The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Category Archives: Guilt & Shame

Understanding Your Perverse Fantasies: A Sign of Stress, Not Defectiveness

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There’s a widespread belief among Christians that if a man’s spiritual priorities were in the right order, he wouldn’t have certain kinds of thoughts, he wouldn’t be hooked on porn, and he wouldn’t have certain nasty desires welling up within him 24/7.  And yet the truth is that a man can have excellent priorities and be embracing all the right soul attitudes while he is being plagued with some very dark mental fantasies.  The psychological principles we’re going to discuss in this post can be very helpful to anyone who is feeling tormented with perverse fantasies of any kind.  When you’re obsessing over certain kinds of themes, you can easily end up shunned by both the mainstream Christian community as well as the world at large.  Happily neither of these human groups are accurately conveying God’s assessment of you.  And once you understand a few basic principles about where perverse fantasies come from, you can stop treating yourself like a worm and become more receptive to the compassion and help God is offering you. Read more of this post

Dealing with Death: Eight Lies that Keep Us Stuck in the Past

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Someone has died and instead of moving on with your life, you’re obsessing.  You’re stuck in the past.  You’re feeling obligated to treat the dead person as if they are still very much a part of your life.  There are many reasons why people choose to respond this way to death, and none of them are good for the soul.  If you’re not ready to leave your stagnating position, then this post is just going to make you mad.  We’re dishing out tough love here, and that means we’re going to blast you with a lot of bluntly stated truths with very little padding in between.  Our purpose in using a tough love approach is to cover a lot of ground in a little space while arming you with a ton of good food for thought. But if you’re not ready to do some deep thinking, then you’re probably going to feel overwhelmed very fast and you’ll want to go off and sulk or send us a snarky message instead of embracing the truths that we’re going to lay out for you. Maturity is something we must choose—it’s not something that can be forced upon us.  The longer we try to avoid it, the more miserable we become.  But once we do reach the point where we are tired of being miserable, then there is great hope to be had.  No matter where you’re stuck, you can move forward by gaining some new perspectives and making some wise soul choices.  Read more of this post

Understanding Conviction: Invitations to Engage

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You’re thinking about getting an abortion and God convicts you not to.  Is He worried that you’re going to snuff out a life prematurely?  No, because He hasn’t placed that power in your hands.  You can’t mess up God’s plans for another soul.  You can’t cheat them out of opportunities that He wanted them to have.  God isn’t convicting you because He’s worried that you’re about to mess up His universe.  He’s convicting you to force you to choose between obedience and rebellion.  He’s after engagement.  He doesn’t need your help. Read more of this post

Help for Stressing Christians: Is God punishing you?

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Believing that God is mad at you when He really isn’t results in all kinds of needless angst and misery. Believing that God is very difficult to  please is what drives many sincere souls to get stuck in endless confession sessions and cycles of self-persecution.  And yet the reality is that every serious Christian spends a lot of time fretting over problems that don’t really exist between them and God.  Why is this?  Because before you can accurately assess God’s current view of you, you must first understand some basic principles about how God relates to you, and those principles are rarely discussed by the Church. Read more of this post

Relating to God: Recognizing the Trap of Symbolic Pain

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Humans are big on symbolism.  This means that much of what you do and say in life is an attempt to communicate messages that are quite unrelated to the things you’re actually doing and saying.  For example, when Holly hears her boyfriend Todd say he loves blondes, Holly goes out and bleaches her brown hair blonde.  She does this not because she wants to change her hair, but because she wants to keep a secure hold on Todd’s affection.  When she then asks him “Do you like my hair?” what’s she’s really asking is, “Have I gained more of your approval by adjusting myself to be a better match to your preferences?”  For Holly, dyeing her hair was a symbolic act that was meant to communicate to Todd how much his approval means to her and how much she wants him in her life.  Read more of this post

Overcoming the Guilt of Failing to Protect

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Maybe you are the mother who looked away for a moment and your child was kidnapped. Maybe you are the father who was forcibly restrained by thugs and made to watch while your daughter or wife was ravaged. Maybe you are the coach who failed to act when one of your kids was trying to tell you how bad things were getting at home. Maybe you are the older brother who lost track of your sister at a party and didn’t realize she was getting raped in a back room. Maybe you were the leader of a military op that went south and now some of your guys are critically wounded. Maybe you are the law enforcement officer who failed to give your partner the cover he needed. Maybe you are the fireman who got distracted and didn’t see the debris bury your partner. Maybe you are the father who didn’t pick up on the signs that your daughter was getting molested by her teacher. Maybe you are the bodyguard who got nailed from behind and the person you were supposed to protect was dead by the time you woke up. Maybe you are the babysitter who was rocking out to music and didn’t hear your young charge calling for help until it was too late. Whatever the details of your particular situation, failing in the role of protector can result in some very intense, life stopping, health destroying guilt. If this is where you are at, then you are in a crisis, and that crisis needs to be dealt with. God does not want you to spend the rest of your life stuck in the past. He doesn’t want you clinging to the lies that you can’t get past this, or that it’s wrong for you to stop feeling bad, or that the people you’ve hurt have now become your masters in life. So let’s get into it. Read more of this post

Repentant Sinners: Is it wrong to stop feeling bad about the past?

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Let’s say you do something bad—really bad. You knew better, and you had plenty of resources to resist the temptation, but it was one of those moments where you just said, “Shut up, God, I’m doing this.” So you did it. And it was bad. And now some other people are really messed up because of what you did. But then you reached the point of sincere repentance. You stopped with the rebellion and you are now back in alignment with God, sincerely wanting Him to have His way in your life. There are now consequences for what you did in your life and in the lives of others. And in the midst of those consequences, you feel really terrible. You just feel perpetually awful about what you did. Well, isn’t this how you’re supposed to feel? After all, you sinned intentionally. So if you did something super bad, isn’t there supposed to be some limit to how joyful you can ever be after that? If you just go skipping forth in joyous freedom, isn’t that another form of sin? This is what many Christians believe: they think that once someone does something bad enough, it’s wrong for that person to ever make a full recovery, let alone soar to epic heights of soul peace and freedom. Well, what does God say? Read more of this post

Overcoming Shame

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When humans feel deeply ashamed, their instinctive response is to separate and isolate themselves from all others. Often physical isolation isn’t practical. You have to go to work to pay the bills. You have a spouse and kids living in your home. But though you feel forced to physically be around other people, you can still emotionally isolate yourself by refusing to engage. Your wife asks what’s wrong and you give her that indifferent shrug. When she presses you, you stonewall her with, “I’m fine,” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” And for the person drowning in shame, talking about their misery does seem pointless. After all, words can’t change the past. No, they can’t, but they can save your present and future, and that is far more important. Read more of this post

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Finding Peace in the Midst of Moral Dilemmas

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Life isn’t as simple as we want it to be. Sometimes we find ourselves being forced to choose between two options which each feel very wrong for different reasons. When there are moral issues on both sides, and when we’ve got our flesh screaming at us and our loved ones pressuring us in different directions, what do we do? How do we find peace with God when we’re feeling forced to choose between two evils? What happens when there is no third option that will magically resolve our crisis for us? This is real life: sometimes there is no option available to you that won’t fill your gut with nervous knots and make you feel like you’re being either a major creep or a total fool. But the good news is that even in these moments, there is a way to move forward, and that is what we’ll discuss in this post. Read more of this post

Why You Shouldn’t Ask God to Change People: Improving Your Response to Grudges, Rebellion & Grief

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Your girlfriend is planning to abort your baby. Your husband is heading towards an affair with his secretary. Your wife has announced she wants a divorce. Your son just bought a gun and now he’s talking to one of his shady friends about some kind of heist. Your daughter is dating a sleaze and she’s threatening to move in with him. Your dying father refuses to listen when you talk about Jesus. When we see the people we love hurtling towards some disastrous decision which is only going to bring pain crashing down on their heads and ours, our natural instinct is to start praying for God to override the wills of other people. Read more of this post