All posts tagged Trust

The Fear of the Lord & the Art of Persuasion

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” 2 Cor. 5:11

What is the fear of the Lord? That is a question that is larger than can be addressed in a blog post, but I would like to examine one characteristic of fear that may help us experience more of the fear of the Lord (a good thing).

Fear Feature: We tend to focus on and look for what we fear. If someone has a fear of snakes and they walk in the woods, they are looking fervently for snakes. If someone fears rejection, they will listen in every conversation for a negative comment, gesture, or omitted compliment (often hearing one whether it was there or not). If someone fears failure, then each moment is braced against it, asking for some skill or knowledge they do not have (often being paralyzed from doing things they are perfectly capable of doing).

Living in the fear of the Lord then, means to live with a constant awareness of God. What is He doing? What is His will for this situation? How can I express His character in this relationship? How could I please Him in this moment? In this regard, we might say that the opposite of the fear of the Lord is casualness/forgetfulness towards God.

In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul draws a connection between someone’s fear of the Lord and their level of persuasiveness. As we will see in just a moment, Paul was not trying to create the latest, greatest sales technique. Paul was merely putting a reality into words.

The fear of the Lord is the only fear that is not self-centered.  All other fears are necessarily self-centered because their ultimate goal is self-preservation.  The fear of the Lord begins with denying ourselves and dying to our desires (Luke 9:23-24).

This influences our ability to be persuasive in three ways:

  1. People are more apt to listen to someone who is not out for what they can gain in a situation.  Paul had modeled this in his early preaching in Corinth (1 Cor 9:9-12). He would not allow the Corinthians to give him money for his ministry so that they would know of the sincerity of his message. One good question for measuring trust is, “How much does this person fear God?”
  2. We are more able to interpret a situation correctly when the lenses of self are not distorting our motives. We tend to see what we fear/trust.  If we fear/trust money, we see a profit margin. If we fear/trust acceptance, we see rejection. If we fear/trust power, we see opportunities to get ahead. When we actively fear/trust God, we see things as they really are (rather than through the distortion of our fears). When we do not see things accurately people are confused and turned off by the sense that our words are “off.”
  3. Finally, when we fear the Lord we do not require a certain response from the other person as personal validation. Their acceptance or rejection of our message (i.e., the Gospel, a biblical way to resolve a particular conflict, a character quality we ask of our children, etc…) is not personal acceptance or rejection. We can then model a kind of social freedom that is sorely lacking in our insecure culture that hyper-personalizes differences.

Crisis Forgiveness vs. Post-Crisis Forgiveness

  • A spouse has been unfaithful
  • A spouse hides a major amount of debt
  • A teenager “borrows” the car and wrecks it
  • A friend shares your damaging secret

There are many times when we are called to forgive. Usually the moment when the offense is revealed is a powerful moment. It often feels overwhelming. Frequently, in these times, we can muster up the courage and love to say, “I forgive you and I am willing to do whatever it takes to restore this relationship.”

The time after a statement like that can be trying. We battle with fear, anger, mistrust, shame, and intrusive thoughts. We feel the full battle of redemption. We catch a glimpse of why Jesus had to die on a cross to pay for our sin. Forgiveness is excruciating.

By God’s grace, often the battle lightens. Things become a bit “normal” again. At first that is a relief; a welcomed respite. But then, as our mind and soul recovers, we begin to realize that we are “living as if nothing ever happened.”

When we offend (in lesser ways) the person whom we forgave, we are now the one to repent. Everyday irritants call for patience and grace but we still feel like we have been gracious and patient enough. Our spouse, child, or friend offends us again (in lesser and different ways) and we are called to relate to them independent of the original offense. This is post-crisis forgiveness.

Crisis forgiveness was, in many ways, easier. It was heroic. It was focused. It forced us to our knees in reliance upon God’s strength. Post-crisis forgiveness comes when we are grace-weary. It is mundane. It must cover a multitude of (little) sins, not just one big one. It can easily be distracted by so many things we are trying to catch up on (which we neglected during crisis forgiveness).

Post-crisis forgiveness calls us to appreciate the incarnation as much as the crucifixion. Christ came and lived among us for over three decades. Christ lived in our sin (a fallen broken world with selfish, manipulative, backstabbing friends) in addition to becoming sin for us. Post-crisis forgiveness calls us to emulate this aspect of Christ-likeness as well.

Too often we assume that the restoration process will go directly from forgiveness to peace. However, especially when the offense being forgiven has traumatic qualities, there is a middle stage. If we forget this, we may wrongly assume that we have failed to forgive when we meet these new challenges. Rather, it means that we have moved to a new stage of restoration; from cancelling the debt to restoring trust.

Saying that there is sometimes a middle stage to restoration does not change the necessity or requirements of forgiveness. Nor does it allow the one being forgiven to rush or demand quicker restoration.  It does remind us that the Bible is more than a collection of commands. It is a portrait of our complete life experience captured in the person of Christ and with every struggle we face it is a call to marvel and emulate more of His character.

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

C.S. Lewis on Doubting Faith

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

“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist (p. 140-141).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Too often we pose the question of faith in spite of doubt as if it were only a Christian dilemma. I couldn’t imagine anyone of any faith, non-faith, or mixed-faith background who did not occasionally, if not regularly, wonder if they had it all wrong.

Is this not true of most every life-shaping decision? Career. Marriage. House purchase. When something impacts your entire life and life is hard, you ask questions. Any honest question in a difficult situation will at times bring doubt.

It just happens that we live in an era of history that values doubt over faith. So in our generation if you hold to faith in the midst of doubt you are frequently labeled a closed-minded hypocrite. However, in previous generations, if you gave way to doubt and relinquished your faith you would have frequently been labeled a weak, faith-weathered soul.

What Lewis is trying to say here is that faith – sticking to a belief against internal opposition – is a necessary attribute for the Christian, atheist, and member of any other faith system. There are at least two reasons for this.

First, we live in a complex-broken world. We don’t live in a simple-broken world. When we ask the questions that challenge our faith they are rarely single-variable questions. When we want to know why something hurts so badly, we get into the free-will actions of other broken people, multiple situational variables, our personality, and other factors.

Any faith system that gives a “neat” answer to such complex situations is going to be too simplistic for an intelligent hurting person to believe. In the midst of that kind of pain and complexity, faith is going to largely come down to trust in a Person. Those who hold to their faith in the midst of hardship most often do so out of relationship more than rationality.

Second, we live in the middle of history. Have you ever tried to explain a good suspense movie you’ve never seen at the one hour mark? If you can explain it at the one hour mark, it’s not a good suspense movie.

We live in the middle of our story in two ways. First, we do not know how far we are from death. Second, we do not know how far we are from Christ’s return which is the only event that will bring meaning to the chaos in which we live.

So we are like children on vacation, and we live asking, “Are we there yet?” with no reference point for the mileage or hours about which we ask. Like children we often doubt whether the vacation will be worth the trip. We doubt.

But, as with the complex-broken world issue, the solution to doubt is relationship. The more the children trust the parent driving the car, the less they doubt (although they still doubt). Likewise, in the middle of our story-journey, we grow in our trust-affection for our Father in order to maintain faith.

The Advantage of Going Second

I was recently reminded of how when you talk to someone, it affects the effectiveness of what you are trying to say. When you try to talk to someone who is discouraged after trying to do “the right thing” and failing, anything instructional is often hard for them to receive. They feel like, “Great, here is something else I won’t be able to do.”

Other times you might talk to someone who is desperate after trying to do “the right thing” and failing. They can be like a sponge wanting to know another way. However, their desperation can lead them to quickly dismiss instruction if the results are not as prompt as their emotions demand.

There are many other dispositions with which you might talk to someone who failed and equally as many dispositions after someone succeeds. But the point is, what has just happened “before” affects how they listen. If you pay attention, that can be a real advantage to building trust as a counselor.

For the first person mentioned above, acknowledging how hard it would be to hear “one more thing” you “should have done” would be very encouraging. They would at least know that whatever guidance they receive next would be from a person who understood them.

The second person would benefit from having someone speak to the “pace” of their desperation before speaking to the content of their struggle. Unless this happened the wisest counsel would get lost in the intensity of their “try anything” to “fix it now” mindset which is retention-light and even weaker on perseverance.

I think this is a dynamic we have to be particularly aware of for those believers who sincerely try to please God and are facing a significant struggle of suffering (an intense struggle not caused by their personal sin). At this point, sin has the advantage of talking second.

Sin (here used as a personification that might be negative influencing friend or an escapist habit) can listen to the hurts of the believer and express compassion for their plight. All of the questions raised are questions against (even if only from confusion) the Christian faith.

Sin can respond with the momentum of these questions at its back. It has the advantage of swimming with our emotional current. The thoughts and emotions of the suffering believer are set us to receive what sin has to say and offer.

This is why we must be able to not only give answers but respond to a person. In cases like these, the response will be more soul-winning (used in terms of discipleship more than evangelism) that the content of our answers.

I think this dynamic is equally relevant when we are talking to broken unbelievers. In these cases, all of the previously discussed advantages of sin are working for the Christian faith. The broken unbeliever is asking questions that are against the old life (looking for a new life).

We can now respond and listen to their hurts and express compassion for their plight. We have the momentum of sin’s broken promises at our back. Their thoughts and emotions are looking for something more solid that what they’ve known.

In many ways, the principle is simple – and therefore easy to forget. We must listen and not lose the person in the topic of the conversation. A conversation happens between two points in a person’s life. We must read the momentum if we are going to effectively influence the direction of the ship.

Effects of an Affair

We know that the betrayal of an affair hurts, but the intensity of the pain, awkwardness of the subject, and crisis-nature of the disclosure often cause us to neglect asking, “What does an affair do that causes it to hurt so badly?” In this post, we will look at three things that an affair does which account for the level of pain it creates.

Shuffles Our Story

Affairs hide and lie. We live in ignorance. While we may not think things are “great,” we have no idea what is actually occurring in our life story. Innocently, we can live a lie for weeks, months, or years. When the facts come to light we look back on our life and don’t know what parts of our memories are true and what parts are fiction.

Before the facts came to light if someone asked you to tell your life story, you could (although it might be a time consuming request). Now you can’t. That is incredibly painful and disorienting. It makes you feel mentally, emotionally, and narratively naked. We make so many decisions based upon where our life going (tracing the direction of our story). When your story gets shuffled, the ability to make decision can feel paralyzed.

Confuses Our Vocabulary

I love you. I’m going to the gym. Every compliment. Every criticism. Every apology. Any reference to the future. Any reference to the past. What do they mean? What did they mean? Do they mean anything? Obviously I missed the message before and I don’t want to miss it again. Every word becomes a riddle.

It is painful to feel forced to live as a constant skeptic in one’s own house for the purpose of self-protection. This is the marital equivalent of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). When language is stripped of meaning, then the currency of relationships has its value removed. We can exchange words, but it doesn’t feel like any transaction is occurring.

Makes Trust Seem Naïve

Home is no longer “safe” for the reasons discussed above, and when home is not safe (a place of rest and replenishing) then the whole world feel more threatening. We begin to believe that only pain and bad news can be true. If I get good news and believe it, I am just being naïve like I was before.

This is the pain of lies. We don’t lie to make things sound worse than they are. So when lies have jolted our world, we begin to believe that everything is worse than we have been told. Common sense is something we gain on the other side of innocence. Now that we are “wordly wise” innocence (expressed partly as trust) it is hard to regain and often feared more than desired.

Where Do We Begin?

This picture sounds pretty bleak. It is. Hope enters a dark place when it returns after an affair. Anything that minimizes this fact gives false hope to the offender and places unwarranted pressure upon the betrayed. There is hope, but hope should not be used to minimize the damage.

So what should the offender do? These points are meant to correspond with the relational damage described above. They both assume that repentance towards God has already occurred and examining the lies and deceitful desires you bought into during the affair.

First, join your spouse where they are. You know what happened; they don’t. Do not speak with a confidence that assumes their world is as certain as yours.

Second, seek to understand their experience. Words will begin to have meaning from you understanding them not them understanding you. You should answer your spouse’s questions (with complete honesty), but trust will build from you understanding them not you giving facts to them.

Third, recognize and honor the faith and risk of trust. This honor will be expressed dispositionally through patience, refraining from self-pity, and not getting defensive. Your spouse will likely be repetitive as they put their story back together (like someone who is grieving). This process is the building of trust and you honor it by not making them walk it alone. You are receiving grace from one who bleeds as they give it. Honor the Jesus you see in them.

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

Lightning McQueen, Doc Hudson, & Psalm 119:11

You can guess the age of my children by the title of this post.  You may remember the scene I’m about to paraphrase.  McQueen lost a race (and the chance to get out of town) to the old, run-down Doc Hudson because he kept sliding out of the turn on the small town dirt track.

Later McQueen has enough humility to ask Doc how to make a fast-speed turn on a dirt track.  Doc replies, “Turn right to go left.”  McQueen’s humility gives way to this absurd answer (again I paraphrase), “Oh sure!  Your answer is as backwards as this small town.  I guess this is backwards day.  Turn right to go left.  Say good-bye if you mean hello.  Freeze water to make it boil.  That’s great.  Sorry I asked.  Turn right to go left, Huh?!”

You might be wondering what in the world this could have to do with Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Hopefully it helps us see something significant about the place God calls us to hide His Word – that being our heart.  Too often we reduce the application of this verse to “I should memorize more Scripture.”  And we should.  Personally, I think you ought to know at least one verse for every Bible you own.

McQueen could repeat verbatim what he heard from Doc.  McQueen just didn’t believe a word of it.  It was backwards and absurd, but quoting it was no problem (it made a great punch line for a joke).

A key part of properly applying Psalm 119:11 is to meditate and practice the verse(s) we are memorizing until they become a part of how we understand our world and actually determine the values by which we live our lives.

How easy is it to memorize (and subtly mock, or at least doubt) verses like Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” or Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” or Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” or I Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain,” or insert the verse you know but have the hardest time with.

Our goal in applying Psalm 119:11 is like another scene from the Cars movie. McQueen has escaped Radiator Springs and finally made it to the big Piston Cup race (my apologies to all adults who do not currently have small children).  He is near the end of the race when his nemesis Chick Hicks bumps onto the inner track turf.  McQueen’s tires lose traction and as he skids he remembers “Turn right to go left.”  As a much humbled (and therefore wiser) car, McQueen places his life-and-bumper in reliance upon these wise words.

That is the intent of Psalm 119:11.  Not that we know the words of God’s book. But that we have so been changed by them that we cast our lives entirely upon them to avoid the ways of destruction.  When everything else in our culture would join with us in mocking the absurdity of such archaic phrases, we have forged such a bond of love and trust with their Author that doubt seems more bizarre than faith.

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