me! Our God is the One who loves the yet unloved.

6. I did not have a clue and yet You protected me from myself for years. When I got the point I would quit performing to earn “love” (I hate to call it that now), You entered my life and saved me.

7. That was the first time I knew what rest really was. I didn’t have to do anything to make the good feeling last. You were not flirting with me to pleasure Yourself. You loved loving me. I had never known that. I would return to Your presence thousands upon thousands of time for that refreshment of my soul.

8. You saved my soul from death (both Hell and the living death in which I swam). You saved my eyes from tears (there are no more hopeless tears for me). You saved my feet from stumbling (my old destructive ways no longer seem “worth it” to me).

9. I just want to sing, “I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive!” as I walk with You. I used to feel as if I absorbed death in my every interaction; even my pleasure and laughter were dark. You saved me into a community of life-giving people. Common conversation and joking breathes life.

10. When I first started telling You (and the ladies at the church) about my life, I wanted to believe You cared. I think I really did believe that is why I was so scared to talk. I didn’t want to be wrong, hurt, and abandoned again.

11. I kept saying to myself, “Every person I know is a liar and a user. Why should You (or they) be any different?”

12. I didn’t know what I had to offer that You (or they) could possibly want. I had no asset, service, or pleasure to give. The whole thing seemed “to good to be true” so I cautiously kept looking for the catch.

13. But that is the content of the Gospel. We have nothing to offer. We are to only call on the name of the Lord. It was easy enough that this high school drop out, semi-homeless drugee could do it.

14. All You ask of me is to enjoy the community of my fellow believers. I will gladly pay that price. I would have paid all the money I had to be a part of a loving community. All You asked of me was what I ever truly wanted.

15. I remember the night it struck me that someone will care when I die. I always thought I would fade out of existence unnoticed. You care for Your children and welcome them into Your presence when we die. I don’t know how to express how that makes me feel.

16. Lord, I am Yours. You have freed me and I belong to You. I trust You and I wouldn’t even know what that words means (much less what the experience feels like) if it were not for Your grace.

17. “Thank You” will be the first words out of my mouth each time I pray. May it never be mistaken for a rote, habitual way of starting to pray. “Thank You” will forever be the cry of my heart!

18. You have given me a family (both a husband/children and a church). I will give testimony to your goodness and faithfulness to them as long as I live.

19. I long to be known everywhere and by everyone as “the lady who thanks her God.” You are my everything! Praise You!

Passages for Further Study: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:6-7, 3:16, 4:2-4; Revelation 7:9-12

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 116, examined how Becky might rewrite it for her situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How would you describe the major changes that God has brought in your life since your conversion?
  • What needs to change in your perspective to make gratitude the natural overflow of your heart rather than something you try to express more often?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 116?
  • For what instances of God’s deliverance do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 116 to express gratitude to God?

God’s Words for Our Anxiety: Psalm 112

Case Study: Alan has always been a little up tight. While he has never had a panic attack or called in sick to work because of his anxiety, Alan doesn’t really know what peace is. The things that really eat at Alan’s thought life are financial stability and social rejection.

Alan has a modest to above average job and his wife works. They chose to only have two children because Alan was fearful about providing for more than two (his wife was fine with that). His family lives well within their means, avoids debt, and saves aggressively for retirement. But Alan still has this nagging doubt about whether they are doing “enough.”

His wife only gets upset when Alan questions her after a shopping trip and when he resists planning family vacations. She knows he is sincerely fearful about money, but it does begin to feel controlling after a while. She keeps reminding him not to live so much for the future that he misses the present.

Alan’s friends are slightly less understanding. They have a good time with Alan’s fears. There are perpetual jabs about all the things he does to “save a dime.” It is obvious how much he wants to be accepted and the way this magnifies the impact of their jokes is obvious to everyone.

While no emergency has popped us, Alan is beginning to feel emotionally exhausted. His wife and doctor have brought up depression several times, but Alan knows he is just mentally spent from wrestling with his anxiety. Over the last several months Alan has become increasingly aware of how his fear of rejection has caused him to isolate himself and his fear regarding money has sapped any joy in generosity (even gifts to his family).

Alan doesn’t enjoy life right now. He feels like he is doing everything “by the book” in managing his life and living to please everyone else, but he is growing jealous of the world. As he sits alone at the computer checking the financial accounts after his family goes to sleep, Alan prays to God for help.

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 112. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you answer Alan’s frustration as he explained he was just trying to do things the right way and please those he cared about?
  • What would you say in response to Alan’s wife’s and doctor’s concern regarding depression?
  • How should Alan and his wife address their differences in financial philosophy?
  • How would you advise Alan to cultivate and find greater joy in being generous?

Read Psalm 112 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 112 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Alan to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Alan would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anxiety to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 112

1. The Lord be praised… I know that’s how I should start a prayer. It’s true but… The people who really do fear the Lord (more than rejection or retirement) really are blessed. Living simply to please the Lord in daily decisions and enjoying it, would be a dream life. Why do I make it harder than that for myself?

2. My kids would benefit immensely if we made the decision to please the Lord more than as a reaction to my fears. Lord, I hear my kids bounce between echoing my fears and mocking them. Neither response is training them in the “fear and instruction of You.” I could give them the whole world but if I help them forfeit their soul to security and acceptance, I will have destroyed them.

3. Lord, you are my security. I know that even when I ignore it. Everything minus you is nothing and I always feel like I have nothing because I am always focused on everything. You have provided for us and yet I feel the need to control, hence doubt eats my peace. The only wealth that lasts is a godly character; that is the currency of eternity.

4. I have always felt dark because of where I have been putting my trust. Lord you are gracious, merciful, and righteous. Those are the qualities of trustworthiness. Money is void character because it has no life. Why was I trying to trust something dead? Can death give life?

5. Now generosity makes more sense. Generosity is imitation not an investment. I always doubted whether You would really give me my money back if I were generous. When I am generous You give me more of Yourself; I become more like You. That could give me the peace I have so desperately been longing for.

6. That would give me the emotional stability I have lacked. I wanted security and acceptance and got nothing. No one paid attention to anything I said, because they knew it would change with the ebb and flow of my most recent fears. If someone was upset with my frugality, I would commit to their desire. Once it came time to follow through, I would grow fearful and back out. My words weren’t worth remembering.

7. I remember how I hated the words, “Guess what?” I assumed the worst and read the worst into whatever I heard. Living only to please you would strengthen my heart. You are a fair and just God. You can be pleased in good times and bad, unlike financial markets and people.

8. I have not felt this way in years… if ever! By fearing You, my temporal fears have become irrelevant and I like it. I used to replay my friend’s taunts in my mind and feel my soul shrivel. When I know I am loved by You and embrace You as my security, I can replay their words and nothing happens. Nothing, I don’t even need a clever come back!

9. This is more blessing than I can stand. I must share something or I will burst. I laugh as I hear myself say those words. That is not me talking. That is You talking in me. You, Lord, are causing springs of Your character to erupt in my heart as I find my security in You. That is a source of peace and strength that can be sustained. Lord, help me not look to another source of security again.

10. My friends won’t know what to do with me. Now that their entertainment at my expense is gone, they’ll be angry. They’ll give me a hard time for ruining their fun. Lord, do with their desire for entertainment through derogatory humor what You did with my desire for security through money and acceptance. Liberate them from their wicked desires as You have liberated me!

Passages for Further Study: Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 6:19-34, 18:21-35

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 112, examined how Alan might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How does the source of someone’s sense of security impact their level of anxiety?
  • How did a change in perspective on his struggles change Alan’s perspective on his family and friends?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 112?
  • For what instances of anxiety do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 112?