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Day #30

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Early in my counseling practice, a friend asked me to train his fellow church members how to do what I do. The event blessed so many people I began to conduct the training regularly. When some of my counseling clients signed up, I began to ask if that was okay. If they themselves were struggling, should they be helping other people? I wondered. Then I saw a miracle. 

I’ll call her Evie. She originally came as a client, and I treated her for depression. Or I should say I tried to treat her, because she really didn’t improve. But she came to the Abide Helper Training in which I train people how to be helpers (as opposed to helpees). And then she dramatically improved. I think her depression had gouged her self-respect. When she saw that should could still help other people, even though not fully recovered herself, her sense of value returned to her. And in the process of helping other people she saw ways out of her own depression. 

We comfort others with the comfort we receive from God. But it doesn’t always happen sequentially, as in, “God helped me, now I’ll help you. In fact, because it distracts me from what may have become an unhealthy self-focus, me helping you can actually clear out the channel for God helping me. 

As God comforts us, we become equipped to comfort others. Our struggles sensitize us to their struggles and give us a wealth of grace to share. Think of one tribulation in your life where God became your comfort. Now think of someone in a similar situation who might benefit from the simple story of how God helped you. Make a note to share your story with that person. 

Oh, God of all comfort. Open our eyes to the suffering around us so that we can become, not hoarders of your comfort, but conduits of it to as many people as you bring within our sphere of influence. Use us we pray, Jesus. Amen. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #29

Isaiah 52:7

I felt fortunate in the fact that I had no addictions until I realized one day I did. I was several decades into my life by that time, and I realized I’d basically been addicted for most of that. Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a negaholic. 

So many decent families of decent, responsible people have a problem with negativity. Relationship experts say that in order for a relationship to stay healthy, every criticism or negative interaction should be balanced by six affirmations. That six-to-one ratio keeps a relationship thriving. But so seldom do we keep that ratio, especially in close relationships. Once interactions between family members become characterized by negative focus and criticism, even a decent home quickly becomes a toxic place. Watching family interactions as I grew up, I’d learned how to be critical and problem-focused. And I myself had become that way. Now, I saw, God called me to learn to identify and accentuate the positive. 

Positive patterns of thought must be cultivated; they don’t just happen. What does just happen is negative patterns. The lower part of the brain which engages more quickly, tends to be biased toward negative information. The higher brain is more capable of holding positive information, but it engages more slowly, and with more effort. Negative information is stored almost instantly in long term memory. Positive information must be kept in mind for 12 seconds to be recalled long-term. 

The gospel is good news. Not bad news masking as good advice. In Jesus, God has given us an infinite gift in Jesus and as we focus on that unspeakable gift, God will rewire our brains toward gratitude. 

When was the last time you truly appreciated the good news? Think about it. Because of God’s gift of Jesus, we have eternal life. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He did not loan Him, rent Him, lease Him, or merely offer Him. He gave Him to become one with humanity for the rest of eternity. And by simply believing that good news we will live forever in uninterrupted bliss. Think about that for a moment. 

And let us pray. Lord, fill our hearts with the good news, then make us ambassadors for your kingdom. Make our feet beautiful as we follow you to places where we can share the good news. In the name of Jesus, Amen. 

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #28

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

An acquaintance made a comment once that deeply wounded me. We were discussing depression, its causes, and how to reverse it. She said, “It’s just self-pity.” She didn’t realize how deep a pit of depression I was in at the time and how shamed I felt at the thought that I’d fallen prey to self-pity. 

In fairness to her, she had a point. If she’d presented the issue in a more constructive way, it would have turned my life around. Rather than, “Depressed people feel sorry for themselves,” she may have said, “Gratitude can make us healthier.” 

Many studies have shown gratitude to be effective in combatting depression and other psychological disorders. But one particular study shows that it can make us physically healthier and more motivated to take care of our health. The experimenters studied ungrad students in three groups. Once a week, one group listed five impacting events, one listed five complaints, and one listed five gratitudes. After 10 weeks, the gratitude group not only felt better, but exercised more. The amount of research on the effects of gratitude to our physical, mental, and spiritual health is incalculable. 

Sometimes life becomes overwhelming. The problems loom large. It is then that the positives get pushed out of our awareness. But giving thanks for what is good can lift us up to a better place. So think of three good things in your life right now and speak them out loud. 

And let us pray. Dear God, in Christ Jesus you have saved us from death. If that is the only thing for which we can praise you for eternity, it is enough. But there is so much more. You send so many tokens of your love to us each day, and we miss them. Help us become more mindful of the good is our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #27

Psalm 105:1-4 

At one point in my life, I toured around singing from church to church. Normally things went beautifully, but this particular concert proved to be a disaster due to the church staff failing to organize. I became so ticked off that it showed. As I complained and tromped about, a man I’d met that afternoon who I knew had lived a harrowing life in a foreign country under a dictatorship, barely escaping with his life, spoke up. He said, “Don’t complain.” 

Those two simple words slapped some sense into me. Here I was in the midst of first world problems, murmuring and complaining. He who’d known real problems told me to snap out of it, and because of who he was, I did. 

Someone said, “I lamented that I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Perspective is everything. And often the reason we adopt a negative, critical, complaining attitude is because we’ve lost perspective. Our problems have grown to fill our field of vision, not because they’re so large, but because our field of vision is so small. Encountering the suffering of others can powerfully pivot us out of a self-absorbed state. 

It can help to de-catastrophize things that concern us, to remember that bad things could be worse. Think of your concerns and corresponding blessings in three areas: Finances, relationships, and health. 

What are the things that concern you about your finances? Speak that out loud right now. Now, de-catastropize them. So it may be something like, “I live paycheck to paycheck, but I always have enough to eat.” Speak the truth out loud. 

Now, focus on relationships. Tell the truth, both the negative and positive side. What are your concerns? What are your blessings? Speak them out loud right now. 

Now, what about your health? Speak your concerns and blessings out loud right now. 

And let’s pray together. Dear Lord, things sure aren’t perfect. But they could also be worse. And praising you for what’s right is so powerful. Our problems fill our field of vision, but not if we expand our vision. Thank you for expanding our vision. We praise you in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!” Psalm 105:1-4 

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #26

Psalm 119:114

As a young person I lived in Chicago, where I worked with a city ministry. Determined to live the gospel, sharing the good news with the poor and disenfranchised, I sought out and visited a number of people who lived in the shadier parts of town, shocking some of my friends with what they perceived as “guts” and courage. But I didn’t feel any fear at all. Now, I probably should have taken someone else with me, but then I wasn’t alone, really. Angels walked with me. I could feel their presence. 

The field of psychology called “attachment theory” studies how different styles of attachment formed in childhood affect the way we think, feel, and behave. The ideal put forth by attachment theorists is that a secure attachment to a parent figure is ideal, and sets the child up neurologically and psychologically for self-regulation in adulthood. But secure attachment isn’t clinging—that’s anxious attachment. Secure attachment means the child connects with mommy, then ventures out into the world of play and discovery. The more the child believes mommy will be there when they want to reconnect, the more they face strange, new things with resiliency. 

Religious psychologists have discovered that attachment to God works the same way. When people feel secure in God, they can face the uncertainties of life with more vigor. In the words of one researcher, attachment to God is “inversely associated with distress.” The more connected we feel to the Almighty, the mightier will be our courage to face whatever He brings across our path. 

Breath in courage, breathe out fear. 

Think of the tenderest earthly ties you’ve formed in your lifetime. Perhaps parents, grandparents, a caring adult, or friends. Who, if anyone, has been a “secure bond” for you? Thank God out loud for them right now. 

And if you can truly think of no one—which does happen—thank God that He is your secure base, your hiding place from trouble, your shield from attack, and that as you hope in His Word you will come to know Him more fully. 

Dear Hiding Place and Shield, we all need someone to lean on. Leaning fully on any human will bring us disappointment. But leaning on You, Lord, we will find courage to face the world, and to go anywhere you lead. Lead us today to make a difference, to shine a light in darkness, to provide warmth in the cold of a dying world. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.” Psalm 119:114 

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #25

Psalm 30:4-5

I have a long-standing relationship with sadness. Sadness would visit to do a good work in me, but I would then bar her from leaving. I believed that if I let her go, I’d automatically lapse into deceived, Pollyanna denial of the darker aspects of life, and that her return would be much more painful than if I simply kept her near.  

I learned the hard way that sadness, when clung to, loses her vitality. She morphs from saturated blue into leaden grey, from productive grief into stultifying depression. She ceases to teach vital lessons and begins to drain vitality. 

One day I decided to try something new. I would refute my belief that clinging to sadness provided some kind of safety. I realized that in my conscientious commitment to resist the lie that everything was good, I had fallen prey to the lie that everything was bad. I decided to let sadness do her very necessary work of deepening, burnishing, and mellowing my soul, and then let her go. From that point, when sadness would come to visit, she would work effectively. She’d clear out my clutter, pop my bubbles, squash my grandiosity, expel my complacency, and then leave. And she’d leave behind a larger space for joy than I had before. Yes, that was sadness’s work. To leave a larger space for joy. 

Imagine yourself in a garden. You notice the thorns and the briars, and express grief at their presence. Then Jesus calls to you. He says, “Look at the beautiful blossoms too. Yes, there are signs of the curse, but My artistry is still on display.” Imagine Him then giving you a bouquet of beautiful flowers, flowers that will never die. 

Dear Lord, the effects of the curse are everywhere. At times they will come knocking. Let us allow them to do their work of change in our lives, but at the same time, increase our capacity for joy. Give us the courage to experience the fullness of joy you promise us in your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #24

Matthew 6:26

My DNA gave me a good dose of worry, then I learned it from my home environment. Epigenetics took it from there as I learned a lifestyle of worry, nature and nurture coalescing into anxiety spirals that have encircled me for much of my life. Like some of the toxic boyfriends I had as a teenager, I had to see its true character before I could find the courage to break up. But break up I did, finally. I’m over worry. 

One of the things that keeps us attached to worry is its functionality. My father’s worry over finances forced him out of bed every morning, pushing him to work hard and succeed. My own fastidious perfectionism has made me good at certain things for which I’ve been rewarded. How can I part with worry when it yields such a payback? 

Well, wait a minute. Is it really the worry that yields the payback? Or would there be a healthier means to the same end? How about responsibility? Simply anticipating need in a mature, responsible fashion without crossing the line into worry? Responsibility would yield the same, if not greater results. 

And worry—well, it eventually blows up in our faces. The nervous system tires of over-firing and collapses into apathy. Much better to do our best and leave the outcome with God. Let’s all just break up with our toxic worry right now, okay? 

Breathe in peace, breathe out worry. 

Think for a moment. What is your greatest worry? Imagine yourself placing that worry in the hands of a loving God. Imagine Him lifting it off your shoulders. Imagine the birds of the air, and how God feeds them. Ask yourself—are not you of more value than they? 

Kind heavenly Father, you care more for us than we care for ourselves. Help us to believe that You will provide what we need. Help us to contemplate the beautiful lessons of nature as we learn of your tender care over all your creatures. Amen.

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #23

James 1:2-3

I grew up in a measure of privilege. We weren’t rich, but we were comfortable. I never feared poverty. Then seasons of life brought me to the other side of the tracks. I came to understand scarcity and fear of want. Anxiety washed over me when bills arrived. I even at times could barely purchase food. 

I actually thank God for this. As much as poverty is unpleasant, it taught me things I could never have learned from material security. It taught me work ethic. It taught me frugality. It taught me trust. And even more than what it taught me, it brought me somewhere new. It brought me to compassion. It brought me to empathy for the poor. It brought me to an awareness of what most of the world feels every day. I can’t thank God enough for poverty. 

On one very bad day when many things were going wrong, a friend began to sing a little song about smiling through trials. I felt like punching her. No one enjoys trials in the moment. But we can learn to rise above them when we adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset says, “The most important thing is not my pleasure, prosperity, or temporal happiness, but my growth in Jesus.” Set success on earth as the ultimate goal, and we will be disappointed. It’s guaranteed. Everyone eventually dies and loses it all. Set our growth in Jesus as the ultimate goal, we will never be disappointed. Never. Because God promises growth regardless of what comes.

Scan your memory for trying experiences that yielded growth of character? Bring one particular time to mind. What did you learn? How did you grow? Think on that for a moment, and thank God out loud for it. 

Dear God, teach us to count it all joy when we fall into trials. No matter what we do, we will not be able to make our lives trial-free. So teach us to accept what we cannot change, gleaning all the good we can from misfortunes and difficulties. Thank you for recycling and reframing these trials such that we can rise above them. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.

Day #22

Hosea 2:19-20

My dad. He worked so hard. I recall him dashing out to work through the front door as we ate our cheerios, steaming coffee in hand, walking back through that same door exhausted many hours later to sleep a few hours and do it all over again the next day. 

But Dad also knew how to play. I recall him bundling us down on the toboggan when the fresh snow called us to the hill, where we’d barrel down, him at the back with his legs wrapped around all four of us, shouting “Look out!!” I remember wondering briefly about the risk of capsizing or plunging into the icy creek, but then sighing with relief when I remembered I could trust him. 

How did I stay on that toboggan? Was it dad’s watchcare and effort, or my own? For sure, his. I would have spun off like the last child on a crack-the-whip line. 

We get this confused in our relationship with God. We think our connection to Him, and our safety, is mostly up to us. So many conscientious believers lack rest in Jesus because they unconsciously adopt the belief that they must be the “big one” in their relationship with God. They imagine that if they aren’t consecrated enough, the connection breaks while He stands by, indifferent. Subtly, the enemy leads conscientious souls away from God-centeredness into a humanistic religion where our devotion to God inspires His devotion to us, rather than the other way around. If Satan can’t lead us to forget God by sucking us into the world, he’ll lead us to forget Him while seeming to remember Him through a human-centered religion. 

The Bible presents God as the initiator and sustainer of our connection to Him. He’s the Big One. We respond to the overtures of the heavenly Bridegroom, who betroths us to Himself in faithfulness, that is, commits to us, laying a foundation for the relationship through His own self-sacrificing love. 

The greatest evidence of God’s love is the Cross. Every blessing we receive comes stamped with the Cross. Thank God out loud right now for three blessings in your life. 

Dear Faithful, Merciful Father, You are the first and the last, the alpha and the omega, of our relationship with You. You are the “big one,” the heavenly bridegroom seeking us out, making a place for us, providing for us at every turn. Our changeable love for you is a response to your undying, unshakable love for us. Open our eyes to Your love that ours may become more faithful is our prayer in Jesus’ name, amen. 


“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me un righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19-20

Day #21

1 John 1:1-2

Some of the people who first helped me understand the Bible showed me in various passages that Jesus said He would come again. They conveyed the idea that if I wasn’t sinless at that time, I would be overwhelmed by the brightness of His coming, calling for the rocks to fall on me and hide me

from its searing holiness, ultimately perishing with the lost. 

Whew, that was heavy for a new Christian who wanted nothing more than to please God! I began to see Jesus’ coming as a threatening spectacle, and my victory over all sin as a ticket to survival. The problem was that the more fear I experienced, the more self-focused I became. My self-focus placed me out of sync with God’s law of self-giving love, and I became less and less capable of true, heart-level victory over sin. A realization of my sinfulness drove me further into fear, increasing the cycle of insanity.  

Have you experienced something similar? Friends, this need not be. God would have us look forward to His coming as the crescendo of our earthly existence. Why would we be threatened by the One who has loved us through every dark chapter, an unfailing Friend and Helper? Why would we not look forward to that moment even more than seeing our earthly loved ones again? Here is the key to preparing for His coming: seeing Him as He is. As soft rays of light transform our picture of God, we unconsciously conform to that image of love. Growth in Jesus is really that simple. 

Reflect back on times when God has shown up for you in a special way, revealing His true character of love. Remember three such times right now, and thank God for them out loud. 

Dear soon-coming Savior, as a Father You have called us Your children. As a Friend You have seen us through dark and difficult times. As our coming King You will be no less of a loving presence. Help us know you better and see your character of love more clearly, is our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 1:1-2

For mental health counseling, coaching, and other resources, you can visit abide.network.