fabienne harford

Posts Tagged ‘Series: Redeeming Emotions’

Women: Redeem Emotions

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

So this is the fourth sin tendency of women and the last I’m going to walk through…unless… you guys tell me some more to process through!

4. The Sin of Over Emotionalism

Crying right now as I write this.  Just kidding.  Not that it would be wrong.  Crying is not wrong.  Okay.  I should start over.

Proverbs says that the heart is deceitful above all else, and that the Lord will ‘try the reins’ of our hearts.  So, I’m going to define over emotionalism as a heart without reigns.   The assumption of this verse is that with the knowledge that our hearts can be sneaky, you and I should not work for our hearts, our hearts should be guided by some sort of wisdom and reason in us.

Women seem to have the gift and the ability to feel things deeply.  They seem to be able to make a connection between a truth and their hearts almost instantaneously, and I’m going to argue in a minute that this is one of the most precious things about women.  The thing is though, when these hearts run our lives without any reigns held by the truth, we are in trouble.

Here are two things I’ve seen happen when our hearts are calling the shots:

1. Apathy or Disinterest in truth. This is the tendency we have to avoid things that speak to our minds and not our hearts.  We find that our interest in God is based on how He makes us feel, so worship (when it’s good) on a Sunday is great, but if it’s the wrong worship leader, we’ll leave because we just don’t feel it when he sings.  Our worship of God becomes contingent on how we feel.  Or, we’ll listen to someone else (like Matt) unpack the Bible, but we’re not going to read it ourselves because ‘we never get anything out of it’.

We tell ourselves that we can just love God and not worry about all that weird ‘theology’ stuff that some people care about.  This produces a crop of women who have zero love for the deep things of God, are not based in truth and therefore are unable to speak wisdom or truth, fight sin effectively, and most importantly it produces a crop of women who are unable to know (and therefore really love) God.

Jesus died so that we might know God, so that we might have a relationship with Him.  It’s not cute or sweet to not care about the doctrines our God loves.  If I sat down with my husband one night and shared with him that I wanted to tell him something about myself which might be hard for him to hear, and he responded ‘babe, I love you but I just don’t need to know about you’, most of you would call that inconsistent.  But that’s what we do with God.  He has died so that we might know who He really is, but most of us just look at Him and say – ‘I love you, I don’t want to hear about that though.’

God is ready and able to teach you about Himself.  Open the word and trust that even when you don’t ‘feel’ an amazing response, God is at work.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask someone.  If that sounds terrifying than remember that your insecurity and your feelings shouldn’t control your relationship with God.  Knowing God is the only thing out of all the things you fill your days, months and life with that really matters.

2. Being led by feelings. This is when we are led by feelings instead of truth in the decisions we make and the paths we choose: who we date, where we go to school, how we spend our alone time, what movies we watch… Shortly after I was first a Christian I became involved with a non-beliving guy.  Great guy.  Didn’t love my Jesus.  But when I was with him we would have amazing conversations about God and about faith and I was sure I could feel God’s presence.  I cared about him, and I didn’t believe those feelings could come from anywhere but God.

Looking back – I can see that I wanted something and I used my feelings as a justification for why I should pursue that thing, but at the time it was really hard to see what was true.  My feelings made it impossible to know what was right.

There’s a reason God wants to test the reins of our hearts.  Because we should have some reins.  We should know that our hearts are deceitful.  God speaks through His word.  He does that because our hearts are sneaky and susceptible.  There are other forces in this world that hold sway over our hearts and they can’t be trusted.

I’ve had the ‘feeling’ that the guy I was dating was the guy I was going to marry maybe 5 times.  Two options: 1. God gave me that feeling and lied.  2. I was wrong.

Based on what the Bible teaches about God’s faithfulness and my sinful heart, I’m gonna go with number two.

You have to know that your heart can be wrong.  You have to lead it with truth or it will lead you into places you don’t want to go.

Now, this is important: all of our weaknesses are generally our strengths used against us.  So, when I first learned that my heart was evil, my response was to despise feelings.  I didn’t want anything to do with emotions.  I would ‘obey, no matter how I felt’.

But listen up gang.  That’s impossible.  Obedience without feeling is disobedience.  God cares about our hearts and He longs to redeem our emotions.  There are a billion places in Scripture where we are commanded to ‘feel’ a certain way.  Therefore, if we throw the feelings out, we will render obedience impossible.

Feelings matter.  God doesn’t want children who know the truth, but don’t love it and feel it.  He wants you to delight in Him, enjoy Him.  He wants you not just to pursue holiness, but prefer holiness!  He calls us to enjoy purity because it’s His kindness to us.  He wants us to hate our cold hearts that don’t feel as much as we hate those emotions that call us to be slaves.

  • which end of the spectrum do you fall on?  have you renounced feelings or are you a slave to them?  Spend some time repenting for either one.
  • when was the last time you had an emotional outburst?  Did you feel entitled to that outburst or have you repented?
  • do you press into the deep things of God?  If not, why not?  what are some things you can do this week to be more intentional?
  • are you making any decisions based purely on your feelings?  Below is a good way to test your decision:
  1. Is there anything in the Bible that prohibits or challenges your behavior?
  2. Sit down with 3-4 people in your close spiritual community.  Do any of them have any hesitation about what you’re doing?
  3. Pray for God to change your heart and to lead it in truth.  Do you have a peace?  Is this not only acceptable, but the BEST way you can think of to glorify God?

If any of those 3 questions don’t come up with favorable answers I would stop.   If number 1 is a yes – you are in sin.  If number two is a yes, don’t ignore or overlook or rationalize away your biblical community.  they were put in your life for just such a time as this.  If you’re not in a situation yet, get 3-4 people around you and develop such deep relational trust that when they speak – you listen.

Our feelings do matter – they just aren’t in the driver’s seat.

Our God has emotions and He feels things deeply.  Women are this amazing reflection of that.  We care, we are compassionate, our hearts break.  And God delights in that.  He give us new hearts, that are able to seek Him in the midst of their feeling and sculpt those emotions into honoring reflections of His own heart.

Women: Redeem Persuasion

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm
So far we’ve covered passive interaction, insecurity & covetousness and now….

3. The Sin of Manipulation

Sigh.  This sin should just start with one fat sigh.

Manipulation is when you want something and there are circumstances or people between you and what you want.  You don’t want to directly disobey God or the people who’ve told you no, so, you ‘manipulate’.  Instead of waiting for God, you find a way to work your way around the obstacles to get for yourself what you want.

There are parts of us that long to be rebels and just directly disobey, but for a lot of us this brings with it too much guilt and shame.  We don’t want to break the rules and go against the people who lead us, so we find a new alternative.  Manipulation is our way of getting what we want without overtly disobeying.

There are three ways types of manipulation women struggle with (and probably way more, but I’m using my heart as a case study here..)

  1. Emotional manipulation
  2. Forceful manipulation
  3. ‘Womanly’ manipulation (I couldn’t think of a better name for this but I’m open to suggestions!)

Let’s start with Emotional Manipulation.  So, you have something you want but circumstances or people stand in your way.  You don’t want to just go and get it if it means clearly disobeying God or man, so you find a way to emotionally manipulate the people and circumstances around you.   Emotional blackmail, pouting, crying and creating a situation where you try to make people (or even God) feel like you are being ‘wronged’.

This is so deeply hidden in my heart that I can do it without even realizing.  If a coworker unintentionally hurts my feelings and I want an apology, instead of repenting and seeking to develop in our communication skills or prayerfully surrendering to God, I will get totally silent until they ask what’s wrong.  Then I say ‘nothing’ in a tone that communicates ‘everything’.  And I will continue this cycle until I get what I want.

Most of the time this isn’t intentional.  I don’t think women sit around thinking – if I cry at this point in the fight my husband will come and comfort me.  I think it’s more subtle. I think we have an arsenal of emotions at our disposal that work for us.  And when we’re in situations where we can’t have what we want we convince ourselves that we really have been ‘wronged’ so that when we convey this, we aren’t being deceptive.

Do you ever (even jokingly) try to make someone feel bad for not being able to hang out with you, take on a certain ministry obligation they don’t feel called to, or do a favor for you?  Why are you trying to change their minds?  And is emotional manipulation the right tactic?

Next is Forceful Manipulation.  This is where you don’t want to disobey, so you think you can convince the obstacle to move by force so that you can have free access to whatever it is you want.  Let’s say you are married and you want something that your husband thinks is unwise.  Forceful manipulation is the way we women can convince ourselves we are submitting while launching a campaign against him.  After enough berating, nagging, pressing and arguments he will change his mind and we will be free to get what we want without any feeling of disobedience.  We can convince ourselves we are submissive and trust his leadership ….after all…we didn’t go against his will, right?

The truth is, if you force the issue enough, most men will concede because the argument is more drama and stress than they can handle.  I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying even as a single I’ve seen how effectively I can make employers, teachers, co-workers change their mind after enough forceful manipulation on my part.  But this is not respectful and it’s not obedient and it’s not trust.

Finally, ‘Womanly’ manipulation. Awkward title I know.  This doesn’t mean using our ‘women’s troubles’ as grounds for manipulation (cause that would probably fall under emotional manipulation).  What I mean by this is there are things that are unique and precious about women.  These things are in us to bless and encourage and affirm men.  This manipulation is when we use these things to get our own way and seek our own interests.

So, singles, this could be the way you dress on a Sunday: seeking to get attention.  What you want is a guy to be into you, but you don’t want to ‘break the rules’ by being overtly in his face, so instead you put on a shirt that you know accents certain parts of you, basically trying to entice him to sin so that you can feel wanted.

Or maybe you’re married and you use sex as a tool to getting something you want.  Or maybe you just become extra flirtatious with your husband in order to be more ‘persuasive’.

So, here are a couple of questions to think through:

  • What are the things in your life that you want?  Make a list (big and small)
  • What are the obstacles or people in your life that have told you no?  Think through your leadership – church, work, government, family, God.  Are there any of these things that they have said no to?
  • What are the ways that you try to manipulate them?  What are the ways you try to manipulate God?

Here’s the deal.  I am a woman specifically so I can reflect specific aspects of the character of God.  There are aspects of Christ that I alone can reflect because I’m a woman.  And every ‘no’ and every ‘obstacle’ exists precisely so can reflect that to the world.

Without obstacles between you and what you want there would never be a need for a trust that transcends action, and without that you would never be able to reflect Christ’s perfect obedience.

Christ trusted His father.  Even when He was being handed over to death by ‘leadership’ that was filled with sin and hatred for God, He didn’t try to manipulate His way out of it.  Because He believed the truth that God was sovereign over every heart.  God holds the heart of kings in His hand and He turns them where He wills.  There are no arbitrary obstacles in your life between you and the things you want.  There are only God given opportunities to trust and let go.

Women: Redeem your desires

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin on February 19, 2010 at 1:54 am

My thoughts on the sin tendencies of women continues…

2. The Sin of Covetousness.

Of all the things I see in the evil recesses of my heart, the root of covetousness often seems to run the deepest.  This is the part of a woman that feels a deep insecurity that is concealed with vain gossip or comparison or indulged with self-pity and bitterness.

This is the part of the woman that cannot find contentment until something about their circumstances shifts.  They have a hard time celebrating with those who are experiencing a joy they lack, and they can’t enjoy what they have because they are too busy looking at the blessings others receive.

In the book Undefiled the writer talks about insecurity as one of the most damaging things to the intimacy of a husband and a wife.  His theory, as a counselor who has seen the insides of a million marriages, is that there are two things that can destroy marital intimacy.  One is pornography – which distorts and disables the viewers ability to taste the good things God has given.  Another (and one that we someone have made a lot more acceptable than the last) is the sin of insecurity and comparison.

The writer basically proposes that every time a woman compares her body to another woman’s she feeds into the monster of insecurity (in the same way that watching porn feeds the monster of lust).  And that monster of insecurity robs her of her ability to believe her body is the perfect body designed for her husband, and that in turn, robs the marriage of healthy intimacy.

wowzah.  imagine if we fought insecurity the same way we expect others to fight pornography?

All of our weaknesses are distortions; they are good things gone horribly awry.

There’s something beautiful in the design of women that God is able to fully redeem.  Through Christ, we can have a heart that fully embraces the scriptures’ command to be content in all things because God has said ‘never will I leave you nor forsake you’.  At least that’s what Ms. Elliot tells me – I’m not quite there yet myself.

Here’s the deal.  God has secured our righteousness and acceptance in Christ.  We have a guaranteed advocate.  We have the approval of God.  We have a promise that we will never be left by the only being that we need.  This is an anchor to the soul. It should free us up to trust that all the circumstances of the day are working for our good and His glory.

If we believed this, we would be robbed of the need to put other women down or belittle them in order to elevate ourselves.  We would no longer have to dwell on what we didn’t get or attempt to secure for ourselves attention or approval.

Our insecurity results in fear, vanity, pride, arrogance, jealous, pettiness, cattiness.

Contentment would result in us being women who are spiritual, trusting, supportive, hospitable and graceful.

I want this so desperately.  I see how damaging my insecurity and my comparison is.  I want the quiet and peaceful heart that is able to trust all leadership because this truth is so secure: if God is for me, who can be against me. If God is for me, I don’t need to panic about what I’m missing out on or how I’m being rejected.

I would be free to trust.  I would be free to count others as more significant than myself.  I would be able to celebrate with other women, encouraging them without being threatened or panicked about how pretty, smart, talented, gentle and submissive they are.

I wouldn’t have to take stock of every wife I meet and measure myself against her to figure out what it is that I’m doing wrong.

sigh.

How do you know if this is something you struggle with?  Well, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t struggle with this.  But good news gals, we aren’t slaves to fear any more.  We’re children of God.

So, pursue God.  Believe He can meet your needs.  Believe that His approval is the approval you need.  Get people around you who you can be honest with about this struggle and who will encourage you – not by telling you how great you are, but by telling you how great GOD is.

I long for Jesus. I long to be live as a child – free of this fear.  I pray for that.  I believe that God will answer those prayers.  Cause He’s just that kind of God – gracious and merciful.

Women: Redeem Passivity

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin, Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

So, in case you missed the memo, over the next couple of days I’m going to walk through a couple of sin tendencies I think we women struggle with.  Let’s get started…

1. The Sin of Passive Interaction.

Recently, I’ve been processing with a dear friend of mine about the value of relational trust.  A relationally trustworthy person is one who can communicate clearly, speak encouragement and truth in love.  A relationally trustworthy person is one who deals with conflict in a direct, graceful and sincere way.  They state expectations clearly and receive correction humbly.

For some reason, women have a tendency towards passive (or occasionally passive aggressive) communication.  When their feelings are hurt they pout, or play the victim, waiting for someone to pursue them and seek them out to pursue what is wrong, instead of seeking healing in the Lord and then pursuing forgiveness in their own hearts.  We have a tendency to nurse our own entitlement and bitterness with self-pity.

And some people pitch biblical womanhood as being passive.  But, the Bible speaks a little differently.  In Proverbs 31 we see a woman who:

  • works actively
  • ministers actively
  • speaks actively

But somewhere along the line, women started thinking that what it meant to be ‘kind’ was to avoid direct communication and gossip rather than sincerely and graciously dealing with their own sin and conflict with one another.

I so long to be a woman who is ‘affirming’ instead of passive.

I love that word.  Being a biblical woman doesn’t meant you take on a ‘useless’ role.  It doesn’t mean holding back and not acting, instead it is the action of affirming.  It’s the part of a woman that values the friend, or the husband more than they value that persons approval, and out of that they are able to sincerely approach and confess and share and exhort.

“ In the heart of every fallen man is the self-doubt that wonders, “Am I man enough to climb this mountain God has called me to?  Can I fulfill my destiny?”  A wise wife will understand that question at the center of her husband’s heart.  And she will spend her life answering it, communicating to him in various ways, “Honey, I believe in your call.  I know you can do this, by God’s power.  Go for it.”  In this way, she will breathe life into her man.”

This is what it means to affirm.  It means to be able to see in someone what it is that God has wired and designed them to do and actively seek to enable that to be a reality.  Wives, this is your role with husbands.  Moms, this is your role with children,  but it doesn’t end there.  To some degree, women are called to be ‘affirming’ with co-workers, leaders (in the ways that are appropriate to their relationship), female friends and ministry partners.  To affirm means to take a step of action and develop healthy and Godly encouragement of the calling God has placed on the lives of those around you.

A couple of was to evaluate if you are affirming or passive:

  • When your feelings are hurt or you are frustrated, do you communicate directly, or do you tend to ‘vent’ to someone else?
  • When was the last time your friends and close relationships offered you spiritual feedback?  If you can’t remember the last time someone spoke into your life, or you spoke into theirs, maybe you need to cultivate an atmosphere that is open to humbly receiving exhortation.
  • Are people constantly failing to meet your expectations?  Are these expectations ever communicated directly and clearly?
  • When you have a friend who is walking into sin, do you love them enough to speak gentle correction, or do you avoid and hope someone else steps in?
  • Do you ever enable gossip by listening to someone ‘vent’ about a situation without encouraging them to engage the involved parties directly?
  • Do you ever say ‘yes’ to something you can’t commit to, or answer ‘maybe’ when you already know the answer is ‘no’ simply because it’s difficult for you to be direct?

So, next steps?  Get excited!  As women we are designed to be affirming.  That means God is working in you to produce that.

I’ve recently met a gal who is so great at this and her friendship has been one of the biggest blessings and challenges of my life.  She is amazing at seeing the Godly potential in every person she meets.  She believes that God can change hearts and she believes the most loving thing she can do is speak truth in love.

And I’ve watched her have conversations with women that should be awful and awkward and impossible, but they’re just not.  They’re affirming.  Women walk away from her feeling encouraged.  Because they can see the truth.  They can see that if she loved them any less she’d stay silent.  If her need to feel approved, if her love for self, was greater than her love for them, she’d walk away without a word. But she speaks honestly, sincerely and directly because she loves.

After all – this is what God does with us.  He communicates directly.  He gives us His word, which cuts to the core, but everyone who has ever been convicted knows how different conviction feels from condemnation. It’s evidence of God’s love.  Conviction is how I know I’m His kid.

What do women have to do with biblical manhood?

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Sin, Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 4:01 am

Great sermon Sunday at the Austin Stone.  If you haven’t heard it, I recommend going here.  Loved hearing Matt challenge men and love the elevation of biblical manhood that’s happening in our body.

Coming out of the sermon, I weirdly had women on my mind.  We have so many great and amazing women in our body, but whenever I hear Matt bring the heat on men, it is so crazy how I find myself and other women responding.  I feel the self-righteous ‘you get ’em Matt’ in my heart, and I hear the same thing in surround sound from the women around me. I hear complaints about how ‘immature’ the men around us are, and I hear claims that our sins and our issues would be fixed if men would just be men, and I hate that.  Cause I’m pretty sure that the root of my sin is in my heart not in circumstance.

I think the best way for women to encourage men to be biblical men might just be to embrace what it means to be biblical women.

I say this with all the love in my heart: ladies, we have not arrived.

We don’t have a platform to stand on and nag men about how they’re failing.  We’ve got plenty of work to do in our own hearts. In fact – the very way I am hearing women respond (myself included) confirms that we women have a couple of dangerous sin tendencies of our own.

Instead of thinking through the list of men I know and trying to peg their weaknesses, I thought it might be more productive to think through what this looks like in my own heart.  I’ve been wrestling for sometime what it might look like for me to press more into how God has wired me as a woman.

So, (with the help of John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Ronda Chervin), I tried to think through some of our tendencies as women and what those tendencies might look like when redeemed.

Over the next couple of days I’m going to flesh out FOUR different sin tendencies that I see in myself and other women.  Check out the preview below and stay tuned!!

1. Sin of Passivity

2. Sin of Covetousness

3. Sin of Manipulation

4. Sin of Over Emotionalism