Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 2

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 5

  • Read Psalm 5. What are some things that may have led the author of this Psalm to be angry or hurt?
  • Did the author of this Psalm seek out any judgment or retribution of his own? Why do you think that is?
  • What is the most memorable lesson you’ve learned about the nature and character of God this week? 
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 4

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     Day 4: Letting Go

Within our culture, there’s a phrase that is often spoken, but is impossible to live out. That phrase is, “Forgive and forget.” The forgiving part is a serious challenge in and of itself. The forget part, just can’t be done. Not only is it an impossible request, but it’s not something God speaks to us from His Word.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we read a lengthy definition of love. Love, as it’s described in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV), “…is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” If anger truly is the result of hurt or fear, then we could read this passage as, “Love is not easily afraid, or easily hurt.” The passage goes on to say that Love keeps no record of wrongs. Notice that the passage doesn’t say, “Love forgets all the wrong that was done against it.” Instead, God simply says that somebody expressing real love won’t indefinitely hold a grudge. Instead, somebody expressing real love will offer forgiveness. They won’t forget what happened to them. But they will move forward in grace, keeping no record of the wrong that was done against them. 

As you read today, consider this: Have you experienced something hurtful in which you haven’t offered forgiveness? What would it look like to move forward, keeping no record of wrongs? 

READING:

     1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 6:15

Have you experienced something hurtful in which you haven’t offered forgiveness? What would it look like for you to offer forgiveness, move forward, and keep no record of wrongs? 

Why do you think forgiveness is so hard? 

In what ways do you think forgiveness can offer personal healing? Explain.

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, of the many virtues within Your Word, offering complete forgiveness is one of the more challenging to fulfill. I have sometimes struggled to forgive others, or have continued to keep a record of the wrongs they’ve done against me. Admittedly, I have sometimes struggled to forgive myself (or accept Your forgiveness) for foolish decisions I have made. Today I ask that You would lead me on a path of forgiveness. May You guide me to release those things I’ve held onto that have only caused pain, and may I experience the freedom from that pain that only can provide. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 3

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     Day 3: Digging in: Part II

Take a few moments and think about your average day. How many different people do you see or interact with? Between your home or apartment, classmates, colleagues, and others you may see at the gas station or grocery store, you likely have some form of contact with a few dozen (or more) people every day. 

In most of these interactions, you have no idea what may be going on in their lives. You may witness somebody frustrated with a cashier because their credit card was declined. The reality is they’re not frustrated because their credit card was declined. Instead, they’re hurting because they just put a parent or grandparent in a nursing home. You may see somebody weaving in and out of traffic and think to yourself, “They’re driving like a maniac!” But the reality is their son or daughter just experienced a significant injury, and they’re trying to get to the hospital.

To put it differently, we sometimes make up stories about what’s going in other people’s lives. These stories we tell ourselves may be accurate. But on many occasions, we make up false stories that put others in a negative light. 

As you read today, consider this: How often do you find yourself making up stories about what others may be thinking or doing?

READING:

     Proverbs 19:9; 26:18-19 Exodus 20:16; Matthew 15:18-20

How often do you find yourself making up stories in your mind about what other people may be thinking or doing? 

Do you think that making up stories in your mind about what other people are thinking is similar to or different from bearing false witness against them? Explain. 

What do you think would be the best steps to take to find out if a story you’re telling yourself is accurate or not? 

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today’s reading has revealed to me that there are times when I quickly judge others or their circumstances without taking the time to ask them how they’re doing or how I may be in prayer for them. I don’t want to be a person who makes up incorrect or inappropriate stories about what others may be thinking or doing. Continue to help me see that others may be experiencing tremendous brokenness, and provide me the heart to help them in their suffering. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 2

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     Day 2: Digging In: Part I

Think about it: how often do you take opportunities to pause and think about what you’re feeling? Most people in our culture don’t pause. Instead, we’ll numb our lives with work, sports, social media, or anything else to try to escape.

Men, in particular, have a more difficult time talking about their feelings. Pastor Andy Stanley once joked that if you ask a man who has just experienced disappointment what he’s feeling, he’s likely to respond by saying, “I’m frustrated.” Ask why he’s frustrated and he’ll say, “Because I’m angry!” Sometimes, it’s just difficult to know exactly why we’re feeling the way we are.

In their study titled Emotionally Healthy Relationships, Pastor Pete Scazzero and his wife Geri provide a simple activity to help people dig-in to what they’re feeling. Let’s try it. 

Grab a sheet of paper and give yourself one minute (a full minute!) to answer each of these questions. It will likely be strange to complete this exercise, but it’s an excellent way to help you process through your current emotions. 

  • What are you mad about?
  • What are you sad about?
  • What are you anxious about?
  • What are you glad about? 

READING:

   Proverbs 14:29; 16:32; Ephesians 4:31-32

What was it like for you to pause and answer the four questions in today’s devotional? Was there anything about your answers to these questions that was a surprise to you? 

Some have argued that it’s better to keep our emotions hidden, as our emotions can deceive us. What do you think: Is it better to know and understand your emotions, or is it better to have or express very little emotion? 

Did you grow up in a family that encouraged talking about disappointments, frustrations and other feelings? How much has your upbringing impacted how well you understand your emotions today? 

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, there are many times when I don’t always recognize the things that may be causing me to feel mad, sad, anxious, or glad. Continue to reveal to me not only what I may be feeling, but also the reason why I may be feeling it, so that I may respond to difficult situations gracefully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Hurt: Day 1

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     Day 1: Understanding Hurt

Thomas Jefferson once said, “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.” There’s tremendous wisdom in that quote! Taking time to pause when experiencing frustration or anger may help you respond to a situation and not simply react to it. However, counting to ten, or even one hundred won’t always help you get to the root of why you may be angry. 

Research has shown that anger is almost always the result of one of two things. First is fear, a topic we studied in greater detail last week. A second common cause of anger is hurt. Not just physical pain, but also various forms of emotional distress. Perhaps it’s a death in the family. Or perhaps somebody says something that gets under your skin. Maybe a colleague says something inappropriate about you in a staff meeting. Or maybe a teacher or professor tells your class that your project is an excellent example of what not to do. Circumstances like these occur on a near daily basis, and the natural reaction is to feel, or perhaps even lash out in anger. 

As you read today, consider this: when you experience frustration or anger, how often do you take time to consider why you’re having such a strong reaction? 

READING:

     Matthew 5:43-44; James 1:19; Ephesians 4:26-27

Be honest: How often do you pause to consider why you’re feeling frustrated or angry? 

Have you ever thought about how to best communicate your frustrations (i.e. hurts/fears) in a way that may prove more effective than lashing out? 

Read Matthew 5:43-44. How regularly do you pray for those who have wronged you? (Would you be willing to write out a prayer for them today?)

What have you learned today about the nature and character of God? How will you better reflect His nature and character today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that there are times when I don’t pause and consider the reasons as to why I may be experiencing frustration or anger. This week, I pray that You will provide me with opportunities to grow by seeing and understanding the fears and hurts I have, and that You would provide me with wisdom to respond to these situations well. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Cultivating a Life Without Fear: Day 5

Reading guide banner WEEK 1

     Day 5: Commit to Growth

READING: Psalm 1

  • According to Psalm 1, what are some things that may prevent somebody from growing emotional and spiritual health? 
  • What are some things that lead somebody to growing in emotional and spiritual health?
  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself this week?

Cultivating a Life Without Fear: Day 4

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     Day 4: What’s Preventing Your Growth?

Take just a moment to think about your upbringing. As you were growing up, when did your parents or teachers most acknowledge their love and appreciation for you? Was it when you behaved well? Received good grades? Did something else that they considered to be “good?” This is likely the normal experience for most of us. But sadly, it leads to a negative and/or incorrect view of God. 

In their book titled How People Grow, Henry Cloud and John Townsend write that our view of God is the greatest obstacle to our growth. They acknowledge that most people see God as a God of LAWS or a God of RULES. If we behave correctly, or do something “good” then God will reward us for it. And just as we did during our childhood, we strive to do just that, and earn a reward. But when our circumstances don’t change, we feel like we must not be behaving correctly, so we try harder and harder. But it never works. 

The first real step to growth is to acknowledge that God isn’t a God of RULES…He is a God of GRACE. And GRACE is unmerited favor. It cannot be earned. It’s freely given. And must be freely received. 

As you read today, consider this: Do you see God as a God of RULES or as a God of GRACE? 

READING:

     Romans 6:14; Hebrews 4:16; James 4:6; 1 Corinthians 15:10

When you were growing up, when did your parents or teachers most acknowledge their love and appreciation for you? In what ways do you think this may have impacted your view of God? 

Be honest: Do you see God as a God of RULES or as a God of GRACE?

In what ways have you tried to earn God’s favor? What was the result? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that when I think about the things that prevent me from growing, my view of who You are hasn’t been at the top of the list. Instead, I’ve thought of You as a God of RULES, and that if I would just behave better, or do good things, I would grow. Moving forward, my greatest desire is to accept Your grace, acknowledging that there’s nothing I have done or will ever do to earn it. By moving forward in this way, I can live more freely from the burden of always trying to prove myself. Grant me wisdom as I live in the light of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Fear: Day 3

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     Day 3: Our Greatest Fears

Many scholars have set out to identify our greatest fears. Most lists of fears include things such as Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, and Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. While fears such as these are the ones most often talked about, they’re not necessarily our greatest fears.

Instead, one of the greatest fears that people have is the fear of not belonging. Students, young adults, and even the elderly will often walk into a new environment (classroom, work, church, other) and will immediately ask themselves, “Do I belong here?” Or, “Is there a place for me here?” And the sad reality is, many will change their appearance, or even the way they talk if they think it’ll help them to fit-in and feel like they belong.

Another common fear  for many is wondering if they’re enough. “Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I thin enough? Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough? Am I worthy enough? Am I ______ enough?” Within our culture, questions like these are regularly on our minds. And far too often, we give-in to believing we don’t belong and/or we’re not enough.

As you read today, consider this: Which of these fears resonates most for you? 

READING:

     Ephesians 3:16-21;  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Philippians 1:6

Which of these two fears have you struggled with more often:

  • Do I belong here?
  • Am I __________ enough?

Think about a time when you felt like you didn’t belong. What happened that made you feel that way? What emotions did you have? 

What word would you use to fill-in-the-blank in the question above? Why do you think you have questioned (or are currently questioning) whether you are ______ enough? In other words, what may be at the root of this fear?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today’s reading led me to realize how often I think negative thoughts about not belonging, or believing the lie that I’m not enough. I’m reminded that Jesus came from heaven to earth and died because of the exact opposite. He wants me to belong to Him, and He sees me as somebody who has tremendous value — so much so that He would choose to die for me. Thank You for this wonderful reminder! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Fear: Day 2

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Day 2: Don’t Be Afraid

Throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, Jesus offered 125 commands. Of these, only eight are a command to love God and neighbor. But twenty-one times Jesus encouraged others to “not be afraid,” “not fear,” “have courage,” “take heart,” or “be of good cheer.” In fact, if you would take the time to analyze every statement Jesus made, you would discover that the one phrase Jesus spoke more than any other is…”don’t be afraid.” 

Does this surprise you? 

In his book titled Fearless, pastor and author Max Lucado writes, “When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.” He goes on to note, “The fear-filled cannot love deeply. The fear filled cannot dream wildly…If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread.”

As you read today, consider this: Why do you think Jesus taught so much about fear and worry? 

Reading:

Matthew 6:25 & 24:6; John 14:27; 2 Timothy 1:7; Exodus 14:14

Why do you think Jesus taught so much about fear and worry?

What do you think most people are afraid of in today’s culture? 

Which of Max Lucado’s thoughts on the topic of fear stuck out to the most? Why do you think that is? 

What would you say is your greatest fear in life? 

COMITTMENT:

Take the opportunity to write down one of the scripture verses from today’s reading on a small post-it note or index card. This week, memorize this verse.

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word and the many examples where You encourage joy and gladness, and discourage fear. I grateful for the lesson that fear can lead to the inability to love others deeply or to dream wildly. My desire is to be somebody who regularly loves others deeply, so I pray that you would continue to reveal anything in my life that discourages or distracts me from real growth. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Cultivating a Life Without Fear: Day 1

 

Reading guide banner WEEK 1Day 1: The Rich Young Ruler

A man once approached Jesus and asked a very simple question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But the answer he received left him dejected. Jesus told him to sell all of his possessions and give all of his money to the poor. For this man, it was the one thing he didn’t want to give up.  He was willing to follow every other commandment.

In the end, the rich young ruler made two great mistakes. First, he was convinced that he could inherit eternal life based on his good works and good deeds. It seems that he would gladly follow the commands of God, without actually trusting God in the process. And this leads directly to his second mistake: he clearly trusts his wealth. In fact, he was so attached to his wealth that the thought of not having it led to tremendous fear. He was afraid of what may happen throughout the rest of life without his wealth.

Chances are high that you have something in common with the rich young ruler. There’s at least one thing, perhaps more, that discourages or distracts you from fully following Jesus. It could be wealth, or control, or some other stronghold.

As you read today, consider this: What most discourages or distracts you from growing in emotional and spiritual health?

READING:

     Luke 18:9-14 and Luke 18:18-30

After reading through the above passages, re-read the opening note from Pastor Justin (located on the previous post). 

What would you say most discourages or distracts you from growing in emotional and spiritual health?

Take at least two minutes to think through and write down your answer to this next question: What do today’s readings reveal about the nature and character of God? 

How can you better reflect this attribute of God today?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, today I simply acknowledge that there are things in my life that discourage or distract me from growing closer to You and from experiencing lasting contentment. I pray that as I continue through this Reading Guide, Your Word will bring to light some things that I have tried to hide from You and others. I also pray that as my fears, hurts and other anxieties are brought to light, that I will better understand Your grace, that I will receive it with gladness, and that I will grow as a result. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.