Category Archives: Counseling Related Questions

Counseling Related Questions: How Can I Overcome Disappointment with Life?

One of the unfortunate byproducts of living in a sinful, fallen world is that every person, Christian or not, experiences pain and suffering and disappointment in this life. From failed relationships to unfulfilled dreams, life can be filled with sorrow and disappointment. In fact, Jesus assured us of it: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). No one is immune.

In overcoming disappointments, it is important to keep them in perspective. Even though we cannot eliminate suffering or disappointment this side of heaven, it can become less formidable when viewed from a different vantage point. The first thing to keep in mind is this: no amount of suffering or disappointment we experience in this life can ever undo what God has done for us in Christ. Apart from Scripture, it is very difficult to have a proper perspective on suffering and disappointment, and these things will rarely make sense to those unacquainted with God’s Word. Neither psychology nor philosophy can offer a sufficient explanation for it. No social science can work restoration on the soul; only God can do this (Psalm 23:3). The truth is, our trials and disappointments, though we may not like them, do serve a purpose. It is through trials that we learn patience and humility, endurance and trust—virtues that strengthen us and develop godly character.

Also, it is during the difficult times that we learn to rely on God and experience firsthand the absolute trustworthiness of His Word. We also learn the truth of what Paul taught: God’s power is at its strongest when we are at our weakest (2 Corinthians 12:9). As A. W. Tozer observed, “If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded.”

It is important that our perspective includes eternity. Our time on earth is an incalculably small fraction of our eternal journey. Consider the apostle Paul and the persecution he was subjected to while spreading the gospel. Although his litany of suffering seems unbearable by any measure, he amazingly referred to his hardships as “light and momentary troubles.” This is because he focused on the “eternal glory” that far outweighed any earthly disappointments he experienced (2 Corinthians 4:17; see also Romans 8:18). We can do this, he said, when we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but rather on what is unseen, our heavenly home (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It is faith that allows us to see the unseen. That’s why faith is such an indispensable element of the Christian life. Scripture teaches that we live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We know that, as followers of Christ, we will experience disappointment and endure trials where our faith is indeed put to the test. And the apostle James tells us we should “consider it pure joy” when we face these trials, as this is how our faith strengthens and we mature as Christians (James 1:2–4).

Now, even though disappointments plague us until our final heartbeat, we can minimize them by understanding and applying the principle of reaping and sowing found throughout the Bible. “He who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18), whereas “he who sows wickedness reaps trouble” (Proverbs 22:8). When we faithfully live in accordance with God’s perfect Word, we forgo bringing unnecessary troubles and disappointments into our lives in the first place. As the psalmist declared, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word” (Psalm 119:9).

It also helps to remember the absolute sovereignty of God. Everything occurs either by His prescription or permission and in perfect accordance with His sovereign purposes and unfathomable ways (Romans 11:33). Prayer is the ultimate acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. In the midst of our trial and disappointments, prayer gives us strength. It did for Moses (Exodus 32:11; Numbers 14:13; 20:6), David (Psalm 55:16–17), and Daniel (Daniel 6:10; 9:20–23). And before our Savior took on the sins of the world, He spent His final night in prayer (Matthew 27:36–44; John 17). Now He invites the “weary and burdened” to come to Him, and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

Being a child of God means we are never alone in our trials (Hebrews 13:5). God gives us the strength and grace we need to endure any circumstance and to overcome any disappointment (Philippians 4:13; Psalm 68:35). His peace will guard our hearts when we look to Him (Philippians 4:6–7). As Maurice Roberts stated, “The degree of a Christian’s peace of mind depends upon his spiritual ability to interpose the thought of God between himself and his anxiety.” If we keep our mind on God, nothing can steal our peace.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: What Are Boundaries, and Are They Biblical?

A boundary is a “dividing line.” In geography, a boundary is that which marks the end of one property or jurisdiction and the beginning of another. In interpersonal relationships, a boundary is what divides one person from another, so that each can have separate identities, responsibilities, and privileges. A boundary creates necessary “space” between individuals. Healthy boundaries define expectations and show respect for others.

Biblically speaking, boundaries are related to self-control. The Bible commands us to control ourselves, whereas our human nature desires to control others (Titus 2:12). If left unchecked, our natural desires run roughshod over others. Personal boundaries help to limit our selfish inclination to control or manipulate others. Likewise, boundaries protect us from those who have no self-control and who wish to control us. A person with clear, healthy boundaries communicates to others what is and is not permissible, saying, in effect, “This is my jurisdiction, and you have no right to interfere.”

Boundaries can be used in healthy ways and sinful ways. The way to know which boundaries are godly is to examine the motive. Are you protecting yourself or someone weaker from potential harm, either emotional or physical? If so, then you are setting healthy and needful boundaries. However, if you are maintaining distance simply because you desire to exclude someone, that is sinful. Boundaries that maintain cliques or prohibit ministry opportunities are unhelpful.

Proper boundaries aid believers in keeping out worldly influences. Children of the light have no fellowship with darkness and are thus separate from the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). Being kind and friendly is Christ-like, but we are not to embrace the world’s way of doing things (James 4:4). Our wish is not to keep people away, but when people are being destructive, the boundaries we set can limit the evil they commit against us.

Boundaries are about taking responsibility for our own lives. God gives us freedom to choose to live within His boundaries or outside of them, and to live outside of God’s boundaries means to accept the consequences. Living inside God’s boundaries brings blessing, and living outside of them brings destruction and death (Romans 6:23). Adam and Eve had had one boundary in the Garden of Eden: abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord gave them freedom to remain within His bounds, but they chose to overstep the boundary and sin. Their response to God’s revelation of their sin was to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for their lack of self-control. Eve blamed Satan, and Adam blamed Eve (Genesis 3:12–13). Boundaries limit destructive behaviors, and that is why both God and society have laws and consequences for those who overstep those laws (Romans 13:1–4).

A healthy marriage requires boundaries. Marital boundaries keep sex and intimacy within the relationship while respecting each person’s needs. Violating these boundaries will quickly destroy trust.

Boundaries are also helpful in parenting. Setting healthy limits for children will protect them (Proverbs 22:6). Unhealthy boundaries tend to be controlling and selfishly motivated. Boundaries should guide a child to individuate into the person God created him or her to be. Boundaries allow children to develop an identity separate from their parents within the safety of their family. Without an identity, people “vanish” into other people or expect them not to have any differences.

Children often feel boundaries are “mean” when they are immature. When they grow up, they usually realize the boundaries were to keep them safe. Adults who were raised without protective boundaries often feel that someone saying “no” to them is “mean,” because they never learned self-control. Naturally, when children do not get what they want, they are disappointed, but learning to accept “no” from others is essential to godly character; however, setting boundaries with children must be done in loving ways in order for the child to feel loved (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4). The Lord’s instruction for parents is that they teach a child boundaries (Proverbs 19:18). Boundaries help a child see that life is not about pursuing what he wants but surrendering to the Lord and following Him. Boundaries set with unconditional love will teach children to surrender to the Lord because they trust God knows what is best and will bring true contentment.

Learning boundaries as a child is important. It is more difficult to learn boundaries later in life. Children will not grow up to respect God’s boundaries if they do not learn boundaries in their home. Modeling is necessary; parents cannot teach boundaries and not abide by them themselves.

A person with healthy boundaries takes responsibility for his own life and allows others to live theirs. The goal of boundaries is to make sacrifices for people when appropriate, but never in a destructive manner. We should be available for people in a crisis, but unavailable to indulgent demands. Being gracious is not a blank check for others to continually drain our emotional account. Saying “yes” out of fear of rejection is really a selfish motive for being kind. Being kind in order to gain someone’s favor smacks of hypocrisy and shows a need for boundaries. Fear of man’s approval can lead to codependency, the unhealthy alternative to interdependency.

Boundaries teach us to accept one another as being different yet still valuable. God uses boundaries to help us appreciate the differences in people rather than be upset by them. A godly friend tells us what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear (Proverbs 27:6). We are free to be ourselves with others if we control ourselves. Boundaries are not selfish when we use our freedom to serve and love one another because we are keeping our own flesh under control (Galatians 5:13). In a godly relationship, both people are free to love each other and to be themselves because neither is using or manipulating the other.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so it is not something unbelievers can achieve (Galatians 5:22–23). A believer who sees his need for self-control so he can take responsibility for his own actions and not encroach on others will seek the Lord’s help for growth in this character trait. Boundaries are a fruit of submitting to God’s will, and He will enable us to make godly choices.

Being Christ-like means we can say “no” in unselfish, helpful ways. Sometimes, love requires us to say “no” to those we love. For example, if a family member is abusing alcohol at a family gathering, then it is Christ-like to tell him not to do so. A proper boundary has then been set. If the response is to get angry, leave, and never come back, then that person simply was not able to respect the boundary. It is not sinful to say “no” to someone if he is crossing personal boundaries in harmful and destructive ways. Every boy or girl on a date should have clear boundaries that must not be crossed.

Boundaries can be difficult to establish because saying “no” may have been off limits or mistakenly taught as being ungodly. God says to tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). God tells us to humbly control ourselves, lovingly confront sin, graciously accept others, and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Plus, He promises wisdom in every circumstance (James 1:5).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Insecurity?

To be insecure is to lack confidence or trust, whether in ourselves or someone else. There are many causes of insecurity, but chief among them is our failure to fully trust God (Jeremiah 17:7–8). As believers, we have this assurance: “And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10; also see Deuteronomy 31:8; Lamentations 3:57). If we know God is with us, why do we still experience feelings of insecurity, doubts, and fears? Why does God seem so far away?

In Satan’s arsenal, one of his biggest weapons is doubt. Satan loves for us to question who we are and how we measure up to others (Ephesians 2:1–2; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Samuel 16:7). He wants us to feel insecure over the meaning and purpose of our lives, where we’re going, and how we’ll get there.

Another cause of feelings of insecurity is reliance on wealth and possessions instead of God. The world encourages us to strive to be “number one” and promotes the adage “he with the most toys wins.” If we don’t have the latest iPhone, fastest car, biggest house, or largest paycheck, we are failures. Yet the Bible teaches us not to set our hopes on earthly riches but on God: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, emphasis added; see also Mark 10:23–25; Luke 12:16–21). Riches, being uncertain, will certainly bring insecurity to those who trust in them.

Many times, insecurity takes the form of worry about the future. Jesus was empathic when He said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.…” (Matthew 6:31–34). Worrisome fears about the future are rooted in a doubt of God’s provision. This breeds strong feelings of insecurity and a lack of peace, resulting in fear and depression. When we doubt God, Satan wins (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:8).

Insecurity may also result from being preoccupied with the things of the world: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Security is not to be found in this world’s people, things, or institutions, including government institutions. Some people become obsessed with having the right leaders in government, the right laws, and the right policies. When the government is in the wrong hands, they contend, the nation is doomed. However, the Bible teaches us that God is in control and His sovereignty extends to governmental leaders (Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 2:21). While we should practice good citizenship and vote our conscience, we must also recognize that government policy cannot save us. Only God can do that (Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 143:6; Jeremiah 17:5–6).

Others place their trust in their pastor or other church leaders. However, men can and will let us down. Only Christ is the sure foundation. “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’ ” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus is the solid rock and our only hope of security (Matthew 7:24).

Often, the reason for our insecurities is an undue preoccupation with our own selves, an “it’s all about me” mentality. The Bible warns us about self-absorption and pride (Romans 12:3). God’s work will be done “ ‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

True security comes when you recognize that “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When struggling with feelings of insecurity, never forget God’s promise: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.