hopequest blog

Walking Free – Week Thirty-One

The second deadly mindset is a subtle but powerful enemy of truth. It is shame – a mindset of self-hatred that fuels destructive behaviors and distorts reality. Shame proclaims, “I am worthless and defective, hopelessly screwed up, and if you really knew me, you would never love me.”

When shame becomes our mindset, we often get trapped in a cycle of sin that perpetuates the enemy’s lies about us. To numb the pain of our self-hatred, we act out – experiencing momentary relief. But then we feel even more shame and self-hatred. The urge to find relief overwhelms us, and it isn’t long until we’ve acted out again – despite our efforts to stop. See the cycle?

Fortunately, we have a Savior who bore our shame. In Him, we can finally find the freedom to value ourselves as children of God.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty-One

Emotional growth is a process.  It will feel uncomfortable at first, but if you are intentional about recognizing and identifying your emotions and sharing them with others, you will grow in emotional maturity. There will come a day when your emotions no longer have the power to hijack your recovery.

It’s a goal worth working towards.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty-One

Hello, dear sister. I just want to remind you today that you are greatly loved and accepted, that the Father delights in you and is experiencing with you every emotion and hurt in your life right now. You are not alone, and He is working all of this pain into a beautiful tapestry of grace. All of the ugliness will be hidden in His masterpiece, and all of the world will see that everything meant for evil in your life has been used for your good.

The topic of the week is anger. I told you as we studied the grieving process last week that I was going to camp out here for a few days because getting angry — but not stuck — in our grieving is so vital to experiencing healing.

There are many ways people express anger. I’ll list some of the most common here.

Passive Aggressive– I call this under-cover anger. On the outside, you look okay and compliant, but because you don’t feel safe or permitted to express anger openly, your anger presents itself in subtle ways—i.e. “accidentally” burning your husband’s food, being consistently late (especially if it bugs him), saying you will do something and then never following through.

Sarcasm – Speech designed to cut and hurt. This is another way we express anger indirectly.

Verbal Abuse – Name calling, belittling, and saying intentionally cruel things to wound another—i.e. “Can’t you do anything right?” or “You stupid idiot!”

Blaming – Everyone but you is to blame for your problems. Blaming anger says, “You make me so angry!”

Guerrilla Humor – Attacking someone verbally then smiling and saying something like, “Can’t you take a joke?” or “I was only kidding.”

Retaliatory Anger – Acting in a way to get even with someone who has hurt you — i.e. having an affair after your husband has been unfaithful or going out on a shopping spree at your husband’s expense.

Blind Rage – Intense anger that is usually acted on in some physical way—i.e. hitting someone, smashing an object.

Isolation – Anger permeates your heart and clouds your perception. You withdraw from others altogether.

Depression – Anger turned inward. It is blind rage acted out towards yourself.

Anger as an Excuse – Secretly you want to leave or act in a particular way, so you find a way to provoke a fight in order to leave or justify a wrong behavior.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Thirty

The blame game is deadly mindset #1. We saw its birth in Genesis as Adam and Eve pointed fingers when confronted by God about their sin. They began it, and we have perfected it.

Blaming basically says, “It’s not my fault!”

Flip Wilson was a comedian back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and he developed a catchphrase that became his trademark. He would say “the devil made me do it!” While it is true that the devil tempts us and sets traps for us, he does not make us sin. He relies upon our desires to cooperate with his temptations. We always have a choice to do what is right, and we must take responsibility when we fail to obey God.

Many of us have recognized the powerful influence of past wounds and abuse on our struggles today. It is tempting to remain a victim – throwing our hands up in resignation and saying, “It’s their fault I’m this way.” We certainly are not to blame for the sins done to us, but we are the only ones who can take responsibility for the choices we are making now.

Some of us long to blame our wives for our struggles, believing that if she were more affirming or more affectionate, we would not be tempted to sin sexually. While it may be true that your wife has her own brokenness to deal with, we don’t get a free pass to sin just because our sexual desires are not being fulfilled in our marriage.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Thirty

Emotional Maturity has developed when I can:

  • acknowledge, accept, and identify my feelings,
  • share my feelings with others in ways that strengthen relational connection,
  • empathize with others about their feelings, and
  • choose appropriate and healthy behaviors, even when I am experiencing intense or painful emotions

In other words, when I am emotionally mature: I am aware of my emotions; I am connected to others in emotionally intimate relationships in which I know others and they know me; and my emotions no longer control my behaviors.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Thirty

You might be thinking something like this right now: “Melissa, it would be different if I were grieving the death of my spouse. There is no shame in mourning a death. This is different, though. It is too embarrassing and humiliating to let others know I’m sad because my husband struggles with sexual addiction.”

I know. There is so much shame involved in sexual sin—whether you are the sinner or the one wounded by the sin. I would say to you that you don’t have to tell all the details of why you are grieving in order to be real with people. Pretending like nothing’s wrong, slapping on a fake smile and a plastic face is so offensive to the Father. Why participate in the same dishonesty that allowed your husband to slide deeper and deeper into sexual sin?

With safe people, you can be totally honest. “I’m really hurting today. I’m having trouble just getting out of bed in the mornings. My husband’s unfaithfulness has pierced my heart to the core. Will you help me walk through this?”

With unsafe people you can be totally honest. “I’m really hurting today. There are incredibly painful circumstances in my life that I’m not free to talk about. Thanks for asking why I look so sad. Would you just pray for me?”

The point is this: Walking through despair involves letting yourself feel the pain and being honest about it with others.

I do want to talk a little bit about depression for a moment. We can get stuck in despair, and when that happens, our bodies respond physiologically to the emotional pain we are experiencing. In many cases it then becomes necessary to involve a medical professional in our healing process.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Twenty-Nine

When being interviewed for a ministry position, one of my good friends was asked a question that made a lasting impression: “If you were the devil and you wanted to take you down, what would you do? Where would you attack?”

It’s an insightful question because it forces us to think about our weak spots. It makes us realize that we are vulnerable. Over the years, however, I’ve become convinced that when our enemy attacks, he always attacks in the exact same place. His tactics may vary. The specific weapon might be different, but the focal point is always the same: our MIND.

Why the mind? Because what we THINK about determines what we DO. As Warren Wiersbe once said, “your mind is the devil’s battlefield.”

What we are thinking about will always influence our behaviors. That’s why advertising works. You see something in an ad that looks appealing and you start thinking about what it would be like to have it. Before you know it, you are at the store buying that very thing. The battle for freedom is always won – or lost – in the mind.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Twenty-Nine

Our hearts are like a cup which has a limited emotional capacity. If our hearts are full of heavy emotions like hurt and sadness, anger and resentment, fear and anxiety, guilt and shame, there will be very little room left for emotions like peace, joy, and happiness.

These unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions will inevitably begin to impact our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Stomach issues, headaches, sleep disorders, and fatigue may be present.  Depression and anxiety disorders, irritability, and outbursts of anger may be evident. Addictions and compulsive behaviors may develop.  Persistent feelings of shame and worthlessness may cause us to isolate from God and other people.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Twenty-Nine

One good thing about despair is that is doesn’t last forever. In the moment that you are feeling the worst emotional pain you have ever experienced, you wonder if you will ever be okay again, much less happy. But sooner or later, the despair will lift, and you will begin to live again inside. Let me make a few comments about feelings of despair as it relates to your grieving process.

First, it is important that you allow yourself to feel the overwhelming sorrow in your heart. I know that feelings of hopelessness and despair are scary, but if you prevent your heart from experiencing this deepest grief, you are putting yourself at risk for both a physical and emotional meltdown. My sister, your heart will not be denied forever. It will eventually grieve those very real losses with or without your cooperation. If you will embrace the mourning, inviting God and others to grieve with you, your heart will be able to empty itself of the despair. If you refuse to allow those feelings to overtake you, your heart will over-ride your mind, and you will find yourself in an incredibly deep depression, disconnected from others and alone.

In days long gone by, grieving was a very public affair. One who had experienced a deep loss was not only accepted as she mourned, she was expected to feel sorrow and despair. Any other reaction was viewed as abnormal and offensive. In our Christian culture, however, we have somehow come to believe that grieving is “unspiritual.” We buy into this idea that if we love God and trust Him, our circumstances—even grievous ones—shouldn’t upset us. This belief is entirely unfounded and unscriptural. We learned yesterday that Jesus Himself taught we would be blessed and comforted when we mourn.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Twenty-Eight

Dependence vs. Self-Effort

A good friend once told me his motto for handling challenges in life: “There is not a problem I cannot out-think or out-work!”

Sounds inspiring, don’t you think? While critical thinking and hard work are helpful tools in life, when it comes to relationship with God, self-effort actually HINDERS our ability to solve problems.

God’s Word teaches us clearly that God’s power is made perfect in weakness – when we are completely dependent on Him (2 Corinthians 12:9). Since our struggles are not against flesh and blood, it is foolish to believe that we can be victorious in our own strength. Our victories are always received – not won – from the all-powerful God upon whom we depend. Self-effort will never result in freedom.

When faced with giants in the spiritual realm, how foolish of us to take up the battle with our fly swatters and cap guns of self-effort! We MUST depend upon God if we hope to have any freedom from the enemy that binds our hearts and minds. What is amazing to me is how, when we do depend on Him, God doesn’t replace our flyswatter with a 20-pound sword. He just makes our flyswatters work!

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Twenty-Eight

What about focusing on facts instead of feelings?  While it is true that we can confuse our feelings with reality and act on a feeling rather than what is best for us, if we stay in our heads, we will never grow in relationship with others.  Remember, emotional awareness requires that we acknowledge, recognize, and identify our emotions.  Once we are aware of what we are feeling, we are able to express our feelings to others and find connection through emotional intimacy.  Healing and change always take place in the context of relationships.  We can focus on the facts all day long and still choose to behave in ways that are hurtful to ourselves and others.

Maintaining control of our feelings — stuffing them, suppressing them, or dismissing them — might seem like the best way to handle life, but ultimately underlying emotions will leak out into our lives in different ways.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Twenty-Eight

Ah, despair. That’s the part of grieving that we’ve been avoiding all along. Here’s the pain, up close and personal. At this point we can’t run or hide. All we can do is feel. The tears come. Our heart feels like it is breaking. Fatigue captures our bodies, and it is difficult to even face a new day. This is the valley of the shadows—the dark night of the heart.

Despair comes to us when we let ourselves feel the full weight of the losses and we realize that there is nothing we can do to change our situation. I remember despair well. At times it would catch me off guard and I would find myself with tears streaming down my face and stifling sobs in the grocery store or as I sat in church. Then other times I could feel despair slowly descending over my heart like a huge black sheet of pain. Those were the scariest days when I went to bed feeling overwhelmed by grief and woke up feeling the same way. I wondered then if my heart would ever be the same again.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Twenty-Seven

One of Satan’s greatest tactics over the centuries has been lying to men about intimacy. Sharing openly and honestly with other men in connected relationships is not weak – it’s Christlike. The truth is, it is CRITICAL to our freedom that we allow God to bring good Christian friendships into our lives. We are only allowed ONE intimate female relationship, so it is a must that we find some trustworthy guys with whom we can share our struggles. We’ll need them to walk with us, pray for us, and hold us accountable.

Isolation in a battle of this magnitude is NOT an option! Peter tells us “our enemy, the devil roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” I know from personal experience that the lone wildebeest at the back of the herd always gets eaten. Are you all alone with your secrets? If so, you are in trouble. You do not have to be alone any longer. You can find the relationships you will need in Walking Free. Isolation is not an option on the path to freedom.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Twenty-Seven

As long as we are alive, we will experience the full range of emotions that God created us to feel.  Like we have talked about before, all emotions serve a purpose in helping us navigate life safely.  If we no longer felt fear, for example, we would be very vulnerable to unsafe people and dangerous situations. So, emotional maturity is not about reaching a place in our personal growth in which we no longer feel negative or challenging emotions.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Twenty-Seven

Today we are going to talk about the bargaining aspect of grieving. When I first learned about the grieving process, I couldn’t understand why bargaining was included in the grief cycle. What do you think of when you think of bargaining?

I think of trying to get the best deal for my money, open-air markets in Kenya where nothing has a “fixed” price, and giving a little here in order to get a little there. When we move into bargaining as part of our grieving process, however, the deal is already done. We’ve gotten the bad end of the bargain, and we are trying our best to make it a better deal somehow.

If we are grieving the loss of a terminally ill loved-one, for instance, we might ask God to give them a few more years in exchange for an equal amount of our fully devoted service. Perhaps we’ve been fired or laid off from a job we enjoyed. We might try to talk to our supervisor or employer in an effort to get our job back—making promises of renewed effort or taking a cut in pay or vacation time. Maybe we’ve just been diagnosed with a disease like diabetes, so we start exercising fiendishly and eating right in an effort to prove the doctor wrong. All of these are examples of bargaining with grief. We realize that something painful has happened that we cannot ignore or deny, so we try to find a way to minimize the pain.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Twenty-Six

Relationship vs. Isolation

I’m a big sports fan. I love all sports, and I mean that literally. While football and baseball certainly are some of my favorites to watch, I also find myself interested in lesser-known sports like curling and fencing. A World Cup soccer game between Italy and Nigeria is, to date, the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed.

I have always placed games into two categories of sports – team sports and individual sports. I have come to understand now that there is no such division.

The most successful teams are made up of those who excel individually. And the most successful individuals are those who surround themselves with the best team. I have rarely watched a tennis final without seeing several shots of the player’s coach and advisors. Tiger Woods carefully chooses his caddie and swing coaches and physical therapists. He plays alone, but he doesn’t win alone.

These competitors cannot win alone and neither can we. But because of all the secrets we’ve been hiding, because of all our shame and pride, we have tried to fight this battle alone. We’ve been isolated, and Satan has used the opportunity to deceive us and destroy our intimacy with God.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Twenty-Six

During (their) time at HopeQuest, (clients) will be asked to write IFAB (I feel… _____ About…______ Because…______.) statements in a Feeling Inventory (FI) almost every day in order to practice recognizing and identifying your emotions — EMOTIONAL AWARENESS. (They) will also be using IFAB statements in group in order to practice sharing (their) feelings with other people — EMOTIONAL INTIMACY.

…EMOTIONAL AWARENESS is the ability to recognize and identify feelings and EMOTIONAL INTIMACY is sharing our feelings with others so that we can be truly known in relationship.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

Journey – Week Twenty-Six

I promised you that we would talk about walking out of denial’s darkness into the light of truth. It’s kind of a paradox, really. We think looking at the truth will bring incredible darkness to our lives, so we avoid the truth. The problem is that the comfort denial brings is an illusion—a fantasy world where true relationships cannot exist. If we stay in denial we will ultimately shut out healthy interdependent relationships with others and we will then become ghostlike, living somewhere on the other side of reality and love, unable to connect with others. Denial for all its seeming comfort is really a very, very lonely place.

So, how do we begin to walk out of denial and into truth and healing? The first thing we must do is to admit our situation is as bad as it is…

Wherever you are on the journey, I want you to be encouraged. If you are aware of the areas of denial in your heart and are actively walking towards truth, you may be hurting, but you are also healing. If you are just beginning to be aware of the denial in your life and are scared to death to walk into the light, know that you are not alone. All of us have experienced that fear to some degree, and we know how difficult it is to be real. We promise to keep encouraging you on the journey.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Walking Free – Week Twenty-Five

Consistency vs. Wavering

What does it mean to be consistent? When I think of someone who is consistent, I think of words like dependable, trustworthy, and steady. I know what to expect from that person. Granted, a person can be consistently absent or cruel, but at least there are no surprises.

Consistency is important because it allows us to trust and helps us feel safe. There is nothing more damaging to a relationship than inconsistency – saying one thing but doing another, breaking a promise, neglecting a responsibility. And there is nothing more life-giving to a relationship than faithfulness.

One of our defining struggles is our lack of consistency. We are driven by our emotions and our circumstances – acting like we are all alone instead of sons of the One True King.

Jesus, on the other hand, is consistent. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His mercies are new every morning. We really can trust Him.

– Troy Haas, First Steps

Trek – Week Twenty-Five

For example, …(if a person says), “I feel like I can never count on you,” that was a belief — not a feeling. When someone says a belief about you (disguised by “I feel like” or “I feel that”), you will likely begin to feel defensive, frustrated, and hopeless because, in the moment, there is nothing you can do or say to change that person’s belief.  The other person will see your defensiveness and feel dismissed or unheard.  Both of you will feel hurt and disconnected, and emotional intimacy is weakened.

However, I feel insecure or I feel hurt are authentic feeling statements that you can hear and validate.  You will likely feel regret that your actions have caused these feelings and will probably express sorrow over the ways you have hurt the other person. As the other person hears you validating his/her feelings (“I can understand why you would feel that way”) and expressing regret (“Im so sorry I let you down”), he/she feels heard and valued.  Emotional intimacy is strengthened.

–Melissa Haas, Emotions 101

See last week’s blog on the IFAB Statements: “I Feel… About… Because…”

Trek – Week Twenty-Four