And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Emotions Mind Renewing Challenge

In my last post I said I would give you a renewing of the mind challenge for the emotions, so I thought I better get that challenge going! Here's the challenge: to choose one emotion or situation and commit to renewing your mind every time you experience that emotion or situation for the next two weeks. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Choose an emotion or situation that doesn't occur more than once or twice a day. For example, if you tend to be an easily annoyed person and you want to work on anger, just choose one person to journal about, preferably one that you get mad at often enough to journal about, but not so often that you'll have to spend the whole day journaling about them!

2. Commit to journaling as soon as possible after you experience the emotion, but for sure you before you go to bed that night. If you wait until the next morning two things will happen. First, you'll have a hard time remembering the thoughts that led to your negative emotion, and second, there's a good chance you'll wake up thinking, "Oh, that wasn't such a big deal. I think I'll just forget it." And then you will. Without journaling!

3. Try different ways to renew your mind to see if one works better for you than another.

4. Try to come to a point of peace each time you renew your mind. If you don't, there's a good chance you haven't yet accepted what you need to accept to find peace. Option charts always seem to make it easier for me to accept what I need to accept.

5. Don't expect it to be easy. Think of how many times Jesus had to go back to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to line up His will with the Father's will. He didn't just say a quick little prayer and then force Himself to go to the cross. He really worked to bring His heart in line with the Father's heart. Yes, our trials are much smaller than His, but shouldn't we give the same diligence to lining up our will with the Father's?

6. Before you begin your challenge, get a notebook ready, preferably one you can tear the pages out of. That way if you write something you don't want anyone to read, you can tear it out, crumple it up, and even hide it underneath a banana peel in the garbage can if it's really bad!

7. Sometimes after I journal, especially in a situation where I'm not feeling loved, I like to listen to praise music and think of how much God loves me. I lie on the couch, close my eyes, and worship God. I often feel very cherished by Him during those times--and it always makes me feel like it was worth giving up whatever I needed to give up for Him.

Well, that's about all the tips I can think of. From my experience it takes about six to eight weeks to really have lasting results, but if you do it for two weeks the peace you enjoy may be enough to motivate you to do it another four weeks!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Working on Your Emotions

When I first began teaching Freedom from Emotional Eating two or three years ago, I had a couple of women drop out of my Bible study. They didn't want to discourage me, they said, but it was just too painful to work on their emotions to keep going. I can sympathize with those ladies. I know how hard it is to work on some of these things.

Our tendency is to blame our feelings on other people or on situations we have no control over. It's hard to recognize that we also have a certain amount of responsibility when it comes to our emotions. And it's hard to go through all the work we need to go through to find peace and joy in difficult situations.

When you first start working on an emotion, it may take awhile to bring your thoughts captive to Christ. You might need to spend a long time wrestling through a situation with God before you experience peace, and even then, the peace will feel somewhat shaky. But the more you do it, the easier it will get and the more long-lasting and all-encompassing the peace will be.

At some point you'll find that situations which at one time would have annoyed you or sent you into a frenzy of worry no longer affect you that much. You'll begin to see the benefits of renewing your mind, and that in and of itself will make you want to keep going.

If you're not at that point yet, I'd like to encourage you to work on your negative emotions. Here are four benefits I see as a result of regular renewing of your mind in the area of your negative emotions:

1. It will bring you closer to God.

The Bible actually has a lot to say about negative emotions. For example, in Matthew 5:22-28, Jesus implies that both anger and lust are sin. In Romans 1:28-30, envy, greed, and arrogance are included in a list of wrongdoings that also includes murder and hating God. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus doesn’t say that worry is a sin, but He does tell us not to do it.

Now here’s the interesting thing. We all know that sin separates us from God, but usually we focus on behavioral sin. What we need to recognize is that sins of the heart can cause distance in our relationship with God just as easily as sins of behavior. If I’m constantly wallowing in an emotion that God has told me I shouldn’t be wallowing in, then that emotion is going to affect my walk with Him, whether it’s labeled sin in the Bible or not.

Renewing my mind on a regular basis has done more for my walk with God than any other discipline. It keeps me feeling close to Him, and it keeps me wanting to spend time with Him, both in the Word and in prayer. What I've found is that when I'm all wrapped up in emotions that don't honor Him, I don't want to be with Him. Renewing my mind not only gets rid of the negative emotions--it also brings me back to God.

2. It will improve your relationships.

Here’s an interesting exercise. Take out a piece of paper and list the three negative emotions you deal with most. Then ask yourself this question: How does this emotion affect my relationship with God and others? We can easily see how an emotion like anger hurts our relationships, but the surprising thing is that seemingly benign emotions like stress and worry also hurt our relationships.

3. It will make your life more peaceful and joyful.

This is kind of an obvious benefit. The problem is that the peace and joy don’t come the minute you start working on the emotion. Instead, life is less peaceful and joyful in the beginning because of the stress working on that emotion brings into your life. Depending on your situation, you may want to think about working through some of those really difficult emotions with a counselor.

4. It will help you lose weight.

Renewing your mind in the area of food will help you lose weight, but renewing your mind in the area of your negative emotions will help you lose even more weight. That’s why five out of eight chapters in Freedom from Emotional Eating deal with the emotions.

Think of it this way—if you tend to eat when you’re worried and all of a sudden you start going to God whenever you’re worried, you’ll eventually learn to trust in Him and you’ll begin to live a life of relative non-worry. It will take a lot of renewing your mind to get to that point, but you will get there if you keep pursuing God each time you’re worried.

Once you get there, you may still eat when you’re worried. But since you won’t worry much anymore, that won’t be a big deal.

One Last Thought

Before I close, I just want to say a word to those of you who either have experienced or are experiencing devastating things in your lives that are causing your negative emotions. I can’t claim to know what you’re feeling, because I haven’t walked in your shoes, but God knows.

Think of all Jesus Christ went through when He lived on earth. He knows how you’re feeling, and He grieves over what happened to you. He doesn’t condemn you for your feelings—but He doesn’t want you to continue on in those feelings either.

Often we don’t find peace until we’re willing to accept the unacceptable. Renewing our minds helps us see life from God's point of view. Through it, God can show us if there's anything we need to accept--and He'll also give us the strength to accept what we need to accept. Renewing our minds in the area of our emotions can be very difficult, but it's worth the peace and joy and intimacy with God that comes with it.

In my next post, I'll give you a renewing of the mind challenge for the emotions.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Renewing of the Mind Challenge

I’m sitting here by the fire this morning wondering how everyone is doing today. The holiday season is officially over now and the kids are back in school. Many of you are probably thinking, “Good—life will get back to normal today.”

I still have my Christmas tree up—in fact I’m looking at it right now all lit up—and my older boys are still home for Christmas vacation, so life isn’t back to normal yet here, but I like it this way. I love having all the kids home.

Still, it’s time to get back to work today. I’ll be working again on my new Bible study and forcing myself to go back to my writing schedule.

The first Monday of the new year is a good time for beginnings, and today I’d like to present you with a renewing of the mind challenge. What I’d like you to try is five days of truth journaling, Scripture prayers, or one of the other mind renewing practices in Freedom from Emotional Eating.

If you’re having problems sticking to your eating boundaries, you may want to place your efforts toward trying to stick to your boundaries. If you’re already doing that, I would try working on one of your negative emotions.

Here are some pointers for you if you’re going to work on sticking to your boundaries:

1. Print out some lie/truth charts right away or get a notebook handy. Find a pen and put everything in a place where it’s easy to get to when you need to journal. You can find a larger version of the lie/truth chart that’s in the book at in the sample content area.

2. Make a commitment to journal every time you eat something out of your boundaries, and I mean every time—even if it’s just one lick of the spoon.

3. Make a rule that you have to truth journal before you can eat anything else.

4. Truth journal even if you’re already planning to break your boundaries again the minute you’re done truth journaling.

5. Don’t beat yourself up even if you break your boundaries ten times during the day—but you should have ten truth journal entries to show for your ten boundary breaks. I would also intersperse those truth journal entries with Scripture prayers which you could even write out.

6. Do this for five solid days even if it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

Here are some pointers for you if you had been sticking to your boundaries faithfully before Christmas but you’ve been doing terrible since:

1. Do all the things I just mentioned in the previous section.

2. In addition, you’ll need to truth journal your feelings of failure and your fear of continuing to fail.

3. Every time you feel like you will never get over this problem, journal those thoughts. This is a necessary part of the process. I don’t think you can break free from emotional eating without going through the fear of failure stage. It usually hits more than once and it’s often accompanied by failure. You’ll need to use the truth to combat all those lies that tell you you’ll never get over this problem!

4. Be willing to accept that your failure has made you gain some of your weight back if that’s what has happened. Weight isn’t everything, but following God is. Ask yourself, how does God see this situation you’re in? How are you seeing the situation? Adjust your thinking so it matches His.

5. Recognize that this is a trial and know that God can use this trial to bring you closer to Him and make you more like Him if you go to Him for help. If you have Freedom from Emotional Eating, go back to the chapter on trials and rework it with your present trial of eating failure in mind. Make a list of all the things God could do in your life if you were to keep going to Him for help with this trial.

6. Steep yourself in the Word. Spend as much time with God as possible. Remember that life is about loving God and loving others. Answer this question in your journal: How can I love God best in this situation of struggling with food? How can I love my neighbors best in this situation? In the overall scheme of life does a five or ten pound Christmas weight gain make that much difference? How would God want me to move on from here?

I’m going to have to give the pointers for working on the emotions in my next post because I need to get to work on writing before I lose my momentum. I’ll be praying for all of you this week.