Archives For fear

We Are Vulnerable

Tim Jackson —  April 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

If last Monday’s events at the Boston Marathon reminded us of anything—it’s that we’re all susceptible to some form of attack or injury, be it physical, financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual. We all suffer wounds as we navigate through life.

To be vulnerable means we are susceptible. The Latin root for the word vulnerable is vulner[are] meaning, “to wound.”

When I get into my car to head home after posting this blog I will face vulnerability. I could be hurt, maimed, or killed in a senseless car accident on the way home. That’s my reality–my vulnerability. It may not be at the hands of a madman with a bomb or an airplane diverted into a building. Instead, my wound might be inflicted by a careless teenager texting while driving. Wounds inflicted through no fault of our own are devastating no matter how, when, where, what, or who the source is.

No one can predict the future with any kind of clarity. I want to see things coming at me so I can prepare and protect myself and those I love from them. But I haven’t been given that kind of clarifying vision.

We are vulnerable because we live in a hazardous and hostile world. And that’s a frightening thought.

But how will we choose to deal with our fear? Some of us may become hypervigilant, seeking to minimize or eliminate all danger. Others choose to deny that we’re vulnerable–creating the self-induced illusions of invincibility or false security. Or we learn to depend on Someone greater than ourselves who will help us face with courage and grace anything that threatens to harm us.

The writer of Psalm 56 was David. Israel’s beloved king knew firsthand what it was like to be vulnerable in the presence of his enemies. Later, when he remembered those terrorizing events, he penned these words: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3,4)

When I’m vulnerable, I need to remember that I’m not alone in my vulnerability. And neither are you. As God was with David, He is with us.

The Fear of Love

Tim Jackson —  July 23, 2012 — 8 Comments

I recently chatted with a young woman who survived growing up in a dangerous home with an evil father. Oh, he looked normal enough to outsiders—kept a job, paid the bills, went to church, and played the part for the public—but in private, he was a cruel, sadistic beast who preyed upon the insecurities of his wife and children.

How did she survive? She became a runner. She learned how to outdistance the problem, literally and emotionally.

In junior and senior high school, she ran track. She was a fierce competitor. She’d had lots of practice. Putting distance between herself and a threatening adversary became second nature not only on the track, but also off the track in her relationships.

Now that she’s found a good man who—unlike her dad—can be trusted, she’s discovered that she just can’t stop running. She readily admits the undeniable longing for love deeply embedded in her heart. But while that desire entices her, it terrifies her even more!

Why? Because she’s realizing that running has become a way of life.

The truth is, all relationships are risky and have the potential for both pain and pleasure. Running is her way to manage that potential for pain in her relationships. Admittedly, it helped her survive an abusive situation, but now it’s sabotaging her potential for joy in a relationship with a man who truly loves her.

It’s her fear of love that’s paralyzing her from moving forward.

John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart, “The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it” (p. 106).

Oddly enough, for many it’s the fear of losing love that shuts love down before it even has a chance to take root and grow.

This young woman’s fear of intimacy, of getting close, of finally being loved paralyzes her heart, preventing her from exchanging her running shoes for a pair of dancing shoes.

For many who have suffered the torment of growing up in an abusive home, their capacity to trust others to deeply love and care for them and not leave them is greatly diminished. They find it next to impossible to believe anyone will stay in their lives for an extended time, much less for a lifetime. They are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, dashing their hopes for a meaningful relationship yet again.

The solution for many is, “Just don’t get close to anyone. Outdistance the pain. Never commit. Keep moving, and you’ll never feel the pain of abandonment or abuse again.”

Unfortunately it works for a while . . . with some of the pain. But it’s a thief. It steals. It kills. And it destroys one’s opportunity to playfully splash around in the refreshing waters of committed love.

But there is hope. The antidote to our fear is perfect love. The problem is we are not perfectly loved. Or are we?

John, the apostle of love, said it best: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). It’s God’s perfect love for us that can infuse us with the courage necessary to take the risk of loving others. And that’s the antidote that can transform any of us from “runners” to “lovers.” John’s words are a necessary reminder when we panic and start lacing up our running shoes. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

So, what shoes are you wearing these days? Running shoes or dancing shoes? I love to hear your thoughts and stories.

 

 

Ever get angry? I know I sure do. If there is one emotion I’m personally acquainted with—it’s getting hacked off.

Anger can be a legitimate and healthy emotion. The apostle Paul speaks of a righteous anger: “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NASB).

For some of us, however, anger is the only emotion we let ourselves deeply feel and express.

Why is that?

For many people, it stems from past experiences where emotions like sadness and fear were downplayed or ignored or even outright discouraged. As a result, many of us learn to push such feelings down and use anger as a “go-to” emotion. Anger seems safer to feel because it’s far less vulnerable. When were angry, we won’t need others. And when we don’t need others, they can’t let us down.

It may provide a measure of short-term safety, but using anger as a “go-to” emotion and banning more vulnerable feelings will inevitably ruin relationships and block us from finding the comfort of God and others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Is anger your “go-to” emotion? Take a risk and let yourself feel those things that hurt or scare you. And then begin sharing those feelings with God and a friend or two. Involving others and letting them see more of you than just your anger can help you find comfort and in turn, learn how to comfort others.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” –Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

 

Never cheat

Tim Jackson —  April 5, 2011 — 1 Comment

When did we shift from the idea in our society that cheating is wrong to cheating is okay? People often think nothing of cheating on their taxes.  Cheating on the job has become common place and costs employer’s billions each year. And cheating in professional sports or in politics? Lying in court? Cheating on one’s spouse? Well, it’s the fodder that fuels much of the late night stand up comics’ routines. And honestly, we’re just not surprised by much any more. We’re living in the world where the the popular mindset of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” has some how become acceptable.

So, it’s not an over statement to say that cheating is epidemic, and almost expected.

But, why?

I remember when I cheated. I was sitting in Mrs. Watchhorn’s 4th grade class. Math reading problems were my nemesis.  No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t get it. Ancient Greek would have been easier in my mind to understand. (That thought that would come back to haunt me later in a seminary NT Greek class!).  I froze during a math test with 6 reading problems.  I was terrified of failing. I saw no way out, except one.

That’s when I cheated.

I convinced Christine Adams, the  cute little neighbor girl who sat next to me and who was a whole lot smarter than me when it came to math, to let me see her answers. She begrudgingly complied. Probably because she felt sorry for me and could sense my utter desperation.

But, Mrs. Watchhorn was watching. (Now with a name like “Watchhorn” you think I would have gotten a clue. OK, but don’t be too harsh on me. Remember,  it was 4th grade.) She was strict. She asked me, “Did you cheat?” “No,” was my reply. I flat out lied to her. She looked at Christine and repeated the question. She told the truth. I was busted.

But Mrs Watchhorn was not just a good detective with eyes in the back of her head. She was also a good teacher. While she was intolerant of cheating in her classroom, she was also kind. Yes, I failed the test because I cheated. But, she didn’t discard me because of my deception motivated by desperation. Instead, she invested time helping me understand math. She worked with me until I got it. She taught me how to conquer math reading problems . . . and a whole lot more.

Over time, I took what I learned from Mrs. Watchhorn about tackling math problems and began addressing other struggles that I encountered. Instead of running from challenges because I was afraid of not knowing what to do with them, I learned to step into them with the confidence that I’d learn something.

There are a number of reasons why people cheat. One of the biggest ones is fear. And that’s a heart issue that God wants us to learn how to handle. Because he’s an even better teacher than Mrs. Watchhorn.

Yes, he’s the all-seeing and all-knowing God and nothing gets by him. And, yes, he’s made strict rules about not cheating (Check out 4 of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:13-16; they all have to do with some form of deceptive cheating–e.g. murder, adultery, stealing, and lying) because he knows how destructive it is for those who cheat and those who are cheated against (See previous post on cheating on a spouse in Infidelity’s Devastation).

But God also makes provision for us to learn to deal with our fears so that we need not run from obstacles that feel so threatening. Paul wrote a letter to a young man that he was mentoring who apparently also battled with fear. He wrote these encouraging words to boost Timothy’s confidence level. And I find great confidence in them too:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7 NIV).

Listen to the flow in these words of encouragement from one man to another. It’s a call to courage. The courage to face problems instead of running from them. Cowardice and courage can’t occupy the same space.  Paul makes it clear that cowardice isn’t from God. Instead, God empowers us to love with sound judgment. We don’t need to resort to any form of cheating, pretending, or denial to deal with things we’re afraid of. Instead, we can courageously move forward with the confidence that we have been given a Godly strength to battle through whatever adversity threatens us at the time.

So, what’s your story? Have you cheated? Why did you cheat? What was the fallout? What did God teach you through your failure? And how did you grow through it?

For me, I decided after that day in Mrs. Watchhorn’s 4th grade class, that cheating just isn’t worth it. So, my advice?

Face whatever it is you have to face head on. And never, ever cheat!

 

 

 

Have you ever done the right thing and yet you feel bad? Don’t you expect to feel good for doing what’s good? I know I do. Whether I’m aware of it in the moment or not, I discover that I have this unwritten and unspoken assumption that if I’m doing good, I’ll feel pretty good about it. And while that may be true some of the time, it’s certainly not true all of the time. And when things don’t feel so good afterward, I begin to question and doubt if what I did was right or good in the first place.

Do you know what  I mean? Has that been true in your experience too?

For example, I remember a time when I disciplined one of my daughters for disobeying her mother and me. When I was putting her in bed later that night, she looked me in the eye from her bunk bed above her sister and said, “You know, Dad, sometimes I don’t like you very much. In fact, sometimes I feel like I might even hate you.”

Okay, not one of those Kodak moments that I’d pictured in my mind as a father. I cringed inside. I felt awful. I wasn’t prepared for that. Those are three of the most dreaded words that any parent fears hearing from their child: “I hate you!” And what caring parent wouldn’t? I didn’t let her see it, but I felt like screaming, “No you don’t! How could you? After all I’ve done for you? Don’t you get it? I LOVE YOU!!! That’s why I disciplined you. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care how you act or what kind of woman you become as an adult.”

In a flash I doubted my effectiveness as a parent. I felt like defending, explaining, running,  or something.  I simply didn’t like what I was feeling at all.

Any parents with me here? Come on. You can be honest.  And I know I’m not alone. How?

When I’m counseling my clients to do hard things because they are good and loving towards others, I often hear things like:

  • “But I feel so alone.”
  • “They won’t appreciate me for what I’ve done.”
  • ” They won’t like me.”
  • “They won’t understand.”
  • “They’ll get angry with me.”

I take great comfort from knowing that Jesus didn’t always feel good either.

After obediently fulfilling his Father’s will (John 5:30) by pouring himself into his own Jewish people for over 3 years, he felt awful. He lamented over the city and it’s people who had rejected his message (Luke 13:31-35), and as he approached his beloved city for the last time, he  wept (Luke 19:41). He was brokenhearted. People that he deeply loved were continuing to live destructively in spite of all his efforts to show them the path to a more abundant life  (John 5:39,40).  Instead of repentance, he knew that they would eventually turn on him and kill him.

I need to be reminded often of this simple truth:

Loving well doesn’t always mean you’ll feel good. But loving well by doing good to others is always good no matter how you feel.

When war comes home

Tim Jackson —  May 4, 2010 — 6 Comments

I’ve just spent the last several days with the HelpForMyLife editing team working through the videos we shot two weeks ago dealing with the issue of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wow! Talk about an intense topic.

This production has been especially tough, and yet so good. I’ve had the honor of working with two veterans and their wives who graciously invited us into their lives and shared their stories of struggle with PTSD and how it has impacted their lives.

Phil and Susy Downer hail from Chattanooga, TN. Phil is a Vietnam Vet who served a 13-month tour in Nam as a machine gunner with the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. Phil’s unit was involved in some of the heaviest combat of the war. Some of the most horrific events of the war for him involved two major search and destroy missions, one in which his unit was ambushed by the enemy and in 90 seconds, 20% of the men in his unit were either dead or wounded.

Phil came home to a country that was less than appreciative of his and his unit’s efforts to serve faithfully. And the wounds they’d suffered and the sacrifices that they’d made, well, let’s just say that they were virtually ignored and discounted, leaving them in what Phil describes as “a pool of pain.” He met and married Susy and they began their lives together. But they soon discovered that the war didn’t stay 9,000 miles away in Southeast Asia. Unknowingly, Phil had brought the anger, fear, distrust, hyper-vigilance, guilt, shame, nightmares, flashbacks, and memories back home with him . And no matter how hard he tried to drowned out the screams, the smells, and the memories of war by all of his successes and achievements,  none of it was enough to heal the war within his soul. And it just about destroyed his marriage with Susy.

Lt. Col. Dan Nigolian  and his wife Kathy flew in from Colorado Springs, where they currently reside since Dan retired 9 months ago from a 26-year career in the Air Force as a chaplain. Dan was the senior chaplain on 5 combat deployments throughout his career. Three were special ops deployments, one was in Iraq, and his last was in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was the senior ranking chaplain of all NATO forces.

It wasn’t until he was going through his requisite retirement interviews that it was recommended to Dan that he be evaluated for PTSD. And although he initially shrugged it off saying, “No, I’m fine,” he consented to the tests at the request of Kathy who knew something was up. Given his 5 combat deployments, during which he was shot down in an airplane and later blown up in a convoy outside of Kabul, it was no mistake that war had taken its toll on Dan. He was diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD, moderate traumatic brain injury, and severe depression. The experiences of war had etched permanent marks on his heart, soul, body, and mind that he and Kathy are currently in the process of working through.

These are the people that I’ve had the privilege of work with on this series. They poured out their hearts because they have and are experiencing healing from the war within that came home with them. While it’s never gone, it can be redeemed. What I learned from them is that although war trauma (or any trauma for that matter) inflicts invisible wounds on the human soul that are impossible to erase, there is a Wounded Healer who sacrificed Himself so that “by His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

These two couples echo a message of hope for the 1.8 million men and women in uniform who are coming home from war. War will change you. You can’t experience the horrors of war and not have it impact you. You need a safe place to talk about your experiences, what you felt then when you were deployed, and what you are wrestling with since you’ve come home. And, as Dan would say, “you need buddy care when you’re over there, and you need buddy care when you come home.”

So, if you or a loved one you know is struggling with symptoms of PTSD, check out our HelpForMyLife.org website later in May 2010 (within the next 2 weeks) for the release of the new series on PTSD. Our sister ministry, Day of Discovery, has also produced a 4-part documentary that will begin airing  on the Ion cable network starting May 23, 2010. Tune in as Phil Downer and Dr. Mike Wilkins return to Vietnam for the first time since the war and tell their stories of horror, hope, and healing through PTSD.

Power vs. Happiness

Jeff Olson —  September 27, 2009 — 1 Comment

scroogeI don’t rent many movies these days, but last week our local movie rental store gave me a free rental. My vote was for the film about the true story of the blind man who climbed to the Summit of Mt. Everest. But since the last movie I picked out was about football, it was only fair that we went with a romantic comedy…”The Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past.”

The film (with a plot that cleverly follows Charles Dickens’ famous classic “The Christmas Carol”) is about a decadent, self-centered, womanizing bachelor whose has a “Bah, humbug” attitude when it comes to love and marriage. The night before his younger brother’s wedding, he is visited by ghosts representing his past, present, and future girlfriends. By time the three visitors are finished with him, he has a radical change of heart and opens himself up to love again.

Personally, I don’t recommend the movie—except for the last 10 minutes. In particular, the best man’s speech by the main character at the wedding reception redeemed the movie for me. Here’s what he said,

 “Someone once told me that the power in all relationships lies with whoever cares less. And he was right. But power isn’t happiness. And I think that maybe happiness comes from caring more about people—rather than less.”

 The power he’s referring to is the upper hand of self-protection. And yes…it may keep a broken heart from getting crushed again, but there is no joy in it. It only ends up incarcerating the soul in a prison of fear, emptiness, and selfishness.

Only the willingness to give and receive love is what makes us truly happy and free to be followers of Jesus (John 15:13).

Look under the hood

Jeff Olson —  July 6, 2009 — 1 Comment

under the hoodSome of my most profound insights have come while driving a car. Of course, I stay alert to what is going on around me, but I’ve noticed how God has this pattern of using certain incidents on the road to draw my attention to things that need to be addressed in me.

For instance, the other day I came across some construction on a two lane road where the traffic was shut down to one lane. The cars traveling in my direction were steadily passing through—until I came along. Wouldn’t you know it, as I approached, Mr. Construction worker turned the sign from “Slow” to “Stop.”

stop-sign-flickr1

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr…Anger.

I know. The man was just doing his job, but I was ticked. It didn’t help that he seemed to enjoy making me wait.

As I sat there fuming,  it dawned on me that something wasn’t right inside of me. My strong emotional reaction was out of proportion. It was signal to take a look under the “hood” to see what was going on.

Strong emotions like anger or fear can be like warning lights on the dashboard of a car—telling us that something important needs immediate attention. Whether it’s something selfish God wants to disrupt, an old lie that needs to be challenged, or a deep hurt He wants to heal, an honest, inward look can reveal what we ultimately need to take to our Father in heaven. —Jeff Olson