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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Me and GracieLu

The first time I met GracieLu, a woman was dragging her out of a van in a school parking lot. Matted hair, malnourished, terrified, this wire-haired Jack Russell had obviously lived a hard life. I answered an ad for a free dog not knowing what was in store for both of us. Anxious to leave, the owner shoved a bag of dog food into my hand, then quickly got in the van and left. Poor GracieLu, she had no idea who I was nor where she was going.

Gently picking her up, I drove to the condo where I lived with my son Ben. He was off to college soon and the house would be too quiet. I wanted to adopt a canine friend to keep me company, someone who was excited when I walked in the door. 

GracieLu stood still for a long time, trembling and uncertain. Sitting a few feet away, I talked to her gently, giving her the 411 on our home and family. Ben walked into the room, making a comment about the scraggly mutt I inherited. Hearing his deep voice, Gracie peed on the floor then rolled over submissively, her eyes begging Ben not to hurt her.

My heart broke seeing her fear, knowing there was no way for me to effectively communicate that she was safe. Over the next six months, GracieLu experienced consistent love and came to see we were different than her former owners. What a blessing to watch her excitement when I came home, unabashedly demanding my attention, showering me with kisses.

When people are treated poorly by others, we often shut down, hesitant to open up to others for fear of further hurt. Being made in the image of God, however, means we’re created as relational beings. Shutting off from relationship deprives us of comfort, encouragement, support, and enjoyment leaving us isolated, cynical, and bitter. You can be disappointed and rejected without being devastated and withdrawn. 

GracieLu gave me a chance to show my true character, and she joyously accepted all the love I offered. Spend time with God, share your sorrow and pain about those who’ve hurt you. Then step out in faith and open yourself up to the possibility of a new relationship, certain that God will be with you every step of the way, good or bad.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bridging the Gap Between Head and Heart

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 ESV
When life circumstances are difficult, folks need a promise to get them through the tough times. Philippians 4:13 is just such a promise. Yet many of my counseling clients feel abandoned by God when they need him most. How do we bridge the gap between what we know in our head and feel in our heart? By recognizing this gap symbolizes past relational hurt and pain that needs God’s healing. Let me explain.

My pastor is doing a series called “Out of Context.” He’s looking at key passages such as Philippians 4:13. Reading it in context, Paul is explaining the principle of contentment. Believing God will strengthen us in all things is based on our contentment in our circumstances. Pastor Philip reminded the congregation when you have Jesus, you have everything you need. God is fully in control. We can rest in the knowledge that he will give us everything we need.

But what if there’s a huge gap between acknowledging this truth and feeling loved by God in the midst of your difficulties? This is where healing needs to take place.

In talking with clients about this gap, they always share stories about being disappointed and hurt in significant relationships. Developmentally, children are egocentric; they view the world as revolving around them. Part of the emotional maturing process involves learning how to share and take turns (sacrificial love). The ability to trust in God is primarily learned in our family of origin. If it was never your turn to have your needs met as a child, those wounds will keep you from trusting in God’s heart. Most folks respond by needing to be in control to make sure their needs get met. Instead of waiting in faith for our turn, we’re wounded over and over by feeling that even God has forgotten us.

If you read Philippians 4:13 and experienced a jolt of anger, bitterness, or pain--feeling like it didn’t “work” for you, I’ve got good news. God wants to heal your broken heart and replace your disappointment with belief. Healing involves separating the human from the divine. 

Contentment is based on believing God’s heart is always turned towards us, even when we don’t see the evidence with our eyes. Jesus modeled a radically different way to love others. He knows what it’s like to be rejected, abandoned, shamed, and misunderstood. And he also knows how to love you and me absolutely perfectly.

Spend time grieving how broken human beings failed to love you well. Emptying out the sorrow allows room for God to fill you with his comfort and care. Move toward your hurt and pain. Sit in sorrow. Receive compassion and comfort from God and others. Ask God to cleanse your heart and mind. Then reach for his promises—you won’t be disappointed.

Photo courtesy of nbjenglish@wikispaces.com