by: Jeff Baker
We don’t know a lot about Jonah. When we first meet him, the Lord speaks to him and asks him to perform a very specific task. We read in verse 3 of Chapter one, “But Jonah…” Obviously, this task was unpleasant to Jonah and as a result he disobeyed and fled to Tarshish. He decided to go the opposite direction from where God had called him to be. You see, Nineveh had a problem not much different than what our country has today. Their sin had reached a point where the wrath and judgment of God was on its way. Within 40 days Nineveh would face the consequences of their choices and sin.
But God… sent His messenger Jonah to let them know what was about to happen. But Jonah knew something about God that he often ignores throughout his interaction with all parties involved. The mercy of God. But more on that in a moment.
The crew is your average everyday shipping crew. They are going about their life doing what they do every day. Taking cargo from one place to another, making a living, and providing for their families. On this day something significant was about to happen.
Jonah boarded the ship possibly in disguise or just simply trying to keep from being noticed by anybody. As the ship set sail, things begin to change dramatically. A huge storm overtakes the ship and this weathered group of men begin crying out to anything or anyone that could possibly save them. But who could possibly save them? All their idols, false gods and world views weren’t enough. In fact, things got worse.
Only God could help them. And as providence would have it, His representative was on that ship… somewhere. Actually, he was deep within the ship trying to hide from God and man.
Back on deck, the crew threw everything overboard they could think of to try to save the ship. Think about that for a moment. Everything that they were entrusted with by their clients was now lost and destroyed. Their shipping careers were most likely over. Afterall, who would want to use a carrier that willingly destroyed all that cargo.
And yet, the storm raged on. After casting lots they discovered that Jonah was the reason for all of this. They even tried to save him by not listening to him about throwing him overboard. And again the storm worsened. Finally out of desperation they pleaded with God for mercy and threw Jonah overboard.
What Could Have Been
From the moment Jonah boarded the ship he could have been God’s message of love and mercy. Here were a bunch of men who seemed rough and tough on the outside, but when faced with overwhelming circumstances, they clearly welcomed and even worshiped the God of Jonah.
Then the men became extremely afraid of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. Jonah 1:16 (NASB)
Instead of experiencing a God of mercy, they met a God of wrath. Jonah knew that God was a God of mercy and yet kept silent on the matter from the moment he boarded this ship. How often do we keep silent amongst those who we pass by everyday?
The Big Fish
We all know what happened next. Jonah is swallowed up by a really big fish. After 3 days and nights, Jonah came to his senses. He prayed. He returned to the God he knew to be merciful. Even in the midst of extreme disobedience, Jonah knew God would forgive and restore him. And He did.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah (a second time). This time Jonah obeyed. Reluctantly, but he still obeyed. With the fresh experience of the mercy of God on full display in his own life, Jonah spent 3 days (20 – 30 miles each day) walking across Nineveh. With a population of 120,000 (about the size of Columbia, South Carolina), Jonah simply repeated what he heard from God. “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!”. No mercy, no grace, just straight judgement.
We don’t know if Jonah had any previous issues with Nineveh. Perhaps they were the political party of the day he didn’t like. Or maybe, the people of Nineveh identified as something he didn’t approve of. Or perhaps they were just a bunch of ignorant people that didn’t really strike him as worth much. We don’t know. But we do know that he delivered God’s message with zero compassion, grace or mercy. I can almost see a gleam in his eye that he can’t wait to see this place laid waste in the next 40 days. They will surely get what they deserve.
The amazing thing is that Nineveh repented. God relented.
I bet it was a sight to see cows, dogs and cats in sackcloth.
What Could Have Been
What if Jonah approached the city with the fresh experience of mercy he had just received. What if, as he shared the message of God’s coming wrath, he also shared with them His amazing mercy and love. Jonah could have explained that repentance was indeed required, but that the cows, dogs and cats weren’t required to wear sackcloth. He could have shared with them his own experience and intimate knowledge of God’s mercy. But he didn’t.
The reason we receive God’s grace and mercy is not so that we can feel better about ourselves. We receive His grace and mercy to become exactly that.
As I look at the world around me, there are well meaning Christians that have all but become what God has called them to. I am forgiven so that I may forgive. I am shown mercy that I may show mercy. I receive grace so that I may give grace to others. I am loved by God so that I might become love to others. After all, isn’t that what it means to be created in God’s image. If God is love, then let us also become love. The world desperately needs it.
Is God saying the same thing to us today? Does Jonah 4:11 not apply to you and I?
Should I not also have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people, who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?”
If you listen closely enough, you might even hear the echo from the cross saying much the same thing. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Written by BJL.
The need for recovery in our lives is vital as we work through trauma, tragedy, loss, addictions, and other hardships. We face never-ending stresses from our jobs, less than desirable circumstances, and unhealthy relationships. When these things have taken root in our hearts and souls, it can be hard to keep your recovery on track. Managing recovery is a daunting task, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Before discovering I needed recovery in my life, my skewed belief system had me in complete denial of what I was facing. My soul was consumed with self-pity, selfish desires, and thoughts of how my situation would never improve. When I finally hit rock bottom, I had to let go of my faulty beliefs and realized I was dealing with something I couldn’t handle alone. After this realization, I called out for help, and God heard my cry (2 Samuel 22:7 AMP). I had to give God control over my life, and He directed my path, leading me to a counselor.
In the past, I had never considered counseling or recovery. I didn’t think this would be something for me until God opened my eyes to the benefits of counseling and recovery. It’s been over three years since I first started my recovery process, and my situation and outlook on life have drastically improved. One of the best ways to manage recovery is through counseling. A professional counselor will have tools and resources for you to use and will be your guide as you move forward.
No matter what you are recovering from, there are vital skills and tools you must use. The best way to recover from any situation is to create a new normal that is conducive to your recovery. If you try to hold on to old ideas and habits, your recovery will be less effective, and you may find yourself falling back into the lifestyle you are trying to escape.
As you work to improve your life, the following 10 skills can help you achieve your recovery goals:
- Practice rigorous honesty:
- When you are dishonest with yourself and those around you, it can be easy to slip back into old habits, inhibiting your recovery.
- Being honest with yourself is challenging, let alone other people, but the rewards of honesty far outweigh the effort.
- When you choose honesty, it takes away the guilt and shame associated with lying.
- Learn how to relax regardless of the situation:
- High-stress situations can cause you to slip or take a step backward in recovery when not handled properly.
- When you are facing a daunting situation, using proven relaxation techniques is the best way to calm yourself. Skills such as breathing techniques and meditation are a necessity when working through recovery.
- If you are in a high-stress situation that allows you to remove yourself entirely, learn to walk away.
- Maintain a journal and a list of things to be grateful for in recovery:
- Journaling is an excellent way to get things off your chest. A private journal allows you to get something out that you would rather not discuss with others. You will also record days of victory, and these journal entries are well worth revisiting when you are having a trying time.
- When in recovery, it can be hard to focus on the positives, but maintaining a positive outlook and actively seeking out and listing the things you are grateful for is one of the most productive skills to practice.
- Create a network of strong connections with others who are working through recovery:
- Always remember you are not alone. First and foremost, God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). Hold on to that promise! Secondly, you can contact close relatives, friends, a counselor, your sponsor, or even your pastor for support and guidance when you are struggling.
- Recovery works best when you have others who understand what you are going through and are willing to encourage you along the way.
- When possible, remove yourself or avoid situations that put your recovery at risk:
- People, places, and things are three categories that have an adverse effect on the recovery process.
- People who are negative and cause you to doubt yourself and your recovery should be avoided at all costs. This may include people in our lives whom we love the most. Sometimes it’s necessary to distance yourself from people that don’t have your best interest at heart.
- It is wise to avoid places where you have fallen in the past. Nothing good can come from putting yourself in harm’s way, so avoid these places entirely.
- The world is more concerned with the accumulation of things now than it has ever been. Things alone aren’t all bad, and we live in a society that is blessed beyond any other society existing before us. It’s when things become the driving force in our lives, that we need to take a step back and ask ourselves what we actually need and what we can live without. Letting go of things that have become idols in our lives is a crucial step towards true recovery.
- Help others in recovery:
- Something special happens when you are selfless and help others who are in need. If you have never experienced this before, give it a try, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- You may be further along in recovery than others and have wisdom to share. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences with others. You may never know how great or small your impact on someone’s life is until you reach eternity, so let your life be a reflection of progress and opportunity.
- Encouraging others is as simple as sending a text or an email, making a phone call, or writing a letter. Purpose to help someone every day and your recovery will be blessed, even when helping isn’t directly related to recovery.
- Aside from the health benefits of exercise, it is a great way to eliminate stress and tension in your body.
- Exercise allows the body to release feel-good hormones naturally.
- Overall, health contributes to happiness, in turn benefiting your recovery.
- Attend support group meetings and work with a sponsor:
- Support group meetings are the collective wisdom, strength, and hope of their members. You will find compassion, support, and encouragement from those who are struggling or have struggled with similar situations as you.
- A sponsor is an intricate part of the recovery process. Though a sponsor may still have personal struggles, it is someone who has worked through the 12 steps and is well ahead of you on the path of recovery. This person can be your guide, your friend, and a lifeline when you feel you are spiraling out of control.
- Know the symptoms of H.A.L.T. and avoid them:
- This acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are all gateways that can cause disruption in your recovery.
- Avoid these by providing a solution for each. When hungry, eat. When angry, discuss your frustrations or exercise to release your pent-up feelings. Lonely isn’t conditional and you can be lonely even if you are surrounded by people. Always have a lifeline you can reach out to when lonely. When you are tired, sleep.
- These solutions may seem simple, but they are effective. Take action to avoid or remedy the symptoms of H.A.L.T. whether you are facing one or all of them.
- Prayer and meditation:
- Prayer is a gift from God. It allows us to enter into His very presence and commune with Him one on one. Some people only pray when in need but God isn’t satisfied with only hearing your pleas, He wants to have a relationship with you. It’s okay to pray for situations you are struggling with, but try talking to Him about your day or what your interests are in that moment. Prayer should also consist of thanking God for His forgiveness, grace, and blessings upon your life,
- Practicing meditation can help you deal with your feelings, your frustrations, and your state of mind.
- Your mind is powerful enough that it can have positive and negative effects on your body.
- If you find yourself dwelling on past hurts and situations, meditation can bring you back to the present.
God is an essential part of recovery. Without His love, grace, and forgiveness, there is no way forward in recovery. A crucial step of recovery is accepting that we need God’s help to succeed in our recovery efforts. God’s forgiveness is necessary for us to forgive ourselves, and this is one of the first things we must do before starting on the path of recovery.
No matter what you are working to recover from, remember that you are not alone. God is always with you, and others have faced challenges similar to yours. If you are new to recovery, you can take four simple steps to get started on the right path. The first is seeking God’s face above all else. The second is finding a counselor. The third is attending recovery support meetings. And the fourth is finding a sponsor.
When you are right with God, everything else will fall in line. You may feel like you can’t recover, that you are unequivocally broken, and there’s no hope. If these feelings describe you, I assure you that you are wrong. Let me encourage you by saying that I’m not the person I once was, and hope has been restored in my life. This change in my life is because of my relationship with God and my nearly four years of recovery. May God bless and keep you.
“In my distress, I called upon the LORD; I cried out to my God, And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice; My cry for help came into his ears.” (2 Samuel 22:7 AMP)
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)
Taking care of our mental health is one of the most important things we can do. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen provides helpful tips for boosting our mental health. Click to read Dr. Amen’s blog post regarding The 7 Best Feel-Good Alternatives to Replace Hugs.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
During this busy Christmas season, let us be reminded of our purpose. Let’s enjoy it with peace and thanksgiving instead of stress and overcommitting. May we be challenged this holiday season to seek God first in the things we commit ourselves to and to keep our eyes on Him.
Kirby King, a local author and Life In Abundance workshop facilitator, shares her personal experience with saying “yes” to rest and “no” to busyness. Click here to read more.
By Dana Adams
Summer has officially come to an end, which means we say a temporary farewell to the beloved sunny, warmer days. As summer days fade into cooler autumn nights, the season isn’t the only thing changing. We may begin to experience less energy, sadness, fluctuation in weight, lack of motivation and focus, and a longing to stay curled up in bed. Have you noticed this about yourself? Or, maybe the holiday blues seem harder to get over and are getting worse year after year?
This can be alarming, and often frustrating as we question what’s wrong with us and why we can’t just shake it off. You’re not alone, friend. The fall and winter blues are very normal and commonly felt among many. If these symptoms are proving to be more and more difficult to overcome and impacting everyday life, it could be Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
This time of the year can bring up great personal loss, which can make it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms of Seasonal Depression. Add to that the significant life changes due to COVID-19, it’s unimaginable what this season can mean for so many. With the approaching hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my heart inclines a little closer toward the one who is quietly hurting. The one who overbooks during this time to try and forget their loneliness and aching grief that nostalgia now brings. The one who holds back anxiety while carving the Thanksgiving turkey. The one who flawlessly shines in their tacky Christmas sweater holding on to beliefs that they are unseen.
I understand it well, and can find myself most days during this season feeling like the winter months will never end. It was 8 years ago during this time that my journey to soul healing began. I remember feeling beyond hopeless and broken. I, too, spent the holiday season holding in deep sorrow, sadness, and grief as the most wonderful time of the year made its deafening approach.
Loneliness, depression, anxiety, grief, family dysfunction, health crisis, financial strain, addiction, fears, stress, stress and more stress stay wrapped up inside as a haunting heaviness. Whatever your haunting heaviness is that tries to restrict joy and peace, please hear me when I say that you are not alone.
You don’t have to overcome the holiday blues, or Seasonal Depression, alone or without tools. Here are some ideas to help get ahead of the holiday blues this season:
- Enjoy the sun: Take a walk outside or keep the shades open. Pro-tip: Mid-day provides the strongest light!
- Exercise regularly
- Stay connected to others
- Journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help sort through the negative to find the positive. Try starting each entry with 1-3 things you’re grateful for.
- Engage in healthy habits: less drinking, stay away from overeating, drink more water, etc.
- Try Light Therapy: This can include exposure to direct sunlight or using Light Therapy Lamps.
- Talk with a Counselor: Counseling provides helpful emotional support that can provide healthy coping strategies to overcome the holiday blues.
- Medication: Talk with your doctor to see if starting antidepressants before the start of winter and continuing until spring would be right for you.
Lastly, pray and seek Jesus. The Lord can handle our hurts. He wants us to bring them to him. He knows exactly what we’re going through. He promises to give rest for our weariness and heavy burdens in our constant fruitless toil of trying to get it right. With so much busyness either on its way or already here, it’ll be important to make time to take care of ourselves. Maybe one thing our weary souls need most right now is to rest in the arms of a loving Savior, the true reason for this amazing season.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I confess….I have an addiction: food. I love food of all kinds. But I love it so much I’ve damaged my God-given shut-off alarm! However, if I’m truly honest, my addiction isn’t necessarily to food. No, my addiction isn’t food, but instead it is an addiction to “me”.
I want what I want. I want what I like. I want what stirs happy feelings and comforts me (however briefly). Yeah, I’m addicted to me, my flesh. I struggle resisting what I think I need and then struggle even worse when I try not to overeat.
Way too often I get in my own head and the hamster wheel of negative thoughts and feelings increases to 100 miles per hour. If I am feeling strong that day, I can use my tools (Bible reading, accountability, gratitude list) and calm the spin, or stop it completely. Well, for a while, that is.
One day, I woke up in a frustrated, defeated funk. My thoughts were sliding down a slippery slope and I prayed during my devotions, “Please Lord, transform my thinking today to positive thoughts!” I knew where my thinking would lead if it kept going in that downward direction. I had certainly been there before.
See, I had made a conscious decision nearly 30 days prior to work on my health by eating healthier and being more active. Did I want to lose weight? SURE! But even more so, I wanted to like myself again and continue to be around as my grandchildren grew up. Unfortunately, my typical pattern has been to go strong for 1 month. I experience victories, but then my addiction to “me” reawakens. Eventually, I give up.
On this particularly “down” day, I was approaching my 1-month mark since starting my commitment again. With my rut pattern of thinking, my brain (and Satan) reminded me and reared it’s ugly head, taking me back to a place of defeat again.
As I drove to work that day, my mind continued to slide into a pit. I tried brushing it off and putting it out of my mind. Thankfully, I work with people who care about me, know me, AND who call me out when I need it. After a grateful time of talking and encouragement, the Lord reminded me of a post I had put on Facebook the previous day. It was the verse found in 1 John 5:4, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”
I have to admit, my faith is often less than a mustard seed size, especially that day. But I realized it’s because I’m looking at myself to achieve these hard things. I’m reminded that only God can achieve true victory in and through me. My role is to just keep my eyes on Jesus!!
Today, I confessed my addiction to “me” and my fear of failure (again) to God; and now to you. God answered my prayer that day. I am trusting He will break this cycle of failure and surrender to defeat, because I surely can’t do it in my own strength!
God didn’t transform my thinking immediately, nor did He do it in the way I perceived in my head, but He did do it that day! I will need to pray this promise from Him often as I struggle with negative thinking. For now, I can go back to that day in my mind (and my prayer journal) and remember how He honored my prayer. God loves me and I am forever grateful!
I believe there may be others of you, like me, who have patterns of defeat. You begin strong but ultimately give up. Your addiction or struggle may be very different from mine. As the patterns are repeated, you get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and scared because you believe you know what’s coming. However, I encourage you to stop living according to a faulty belief. Use the lies and truths outlined below to identify what you’re feeling right now. Then look up the Scripture indicated and pray, pray, pray! It is very powerful to insert your name into the Scripture and pray it out loud.
By Karen Grotler