Welcome to Hope-Sessions

Welcome!

The purpose of the blogs and Hope Sessions podcasts is to provide encouragement and a perspective you may not have thought about before. However, these messages cannot possibly cover every angle or detail of a topic. Each person’s experiences are unique, and as a therapist, I so appreciate this.  Therefore, if you feel like what you read covers just one angle of your experience, you are probably right.

Ultimately, I, Kristan, am a therapist, and if you feel like you need to process your story, or you feel stuck and you’re hurting – please reach out.  I would be glad to schedule an appointment with you or help you to find someone else who can best help.

Perspective

“Is it possible there’s another perspective from which to look at this situation?”

This is one of the questions I (Kristan) like to ask my clients. It changes everything. It’s like they’re suddenly able to pull back from being locked in on the only version of the story they thought was possible. 

Well, maybe there is another way to look at the current part of our stories; or maybe even our whole life stories up to this point. Many times, asking this question makes room for hope and change; for things to be different. 

In Psalm 73:28, the writer says:
“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”

In other words, in the writer staying near to God, and making God his refuge, he is so close to Him that he can see things from God’s perspective. Some commentaries say the closeness here is like the closeness of a nursing child to his mother. That nursing child is totally dependent on his mother. 

Let us be (and stay) so close to God that we’re able to see His perspective on our story. And let’s remember that He is full of love and grace for us (thank you Jesus) so we don’t have to be afraid.

Self Compassion

What if you were to speak to yourself with kindness and compassion? What does this even look like? Maybe instead of telling yourself that you do nothing right and can’t get it together, you say, ‘I’m having a rough time, this is hard, I need some support, I need a hug, I need a moment to soak this all in.’ 

A plant can’t grow very well in bad soil. And we, like plants, cannot change, grow or heal very well in negative head spaces. Let’s try to change the way we speak to ourselves. 

This isn’t always easy. Sometimes we’re stuck speaking to ourselves in negative ways because we truly feel that way about ourselves, or because we’ve been mistreated and spoken to in a negative way in the past. 

The Lord tells us in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Is there anyone who doesn’t need to hear this encouragement, these promises of God? And this is just one passage out of so many more. With this being true, knowing that God is for us and promises to help us – we can choose to start replacing our own words with His words (renewing our minds). Which in turn, makes it possible to change, grow and heal; in good soil.

Our Story

We may not understand our story in the same time that it’s unfolding. It may be some time down the road that we’re able to look back with some clarity. 

Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

From Matthew Poole’s commentary (written in the 1600’s), the author expands on the words “work together” from this verse:

“they work together amongst themselves, or one with another. Take this or that providence singly, or by itself, and you shall not see the good it doth; but take it in its conjunction and connexion with others, and then you may perceive it. One exemplifies it thus: As in matter of physic, if you take such and such simples alone, they may poison rather than cure; but then take them in their composition, as they are made up by the direction of a skilful physician, and so they prove an excellent medicine.”

I believe this can give such hope and perspective in the middle of difficulties. We may just be seeing a part of the story right now, and it may be a painful, confusing part. If we can hold on to the promise in this verse, we may one day (maybe sooner rather than later) see the other parts which are working together for our good, from the very one and only who is purely Good.

Fear

Just because we feel afraid about doing something doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do. 

Many times, doing what’s right is going to be scary – and that’s a natural human reaction. But if that “thing” requires us to fully trust in the Lord for strength to do it, it may just mean we’re doing exactly what we need to do. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV). 

This may look like: having that terrifying conversation, taking that job or opportunity we’ve been agonizing over, getting on that flight, letting go of that expectation, or continuing to walk through a really painful season. Or a myriad of other things, that may be very personal to you. 

There are exceptions. Sometimes it’s scary because it very well should be. “It” is not for us. And our body, and the Holy Spirit alive within us are letting us know something is not right. 

We won’t always make the determination or face the scary thing perfectly. This life is a hard, very messy journey at times. And experiences of past hurt and trauma can make fear a very confusing, triggering emotion to feel. 

But, Scripture tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. 

Let us trust that He will help us to discern the difference in the fear we feel. And if this is hard, let us consider that we have a patient, good Heavenly Father who welcomes the honest prayers of his children when we say this is difficult and scary for us to do.

The Courage it Takes

(Guest Post by Sara Copeland)

It may possibly be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Your mind fills with questions and doubts. You think, “this will never work” or “I don’t really need this.”

It’s not easy and it takes a tremendous about of courage to pick up the phone, dial the number, and schedule the appointment. Just getting this far can be all the courage you have today. That’s okay. You did it.

Taking a risk and seeking therapy means admitting something isn’t working right in your life. It means being vulnerable and sharing with someone the parts that we try to hide – the pain, the brokenness, anxieties, fear and disappointments.

Maybe you’ve tried to ignore the problem, maybe you’ve tried to read a book, talk to a friend or pastor but the problem is still there, always looming in the background.

You’ve reached a breaking point. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Believe it or not, this is the perfect place to be. Asking for help is where change starts and growth begins.

All the emotion you’re feeling as you pick up the phone, wait through the ringing and finally utter the words to set up an appointment is such a good sign in your life.

It’s a sign of hope in the midst of hopelessness and healing in the midst of pain. You’ve recognized that something isn’t right and you’ve decided you’re going to do something about it: something new — something different — something that takes courage.

While you’re reaching out to a therapist who you likely haven’t met yet, you’re not alone and whatever you’re experiencing isn’t going to shock or surprise them.

You’re human. Part of being human means you experience feelings and emotions that sometimes need to be talked through with a trusted guide, a therapist whose role is to journey with you and help you find solutions.

The therapist isn’t going to solve your problems for you, they’re going to come alongside you, support you and help you see things in a different way so that you can take the next step forward.

You are not alone. Many have walked this road before you and many will walk it after you. Maybe you’re thinking, “none of my other friends have sought therapy.”

But you know what? Don’t worry about anyone else. Focus on what you need to do for yourself. Don’t get lost in comparing yourself to anyone – that’s a game you can never win. You will either become complacent because you’re not as “bad” as them, or you will completely shut down because you feel like a total failure. It’s a distraction.

Focus on you, your goals and what you want to accomplish. And you know what? The courage and bravery it takes to make that call, schedule the appointment, and come to my office for the first time doesn’t go unnoticed. I notice it every time a client opens my office door and sits down on my couch to share their story.

I admire you. Change is hard. Asking for help is hard. But you’re here and that takes courage. I believe we were never meant to journey through the ups and downs of life alone and it’s my honor and deep privilege to share in your story and journey alongside you.

Psalms: True Rest

What is rest?  For some it seems elusive.  And for some, it may even be avoided.  I’ve heard it said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead.”  For others, trying to “rest” may be difficult, with a noisy world and an even noisier mind.

I think we all have a picture of what rest is.  Maybe for you it’s a relaxing massage, a vacation on a beach, time with friends and family, spending time outside, reading a good book, or maybe it’s as simple as a nap. But I’m going to challenge us to go deeper on this topic.

Have you noticed that we tend to fill all of our empty time with activity?  Why do we do this?  What are we trying to avoid?  If we rest or slow down, we have to face ourselves without distraction and I’m not sure we always want to do this.    

But the Lord invites us to a different kind of rest.  We’ll visit the Psalms again for more insight.  It’s here, in Psalm 23:1-3 that a rest for our mind, body, and soul is described:

“1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”

In verse 1, David states that God is his shepherd; the one who leads him and takes care of him, and us. Because of this, David had everything he needed, and so do we – when we allow God to lead us.

Although it may not always feel this way; the point of the verse is that it is this way; it’s the truth.  Acknowledging God as our shepherd will allow us to have this mindset, or a change of perspective.  If we know that God is leading us and taking care of us, it gives us the opportunity to truly rest.  He’s in control, so we don’t have to be.

In verse 2, David describes that the Lord makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters; to a landscape of perfect peace and refreshing water.

Can you picture this? Take a minute – close your eyes and imagine this scene; you’re lying in a green pasture, soft grass, with calm, still water nearby.  Not fast-moving rapids, but water you can see your reflection in, it’s so still.  Can you feel the breeze on your face?  The warmth or cool on your skin?  What a beautiful gift this image is from the Lord.

In verse 3, David says that the Lord restores his soul; he reinvigorates him in his weariness.  He goes on to describe that God leads him in paths of righteousness, or shows him the right way to go, as He promises to do for all of us.

Maybe the avoidance of rest that I spoke about above has to do with hearing from God.  Are we afraid He may tell us we’re on the wrong path?  Or that He may confirm something we already know – that His plans are different than the plans we have for ourselves?  Listening can be scary.  Staying busy sometimes feels safer.

But who are we fooling? Do we really think God is limited in His creativity to get our attention or to change our direction?  Think of Jonah (see Jonah, chapters 1-2).  Could it be that maybe He just wants to tell us He loves us, or that He has more for us than we could have imagined for ourselves? We’ll explore this more below.

So what can we learn from this descriptive passage of Scripture, about what rest really is?

1. When we trust God to lead us, we will have what we need. I know there are times when this can be difficult to accept. You may be saying, ‘I don’t have what I need – I can’t even pay my bills’, or ‘I don’t have what I need – I’m alone.’  

But, consider that we will find we have what we need by believing and trusting in God and what He says, during the dry spell; when it’s scary, things don’t add up and we don’t have answers?  What if what we really need is deeper than bills paid on time or companionship?  Not that God doesn’t care about those things; I think He does.  But what if our rest is found in realizing what we need the most is Him?

2. God makes us stop the busyness and get refreshment.Some of us accept His guidance with ease, and others tend to fight the break from our agenda, which is why I believe that we sometimes have to be made to slow down or stop.

Most translations have the word “makes” in verse 2 – “he makes me lie down in green pastures”.  Isn’t that interesting?  Could it be that our Creator knows when we need to rest? 

Have you ever wondered why you have gotten sick right when you thought you needed to be well – when the pressure was really on?  Our bodies will sometimes get rundown, because we haven’t taken time to rest, and God can even use these times of infirmity to remind us to slow down and take time to rest.  We are not machines.

3. Part of deep rest is connecting with God. He wants to connect with us, to show and guide us in the right way to go. Sometimes we’re already on the right road, and we just need some encouragement to continue on the journey. But sometimes, we need a reset, a U-turn, or an entirely different path.  He loves us so much that He wants to tell us what we need to hear. 

Not only are we blessed by connecting with God, and being led in the right direction, but doing the right thing allows us to rest.  Think about it – when we are headed in the wrong direction or making choices that we know aren’t right for us, or we are going against what we believe (cognitive dissonance), we don’t have peace, and we can’t rest.

But if we listen to the way that God is telling us to go, even if the road is sometimes tough, we have peace; we can rest, because we know it’s the right way.

So, let me ask you – do you need some rest today?  Are you a weary traveler in life?  Do you feel like you may have lost your way?  Ask God for rest today.  Take time and read these verses from Psalm 23 for yourself.  I believe He will meet you there.  After all, He promises to.

Psalms: To Lament

According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2018), a lament is, “an expression of grief or sorrow.”

The Psalms are full of songs of lament, where the Psalmist is crying out to God in sorrow, grief and regret.  Feeling alone, persecuted, lost, angry, grief-stricken and more.

Maybe you’re lamenting something or someone right now – a lost relationship, job, a diagnosis, an illness, or maybe even a loved one?  Or maybe you’re feeling far from the Lord, like He has forgotten you?

Maybe, in your situation, you have been avoiding your emotions.  You have been trying to keep busy or distracted to not face how you’re really feeling.  Watching tv, spending too much time on social media, overeating, overspending, maybe using drugs or alcohol to numb yourself.  All the while, your emotions are stuffed deeper inside.

Sometimes this avoidance of dealing with and expressing our deeper emotions comes out in petty arguments and picking fights.  Feeling “on edge” and irritated.

Meanwhile the answer for relief is in being willing to acknowledge how you’re really feeling.  Ironically, much of the time our deep emotions, including anger and disappointment are not with the people we pick fights with; but they’re really with God.  

Why do you think the Lord included Psalms of lament in the Bible?  Have you thought of that before?  Maybe there’s a reason why lamenting is shared with us in the Psalms. Maybe it’s an example for us.  God does not fear our honesty in coming to Him; it’s us who fear coming to God honestly.

Consider this quote from theologian, D.A. Carson: “There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God”.

Let’s consider Psalm 13:

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,’
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

In the first few verses, David starts with an immediate question and accusation – is it going to take God forever to remember him?  He describes trying to figure things out on his own, which has left him feeling dark and sorrowful.  He feels as if his enemies are basically winning.

In verses 3 and 4, David petitions God to remember him, to not allow him to waste away.  He asks for God to enliven him – put the life back in him. David explains that it would be wrong for his enemy, or in this context, for evil to win, or to have the victory.

And finally, in verses 5 and 6, David reminds both God and him, of God’s faithfulness; stating with confidence that things will be okay, as God has been faithful to him in the past, and so David declares that he will continue to praise and trust God.

Psalm 13 is one of the shortest laments in the book of Psalms.  And so it works well in the context of a blog.  But please don’t miss the significance of David’s experience expressed here.

Once again, we don’t know how long it really took David to go from asking where God was, to choosing to trust God to come through.  Many of the Psalms follow a similar format; starting with desperate cries to the Lord and ending in praise.  But not all Psalms of lament do.

Some Psalms express the Psalmists anguish, which they poured out to the Lord for many verses, with no expression of resolution or praise at the end.  And that may be where you are at.  And that’s okay; it’s honest.

But let me ask you – do you relate?  Do you feel as if God has left you?  Tell Him how you feel.  Are you exhausted trying to figure out what to do, or how to respond?  Tell Him how you feel.  Do you feel like your enemies have the upper hand, like they’re winning? Tell Him how you feel.

If it’s difficult to say it, consider writing your own Psalm.  We have 150 Psalms in the Bible as examples.  Use the Psalmists words or write your own. Or consider writing a letter, to God. Or draw a picture. Or tell Him outloud. He’s made each of us uniquely, and you should communicate with Him in the way that feels most natural to you. However it’s packaged, I encourage you to express to God what you need to say.

As always, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re not even sure where to begin, I encourage you to reach out to a pastor, therapist or trusted friend.  You are not alone.

Psalms: Guilt & Shame

We will all make mistakes, and at times feel guilty about what we’ve done, and the choices we’ve made.  When we cross over from feeling regret and remorse for something we did into shame then we have a deeper issue; the feelings can make us sick emotionally and even physically.

Guilt is appropriate and urges us to confess and/or ask for forgiveness.  Shame makes us hide.

A simple way to understand the difference between the two is that guilt says, ‘I did something wrong’ while shame says, ‘I amsomething wrong’.  Do you see the difference?  One is the action that is wrong the other is the belief that something is inherently and deeply wrong with you.

Some of us have made some terrible decisions that have caused deep pain in those we love, or maybe deep pain in someone we don’t even know.  While God helps us to acknowledge the wrong things we have done and feel guilt for them (again, to spur us into action) – I don’t believe He wants us to stay in that place.  And I don’t believe it’s ever His will for us to feel shame.

Let’s look at what David penned in Psalm 32:3-5, referencing his own sin:

“3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

In verses 3-4, David gives a vivid physical description here of struggling with his sin and guilt.  He says that his bones “wasted away” when he kept silent – when he did not confess his sins, what he had done.  He describes carrying the weight of his guilt as God’s hand being “heavy upon me”.

Can you relate to feeling like this?  Have you carried guilt around for too long, are you carrying guilt around now? Something you know you need to confess, or ask forgiveness for, but maybe it’s felt like too much to face.

Or maybe the guilt has been there so long it has turned into shame, which is destructive and like poison to our hearts.

I think it’s possible that God does keep his hand heavy upon us when we have something we need to confess, or come clean about, to prevent the guilt from turning into shame and harming us.

But David gives us the solution here to being burdened and weighed down by guilt – confession.  Not covering it up, running away, denying, avoiding, rationalizing, overcompensating – but, confessing.

We can be so creative in our avoidance of confessing guilt.  Confession is uncomfortable and sometimes even anxiety producing – but on the other side of it is not only found relief, but a promise from God that He will forgive the iniquity of our sins, just as David describes in verse 5 above.

What a beautiful promise this is.

So what about shame?

We can experience shame for many different reasons.  I am not talking here about the shame that many people feel after experiencing sexual abuse.  This is a different subject and it’s not tied with guilt.  Sexual abuse is not something you did, it was something wrong someone did to you.

The shame I’m talking about here is tied to something we did wrong.  It’s the feeling of being ugly, dirty, fundamentally broken, worse than anyone else – alone.  Shame makes us hide out – for fear of light, or exposure.  We’re afraid we’ll be found to be all the terrible things we believe we are.

Sometimes when someone has been sitting in unconfessed sin and guilt for so long, they’ve built a whole life around it – overcompensating for what they’ve done, in order to avoid the shame they have deep in their hearts about themselves.

It’s become so terrifying to look inward, it’s as if they’re involved in a perpetual juggling act to make sure no one really sees them for who they are, including themselves.

There is hope.  There is a way out.  Let’s look at Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.”

This verse starts with an invitation.  God invites us to reason with him, to talk with Him about what He’s going to say. Then he goes onto the promise – whatever we have done, will be washed away, fully, completely.  He will make it as if what we did never happened.

Matthew Henry (1708-1710), in his commentary describes the verse this way:

“Though our sins have been as scarlet and crimson, a deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression; though we have often dipped into sin, by many backslidings; yet pardoning mercy will take out the stain”. 

So if our sins have had the deepest cleanse possible – done by God himself, through the sacrifice of Jesus – who are we to hold on to them; to allow the mistakes we have made to define us?

Christian, if you relate with feeling shame, with hiding, with feeling alone, like you are the worst person in the world and without hope… the feelings are real but they are not based on your true standing in Jesus.  They are based on lies.  God promises forgiveness to us and complete cleansing – what you have done no longer defines you.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” 

Accepting our identity as forgiven people can be challenging, particularly if you’ve felt guilty and full of shame for a long time.  But it is possible to have this truth become your reality – your identity.

One of the simplest and most powerful ways is by writing on paper the lies you have been believing and next to them replacing them with Scripture, which is the truth.  Each time you struggle with shame – when the lies come back – you go back to the verse that speaks the truth.  Eventually these words will become your default, your identity.

If you are struggling today, if you’ve tried all you can, and you’re still bound up in guilt and shame, please reach out to a trusted pastor or therapist.  As I’ve said before, we’re here to help.  You are not alone.  Checkout John 10:10 to be reminded of this.

RSS
Instagram
Follow by Email