A friend recently asked a question about Proverbs 13:12. Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share here, also. …remember that I am a counselor, so those passages that talk about depression, hope, despair, and recovery stand out to us.
About Proverbs 13:12… the first thing I see is that this is an example of Hebrew poetry.
In this verse, the first half of the verse makes a statement, then the second half states the opposite in order to paint a full picture of an idea. Proverbs 13 has many such examples of this poetry.
1. Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
2. But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
The Hebrew word for hope seems to be a word that means “expectation” and it parallels the words in the second half of the verse, “desire” fulfilled. The sickness of the heart (first half) that comes from the disappointment of hope deferred is the opposite of the pleasure of the tree of life (second half). Let me add that this expectation seems, at least to this reader, to refer more to the daily purposes we have, and the things we want to accomplish in this life. It doesn’t exclude eternal life issues, but I believe the main focus of this expectation is our daily journey, and the spot of the horizon we pick for our aim.
This verse can have several applications. Here are my initial thoughts, though it is not a complete list. Please add more to the list.
• I need hope (healthy expectations and desires) to keep my heart healthy.
• I should understand, and make good choices about, the wants that I live for. They make up a good part of who I am, and whom I will become.
• “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
• “Listen, my child, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 23:19
• One source of depression is the neglect, or laying aside, of hope.
• My hopes should be centered in the seeking of the Will of God.
• The gifts and calling God has given me are meant to be lived out and put to work.
• “Desire realized is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to turn away from evil.” Proverbs 13:19
The verse does not directly instruct me to do so, but nevertheless I find myself challenged to inspect what it is that I want. In his book, You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith speaks a warning to us about our “unconscious loves”. (p. 32) He tells of a film by Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker, in which the main characters are invited to enter a place known as The Room. When on enters The Room, they get what they most deeply want. But, the characters get cold feet. What if what they most deeply want isn’t what they think they want, or what if it is not what they wish that others will learn about what they want. (p. 27ff)
Smith asks a great question about what we truly and deeply want….. Early in the morning we read our Bible and pray. Later that day, we go to Home Depot or the Mall. Where do we worship most deeply?
Next in my study…
I did a word study on the word translated as “deferred”, and found some interesting information.
It is the Hebrew word מָשַׁךְ mashak ; a primitive. root; to draw, drag:—
• NASB – away(1), bore(1), continue(1), deferred(1), delayed(2), deployed(1), drag(1), drag me away(1), drags(1), draw(3), drawn(2), draws(1), drew(2), extend(1), follow(1), go(1), led(1), long blast(2), make a long blast(1), march(1), prolong(1), prolonged(1), pulled(3), sounds a long blast(1), sows(1), stimulate(1), stretched(1), tall(2), wield(1). [The numbers refer to how often the word appears with a particular translation in the New American Standard Bible.] —Brown-Driver-Briggs (Old Testament Hebrew-English Lexicon)
A primitive root; to draw, used in a great variety of applications (including to sow, to sound, to prolong, to develop, to march, to remove, to delay, to be tall, etc.):—draw (along, out), continue, defer, extend, forbear, X give, handle, make (pro-, sound) long, X sow, scatter, stretch out.
[ The use of this word translated as “sow” is a depiction of the action of casting seed by a sweeping motion of the arm.]
AV – draw 15, draw out 3, prolonged 3, scattered 2, draw along 1, draw away 1, continue 1, deferred 1, misc 9; 36 [The numbers refer to how often the word appears with a particular translation in the King James Version.]
Here are other places where this Hebrew word appears.
Along, Judges 20:37. Away, Psalms 28:3. Continue, Psalms 36:10. Deferred, Proverbs 13:12. Draw, Judges 4:6, 7. Job 21:33. Song of Songs 1:4. Isaiah 5:18; 66:19. Ezekiel 32:20. Draweth, Job 24:22. Psalms 10:9. Drawn, Deuteronomy 21:3. Jeremiah 31:3.
Drew, Genesis 37:28. 1 Kings 22:34. 2 Chronicles 18:33. Hosea 11:4. Extend, Psalms 109:12. Forbear, Nehemiah 9:30. Give, Ecclesiastes 2:3. Handle, Judges 5:14. Long, Exodus 19:13. Joshua 6:5. Out, Exodus 12:21. Job 41:1. Psalms 85:5. Hosea 7:5. Prolonged, Isaiah 13:22. Ezekiel 12:25, 28. Scattered, Isaiah 18:2, 7. Soweth, Amos 9:13. Up, Jeremiah 38:13.
—Exhaustive Concordance (KJV Translation Frequency & Location)
Back to the word that we usually translate as “deferred”. Many Hebrew verbs are word pictures about actions.
In this one, the picture is about casting to the side, scattering, or otherwise neglecting hope.
Here is this proverb’s big punch…….
It is not hope that is taken away from us by another person or by circumstances. Rather, it is hope that is deferred by our own lack of attention or self-discipline.
We are responsible for the care and feeding of our expectations. We are responsible for choosing wisely, as we put together our hopes and desires. We may not be able to change another person’s mind, but by that same truth, they cannot change ours either. Even if our family was dysfunctional, we can say, “For myself, I am taking a different road, and no one can keep me from independent choices, without my permission. I won’t neglect the care and feeding of the hope I have, nor will I assign my tasks to someone else. I won’t cast my hope over to the side.”
For this reason we are challenged, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Often in the counseling room I notice when a client will use words like, “happy”, “easy”, “fun”, and “quick”, in clumps, and also frequently. When these words appear so frequently, and together so often, I begin looking and listening for references to addiction, to frequent shut-downs in growth, and to excessive complaints about other people around them. These connections do often show up. It is not that I object to happiness, ease, fun, or quickness in life, but I believe that when someone insists on these things being primary and predominant characteristics in life, they will concurrently refuse the acceptance of life’s difficulty, and its risks. In that refusal, they find that their “life muscles” don’t sufficiently develop.
Ken Chafin, a dear friend of long ago, and a mentor I didn’t get to be around near as much as I had wished, once told of a relative of his who joked on his way out of church one Sunday, “I am thinking of never coming back here… every time I hear you preach, I learn something for my life, and I’m not sure we are supposed to do that at church.” In our modern times and modern churches our worship experiences are more sensual than they were years ago, and they are not as growth provoking as they should be, and I am not sure they were always growth provoking years ago, at least not so in many locations. But, sometimes, a situation, in church or in everyday life, is not growth provoking largely because that is not what someone is shopping for.
I see the challenge in counseling, also. As powerful as the moments in counseling may be for transforming life… there are limits. During a discussion of the transformative effects of therapy, Seth Bernstein, an excellent therapist in Corvallis, Oregon, said, “Life is our greatest teacher, not psychotherapy.” But, what happens if we don’t want to learn from life? What happens if avoiding life’s difficulties is the main thing someone wants? Counseling can help someone get unstuck, then provide encouragement and guidance in learning from life, but it can’t work when we won’t take life on with a purpose in mind.
Those of us in Christian counseling will take Bernstein’s reminder a step further. We will say, “Christ— and Life in Christ– is our greatest teacher.” One of the greatest misunderstandings of the Christian life is the misunderstanding of the Union with Christ. (Romans 6:8-11)
Someone once said that the Christian life was not meant to be difficult, it was meant to be dangerous. That is true, I believe. We see our new identity, we see that sin no longer works (if it ever really did), we see that the new power in our life is the rule of Grace , and we discover that this means our life is going to involve sacrifice, growth, change, I guess if someone considers that to be hard, then the answer to the question, “Is it easy?”, has to be answered with a “No”. But, if we understand the true nature of the transformation that is ours in Christ— the questions about “ease, fun, quick, and happy” all get left behind. The Joy of the Lord is ours, even when life is difficult, and life cannot really be about Avoidance, anymore. The mature and active disciple is no longer a glutton for ease.
May I share an excellent post by Tim Fall
I have my client’s permission to tell you about a great idea he had. We had been talking about the perils of being self-employed… keeping a good schedule, being productive, making plans and following through, all with self-discipline as the main driver. He said, “I need an imaginary boss.” Next time he was at the huge, sell everything store he picked up an inexpensive action hero, his favorite League of Justice hero, put it in his home office, and told himself that this “boss” was there to advise him, keep him on task, and train him in self-discipline. And, it has worked.
I realized, and shared a little with him about why it may be working. It builds habits with a humorous way, moving ideas from the impulse level up to more rational and productive executive function areas of the brain. After a minute or so of that, we were both tired of academics, and we returned to the thrill of the chase. That is, how can we get to where we want to be in our efforts, when we are the boss. At the end of the day, week, or year, we need to feel a sense of accomplishment.
In praise of imaginary friends, it helps him to be able to say, “What would _______ say at a time like this?” Let me admit that there have been plenty of times that I have said to myself, “What would Ole Roy do at a time like this?” (If you don’t know who that is, go to You Tube, and look up Roy Rogers.)
I will frequently say to couples in marriage counseling, “What would Harley and Davidson do at a time like this?” Most partnerships would go out of business if they did not communicate, and share influence/decisions any better than some couples do.
Most of us talk to ourselves, and we aren’t imaginary. We do it to get some reflection and some perspective about ourselves. Can we mentor ourselves, especially when other mentors are not available?
I recommend some other of these internal references. We need to think on those good and wise things said by others over the years.
Our Imaginary Sage can be a collection of those shared quotes and stories told us by people who have learned and loved the truth.
Our Imaginary Coach can be sum of good motivators and teachers we have had.
Our Imaginary Critic can remind us of the uncaring folks out there who want to make us feel as stymied in life as they do. The imaginary one in our mind can let us practice as we say to them, “I am content with my better way of making well rounded decisions about this.” One more thing, an important thing, in your mind, be sure your imaginary critic is tied to a tree, so that you can keep on walking down your chosen road.
Imagination doesn’t have to be about fiction.
Imagination is what developers and inventers use to come up with new tools, products, solutions, and even changes in life itself. It can be about the future, and how we can accomplish. One of my favorite books is one I have read several times, with a title I think of at least scores of times a year since I first read it in the 70’s. It is by Edward C. Briggs, Will It Matter What I Was?, and it challenges me. Imagine the future you want and head that direction, but you have to do it every day.
May I contribute to your collection of good advice?
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Paul in Philippians 4:8
Paul is telling the truth, recommending the truth of a real relationship with a real and living God. Living an effective Christian life needs healthy thinking… and before we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”, we need to read, understand, and put into committed practice, “What Jesus Did….” Find your gifts and callings, and find good relationships with other encouragers in the faith.
Another wonderful article by Tim Fall… (Thanks Tim)
[From the archives.]
A few years ago Voddie Baucham made the outlandish claim that shyness is a sin. Then he said that when he sees a shy kid he knows better than the kid’s own parents how to fix that kid’s sin. (Skip to 2 minutes 30 seconds if you want to bypass his insistence on corporal punishment when children are just a few weeks old, because “your kids desperately need to be spanked”.)
As he puts it toward the end of the video clip:
Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say good morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs…
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Many people have heard of what John Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of a failing marriage; Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness; and Stonewalling. Recently, I noticed a feature of these four threats to marriage, something I had not noticed before. May I share some thoughts about what I discovered?
First, in case you have not read the excellent book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, let me recommend it, highly. Gottman brings over 40 years of good research to the book and to many other marriage publications and training opportunities. So much opinion on the street is only anecdotal, or repeated from other people, yet with little or no research findings to inform and document the views. Of course, much opinion is provided by the individual’s own experience in a marriage. This book is an informative read, an easy read, and it contains excellent exercises for a couple to practice together.
Criticism attacks the character of the other person. There should be room for a legitimate complaint, given without fight-talk or spite-talk, but when attacks happen and these attacks become vicious, the relationship is in trouble. Often a client will say, “Of course, I didn’t mean it…”, to which I say, “Actually, you did mean something… You meant to hurt, and disable the spirit of your spouse. Yes, you did.”
Contempt is especially bad… it is the most dangerous of the four. Contempt suggests that all hope is lost, that nothing will ever be done well enough by the recipient of the contempt, and that this is a continuous, underlying attitude, not just found during an argument but all the time. There are antidotes, but they are seldom used.
Defensiveness tries to make it all about the defender, or it tries to turn things around and make it the other person’s fault. I call this latter one the, “Oh yeah, what about you…”, defense. It is the most common horseman, and is dangerous mostly because it shows up so often, but it is also the most curable…good news.
Stonewalling happens for many reasons, of course we can’t always hear why from the Stonewaller. By definition, this person is giving their spouse the silent treatment. Sometime it is happening because the spouse is using one of the other horsemen, and the stonewaller is trying to escape. Other times it may be because this person has brought with them a habit from childhood, and they may actually believe this is the only way they can survive.
That thought about survival is what made me notice something new, for me. Here it is. All four of these horsemen are about survival and safety. However, however, however… they are all about safety for only one person, and about danger for the other person. Why should only one person be safe?
For those couples that Gottman calls, “the Masters of Relationship”, safety is something shared. The relationship is treated as more important than the issue being talked about. The Masters of Relationship don’t build their relationship around using anger to communicate, nor do they build it around worry that their spouse might “get mad”. (Not that you can’t have anger or other emotions, but emotions are there to inform you about your well-being, but anger is not a good communication tool. It would be like using your smoke detector as an oven timer.)
Sharing safety is about kindness, a trait for both people to practice, but it is also dependent upon the belief by both people that they will both be heard, understood, and treated fairly by the other. Lots of good results turn risk into trust and confidence. This can be tough for the person who grew up seldom or never seeing it modeled by their parents, and maybe not in their previous relationships. But… it can be true for the couple that becomes committed to the experience.
It isn’t supposed to be hard, in fact it is supposed to be easy, and it is for the kind, the loving, the courageous… those who abandon selfishness, and share safety, for the purpose of resolving the issue and blessing the relationship.
My family was from East Texas, and I did a lot of growing up there (though I was born in Louisiana), so I learned the language. Lots of colorful expressions came to me from there. This one about two ticks and no dog comes to mind quite often in working with couples in counseling. Not to talk about any one of them, that’s confidential, but to say that with Lots of them I see two hurting people, wanting help from the other, but both either have nothing to give or they have an internal rule against giving.
When they have nothing to give, perhaps it is because the trauma and abuse they feel has depleted them, taken away their personality and strength, or built a wall of stone. The abuse may have happened long before the marriage, or in the marriage alone, or in both before and after. Regardless, they have their emotional arms wrapped around them and their head covered with lots of “never again’s” and “I know what I’ll do’s” to protect them from any further attack. I have made another discovery. Sometimes it is because they learned about “romance” in Jr. High school and their knowledge of people and relationships has not grown much since that time.
So, what do we do? We start with self-awareness, and with a search for what made the wall necessary. We must not just tear down the wall if the relationship is still hurtful. Self-awareness is part of what J. B. Phillips was talking about when he developed his translation of the New Testament verse, Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold”. Sometimes even the world right at home can mold us into someone other than the person God created us to be. Couples begin speaking in “we-think”. An abusive partner may enforce compliance with their ideas. In the case of the “two ticks and no dog” couple, maybe both have tried to enforce compliance and both have become exhausted.
Recovering self-awareness takes a lot of conversation with our selves, and a lot of choice making and growing in wisdom, but it can happen. Next, comes assertively expressing ourselves to others without being a people pleaser, and also without being a bully toward them. Differences of opinion and personality need to be O.K., and they can even be fun. What happens when one spouse begins to speak for themselves, is that the other spouse may struggle with two things, 1) that their spouse isn’t blindly following them, and 2) that they themselves are now only speaking for their own self, and they too, will need to get used to more independence.
After self-awareness, and the assertiveness this involves, both ticks, ooops, I mean, People, will need to develop and share sensitivity. No couple becomes a happy and fulfilled couple without the ability to communicate about unmet needs, and do it in a way that is loving and helpful. Seeking the best for one another, as well as ourselves, practicing cooperation, openness, trustworthiness, and truthfulness with each other, two people can grow together, in reciprocal equality.
They will no longer be two ticks with no dog. They will be two strong people who can join each other to build a life together.
Another excellent article to share… more truth is out…
I have argued before that the Nashville Statement, seemingly about gay and transgender people, is actually a stealth way to make evangelicals sign on sexist values. Here is another piece of evidence.
The CBMW web page currently start with the Nashville statement right beside their Danvers statement on Biblical™ Manhood and Womanhood. These are the first and biggest things you see on the web page of an organization which exist to promote gender roles:
Almost at the top of the list of initial signatories, and one of the main endorsers, is Russell Moore. In a 2007 interview i, Moore said:
“… most of the people in our churches are in same-sex marriages right now, they just don’t realize it. Because you have people who have marriages in which we do not have male headship, you do not have male protection…”
According to Moore, to let go of…
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May I share another blog post? This is one, of the blogs I read, and this post, I believe, is one to share. I have often shared this same thoughts with clients in the Counseling Room.
Do you often feel guilty that you struggle with anxiety? Do you beat yourself up afterwards? When you hear, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything and with thanksgiving present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6-7) do you feel more burdened knowing that you are often anxious and filled with worry?
Indeed the Scriptures speak very frequently about our anxieties and worries. Might it be that it is a human experience (this side of the Fall) that will not be removed? If you worried less about your worries; if you felt less shame and guilt for them, how might that change how you respond to your worries?
I leave you with this thought as you ponder your way of responding to your worry. Psalm 56:3 says, When I am afraid I put my trust in you. It doesn’t say that such trust erases fear. You can be afraid and…
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