7 ways to overcome discouragement

7 Ways to Overcome Discouragement

Normally I am an upbeat, happy-go-lucky, very positive person. But this past holiday season, I battled discouragement something fierce.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced times like these where you felt like you just couldn’t shake that feeling. That icky, I don’t feel like myself, but I don’t know why feeling?

In my case, it made me want to start isolating myself; steering clear of social gatherings. I wanted off social media because watching everyone’s life was only making matters worse. All the while I was praying, reading my Bible, and attending church. But, nothing I was seemed to do could shake off how I was feeling. I was stuck in a battle with discouragement and I could not fight my way out.

It was frustrating. Lonely. And emotionally draining.

So what happened? How did I overcome this overwhelming feeling of discouragement to start being able to be engaged in the world again?

Here are the seven ways I overcame discouragement:

  1. Tell someone. First of all, I took a leap of faith and confessed my emotional state to someone I trusted.
  2. Let them share the truth. Sharing how I felt with someone else allowed that individual to speak truth to my situation. As I shared my fears they reminded me my emotions do not determine my actions, nor do they always align with God’s truth.
  3. Encourage your faith. That, in turn, encouraged me in my faith in a God who was bigger than my circumstances in the moment.  In recognizing, God was able to overcome my situation, regardless of my emotional state, it led me to number 4.
  4. Make gratitude a habit. Discouragement is the exact opposite of encouragement. I knew God had done a lot in the last year, I journal about it all the time. However, when I started keeping a gratitude journal it helped me keep the highlights rather than making me dig. I have praise reports accessible and easy to access for the days that aren’t as rosy as others.
  5. Speak God’s Word over your circumstance. The Bible says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21, KJV). As I read God’s Word and found promises of who I was or what He was capable of doing, I started speaking God’s Word over me and it caused me to believe God despite my current emotional state.
  6. Let them pray. A huge turning point for me was when I made a confession of my struggle to my team at work. Once I shared how I had been battling this for some time, and what felt like a very lonely place, they surrounded me and prayed over me. I believe God responded to my humility and brokenness with His love for me through the prayers of His people.
  7. Learn who God is. I decided at the end of the year to embark on reading the entire Bible in 2018. I have never accomplished this before nor is it a goal I usually set. I like to consume slowly and leisurely rather than for the sake of hitting markers. However, I decided if I was going to take this one it was going to be for one reason, to know God more. When I started reading the Bible to get to know God, my emotional state changed. The way I approached my day and the people around me shifted. I was no longer consumed with thoughts about me, but rather consumed with God.

So there you have it: Seven ways I overcame the battle with discouragement and you can too.

Overcome the battle with discouragement with these 7 tips. #hope

What do you think? Do any of those ways help you in your struggle? Comment below to share which one(s) help you the most.

Check out my last few blog posts:

Why I am A Professed Approval Addict

Hope: How Badly Do You Want it

Want to get updates on when my book, Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction (Worthy Publishing, 2018), will be released? Subscribe to my email list.

How to be Patient when you are Impatient

“I never pray for patience,” my husband said matter-of-factly. “For I know if I do, I am going to end up in a traffic jam.”

There is a bit of truth to that statement. I have the feeling, it sums up how many of us feel about the idea of learning patience.

The reality is,

there is only one way to learn patience: having times where you have no other choice but to wait.

And the risk we take is actually admitting we are impatient. I sure don’t like admitting that to anyone, at least not out loud.

Well, here lately, I have been having those “traffic jam” moments. Not just one. But, quite a few of them. Which has caused me to realize that God has been trying to teach me something.

LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE

In the last year, I have embarked on something new to me. I have entered into the world of traditional book publishing.

For years, God has been working on my heart, redeeming my past, and challenging my point of view to help me see how He has gifted me to write. This blog, in fact, became a part of my leap of faith in getting started with a public writing ministry again.

But God, was patient with me in my scooting around His truth, and after a few months of blogging, reminded me how He had laid on my heart to write a book about overcoming the addiction to approval, not start a blog as I had done.

And so I went, rooting out my old book proposal from years ago, reading it again and coming to the realization that it was actually quite good. Which was a totally surprise me.

And so I decided I needed to obey God to obtain an agent to get my book published.

Now in theory, that sounds wonderful. But, in practicality it is a whole different story. You see in the publishing world things can move at a snails pace. A book that you get sold now may not be actually published until two years from now.

But for the sake of my example, and how God taught me how to be patient when I am being impatient, allow me just a moment to share with you how this long, tedious process works.

First you need to send an email to an agent to query them on your book idea. Different agents have different submission guidelines but most of the time they either want an entire book proposal or the first few pages of your book. You can choose to do snail mail if you still live in the dark ages, but really an email works just fine.

Wait.

4-6 weeks later, get an email back that will indicate their interest. Check your email incessantly day after day, hoping, no, WILLING, an email to come back from said agent, all the while being slightly fearful of what their email might say.

Receive email. Hallelujah!!! Hear angels singing, scream at the top of your lungs. (Oh wait, maybe that was just me.) Decide if I you should open email with friends or alone where no one can read the rejection with you.

You will know almost immediately whether or not they are interested. Agents are also writers, and they typically get to the point. Why dilly-dally.

Honestly, I think this process is to really train you for the long haul. I mean, it’s like becoming a runner. You don’t do a marathon before you run a 5k. In the book-publishing world, you need to be ready for the marathon; this is training for the long, hard race.

Back in January was when this all began. It took three different email inquiries to find an agent who showed interested. Hallelujah! I may or may not have screamed out loud in my office by myself, with no one around to say whether or not it happened. I plead the 5th.

But, because I am an unpublished author, the agent requested I write the manuscript before he’d consider signing me. Sigh. Hey if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Wait again. This time you are working frantically while you wait, because now you must produce the very thing you said you could. But nonetheless, it feels like a long drawn out wait because you won’t get an answer on representation until the manuscript is done.

And I don’t know about you, but I can’t produce a 50,000-60,000 word manuscript to perfection overnight.

Now fast forward a few months. Writing. Living. Writing some more.

During that time I decide I am going to attend a writer’s conference where I can pitch my idea to other agents (it’s a free market) and editors from various publishing houses. While also making contacts, learning how to write better and eventually market said book.

Good news! Conference went really well and had lots of interest.

Get home from conference to follow up with everyone I met with to send book proposals and thank you notes.

Email. Email. Email some more. And wait.

A few were quick to return responses within a week.

However, others, well, that is where the waiting patiently muscle has to be flexed.

Week, after week, after week, after week…nothing.

So now it’s been 9 months since I first started sending out the book proposal to agents and I have not signed with an agent, yet still have three I am waiting on response from. And an email inbox just waiting to receive their email.

Sigh. If only we could will an answer.

Oh and prayer? Yes, ma’am, pretty please, and believe me you there has been a lot of that going on.

DO THE OPPOSITE OF PATIENT

But these past few weeks I started to realize something about myself. I no longer having an internal struggle of impatience; it started erupting out of every part of me.

My arms would start flailing as I passionately expressed my challenges with this industry and process. My voice would get louder. I sometimes sounded, angry. Angry? Where did that come from? I mean, the view from the outside may be that of a child, throwing a fit.

Not me! I wouldn’t do that. Sigh. Blush. But I did. Oh yes I did.

So this week I reflected on the feelings being expressed during the wait. First of, I recognized how irritated I had become. Even offended, at times. It didn’t help that I compared their lack of response to other agents I was communicating with recently. Then there was the moaning, complaining and then my moments of venting annoyance.

And here is what the Holy Spirit, in my seeking said to me. Okay, really the Holy Spirit did not speak in an audible voice from heaven. It actually came from a colleague…but oh I knew it was Him as soon as she said it.

Here is what she said, “Do you not trust the Lord to supply the right agent at the right time. I mean, He got you this far. He’s not going to let you down now.”

Ouch. Anyone else have a friend like that? Man are they annoying.

But truly, we all need friends like these who listen to the Lord and are not afraid to share a fresh word of truth to us.

She was right. God was right. I was not trusting. My response was immature and completely impatient.

SURRENDER AND TRUST

The Lord’s intent was to teach me patience, however, I did the exact opposite.

But I learned an important lesson in this and maybe it will help you too.

The only way to learn patience when you are impatient is: surrender control and trust the Lord.
It’s doing the exact opposite of the thing you are doing. You see, I was playing tug-o-war with the Lord. I am a Bible-believing Christian. I do my quiet times in the morning. I spend time praying throughout the day.

Many times I would say to myself “I trust you Lord. Whatever you want Lord, I trust you.”

But I was taking it back. Every time I asked the question, why haven’t I heard yet? Every time I wondered if they had forgotten about me. When someone would ask how the process was going, it felt like salt in the wound, I wanted to be able to say I had an agent, a book contract the whole shebang.

You and I may believe God’s timing is perfect, but are we really surrendering our plans, our dreams, and our goals to allow Him to work them out in His timing. Or are we playing tug-of-war with our emotions, when the reality is we really aren’t in control.

So here is what I did. Maybe it is what you need to do too.

I went home. I picked up my laptop computer and I placed it in my hands. I literally lifted it off the table. You see, most days my hands are typing on the keyboard, holding it into place, keeping it under my control. But that night, I gave it all over to the Lord.

I repeated what Job said after he lost everything, “The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

His timing is perfect. His plan is already in place. Do you trust Him?

The only way you are ever going to be able to show patience in the midst of impatience is if you surrender it all and trust Him to do the work He is more than capable of doing. Let Him be your advocate. And lay the rope down.

What are you struggling with right now that is making you extremely impatient? Is there something that represents what are you are struggling with that you can use as you surrender and trust the Lord?

Uncomfortable: One Family’s Story of Reconciliation

Leslie never imagined her life would turn out that way.

Addicted to drugs.

Estranged from her family.

Selling everything she had to eat and to use.

She never imagined a day when the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would take her 3-year-old son, Garrett away from her.

But it happened.

A few weeks ago we discussed how there are times in our lives we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to receive a blessing. We used a story from 1 Kings of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. You can read that post here.

At the time Garrett was taken from Leslie, her addiction got worse, not better. Having her son removed from her custody only increased her drug use rather than her wake up call, her rock bottom.

“The day they took Garrett from me, I remember throwing a fit on my porch,” Leslie shared. I slammed my head against the pillar, kicked the table, and slammed the door going into my house.”

By this time Leslie had so much anger, hurt, and unforgiveness deeply rooted in her heart, the only way she knew to cope with the pain was by acting out.

She was already distant from God. She distanced herself further from healthy, safe people, and sunk deeper into addiction.

For Leslie it wasn’t an “ah-a” God moment that turned her life around. In fact, the thing God used to get Leslie’s attention was fear. And let’s face it, fear can feel really uncomfortable.

“ I was sworn into Drug Court, in lieu of going to prison. I had to spend the next twelve months going to court a few times a month, going to the Intensive Outpatient Program three days a week for three hours a day, and consistently test negative for drug use,” Leslie explained.

“Knowing that if I relapsed or didn’t follow through I could be sent off to prison got me moving forward in the right direction.”

For Leslie, she had to learn how to surrender to God in the uncomfortable.

And in doing so she learned how to forgive, how to submit to authority, and how to exhibit patience when all she wanted to do was run.

How about you?

Are you in a place where you feel stuck?

Perhaps you feel like you are spinning around in a destructive cycle and can’t seem to figure a way out.

What if God is allowing these circumstances right now for you to feel uncomfortable so that ultimately He can bless you with His spiritual blessings?

What can you do while you are in this very uncomfortable place?

  1. Surrender to God. I love what Peter says in Mark 10:28, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” That’s the sum of it. Leave whatever it is you are clinging to: control, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, unbelief and surrender it to God.
  2. Embrace the discomfort. As hard as those words are to read, and even harder to do, embracing the season your in is so much easier than fighting against it. When you embrace your discomfort, it can become your companion rather than your enemy.
  3. Wait on the blessing. “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18 Your blessing is coming, God promises it. But you are going to have to choose daily to wait on Him to bring that blessing in His timing.

garrett and leslie

Garret is now 9 years old and has been back living with his Mom for over five years now. God allowed this season of discomfort in Leslie’s life to help her find freedom from addiction, forgiveness, and hope.

Leslie is no different than you and I. God will is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20, NIV), when we choose to surrender to the uncomfortable.

How do you feel when you are uncomfortable? Does it bring you comfort to hear stories of how God can provide blessing in the midst of discomfort?

Feeling Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

I cannot stand being uncomfortable.

I don’t like being too hot. I can’t stand it when I am so cold I am shivering.  New places can stretch me when I don’t know anyone because I feel awkward, shy, and vulnerable.

It’s the worst.

But sometimes being uncomfortable can be good for us. In fact, I’ve learned coupling the uncomfortable with obedience to God and found it’s the perfect intersection for God to produce a blessing.

Allow me a moment to tell you a story about a prophet and a woman. You can find these stories in 2 Kings 4:8-37, 8:1-6 .

There was a prophet in Israel named Elisha. He was known to be a man of God who did whatever God told him to do. A well off Shunammite woman (they never mention her name) and her husband, host him at their home for several meals, and then decided to offer him a place to stay. She redid a room in her home specifically for him. Elisha was very touched by the woman and asked if he could bless her for her goodness to him. She waved off his request and told him, she basically had all she needed. Elisha asks his servant to find out how he can bless her and his servant lets him know she wishes to have a son, even though her husband is old. But that is exactly what Elisha does. He tells her she will have a son, by this time next year. (v.16) She objects to his words and gets angry that he would even suggest such a thing.

Nine months later, she gives birth to a son. All is well until the son gets sick and dies in the father’s arms. They lay the son in a bed and she goes to get Elisha, to demand he do something about it, as he had promised her a son. She was quite upset Elisha’s promise did not come with a life-long guarantee. Long story short, (too late) he returns prays, asks God to revive her son, lays on top of him 3 times (okay, lets all admit that is a bit weird), and he lives.

But that is just the back-story. However, you needed to know that part to get to this part.

Years later there is a famine in the land. Elisha returns to warn her and tell her to move. And so, she does. She moves her family to a far off land for 7 years while her people go through the famine. When she is told it is time to return she does so and goes to the king to retrieve her land back. When she returned the King assigns her an official to assist and he blesses her by returning her home and land back to her.

Now if you are starting to scratch your head and think, “Dawn, you have lost it! What does any of this have to do with being uncomfortable?” Stick with me and we’ll get there in a moment.

Check out what this no named, only described by her ethnicity, woman does as we began our story. She opens up her home to a prophet. She does not know him; not really. She and her husband only had a few meals with him. But then she takes her hospitality a step further by setting up a room for him and giving it to him for as long as he needs it.

Is there anything in that scenario that makes you feel uncomfortable? Um…yeah!

Now I am not suggesting to you to bring strange men into your home, but it does beckon us to wonder, if her faithfulness in the uncomfortable here did not bring her the blessing later?

What we must remind ourselves of when we read these stories from the Bible is that the people who were living them out never knew what their outcomes would be. Our Shunammite friend had no idea she was going to receive the blessing of a child, one she never thought she could ever have…in fact, she was so sure of it that she couldn’t even dare to ask for fear for fear of his answer being “No.”

Can you relate to that? Can you relate to the desire of wanting something so bad and for so long you don’t even dare mention it anymore because it brings up all those feelings? All those emotions you may not be able to control should someone mention that “something”? That one thing you can’t have?

I get the sense that is exactly where our Shunammite woman was in this story. Willing to serve her God anyway she could, even to the point of making her home a refuge for a strange, man of God. Even if it meant getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.BluewithWhite Become uncomfortable emotionally

She was willing to become that uncomfortable in the physical…but God wanted to take her a bit further to become uncomfortable emotionally and spiritually with Him.

And when she obeyed look at what it yielded her—blessing—and in the form of a son, an heir, a first-born who not only carries on the name of the family but now will also carry on the testimony of faith in a God who moves us into the uncomfortable.

Then, when she was told to move away for seven years, in the face of famine, she had already learned the blessing of obedience, even when it is uncomfortable. In her case even if it meant moving her family away temporarily to the land of the Philistines. (2 Kings 8:1) In case the name Philistine isn’t familiar to you, the Philistines were the ones the Israelites battled in the famous story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a Philistine.

It doesn’t say why they chose to move to the land of their sworn enemy, but they did.

And God blessed them.

He blessed them with the return of their land and a king who honored them as his people by paying back all that they had lost. You see he did not have to do that. He did not have to return any of it to them. But it just so happens that the king was talking just that day to Elisha’s servant and he was telling him the story about a Shunammite woman whose son was brought back to life by Elisha.

And in walks the woman, seeking her land back.

“Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.” (2 Kings 8:3-6)

And just like that God does yet another miracle in her life. Out of an act of obedience, and an uncomfortable one at that.

I don’t love becoming uncomfortable. But I have learned over time through a seven hour move from Ohio, a house that wouldn’t sell up north for seven years, surgeries that have permanently disabled parts of my body, unemployment, and chronic health issues that regardless of how uncomfortable I am, if I am willing to obey God, I will see blessings. I have learned to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Because I know the blessing will come…sometimes financial, but more often spiritual blessings like new gained freedom, joy that surpasses understanding, learning mercy instead of justice, and being used to steward a vision bigger than I could have dreamed on my own.

Seek God, while you are uncomfortable. You just never know, when He’ll use it for your blessing.

What about you? Can you relate to the Shunammite woman in your desires? Have you seen times your willingness to be uncomfortable made it possible to see the blessing?

Want to hear more of Leslie’s story? Listen to her podcast. 

Share below and let’s talk more about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

I have been struggling lately. Watching our country destroy itself is never easy to do, especially when you are sitting on the sidelines wishing the whole country would just stop.

If I am honest, a good part of me wants to just stay in my little bubble here in the South and not engage with what is going on with the rest of the world. I want to shut down my Facebook, skip the news, and not talk politics or current news with anyone around me. It feels so much easier to just put it off, than to deal with the strife that is going on right now.

Why?

I feel powerless. I feel powerless to stop people from raging against each other. I feel powerless to be able to speak into the hate. I feel powerless to close the divide.

And the truth is, in and of my own self, I am powerless. Trying to get my voice heard in all this noise is ridiculous.

But there is One voice that can be heard above all of this and it is His voice I want to turn our ears to today. Because when we don’t know what to do, when we don’t know how to respond, and when we feel powerless to affect change, we must turn to the One who knows the Truth and is in full control, regardless of the mess we see around us.

Nehemiah, a prophet in the Old Testament did just that. In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah’s brother and friends visited him to tell Nehemiah that the city he loved, Jerusalem, was still in rubble and the people have not been able to rebuild it.

His response?

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4)

Sure Nehemiah’s first response to what probably felt like a punch in the guy was to sit down and cry. Isn’t that how most of us feel right now about what is going on in this world. We want to just sit down and cry?

But it doesn’t stop there. It says he mourned, he fasted, and he prayed.

What do we do when we see the injustices around us? Do we do as Nehemiah did becoming heartbroken over the state of our communities, mourning, fasting, praying?

No, I think if we are honest with ourselves, we do something more like this: complain, tell our friends what we think, post our opinions on social media, and then check out because it feels so big and we feel powerless to do anything about it. And the world doesn’t change and we become more frustrated, less engaged, and less willing to be apart of the solution.

However, I think we can learn a lot from Nehemiah and his response to the brokenness he saw around him.

Mourn
What does it look like to biblical mourn? Because we know from Nehemiah’s contemporaries, more than likely, Nehemiah ripped his clothes and cried aloud. What about you? Is your heart broken over what is happening to our nation? Our community? Are you concerned over the division? The strife? How are you responding to the news stories we are hearing all over the nation of people rebelling in the streets and burning flags? With anger and aggression? Or have you checked out and become passive, almost numb to it? Nehemiah’s response was so much of the heart of God. It’s exactly what I believe God is experiencing today. Remember we are created in his image ( Genesis 1:27). All of us. Male. Female. White. Black and Brown. Poor. Rich. Inner city and rural. Republican and Democrat. And every thing in between. He created us and as our created it grieves Him to see us destroy each other.

Have you become numb to the stories? Ask God to break your heart for the things that break his. And when He does, then you can do the next step.

Fast
For Nehemiah this more than likely meant going without any food and/or water and through the scripture we can see that it says, “For some days.” Though we have no idea exactly how many. So what about you? Do you fast? Have you ever fasted? Would you be willing to sacrifice physical provisions for your body to see true change come about in our country? Our cities? Our communities? What are you willing to give up to see God move?

Again, I ask you to seek God for your fast. Do you stop reading social media to focus on Him, do you abstain from food or drink?

Pray
Let’s face it. To the issues of this world…we don’t have control. We don’t even really have answers. It may even feel like to you there are no true solutions. But God sees things from a whole different perspective than us. Our prayers can be used by God to give us wisdom to know how to pray. From what we can read in the scripture, it seems as if that is exactly what happened to Nehemiah. His need for God to do something, which he exhibited in his mourning and fasting, led him to be more in tuned with the heart of God so that he could know how to pray.

After he did these things it then shares with us his prayer. His prayer of adoration (Neh 1:5-6a), repentance (Neh 1:6b-7), recalling scriptural truth (Neh1: 8-9), and making his request known (Neh 1:10-11).

And then when it was all done, Nehemiah waited.

Let me say it again, when we don’t know what to do we can learn from Nehemiah and his response to the brokenness around him.

Nehemiah knew he too was powerless.

He had no idea what he was going to do when he first received the news. He didn’t know whether or not God would do anything at all, after all it was the rebelliousness of his people that put them into captivity and destroyed their city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah didn’t know if God would use him in the solution. All he knew was that he was heartbroken over what had become of the city that he loved.

Nehemiah didn’t try to get ahead of God’s timeline, he waited patiently for Him to open the door. And about 4 months later the door opened and the King did something, unheard of. He allowed his cupbearer (Nehemiah)a leave of absence, fully equipped with all the resources he would need, along with some man power, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city.

So I ask you today.

Are you heartbroken over your nation?
Your state?
Your community?

Would you be willing to mourn over what is not, fast on behalf of the wrong , pray for what could be, and be willing to wait patiently for the response?

It is in this response we can recognize that we truly have no power to do the things needed to systematically change the brokenness that now divides our country. However, in yielding to God and His plan we can use His power to make a difference in the world around us.

Mourn. Fast. Pray. Wait. It worked for Nehemiah when he didn’t know what to do.

It can also work for you.

9 Ways to Love an Addict Even When It Hurts

Trying to love someone in active addiction is hard. Frustrating. It can be downright heart-wrenching.

In fact, apart from God, it is impossible. 

Because here’s the deal, the person you once knew (the sober person) they are gone. You are dealing with someone completely different. Someone who has now decided to partner with darkness and who is in bondage to an ugly, flesh-eating, family-destroying, brain deteriorating drug. That drug has now consumed them, every bit of them: mind, body, and soul. The only thing they now care about is getting their next high, their next fix, their next drunken stupor and who you are and what you meant to them no longer matters.

Trying to love someone in addiction feels about the same as picking a rose from a bush. You know there is beauty at the end of it, but your going to have to go through a whole lot of pain to get there.

As we discussed in last week’s post, you need to be emotionally and spiritually healthy…full of compassion, love, and forgiveness if you are going to have a chance at loving them well. The only way to do that is through the Spirit of God, because it is God who taught us to love in the first place.we-love-because-he-first-loved-usIn Galatians 5, Paul is sharing with the church in Galatia about their freedom and how through their freedom they can either choose to walk by the Spirit or by their flesh. In 5:13 14 he says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What does it mean to live by the flesh?

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Now before we start judging those around us let’s take a look at some of these that related to us loving our neighbors in addiction. Last week we talked about forgiveness because we were angry at the people who are in addiction…that can easily be also viewed as hatred, discord, fits of rage, dissensions, or factions. We also may had to confess our anger with God for what has happened. When we put up anything before our worship of God, we are in the sin of idolatry. Idolizing “little gods” that we put in the place of our Almighty God is truly not hard to do. I know this because I do it. It is also why God made sure to make it second of the 10 Commandments.

So now that we can see that we all fall into one of these categories of walking in the flesh .(I didn’t even get into the other ones…that is another post in and of itself, just remember there are no rankings there. Witchcraft was right next to hatred, and factions came right before drunkenness and orgies. Hello!) Let’s be reminded why it is of utmost importance to have the Spirit of God as we seek to love those in addiction.

The very next verse explains it all:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Because the fruit we need to bear is from the Spirit of God there is no way to truly love someone unless His Spirit is in us.

In the Galatians 5:22 verse, it says “fruit of the Spirit,” not fruits of the Spirit.

One of the things I love about God is He is can be very mysterious.

When we think of a fruit we think of a singular item. But when He defines “fruit of the Spirit” He multiplies it. So instead of us bearing only one kind of fruit we bear nine.

Because of this I don’t believe the fruit of the Spirit has a specific order to them, one is not greater than another, they are all equal. However, for the purposes of this post, I am going to pull them out one-by-one in a way that will help us all learn how to love our neighbors in addiction.

FIRST FRUIT: SELF-CONTROL

If you are going to love, nah, scratch that, when you are loving someone in active addiction, you are going to have to learn the word, “No.”

So, let’s start there. Repeat after me, “No.” Good, say it again. “No.” One more time like you really mean it. “No.”

Yeah! High-five! How did that feel?

In order for you to love someone in active addiction you will have to set boundaries. And the best way for you to start that is realizing you will have to say, “No.”

Boundaries are good and healthy. God sets up boundaries for us in order to help us, guide us, and set us free. It is just like how we set up boundaries for our children…go to bed by 8, up by 6, don’t eat too much sugar, save your money, don’t touch the hot stove…these are all boundaries we set for our children to help them stay healthy and not endanger themselves…right? Most of the time it’s because Mom/Dad needs rest and a sugar-high kid can drive you nuts , and who needs more Legos to step on, and the stove just hurts, right? You get me? Ok, good.

Boundaries are a form of self-control. By setting up boundaries around us, we are telling others what they can and cannot do. By saying “no” to the person who has chosen alcohol/drugs over your relationship you are communicating to them, “Your destructive choices are not going to determine how I live my life.” When we respond this way we are exhibiting self-control. And in doing so, we are also loving them. We are loving them because we are also no longer enabling them by giving into their every need. When we enable an addict, we can basically start digging thelatishaeditedir grave. The last thing an addict needs is for you to give into everything they ask for because once they know you’ll give it to them, they’ll just keep coming back. if they know you’ll give them money, they will give you every excuse in the book to get more. if you will continuously get them out of jail, not only will you chance losing everything, they’ll continue to make the same poor choices, cause they know someone will always bail them out.

You want to know why addicts continue to cycle in and out of their addiction, in and out of homelessness, in and out of jail? Enabling is a big part of that equation. Exhibiting self-control on your part can help them to hit their rock bottom. From there they can start healing. That in essences, is one of the most loving things you can do.


Enabling = death. Boundaries =life.


SECOND FRUIT: GENTLENESS

How about gentleness?

The definition of gentleness is: Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

When an addict is spinning out of control and they are angry at you and the world around them your response in gentleness can disarm them. It gives them less reason to keep responding to you in that manner. It can also restore them and keep them from continuing to sin.

Galatians 6:1 says, ” Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

And no one needs you too falling into temptation cause then things just go from bad to worse. In this case, you may not be tempted to use drugs or alcohol, but you may be tempted to get angry right back at them. You may want to use your own set of manipulative techniques to try and get them to stop using. Either way, responding with gentleness is yet another way you can show love to your neighbor in addiction.

THIRD FRUIT: PATIENCE

We live in a society of now. Of have it your way, when you want it, how you want it. And nothing will teach you patience like addiction, I can promise you that. I have driven in snowstorms that should have been a 30 minute trip that took 7 hours and honey, that is NOTHING compared to the patience you’ll need to love someone in active addiction. I can’t tell you anything more than the straight out truth…this is your reality. There are no silver bullets, there is no perfect prayer to pray, fasamberting will change you but I cannot promise it will do anything for them. The only healer I can point you to is Jesus and His timing on this is often way different than ours.

But to exhibit patience you will have to stop trying to control the person and the situation. Trying to control them may even make it worse. You have to let them go. As scary as I know that sounds you have to them let go because the only way for them to ever get clean is if they hit their rock bottom. You don’t know where that bottom is. I don’t know where that bottom is. Only God knows. We need to trust Him with their deliverance. Patience speaks love to an addict because they know loving them can be hard. But when you respond to them with patience, you are saying, “I love you even in the midst of what you are going through and being here for you is more important than what I want for you.”

FOURTH FRUIT: PEACE

Which is why you are also going to have to ask God to give you supernatural peace. A few weeks ago, I talked about how important it is to have peace and suggested how you can obtain it. But here is the gist of it…you don’t have peace because your worry, anxiety and fear are ruling you. And listen sweet Mama, I am talking to you again, with my tender eyes looking at yours, and my hand on your hand…I know why. I know why you worry. It’s because that is your baby and you still see that sweet baby insides the drug that has consumed your child.

But you must remember that sweet baby grew up and starting making their own decisions and forgot all the things you taught them. All they care about right now is them. So just as I explained in my last post that no matter who we are, we are going to have to forgive them, God and yourself, now we need to take care of our hearts and give over that anxiety, worry and fear to God.

 “Do not worry about anything but in everything with prayer and petition, give thanks to God. And the God of peace who surpasses all understanding will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Because when you are trying so hard to love someone who can no longer conceivably love you back, you need your heart guarded by the only one that can truly protect it. Can I get an Amen?

Guarding your heart with peace is yet another way to love a person in addiction because your peace overflows into their lives. When you are feeling peace, you speak peace into them, you pray peace over them, you respond to them with peace and in doing so, they will start to experience that peace and want it for their own life.

FIFTH FRUIT: FAITHFULNESS

Next up, is faithfulness. You be faithful to that person. You be faithful in prayer. And when you pray you pray for big things, believing big things knowing that you serve a God who is BIG. Ephesians 3:20 speaks so well to this…for He can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. Circle that person up in this scripture verse. You dream up who that person will become and you start speaking that over their life. You don’t focus on where they are now but rather where they will be when they are fully restored.

” For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 3:20)

I speak this to the girls we minster to in the jail whenever I get the chance to. You know why? It speaks hope. It reminds them that God already knows what their good works will be, He already prepared them. And I challenge them with this…

“Will you dare to walk in those good works you were already purposed for or will you continue in the lifestyle you are in? Will you choose to allow the devil to continue to steal, kill and destroy (as he has already done so well) or will you choose a life of abundance.”

patienceBut here’s the deal. I have said those words to hundreds of women. But only a few have actually take me up on it. The rest, I am still waiting on. Because being faithful means never giving up on them, it means loving them, even if its from a distance. Faithful means  believing God for their healing,  pursuing them letting them know you are there when they are ready, and most importantly praying for them daily.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools you have. Do not downplay its effectiveness in this situation. I have pleaded on the behalf of women who relapsed that the Lord would spare her life and if she would not get clean, that she would be placed back in jail. I would beg God to keep her from the grave.

Jail may not be the place that you would want to be, but I can promise you this, when you are stuck in addiction and spiraling out of control, it can feel like the hand of God pulling you out of your pit and saving you from destruction.

We must choose to be faithful through the Spirit as it does not come naturally to us. And as we do, we will show those in active addiction our love for them.

SIXTH FRUIT: KINDNESS

Which brings me to kindness. The Bible says, it’s by His kindness that He calls us to repentance.

Job 6:14 says,  “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. We are to show kindness as He has shown us kindness.

Our kindness, when faced with adversity, draws people to God. Cause it begs the question, “Why?” Why would you show me kindness when I have done these things to you? You cannot show kindness to someone you are angry at. You can’t show kindness to the person who frustrates you. It’s only through the Spirit that you can show kindness to those who are difficult to love. Don’t forget that Job, the author of our verse above was being mocked by his friends for the trials he was going through. This is Job’s response in the midst of that. Can you show kindness in the midst of your trial? Is there someone you can show kindness to who is trying to overcome their addiction?

SEVENTH FRUIT: GOODNESS

And we must point them to the goodness of God. If all you ever do is remind them of His wrath, His discipline, of Hell, you mind as well say your final goodbyes. They will run to the hills and they may never look back. More than anything they need to know that they have a God who loves them regardless of what they have done. One of the ways they can know that is how you show them.

stfrancisassisi

 

EIGHTH FRUIT: JOY

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, this one may be the hardest one to exhibit when you are trying to love someone in active addiction. There is absolutely nothing joyful or joy-filled about this situation for anyone involved. In fact, its the exact opposite. It can be down-right heart wrenching to watch someone you love destroy themselves. So why in the world, would I even consider using the fruit of the Spirit with this included in it to explain how we can love people in addiction?

Because you can’t love someone in active addiction in your own strength. It is absolutely physically impossible. In our own strength we will become exhausted, frustrated, angry, depressed, bitter, enraged, lonely, or just completely complacent. I have heard people say that it feels like torture to not know whether or not their loved one is alive or dead.

That is why we need to rely on God. When we do He reveals to us how we are to respond to challenges such as these.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3, NIV)

Consider it pure joy?! Really?! Why in the world would we want to consider trials, such as trying to love our neighbors in addiction, as pure joy. Has James lost his mind? I actually think James actually learned a huge spiritual secret in how to live. It’s in the next few verses we see that not only can we learn perseverance (also known as patience…I think we talked about that one already) but James says that we can also become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James knows something, we can all learn from and that is if we focus in on our situation we’ll find nothing but grief and despair. But if we look beyond it, realizing that it’s not going to change anytime soon, but instead we can change…well, then mayyoull-need-to-choose
be then there is something to this. You and I have to choose to go on, even as our neighbors stay stuck in their addictions. Even as they become more and more destructive. And with those choices, we can choose joy or we can choose sorrow or anger or defeat. But know this: your choice either way will not change their sobriety, but it will determine how you live and whether or not you are capable of truly loving them.

Consider it pure joy….because you will persevere, you will be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Including with it the ability to love.

NINTH FRUIT: LOVE

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I like to save the best things for last. And this piece of our fruit is most certainly the juiciest of all. I know, I know I am contradicting myself. But I can do that, it’s my blog. Here is the proof in the pudding. We cannot love our neighbors in addiction without the Spirit because the Spirit produces love. It’s plain as it can be.

And this love is the greek word “agape” which is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Paul could have used one of the other four versions of this word, but he chose the one that he knew spoke of the love of the Father. And that is exactly the kind of love we are to have as well.

Selfless.
Sacrificial.
Unconditional.

This means listening to them, taking time to hear their struggles and empathizing with them, offering them a shoulder to cry on, allowing them to share their hurts, apologizing even when you may not have done anything (not to encourage their behaviors but to let them know you see their pain), apologizing when you have done something.

What if you said, “I am so sorry i have been enabling you all this time, I didn’t realize how hurtful that has been for you to be able to heal and stop using. I am going to do my best to help you make your own decisions and not do things that you can do on your own.”

Loving is putting their emotions before yours, even when you are hurting. Loving is sacrificial in that you would choose to love, over choosing to judge. This does not mean sacrificing EVERYTHING you have to try and save them. Remember there is only ONE SAVIOR and His name is Jesus.

These are the nine fruit of the Spirit and it is with this fruit that we can fully, completely, selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditional love our neighbors in addiction as ourself.

Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, trying to love your neighbor in active addiction can feel like you are inflicting more pain on yourself. What do you do to self-care when loving them gets too hard?

 

 

Can Community be the Cure to Addiction?

During the last four years, I have spent most days learning how I can come alongside people who have found themselves addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Although, I had my days of partying, and fairly hard at that, by the grace of God, when He set me free of that lifestyle, I never looked back.

But because of that, I often found myself in either one of two camps of thinking: I either thought that Jesus can just heal their addiction and if the person had enough faith to believe, the need for the drugs/alcohol would be taken away or I couldn’t understand how they could get addicted in the first place.

Although I enjoyed at times going out with friends for drinks, any drug I took never really impressed me enough to want to do it everyday. In fact, when I was on the really heavy stuff after a surgery, I wanted to switch to extra strength Tylenol as quick as I could.

But God has done a few things in my life that I want to share with you today, especially to those of you who keep those in active addiction or recovery at arms length simply because you don’t understand. I too have been there, some days can still find myself there, and therefore can completely empathize with you. But because I have heard story after story of why people use drugs, read books on it, watched documentaries, and most importantly prayed and sought the Lord on it, I have a few thoughts for you and me (I’m still preaching to myself) about how we can all better respond to this growing epidemic that is leaving a line of bodies in its tracks.

Side note: To those of you who are reading this that are in active addiction (and I hope you are reading this) and those who are walking in recovery, I pray this article helps to build bridges for you to have people come along side of you. I am a cheerleader for you and with God’s grace, an advocate for you. So if I get something wrong, I hope you know it’s not intentionally, but I am always open and willing to learn. Teach me what I need to know.

Now, to those of you who, like me have looked at an addict and thought…”Why? Why would you do such a thing to your body? Why would you do this to your friends, family, loved ones? I don’t understand why?” I hope this encourages you and helps you to maybe consider seeing things from a difference perspective.

I start by saying this to you. The reason why an addict uses has nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

If you’ll stick with me, I promise you I’ll explain why that is true.

Last week, I told you in this blog post about my friend Sherry. Sherry is just one of many women in my life who are recovering from addiction. Each one of them have their own struggles to overcome. But just as I tosherry_blogld you about Sherry, I believe these people to be some of the bravest people I know. They have chosen to daily let go of a lifestyle that had a huge grip on them to follow Jesus in sobriety. They are re-inventing themselves through the identity that He has given them.

As I have walked with them, God has revealed some things about me that has helped me to relate. One is that I too am an addict. No, I’ve never needed to go to rehab for drugs or alcohol, but I have found myself addicted to other things. Years ago, I was addicted to shopping. Any chance I got, I wanted to go shopping and purchase the latest and greatest finds. I loved it. The thrill of the spending, I felt powerful being able to buy things I wanted but just like an addict the aftermath of it left me feeling ashamed, empty, and powerless.

I have learned that I am also in recovery from being an approval addict. I find myself on many occasions seeking and needing the approval of others. Though God has brought me a long way on this, I still find myself refreshing Facebook to see who “liked”, commented, or shared my post. I still check to see how many people read my blog and I still pray every time that I write only for God and not to tickle the ears of the people reading.

Over the past few years I battled with another form of addiction, sugar. There were times where I would dream about it and think about where I could get my next “sugar fix.” Sugar is cheap and easy to find, it was also easy to hide because I could purchase it, consume it, and no one would know otherwise. The evidence was easy to cover up and it didn’t alter my state for anyone to know what I had done.

I think if each of us took a moment to think about those things in our lives that we crave outside of the Word of God. Those things that we need, that we have to have, that we cannot get enough of…even things that may seem to be healthy, we’ll realize it’s not difficult for us to be addicted to something. And from these experiences I learned and hopefully you can too, empathy. Or let me say it this way, compassion.

Romans 9:15 (ESV) says, this… For he (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

What does it mean to have compassion? It means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Synonyms are pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow, feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

When you feel these things for someone it opens your heart up to them, it helps you get into their shoes, and it helps us to love them right where they are at.

To be honest with you…I don’t care which camp you come from. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that addiction is a sin, a disease, mental health issue, or genetics. God doesn’t make exceptions to the rule. We are to love regardless. Regardless of why the person has gotten caught in the addiction.

And to love people, sometimes you have to do it the same way Jesus did it for us, sacrificially. It’s easy to love someone you believe is doing everything the way you think they should. It’s not so easy when they aren’t.

John 15:13 says “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”nogreaterlove

When we have compassion on them just has our Father had compassion on us, we can love people sacrificially.

But this is where we have failed. Instead of having mercy and compassion on our sick, we condemn them. Instead of loving them we shun them. I can’t tell you how many people over the last four years I have heard tell me that a local church told them they were no longer welcome there. They were told to take their tattooed bodies somewhere else. They felt judged and not loved.

Some of you are thinking…well, maybe they felt that because of the way they were dressed, they shouldn’t have worn that to church. Or maybe, you are coming up with a rebuttal to their tattoos, or their life style or something else, but I plead with you. Please STOP. Just stop.

For some of us that way of life is foreign. It’s such an extreme from what we believe it’s hard for us to understand. Stop trying to understand it. You can’t. You’ve never been there. You don’t understand the hurt they have felt, you can’t get to a place to make it make sense. This is not compassion, it’s the complete opposite.

With compassion you respond with “I’m sorry this has happened to you.” You sit and you listen. You don’t pass judgement off of your own experiences. You listen to hear theirs. You open your heart to hear what they have to say and what may be behind what they are saying.

Because there is more to people than the mask that they put on. I cannot repeat that enough. We all have hurts, we all have wounds. We all have learned how to cope with them differently. If you listen to recovered and healing or healed addicts enough, you will hear a common thread.

“I used to cover up my pain. I used to heal the wounds in my heart. I used because I knew no other way to cope with the hurt.”

Do you hear that folks. These are our wounded. Our heartsick. Our hurting. And they need us to love them, to have compassion on them, to be in community with them.

A couple of weeks ago Crossroads, our church in Cincinnati, showed this video and it opened up my eyes to a whole new important piece in the addiction puzzle.

Take a moment to watch this.

How’s that for a wake-up call Church?  What people need is community, and a compassionate one at that.

They need a safe place to be them with all their baggage, and their hurts, and their pain. They need community who will love them, encourage them, pray with them and lift them up even when they stumble. If I have learned anything from my addicted friends it is this…they will relapse. And sometimes when you absolutely least expect it. For sometimes no reason at all. It can be frustrating and challenging.But we need to be like the father of the Prodigal Son. We need to have our arms wide open waitingon them to come home.

what-people-need-is-community-and-a-compassionate-one-at-that

Now, I know that there are some of you arguing all of this as you read because your thinking…I did that. I did that and they overdosed. I did that and they are still using. I did that and all I got was hurt.

Please hear me on this, I get it. I didn’t say this was easy. But I want to say this as gently and as lovingly as I can (because I know some of you are sweet Mamas who have lost their loved ones or may feel like you are going to)… right now you can’t love them the way they need to be loved. Right now, you need healing. You are hurting.

And in that scenario, “Hurt people only hurt people.”

You will do more damage than you will do good because you are angry. What you want them to do, they did not do. You are angry at them. You may even be angry at God. You could even be angry at you.

This brings me to the point I was making above, the reason why they use has nothing to do with you or may have everything to do with you.

So to help us all, no matter what situation you are in with the person in addiction in your life, I have some steps for you to consider.

First, you need to start to forgive them. Forgive the person for not living up to your expectations. For harming themselves and the people around them. For not loving you the way you needed to be loved, for whatever transpired between you two. I don’t know and can’t list every scenario here. You know the situation. You know the why. Your job now is to start the process of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You being bound up in unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does nothing to help them. In fact, it only gives more power to the enemy to defeat you and them and anyone else in your life it has affected.

Second, you need to forgive God. He is a big boy. He can take whatever offense you may have brought before Him. You may blame Him for the addiction. You may blame him for their recklessness. You may blame him for their death. But you must remember that we have free will, each and every one of us. When someone willingly subjects themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, they are exercising that free will. No one can stop them, but them. Their choice to begin is just as much their choice to end it. I don’t like it anymore than you do but it is true. So I ask you to consider, letting God off the hook for your own sake. He is still God, on the throne, seated high and exalted. Your not forgiving Him does not stop Him from being who He is. It hurts you more than it does Him. So forgive Him so that you can move on and be free of the bitterness and anger you are holding on to.

Third, forgive you. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you may or may not play a role in why the person is using right now. You may be the perpetrator of their wounds or you may not have anything to do with it, but realize you are powerless. You may have enabled them to use again. Whatever the situation is, again, you need to forgive yourself.

Jesus Christ died on a cross, sacrificially, for each of us so that we may be set free from all of our sins. I’ve heard it said before, When you keep unforgiveness in your heart, you put yourself in a cage and hold onto the key.” it’s self-deprecation and again it helps no one move forward in this situation.

mckenziehyde-compassionverse
Stacey Hyde reconciled with her family.

What a person in active addiction or walking through recovery needs is YOU. You having compassion for them, loving them, encouraging them, praying for them, and speaking truth to them.

So start this process with you. Seek forgiveness. Break yourself free from your pain so that you can receive the healing you need.

Why? Because healed people can help heal people. People who are healed, forgiven, loved and full of compassion freely give what they have recived.

That is the greatest gift you can give to someone in addiction. A healed you.

Now that we have gotten to the end of this post I feel like there is more that I need to share to equip you to love those in addiction and recovery well. So, with that, we’ll continue this topic next week.

Join me when we’ll start to talk about how you love an addict so that you are not enabling them but rather empowering them to take ownership of their addiction in the hopes of them moving forward.

P.S. If you are ready to get help, please contact me or The Link of Cullman County. We are happy to help you get where you need to be to start your journey to sobriety. If you are not in Cullman,AL please call your local church, non-profit, recovery, AA, ALNON to get help.

I know I hit on some things in this post that people are going to want to talk about, so please comment below on and let’s model compassion for each other as we seek God to help us love those people in active addiction and recovery around us.