We couldn’t believe our friend had a massive cancerous tumor at the age of 39. But our church and friends prayed round the clock and believed for his healing so that his three young children could grow up with their dad.
He fought the cancer bravely and the presence of God could be felt. There was a peace, strong faith and persistent prayer on his behalf.
He had been a marathon runner and when he died, he told his wife, he saw Jesus running to him in a field ready to take him home. His death was peaceful. The presence of God was powerful. But we were devastated. We knew God could heal. Why didn’t He answer our prayer? Our faith for his healing couldn’t have been stronger.
Many times in life, we contend with this question, “Does God answer prayer?” It doesn’t always seem like He does. But His perspective is not ours. He knows the big picture, sees how the parts interact with the whole and knows how to use even bad things for good. God does answer prayer, but He can do it in five ways:
1) God answers YES and wonders what took you so long to ask? He is waiting on us to bring our requests to Him. Scripture tells us to ask, to bring our petitions to God (Phil 4:6- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.. ). God wants us to ask. He’s waiting to answer.
2) God answers YES and blesses even more than we can imagine. Sometimes the answers to prayer feel overwhelming–someone is healed, brought to Christ, restored, etc. This builds our faith and we are thankful that our God answers prayers in a way that seems immediate and responsive to our request. This is why it is important to share our stories of answered prayer with one another–it builds our faith.
3) God answers YES, but not in the way we expect. Prayer wasn’t answered in a way we understand or even how we thought it should go. Because the answer doesn’t come in the way we expect,this requires our trust. When my friend wasn’t healed and died, it felt like unanswered prayer, but we can’t go by feelings. We trust Him that He knows best. It isn’t that He didn’t hear, He didn’t do what we said the way we presented it.
4) God answers NO because He loves us too much. It’s not that God doesn’t hear us, but He has the whole picture and knows what is best. This again requires faith and trust in our Father who is for us, not against us. Many times I can look back at a direction I thought best and prayed for, and then was so thankful that God knew best and didn’t answer me the way I presented.
5) No, not yet. The timing is not what we anticipate so it feels like a giant NO. I learned this through dealing with 7 years of infertility. But when God answered, it was right and better than I could have anticipated. His timing may not feel perfect, but it is. And when it feels like God takes too long, we don’t understand the way He is orchestrating everything behind the scenes so we have to trust.
Our job is to pray and God’s is to be God–answer in the way He sees is best for our lives. Approaching God this way doesn’t put Him in a box and make you His puppeteer. Instead, we believe God to champion us in the way He knows best.
Question: I was shocked the other day when I was playing in the park with my son. He is three-years-old and fell off the monkey bars. When he did, he swore. I could not believe it. I admit that when my husband and I get mad or upset, foul language does come out of our mouths. We are working on cleaning up our talk. Both of us grew up hearing swearing on a regular basis. How should I have responded to my son’s words?
Answer: According to a study by psychology professor Timothy Jay at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the rise in adult vulgarity is being mimicked by children and teens. Jay says that swearing really takes off between ages three and four. The reason for the rise in children who swear has everything to do with adults who swear at home.
According to Jay, cursing is a form of coping, a way to reduce stress and vent anger. Adults who have rules against children swearing, but do so themselves, can expect children to model what they hear, not do what they are told. Also, neuroscience confirms that swearing becomes embedded in the brain and is hard to remove. This may be due to the emotional component involved that processes swear words differently.
So next time you hear your son curse, follow these guidelines
1. Stay calm and do not laugh or react with horror. He does not know what he is saying, but your strong reaction in either direction will reinforce him doing it again.
2. Set a good example. Do not swear. Control your own mouth.
3. If you slip, back track the word and say something like, “Fiddlesticks” or “Sugar” and say it with emotion.
4. For older children, set boundaries and rules for language in the home. Discuss why swearing is offensive, what the Bible has to say about the power of the tongue and the intent of the heart (Ephesians 4:29; James 3:6; Proverbs 15:4)
5. For older kids, have consequences for cursing.
Bottom line, cursing is not a good way to represent Christ to a broken world. It is important to look at your heart because Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Parents, you set the example!
Many years ago, singer Bette Midler recorded a hit song with the lyric that God is watching us from a distance. God exists, but He is impersonal-Up in the sky, not really involved in our lives. There are many who believe God exists, but don’t know Him. One reason for this has to do with our beliefs about who God is.
Our families are a basic source of learning about God, but can be major sources of distortion when it comes to understanding who God is. Families are supposed to love unconditionally. They are supposed to protect us and never let us down. In reality they fail us at times. Then we look to other people to love us unconditionally. We hope our friends, the church, fellow Christians will show us love, but we are often disappointed in those relationships as well. When this happens we transfer our views of failed love onto God. God gets all the negative attributes and then doesn’t look so appealing either. Consequently, we look to other sources, places to be affirmed, to know who we are.
Some of you have dads you don’t really know. You know he is your dad, but you don’t really know him. He may be absent, uninterested, distant, emotionally cut off, self-absorbed, critical, shaming, perfectionisitic, violent or even abusive. Because we tend to transfer our feelings about earthly parents onto God the Father, we may not want to know God. We may prefer to keep him distant. Intimacy, as we know it, is too painful.
Yet, the avoidance of intimacy prevents us from the healing love of God. In order to correct our ideas about God, we have to spend time with Him (through prayer) and get to know Him (through the written Word). He’s waiting for you to take the necessary steps–To open up, to be vulnerable, to seek Him, to trust. The difference is, He will not disappoint. What other relationship provides such a guarantee?
John 14:9 says, Have I been so long with you and yet hast thou not known me? Unlike families and others, God will never reject or abandon. Nothing can separate us from His love. We can depend on His love. And even though we don’t deserve such love, He gave it anyway. Once you understand this and believe it, it will change your life. Your self-esteem, your security rests on being loved. No matter what you have done, you are loved.
It’s not enough to believe God exists. God is personal, relational and desires intimacy with you. Out of that intimacy comes identity, security, unconditional love, grace, and peace. Don’t allow your earthly relationships to prevent you from knowing God. Take a leap of faith and explore this God who exists, but also desires to be known.
Josh looked at his audience and began to panic. What if he humiliated himself? What if he forgot his speech? What if he bombed with his audience? His heart began to race, his hands became sweaty. Josh felt like he was about to faint and couldn’t think. His mind went blank. Josh was having a panic attack.
Panic can be frightening because of the intense physical and psychological symptoms associated with it. During a panic attack, you may feel as if you will die or lose total control. However, panic will not lead to a heart attack, suffocation, fainting, falling or you going crazy. You may feel as if these things are about to happen because of the physical sensations you experience. But the reality is these sensations will pass, and your health will not be endangered. Panic is very unpleasant, but not dangerous.
Here are a few practical tips to help overcome panic:
1) Know what triggers panic. There may be a pattern or specific thing that brings on panic. For Josh, it was speaking in public. Try to record what happens prior to the attack and see if you can idenitify a common trigger. For example, panic may come every time you see your stepfather, feel enclosed, have to make a public speech, or take an important test.
2) Eliminate stimulants from your diet (caffeine, nicotine, medications). These can aggravate and trigger anxiety.
3) Don’t try to resist or avoid the panic symptoms. Instead recognize the symptoms and tell yourself you can handle them. They will pass. Avoiding just reinforces the fear and doesn’t help you master the symptoms. Working with panic means riding into the storm, not avoiding it.
4) Repeat a “Yes I can” statement over and over. For example, “God has not given me a spirit of fear. I can ride this out and be OK. Nothing terrible is going to happen to me. This will soon pass. I can take the hit.”
5) Go through the panic. Don’t try to escape, instead endure it and you will eventually see that nothing terrible happens.
The key to overcoming panic is exposing yourself to it and coming out on the other side. Take away your safely measures and be fully exposed. This is what releases most people from panic. For example, if you panic going into an elevator, don’t keep taking the stairs (that is avoidance). Find a therapist who will help you face the fear and get on that elevator no matter how afraid you are. Then hit the button and down you go. It will feel terrible, but at the end, you realize you did it, you didn’t die or faint. This mastery will build your confidence to do it again and again until the panic is gone.