7 Suggestions for Processing Pain

I tweeted recently: We all make a decision how we respond to the pain in our life. It is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make.

Someone tweeted back a great question. What’s s great way to process (emotional) pain?

Here are 7 biblical ways:

Expect God to use pain for good – Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28

Use it to comfort others with similar pain – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Reconsider your perspective on the pain – Romans 8:18

Receive the honor of suffering pain – Philippians 1:29

Accept the normality of pain – 1 Peter 4:12

Celebrate His sufficiency during pain -2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Look for the reward in suffering through pain – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

How we respond to emotional pain is a choice we make. The promises of God are real, even during our times of suffering. In the earliest days of any trial, we may not see any of these truths at work. That’s okay. We are frail people. The key is as we move forward, what we do with the pain in the days to come. Painful times are not going away in this earthly life. Jesus told us that. Learning to rest in Him is part of maturing as followers of Christ.

Suffering reminds us that His grace is sufficient for all our pain. In fact, though I don’t completely understand it, His power is perfect in our weakness, but only when I surrender the pain to Him.

We are not intended to handle pain alone. Thankfully, by His grace, we don’t have to.

Are you learning to “cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”?

God Does Math!

…what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” He (God) said, “I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:28 NIV

God can do math!

That’s good news. Forgive me if I seem to be trivializing God. That is certainly not the intent. One time, I was reading the story of when Abram pleads for God’s mercy on Sodom and this verse jumped out at me. I couldn’t help but notice that God quickly converted “five less than fifty” to “forty-five”.

Sure, I know God is the Creator and nothing is impossible for Him. But, sometimes I think I am caught in a trap of thinking of God as the God of only the spectacular. It’s easy to remember Him as the God who holds the stars in place. Who can forget the power He displays as He parts a sea? We all know it is Him when we see the sky painted with a rainbow. God is so evident in the miraculous, that we sometimes fail to see Him as the God of the small things of life.

Yes, He is the God who can form mountains, but He is also the God who can wipe a tear from an eye, count a grain of sand, paint the spots on a Lady Bug or the freckles on a face…and help me with a math problem.

Today, let’s see God for who He really is!

He is the Great, the Mighty, the Powerful, and yet the tender, delicate, detailed God….

…who can do math!

Give Him a problem. Any problem. He will know the answer!

You can trust Him today!

Do you have a problem you’d love God to solve?

The secret to worrying less…

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8 HCSB)

What are you dwelling on these days?

(By the way, that’s the secret.)

7 Encouragements for Leaders Who Worry

The title is confusing, isn’t it? It assumes some leaders worry and some don’t. The truth is, however, that most leaders will have occasions of worry. I’ve talked to some who say at least one day a week they are consumed with anxiety and fear. It’s the kind of frustration that makes them almost want to quit. I talked to a pastor recently who is struggling with stomach problems (I won’t get more graphic than that), because of the worry he is dealing with as a leader.

The fact that you worry shows that you are normal, human, and conscientious as a leader. You want to be successful and the natural reaction is to worry when you feel you may not be. Emotions play tricks on us. They’re fickle. They’re unreliable. Our desire to do well, causes our emotions to produce worry.

Obviously, Jesus said, “Do not worry!” We know that. We believe that. We want to live that. What’s the practical side? How do we actually live out that command? Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions won’t play tricks on you at times.

All of us worry, but what do you do when worry seems to control you as a leader?

Here are 7 encouragements for those who worry in leadership:

Pray and study – Worry is by definition a misplaced trust. Ultimately your answer is in God’s ability and His control, not your own. If worry is consistently plaguing your leadership, improving your relationship with Christ through Bible study and prayer is step one.

Remember your purpose – You have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. When worry hits you, you need grounding to something more permanent than your worries. You have a purpose. You believe in a vision. You have goals. You need to remember what fuels your fire and why you are willing to take the risk of leadership. If worry has gotten to the place where you’re not sure of your purpose anymore, stop everything and find it again. You can’t afford not to.

Contact an encouraging friend – I always find other leaders can speak truth into my life just when I need it most. God uses relationships to strengthen us and make us better. I have to be bold enough to text a friend and say, “I could use some encouragement”, but I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve been that bold. If you don’t have someone like this in your life that’s your assignment. The goal is to find the person and build the relationship before you need them.

Check your track record – Most likely you’ve had success that led to the position you have now. You can do it again. One reason I keep an encouragement file is so I can read through the positive things I’ve done on days when nothing seems positive.

Count your blessings – There are always others who would love to have what you have. Someone is always worse off than you are. Most likely, even outside the position you have as a leader, God has blessed your life. Spend some time remembering the good God has allowed you to experience. The list is probably longer than you think and will help you avoid worry as you recall what God has already given you.

Get some rest – Worry is more present when you are tired. You may have to quit for the day so you can prepare for better days. The depth of the worry should determine the length of the period of rest. I’ve also learned that part of being fully “rested” also includes making sure you are as healthy as you can be by eating the right foods and exercising, especially during the busiest seasons of life.

Rationalize – Most of the things we worry about never come true. Is your worry based on reality or based on your emotional assumptions? Dismiss the things you can’t control, aren’t certain will go wrong, or the unknown. The more you limit irrational thoughts, the less for which you’ll have to worry.

How do you battle the moments of worry as a leader?

One Way to Discern a Change

Lately I’ve been going through a season of helping people discern change. It’s been change of churches, change in jobs, and change in ministry assignment. It could be because I’ve wrestled through changes in my own life recently. I’ve learned God uses experience to help others going through similar experiences, so I’ve been more able to help people with change.

Anyway, recently I was listening to National Public Radio and heard an interview with a Canadian born, European artist Chilly Gonzales. Chilly is a piano player. I don’t know a lot about him, but I’m excited to check out his music. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

The interviewer asked him a question that spoke volumes to me. I thought his answer was a great test to discern a change.

The interviewer said (and I paraphrase), “Chilly, you write lots of songs. How do you know which ones to record?

Chilly’s classic answer:

“I wait for the one that won’t leave me alone.”

Wow! Classic. Genius. Helpful.

I instantly realized that was my experience with my recent change. I resisted coming to Immanuel, thinking I wasn’t a good fit for them, nor them for me. Yet, God wouldn’t leave me alone. The position wouldn’t leave my thoughts. I couldn’t get over the idea of being here.

What’s the thing that won’t leave you alone?

Could God be using the repetition of thought to draw you to His will?

How do you discern a pending change in your life?

Be sure to read the “related posts” on discerning change.

5 Questions to Discern a Life Change

This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen. Bill is a writer, thinker, speaker and non-profit leader passionate about connecting real life with real faith. You can follow him on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, and at Patheos.

Changing your direction in life is never easy. Especially if what you’re presently doing is truly helping a lot of people. Yet we all know change is unavoidable. So how do you know when it’s time to go?

I’ve wrestled intently with this question for the last nine months. As a non-profit leader for a dozen years in a successful Christian school, I knew I was doing a lot of good. People shared their sincere appreciation often.

Yet I sensed a restlessness within. I felt a call, subtle at first, to better steward my God-given gifts of writing, thinking, speaking, and – yes – leading change along the way. My passions, above all, pulled me toward connecting those gifts with my faith.

And yet my faith was what motivated me to serve where I was. Hence, the tension.

Maybe you’ve been at that conflicted fork in the road before. Maybe you’re there now. I decided it was time to step out by faith after getting a lot of wise counsel and asking some critical questions.

Here are five questions you should ask to find out if it’s time for you to go in a new direction?

  • Are you centered on what matters most? For me, my faith in God grounds all I do. Your foundation may be different but still vital. If something is interfering with that core relationship, it’s tough to trust any other inputs, including your own. Make sure you have good spiritual habits in place to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • Are you clear on your calling? Most people settle for simply drifting into oblivion. Our restlessness is simply our subconscious self telling us to get intentional about our life direction. It was when I took a retreat to prayerfully consider my own calling that my choices became clear – as did my self-centered excuses.
  • Are you growing where you are? I heard John Maxwell say recently that if you’re at the head of your class, it’s time to find another class. It took a casual comment by my friend Doug Carter to realize that I needed to raise my own leadership lid to keep growing.  If you stop growing, you start dying. Soon no one will want to be around you, no matter how sincere you may be.
  • Are you running from ______________? The odds are good that your subconscious just filled in that blank with whatever you presently fear most. If you want to leave to avoid a challenge, it’s not going to work. Ask Jonah. Better to confront it now. The fear will only follow you.
  • Are you willing to moving forward?  Seth Godin shared a neat trick to call your own bluff. Write down the one barrier that keeps you from acting on your dream. Now set it aside and ask yourself, “If that barrier were removed, would I move forward?” If no, you’ve uncovered another wall closer to the foundation of your fears.  If yes, focus your creative efforts on how to remove the barrier – or get around it

Have you ever faced a significant change in your life direction?

What questions do you suggest to help get clarity during seasons of change?

Leave a comment to share your story or suggestions for growth.

A life principle my daddy taught me…

It is what it is…

My father was probably the most bottom line guy I know. One of his most quotable lines was “The main thing is don’t get excited.” If anyone was ever tempted to stress about an issue he would interject that often repeated line.

Occasionally, I remember him adding another sentence into stressful moments. He would say, “It is what it is…”.

In other words, you can’t change it now. That’s a fact, Jack.

Admitting that “it is what it is” allows you to quit complaining and actually do something about it.

Do you need to admit:

Your marriage is in trouble…

You have a spending problem…

You’ve let your weight get out of control…

You’ve been a lousy friend…

Your relationship with God is struggling…

You are surrounding yourself with bad influencers…

You are in over your head…

(Insert yours here)

It is what it is…

Now that you’ve admitted IT

What are you going to do about it?