Conformity: A Sign of the Times

My husband and I spent this weekend free of distractions and instead spent time studying God‘s truth with other believers. We finished off our weekend feeling encouraged, strong and more ready for battle.  But it sure doesn’t take long to find ourselves feeling weak. 
Over the weekend we spent a lot of time talking about the world. The way in which the world influences the way we think, believe and even behave. As believers our battle is ongoing.  We are constantly at war with an enemy who seeks out to divide, destroy, deceive, and distract. To cause devastation, disappointment, disagreements, disbelief, and discontentment. One who discourages, promotes discrimination, dishonesty,  disillusionment, and creates disorder.  He brings destruction because his mission is simply to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). And every day we see him at work in the world around us. 
So how does this affect relationships around us? How does the work created by the enemy impact you in a personal way as a follower of Jesus?
Following Jesus does not come without sacrifice. In the book of Luke, Jesus  is speaking to a crowd and He tells them, “if you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else-your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
That is such a powerful statement. Jesus is not in fact saying that we are to hate people because that goes against his command to love everyone (Matthew 22:39). Instead, the point He is making is that no one else in the world should come before Him.  There is no other relationship on this earth more important than a relationship with Him. That our love, devotion, and commitment for Him should surpass every other relationship on this earth. Jesus said,  “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against- or two in favor and three against. Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53). 
The message Jesus brought was not one of just love and hope. He brought a message that speaks to holiness. He brought a message that points people to His Father. He brought a message that speaks of sin and forgiveness.   He brought a message that is full of redemption and grace but it is a message that is not always easy. As we learned this weekend, it is a message that is rejected because of pride and selfishness. And it is a message that can cause division.
Following Jesus comes with a cost. It means we don’t get to live the way that we want to live. We don’t get to do the things that we want to do. We have been placed on this planet with a purpose and a mission.  Yes we are commanded to love but we are also commanded to hate sin. To turn from those things which God despises (Proverbs 6:16-19, Proverbs 8:13). We are to point people to the cross. To reflect God’s love so that those around us would come to know Him and be saved.
Take note, there are six things the Eternal hates; no, make it seven He abhors: Eyes that look down on others,   A tongue that can’t be trusted, hands that shed innocent blood, I heart that conceives evil plans, feet that sprint toward evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and anyone who stirs up trouble amoung the faithful” (Proverbs 6:16-19, The Voice).

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

“All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13, The Voice).

“If you respect the Eternal, you will grow to despise evil. I despise wretched, vile talk and ways of pride and arrogance” (Proverbs 8:13, NLT).
We are living in troubling times. A day and age clearly described in the Bible.  All you have to do is scroll through social media to see the hatred and division, the abuse and pride. To see the enemy at work to distract and divide from what’s really important.
In 2 Timothy we are told, 
“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be pumped up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that can make them godly.  Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)

“And know this: in the last days, times will be hard. You see, the world will be filled with narcissistic, money grubbing, pretentious, arrogant, and abusive people. They will rebel against their parents and will be ungrateful, unholy, uncaring, cold hearted, accusing, without restraint, savage, and haters of anything good. Expect them to be treacherous, reckless, swollen with self importance, and giving to loving pleasure more than they love God. Even though they may look it or act like godly people, they’re no. They deny His power. I tell you: stay away from the likes of these.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, The Voice)
At the end of the day we have been given a mission. We are to go and make disciples. We are to introduce those around us to Jesus. We are to care more about the many who will spend an eternity in hell then we do about our next episode of our favorite show or the next big football game. But oh how distracted we have become. The enemy is more powerful than we give him credit and he has meticulously worked to keep us focused on our own desires.   And we all fall into this category. Not one believer is immune to the attacks of the enemy. 
So how do we avoid being sucked into the game that he plays? That’s such a huge question. The only solution is that we remain focused on Jesus. That every part of every day is spent with eyes solely focused on Him. It is only when He is in front of us that we can love as we are called to love, that we can serve as we are called to serve, that we can testify to who He is and what He has done. In our own power, we are weak. In our own power what we accomplish will surely fail if He is not at the center. 
For every believer the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in every one of us. But that power can only be utilized when we are focused on the right source. And that source is Jesus alone. Many will claim His name and profess that they follow Him, but very few will actually live out that life and follow the way in which He has commanded.  Very few will utilize the source of power that resides within every believer. 
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11).
To point us in the right direction we need to start in Romans and learn how to rewire our thinking, change our focus and listen for God’s voice. 
 “Do not allow this world to mold you in it’s own image. Instead be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete” (Romans 12:2, The Voice).

Anxiety in a Philippians 4:6 World

Anxiety and CPTSD… I deal with both. At age 11, I experienced a trauma that forever changed who I would be. It was when anxiety first reared it’s ugly head. As life continued, toxic relationships entered my life and my anxiety grew becoming more severe. By the time I removed myself from the toxic relationship, I was left with CPTSD to partner with my anxiety. 

It is crazy the way in which trauma affects our brains. It took studying psychology and understanding the way in which trauma re-wires the brain that helped me begin to process through the events of my past. It has taken a lot of counseling.  It has taken a lot of revisiting the past and working through lies that I began to tell myself at age 11. It has taken someone helping me to understand that something that I experienced when I was 15 years old was not my fault. That because of the trauma at 11, my brain was not in a place where it could fully grasp the weight of what was happening to me. It has brought me to the place of understanding the significance  of the way in which big events or trauma can set us back and keep us from being who God created us to be when we don’t get the proper help. 
Now before going further I want to address the counseling. Did going to counseling make the anxiety and CPTSD go away?  No. It doesn’t work that way. I will probably deal with both of those things for the rest of my life.  But what it did change was how I deal with my anxiety and CPTSD.  And it taught me the importance of boundaries and being reminded of who I am in Jesus. Do I always do these things perfectly? No! It is a daily struggle. But each day is a step in the right direction. 
Back to anxiety. Many websites are available for family and friends to read on anxiety and how to help someone that you love who deals with anxiety. And for the most part if you can follow simple suggestions that are often shared on these sites,  you can help your anxiety plagued loved one in ways that can totally change the way they deal with their day. But the issue is that most people don’t take the time to understand mental illness. Instead we often times let ourselves get in the way by thinking that the problem is all us. That there is something wrong with us and that’s why the person with anxiety is avoiding us or not responding to us. But that’s not the case. 
Anxiety sucks. Though I know when I am feeling highly anxious, I don’t often know why I am feeling anxious. There are certain situations that I find myself in that serve as triggers for both my anxiety and my CPTSD, but often times I cannot avoid those situations. They are just part of every day life. So I have had to learn how to maneuver through those situations. It is incredibly difficult when the people around you don’t understand that you have to put into place certain boundaries as a way to prepare yourself in certain ways so as to not become triggered by a situation. It’s as if those of us who deal with anxiety constantly have to live one step ahead of ourselves in order to keep ourselves from having a panic attack, a breakdown (melt down),  or a manic episode.

Because of trauma early in her life my amazing 17 year old daughter deals with anxiety and panic attacks. And she does a great job of acknowledging when she’s feeling anxious and puts things into place that help her. This was a day last week when she sent me a text…

She didn’t know what was making her anxious, but she knew to find a distraction and to focus on something different. Often that’s how anxiety works. We just don’t always know the cause.

For those who suffer from anxiety (as a result of trauma)  and CPTSD it is helpful for people to realize that we probably understand boundaries more than the normal person. That is because we understand the importance of those boundaries and the way in which they are needed to keep us mentally healthy. It means that there are people in this world who we will not associate with because they are toxic to our health. It does not mean we do not love the people. It does not mean that we do not care about the people. But what it does mean is that we care enough about ourselves to do what needs to be done to protect ourselves from further harm. 
The idea of boundaries can be incredibly difficult for those of us who live in the church world. Because in this world we have been taught that we are to love everyone, which means we have the mindset that setting a boundary goes against that command.  We have somehow confused this idea and made ourselves believe that loving everyone means that we have to allow everyone into our personal space. And this is just not true. We can love people from afar. We can pray for people from afar. But we do not have to allow people within our small circle if they have proven to be detrimental to our health. 
Also for those of us who live within the church world, we are often quoted the verse Philippians 4:6 that says we are not to be anxious about anything. That is one of the most frustrating things to be thrown at us. When you speak that verse to us  it acknowledges that you are unaware or do not understand the type of anxiety that we are dealing with. We don’t deal with the normal worry of how we’re going to pay the next bill or if it’s going to rain today. Our anxiety comes from places of trauma. The reality that bad things happen, that they have happened to us and the possibility of them happening again (to us) are quite high. That the trauma that we have been through is not necessarily a one time event.  And that there are things around us that can trigger the memories of those past traumas. Yes we can do what Philippians 4:8 says and place our thoughts on things that are true and noble and right but again It takes time for a person who deals with anxiety to take those thoughts captive and to bring oneself  back down to a place that feels safe and calm.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that it is important that when we discover that someone in our life deals with anxiety, that we take the time to understand that person. That instead of jumping to conclusions or assuming the absolute worst, that we take the time to put ourselves in their shoes. To see the world from their perspective. And though that is incredibly difficult to do when one may not struggle with anxiety, there are so many great resources available that do a really good job of diving into the life of a person who struggles with anxiety and even CPTSD.

What people should know about anxiety

10 things about anxiety and depression