Dependency – Do Not Become Slaves Of Men

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As we discussed in an earlier post, co-dependency is a fuzzy pop-psychology term.  The more precise Biblical concept is that of someone becoming a “slave of men” (I Corinthians 7:23) by subsuming their inner self to another person, rather than to God.  But we will use the term codependent interchangeably as shorthand.

How do we know that this phrase did not refer to the physical slavery of the day?  We know it because Paul made several other clear statements that while it is better to be free, it was also ok to be a slave.

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Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.   For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.    I Corinthians 7:22-23

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In fact, slaves were to not just chafe under their masters, but seek to honor the Lord in the situation.

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All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.   I Timothy 6:1
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Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.   Colossians 3:22
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Paul could make these statements, because slavery was a feature of his era’s economic system, not focused on the control of people’s inward selves but their outward performance.  In fact, in Christ everyone was equal irrespective of their socio-economic status.
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a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.    Colossians 3:11
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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28
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Therefore, Paul’s admonition to “not become slaves of men” referred to who we are as a person, who we are on the inside, how we live our lives before God and with others.  We are not to subsume who we are on the inside to someone else.
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All scripture taken in isolation is subject to misinterpretation and abuse.  “Do not become slaves of men” could easily be twisted to mean, “no one will rule over me” (including God-given authority), leading to “I can do whatever I want”, or “I should exit any relationship that restricts my freedom”.  This does not mean that.  We are referring to an inward freedom to be yourself and the person God wants you to be, regardless of the circumstances.
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There are different tactics a “slave master” might use to make someone their slave (codependent).  For example,
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  1. Bullying
  2. Manipulation
  3. Use of fake authority
  4. Abuse of true authority
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Underneath the success of all of these is an element of the fear of man on the part of the codependent person – worried about what the other person thinks of you or can do to you, rather than what God thinks of you or can do to you.  Proverbs says,
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The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.  Proverbs 29:25

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and Jesus said
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 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!   Luke 12:4-5
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As narcissists have an inner drive to be the unquestioned #1 around which others’ lives orbit, they are particularly driven to make others their emotional or physical slaves.  It is difficult for them to achieve that with “hard targets” (those who are on to them or not afraid of them), so they focus on available “soft targets”.  And one of the easiest of soft targets are their own children.
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Next up:  Possible paths to co-dependency

 

Dependency – My Story

Like narcissism, dependency runs on a spectrum.  It can range from totally reliant on the high end to simple people-pleasing.  As the son of an insolently proud “N” mother (see “Barry” in the book, and Dealing With Narcissists – The Narcissistic Adult Mother in this blog), I have personally experienced the warping of healthy relationships which N’s drive.

My mother’s dominance created an unspoken but real requirement on me and my siblings to keep her happy at all costs.  It did not rise to the extreme of dependency, but created in me an over-concern with pleasing people.  Involvement in my 20’s in a legalistic ministry focused on conformance to man’s expectations rather than living in God’s love did not help.  I was trapped by the  fear of what man thought, rather than what God thought.

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The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. 
  
Proverbs 29:25

Continue reading

Dependency

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Throughout this blog we have seen how narcissists  – those with insolent pride – seek to exert their will over others.  They want to be #1, with others serving them.  They want others to be subject to their wishes, not the other way around.  They seek to subjugate others to their “rule”.

This can be situational, such as in work place power plays.  But it can also be relational, where the N seeks full-time, permanent rule over someone – a child, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, long serving staff, etc.  In the N’s drive and continued action to achieve this, they may subjugate their target’s will to their own.  The ultimate expression of this is for the target to become dependent on the N, allowing the N massive control.

Of course, this is not Biblical.  Paul said,

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”

I Corinthians 7:23

Just as the term “narcissism” is ill-defined and inconsistently applied, so are the concepts and terminology around dependency.

For example, Wikipedia calls codependency

A codependent is someone who cannot function on their own and whose thinking and behavior is instead organized around another person, process, or substance.  Many codependents place a lower priority on their own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.

This is a bad thing, right?  On the other hand, my parents were also considered codependent in living together on their own into their early 90’s.  They were able to compensate for each other’s capability gaps.  In this case, codependent was a good thing.

Because dependency is a real issue for those whose lives have been strongly influenced by narcissists, we are going to take a look at it in future blog posts.  This holds personal relevance for me as well, as result of my upbringing.

We will focus on the Biblical perspective of narcissist-driven dependency, looking at causes and solutions.  In particular, we will look at how to recognize it, what it can do to us, and how to go from becoming non-Biblical people-pleasers to showing genuine strength with love.

 

 

 

From Bad To Worse

My brother recently told me of two incidents of blatant selfishness and disregard for others which he observed in the space of a one week.  Both incidents were from the type of people who 20 or 30 years ago would be expected to show at least some consideration for others.  Insolent pride appears to be increasing, everywhere you turn.  Paul said to Timothy.

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But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

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Many of these descriptions apply to narcissists, implying that in “the last days” narcissism around us will get worse, not better.  Not a pleasant message.  It is presumptuous to declare that we are in the last days, as many over the past centuries have believed it as well, yet we’re still here.  However, it sure feels that we are.

The good news is that “it is darkest right before the dawn”, and those with sincere faith in Jesus are that much closer to a magnificent future.

How do we handle even more difficulty than we already have?  Paul went on to tell Timothy how to respond:

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12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:12-17

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Paul told Timothy

  1. Avoid them
  2. Expect to be persecuted (God tells us elsewhere in the Bible not to fear it.  He will give us the grace needed and reward us in the end)
  3. Expect people to go from bad to worse
  4. Expect people to try to deceive us
  5. Expect people to be easily deceived by others
  6. Continue in the truth you have learned and know
  7. Remember the faith and walk with God of those from whom you learned truth
  8. Remember that it is God’s written word (“sacred writings”) which provide true wisdom and true faith, and everything we need to effectively minister to those around us

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We all desire lives of peace and prosperity.  That will come in far greater measure than we can imagine – in Heaven.  But God knows and informs us that the road between here and there will be bumpy.  If we walk hand-in-hand with Him, He will see us through to that fantastic future.

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Please see Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective for an overview of what this blog is about

 

 

The Cornerstone of Trust

It is easy to be filled with doubts of all kinds.  If we trace those doubts to their roots, they are doubts of whether God really loves us, doubts on God’s knowledge of our situation, doubts on God’s wisdom in allowing our situations, or doubts on His power to control absolutely everything for our good (and His glory).

In these times, it is important to place our feet firmly on the ultimate solid ground, the Rock, Jesus.  His resurrection is the ultimate proof of God’s existence – through demonstration of His power to raise someone from the dead.  Man in all his haughtiness and self-achievement is absolutely unable to do what only God can do.

Because of this, acceptance of Jesus’ resurrection as a fact, and not merely a “belief”, is an important foundation stone of our ability to trust God.  The Desiring God website has a good article on the proof of the resurrection.

If in fact God went to the ultimate extreme to solve our biggest need – reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus – why would He not be “for us” in everything else?  It wouldn’t make sense.

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Romans 8:31-39

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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His death is the ultimate proof of His love, and His resurrection is the ultimate proof of His existence and power.  If He is with us in our biggest need, He will surely be with us in life’s daily needs.  Because of this, we can “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us”.

Strengthen Yourself In The Lord

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1 Samuel 30:6

Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

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I received a small bit of news yesterday that was a bit discouraging.  It was not a big deal, and it did not affect me directly, but rather someone close to me.  The person affected was not bothered much, but I hurt on his  behalf.

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As I was discouraged this morning, I remembered David’s example in I Samuel 30:6.  Things were completely falling apart for David and his crew, and to top it the people loyal to him were distressed to the point of contemplating getting rid of him.  Rather than giving up or thrashing around for a human solution, David started by “strengthening himself in the Lord”.

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How do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord?  First would be to get a little quiet space and begin talking directly with Him.  We can complain about how we feel, but need to do it respectfully and in light of His Sovereignty.  Second might be to find a Psalm that reflects the state of our heart.  And third might be to reflect on God’s unlimited love and goodness, His unlimited power, His unlimited knowledge and wisdom, and His consistent faithfulness to those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  Finally, we can cry out to Him for HELP!.  There is no magic formula, but you will know when your heart has been strengthened in Him.

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After he was strengthened in the Lord, David was able to then see clearly enough to ask God what he was supposed to do about the situation.  God gave David the answer, and David charged forward with God providing the practical victory and ultimate solution.

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Take a look at all of I Samuel 30 to get the whole story.

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Psalm 73:25-28

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.

28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.

 

Healing From Narcissist Abuse* – Turning Tears Into A Life-giving Spring

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Psalm 84:5-7

5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
6 Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
7 They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

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The “valley of Baca” is most often understood to be the “Valley of Weeping”. There are times in our lives when we do go through a period of sorrow and weeping – and suffering at the hands of a narcissist in our life is typically one of those times.

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Psalm 84 says that it is actually possible during those times for us to

  • “Make it (our weeping) a spring” – to turn our hurt and sorrow into a source of life and vitality for ourselves and those around us
  • “Go from strength to strength” – to remain strong and even gain additional strength
  • “Appear before God in Zion” – to not lose our faith in God and in His love and goodness.

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The keys for doing this are found in verse 4 –

  • “Whose strength is in You (God)” – Rather than primarily relying on other sources – which will most likely fail us at some point – looking to God and relying on His strength to uphold us
  • “In whose heart are the highways to Zion” – consistently seeking God, His wisdom, His ways

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Our natural instinct is to attempt to scratch out small human solutions to our hurts……but God says that the real key to transforming our hurts into something good is to make Him the heart of the solution.

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Psalm 91 – Security Of The One Who Trusts In The Lord

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Psalm 91

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91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”

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For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

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You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

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A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.

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For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.

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11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

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14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

Don’t Worry About “Ministry Limitations” Due To N’s

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Matthew 25:20-23

20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your [a]master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”

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Christians concerned about how God settles accounts for eternity may have a fear that a narcissist in their life could be limiting them from achieving as much as they “should”.  The parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25 clearly explains that eternal rewards are based on being faithful before God with what we have been given, and not on how “productive” we have been. Continue reading

Dealing With Narcissists* – They Ultimately Don’t Get Away With It

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Those who have been hurt by a narcissist that appears to “get away with it” can really struggle with bitterness and a deep desire for “justice” to be done.  This often results in a continued obsession with the narcissist and what he/she has done, and a corresponding inability to “move on” or focus on your own following after God.

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Narcissists are pros at shifting blame, covering up, lying their way out of things, and making you think it was your fault – all the while seeming to never really receive consequences for their actions commensurate with the pain which they have inflicted.  Especially when they just flippantly move on to their next target.  One aspect of coming to a point of peace in what happened to you at the hands of the narcissist is understanding clearly that in the end God will deal with them – and we can and should leave that to Him.

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Romans 12:19

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

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Continue reading

The Rivers Will Not Overflow You

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Isaiah 43:1-3

43 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.

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This classic, beautiful statement by God to His beloved Israel is a clear reminder to us that when God allows us to go through deep waters He will be with us in it, and that He will not allow those deep waters to overcome us.

But we might say, “that applies to Israel, and not me”.  He repeats the same sentiment toward believers in Romans 8:28-39 when He says that nothing can separate us from His love.

Continue reading

An Illustration of The Impact of Crying Out To Jesus For Help

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I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago, who told me a moving story that underscores the importance of simply crying out to the Lord in times of trouble.

The friend’s mother was a serial “marry-er”, who was also on a quest for “power”.  When he was young she was involved in witchcraft as a means of experiencing more power.  He did not know his father at all.   At one point he threw out all of his toys, because they were “talking to him” (demonic activity in his room).

His mom did occasionally go to church, so my friend had some awareness of Jesus.  At one point sometime before age 8 he was so desperate he cried out “Jesus, SAVE ME!”.  He believes that not only did he become a genuine Christian then, but the Lord took that cry for help and did much more.

At age eight his mom took him to a particular church down the street just one time in order to impress her current boyfriend.  She did not go back, but he continued to go.  After awhile a lady in the church noticed that he was always there by himself, and took him under her wing, picking him up for events, paying for him to go to camp, and more.  At age 18, the pastor of the church started mentoring him further.  Even though he had no earthly prospects for proper guidance in his life, Jesus provided.  Later, God has blessed him further through having his own family and a prosperous business.

In response to my friend’s cry, Jesus saved him on several levels – not only for eternity, but also out of his seemingly impossible circumstances.

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For more on the importance of looking to the Lord for help, please see Dealing With Narcissists – Crying Out Seeking God and Dealing With Narcissists – Crying Out Seeking God Continued

 

 

The Contentious Woman Changes

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Psalm 16:11

11 You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

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In the blog post Crying Out, Seeking God we discussed that sometimes the very first step on a road to healing is simply to cry out to God for help.  While you may not see an instant, dramatic change in your situation, you will often look back and see that time of crying out as the moment God put you on the path to His solution.

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I came across a blog entry by Dr. Linda Karges-Bone.  It is a broader discussion of her take on the “contentious woman”, but includes her testimony of asking God for help, which began a road of healing.  The entire blog entry is worth reading, but here is a key excerpt:

 

Now for the second round of reactions. It is quite possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I doubt it. Here’s why. I have done what researchers call a “double blind” test. I have tried it both ways. I lived the first decade of my marriage as a contentious woman. I pouted. I nagged. I saw myself as the unappreciated, overburdened, wife of a grumpy, difficult, selfish beast of a man. I have, at one point, been on the brink of losing my marriage. But two things saved me: God’s mercy and grace and my own decision to look for the good in my marriage instead of the bad.

I asked God to save my marriage. Continue reading

God Heals By Humbling – John Piper

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A devotional by John Piper, excerpted from his message “The Lofty One Whose Name is Holy

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“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” (Isaiah 57:18–19)

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“In spite of the severity of man’s disease of rebellion and willfulness, God will heal. How will he heal? Isaiah 57:15 says that God dwells with the crushed and humble. Yet the people of Isaiah 57:17 are brazenly pursuing their own proud way. What will a healing be?

It can only be one thing. God will heal them by humbling them. He will cure the patient by crushing his pride. If only the crushed and humble enjoy God’s fellowship (Isaiah 57:15), and if Israel’s sickness is a proud and willful rebellion (Isaiah 57:17), and if God promises to heal them (Isaiah 57:18), then his healing must be humbling and his cure must be a crushed spirit.

Isn’t this Isaiah’s way of prophesying what Jeremiah called the new covenant and Jeremiah called a new heart? He said, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33).

Isaiah and Jeremiah both see a time coming when a sick, disobedient, hard-hearted people will be supernaturally changed. Isaiah speaks of healing. Jeremiah speaks of writing the law on their hearts.

So the healing of Isaiah 57:18 is a major heart transplant — the old hardened, proud, willful heart is taken out and a new soft, tender heart is put in which is easily humbled and crushed by the memory of sin and the sin that remains.

This is a heart that the lofty One whose name is Holy can dwell with and give life to.”

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective