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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Reflections on the Burial of Jesus for Biblical Counseling

Easter 2014--Reflections on the Burial of Jesus for Biblical Counseling

The Filled Tomb

Jesus was buried.

All four of the gospel writers narrate His burial (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53, John 19:41). The very concise Apostle’s Creed mentions that Jesus “…was crucified, dead, and buried.” The apostle Paul said that Jesus’ burial was a part of the gospel of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

During this season, we Christians love to talk about “The Empty Tomb” because our Lord is risen. But before He could rise, He had to be buried. Before there was an empty tomb, there had to be a filled tomb.

In re-reading the gospel accounts this Spring, I was struck by the fact that Jesus not only died but was buried. Death seems final, but burial even more so. Not only did His lungs stop breathing, His heart stop beating, and His brain go flat-line, but Jesus’ vital signs stopped for so long, so persistently, that it was obvious that He was dead and gone. There was nothing left to do but bury Him.

The synoptic gospels all say that Jesus’ body was buried. The pronouns shift from “He” to “it.” His body is now a corpse. “Going to Pilate, [Joseph of Arimathea] asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid” (Luke 23:53).

Jesus’ female followers tracked after Joseph and saw for themselves where Jesus’ body was placed. There was no mistaking it. Jesus was buried. The tomb was filled.

I don’t know a fraction of the implications of the truth of Jesus’ burial, but as I meditated on it, I thought of three that seemed significant for biblical counseling.

1. Salvation

It took the filled tomb to save us. Paul says, “by this gospel you are saved,” and that includes that Jesus “was buried” (1 Corinthians 15:4). I’m not as sure how Jesus’ burial figures into our salvation as does the Cross or the Resurrection, but I am sure that it is significant. Perhaps it’s simply an extension of His death—He’s that dead. Perhaps it’s to fit into and then improve on the pattern set by His ancestor, King David, who was also buried but whose body decayed there (Acts 13:36).

Certainly baptism is connected to burial; we were buried with Jesus in some mysterious and amazing way (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12). However it works, it was necessary for Jesus to be buried for you and I to be saved from our sins.

Biblical counselors celebrate the gospel because we encounter sin every day. We are sinners saved by grace who counsel other sinners in need of grace. We should give thanks that Jesus’ tomb was filled because it changes everything for us

2. Sadness

Biblical counselors also encounter suffering every day. We look into the sad faces of depressed people. We walk with those who grieve the loss of someone they love. We talk people through bitter relational conflicts. Life often hurts and feels like death. Dreams go into tombs.

I don’t think we can comprehend the bewildered sadness that the disciples must have felt on that silent Saturday, but it was the right emotion for the occasion. The filled tomb allows us to be sad. It gives us permission to grieve over the places in life that are broken.

Previously, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, our Lord wept. In fact, Jesus—who is the Resurrection and the Life and who was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). How much more were tears appropriate when it was our Lord himself who filled the tomb?

The filled tomb authorizes appropriate sorrowfulness.

3. Hope

Thankfully, Jesus did not stay dead and buried. He came back to life and came out of the tomb. He is risen indeed!

But to become an emptied tomb, it had to first be filled. You have to have death to have a resurrection. The filled tomb sets the stage for a miracle.

Biblical counselors offer hope. We see and feel sad situations for which we properly empathize, sympathize, and grieve. But we also know that the overwhelmingly sad can give way to the surprisingly joyful (John 16:20-22). Jesus specializes in turn-arounds.

As we receive and offer counsel during this season, let’s hold out hope for true change in both hearts and situations because the tomb of Jesus was filled and is now empty.

Join the Conversation

What difference does the filled tomb make in your biblical counseling?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , , , ,

Easter Bunnies, Parental Feelings of Failure, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Easter 2014--Easter Bunnies, Parental Feelings of Failure, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I’m a father of five beautiful children. What a distinct privilege it is to be a father. Honestly, I love being a dad. But on my worst days, I can often forget that I love this. Step into the world of parenting, and you can quickly get overwhelmed with inhibiting your children’s sin (peeling one fighting child off of another), your own guilt (I feel bad about something I did wrong), and maintaining the practical and tactical elements of survival (how many times have I changed diapers or wiped snotty noses or chauffeured a child to an activity or made a meal for our kids?).

Parenting is hard word. No doubt about it. In the midst of these daily battles, I find that my mind can quickly wander down a few mental trails that are not edifying for me, nor are they helpful for my kids.

Unhelpful Thought # 1: “I’m a failure of a parent because I got angry.”

One of my kids is really gifted at pushing my buttons. It’s not hard to get exasperated because my child is being stubborn or foolish, especially when I’m tired and worn out. So, I snap, I raise my voice, and sadly give myself over to my momentary anger.

After something like this happens, I can be prone to thoughts like: “You’re such a failure as a parent.” Or, for about an hour after the incident, I walk around feeling guilty about my anger. I know it was wrong. I know I shouldn’t have raised my voice. I know I need to be humble, and apologize to my child. I want to wallow in my misery. I failed, so let me just wallow in self-pity for a while. Maybe you can relate?

Unhelpful Thought # 2: “Sin still rules me.”

I remember one time, after getting angry at my daughter, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a chocolate Easter bunny, contemplating eating my misery away. Not a great way to deal with my emotions. (It is true, men can eat for comfort, too.)

Here is where the Apostle Paul comes in:

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

After a long treatise on how we are united to Christ and no longer slaves to sin, Paul wants to distinguish between our old self (our pre-conversion state when sin ruled us) and our new self.  The sad reality is that too many of us (as parents) live as if our sinful tendencies still rule us. We assume our sin is winning; so, we wallow in guilt or shame or self-defeat.

But Paul makes this argument in Romans 6: Since Christ died, and we are united to Christ in His death, we are dead to sin. We must recognize this fact.

Or, to put it in simple terms: Recognize that your sin no longer rules you. Remember this fact.  When you get angry, or give yourself over to a bad eating habit, or wallow in guilt or shame, or contemplate your parental failures, remember that this is who you once were, but not any longer.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He wants me to recognize my new reality—that I’m in Christ. Those two words (“in Christ”) mean everything to me. It gives me hope because this sin no longer defines me. As an unbeliever, I was a slave to this sin. But as a Christian, it no longer has to rule me. As a Christian, I can often forget this new reality, and assume my sin defines me.

I don’t know about you, but remembering my new reality—that sin no longer rules me, and that I can find life through Christ—is hard. Sometimes I forget. Other times I just want to wallow in my guilt.

So, I need to do as Paul encourages me to do—recognize the truth of the situation. If you are ‘in Christ’, then you are united to Christ through his death and his resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). He provides the strength to help you daily battle the sin that once defined you, and helps you to live more like him every day. Sin no longer has mastery over you (Romans 6:5-7).

Parents: Take Heart.

Don’t give up. Every Easter, I’m reminded of this fact: Because Christ rose again, I have life. I’m no longer a slave to my sin. You no longer are defined by your anger, wallowing, guilt, or parental failures. So, put away that chocolate Easter bunny and be patient with your child. Christ has risen; you now have life through Him.

Join the Conversation

What practical, relational difference does your new life in Christ have in your daily life? How does the good news of Easter resurrection change how you view yourself and how you live life?

Topics: Christian Living, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sin | Tags: , , , , ,

Weekend Media Resource: When a Husband Is Discovered Looking at Pornography

The BCC Weekend Resource
BCC Staff Note: On weekends we often highlight one of our many free resources. This weekend we highlight an audio recording of a conversation between David Powlison, Deepak Reju, and Garrett Higbee about how a counselor might help a couple when the husband has just been discovered in a struggle with pornography. All three men share their various perspectives on how to understand the problem as well as the way forward.

Popout Audio Player

This is an audio recording of a conversation between David Powlison, Deepak Reju, and Garrett Higbee about how a counselor might help a couple when the husband has just been discovered in a struggle with pornography. All three men share their various perspectives on how to understand the problem as well as the way forward.

Topics: Adultery, Audio, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Women/Wives | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

5 Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others

Bob Kellemen just concluded a six-part blog mini-series on emotions. Read Part Six, which has links to the first five posts, at 5 Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others.

6 Signs of False Teachers

Denny Burk reminds us that we are not only to preach the Word, but also to defend the flock against false teachers. He discusses 6 signs of false teachers in How to Identify False Teachers.

PBS Looks at New Calvinism

Justin Taylor links you to a transcript and video of PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly looking at “New Calvinism” with a focus on the Southern Baptist Convention. Find the links at PBS Looks at New Calvinism.

The New Birds and Bees

Tim Challies shares a sad, alarming, and important post updating us on how the secular world is not teaching about gender, sexuality, and sex. Learn the sad news that we all must be aware of in The New Birds and Bees.

9 Things You Should Know about the Chronicles of Narnia

At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter notes that the end of March marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of C.S. Lewis completing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Read 9 Things You Should Know about the Chronicles of Narnia.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave Room

Leave Room

The most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed is reconciliation between two hurting sinners. I am passionate about seeing broken relationships healed. But, what do we do with that broken relationship that haunts us? Is it ever okay to give up pursuing reconciliation with another person?

Well, it depends.

First, let’s define a few terms.

Forgiveness

Human forgiveness does not depend on the attitudes or actions of the offender. When in conflict, an offended person can (and must) forgive the offender, even if the offender fails to repent or confess their sins. Why?

All of our sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven by God when we put our faith in Christ. Jesus secured our forgiveness through His perfect work on our behalf. As forgiven sinners, we are wealthy in grace. Our wealth is so vast, and our gratitude so deep, we can’t not settle the “debts” others owe us by extending forgiveness.

On account of the gospel, even massive debts of pain, loss, and grief can be settled from our own “bank account” of grace. Our grace accounts are so great that we will never miss the payments we make to set others free of the relational debts they owe us.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation requires mutual repentance, confession, and forgiveness.

Not all relationships “break” as a result of conflict, therefore reconciliation (as defined above) is not always required. Conflict in which no one is harmed, and Christ’s reputation is not damaged, can be resolved when one person covers another person’s sin with love. Love in the form of unilateral forgiveness is sufficient to make the relationship whole again. We call this overlooking an offense. When a husband absent-mindedly leaves his shoes under the coffee table after agreeing to put them away, the irritated wife has it in her power to make whole the relationship by choosing to cover the offense with forgiveness, even in the absence of a conversation, by reminding herself of how much she has been forgiven in Christ.

When a relationship breaks because someone is harmed or Christ’s honor is damaged, reconciliation is necessary. Reconciliation requires both parties to recognize their sins and failures (repent), own their contributions to the conflict (confession), and forgive each other. A broken relationship cannot be made whole when only one (or neither) party takes responsibility or forgives. Reconciliation is not in the power of one person. It takes two people to reconcile a relationship.

Restoration

Restoring a relationship is different than reconciling a relationship.

While reconciliation requires mutual repentance, confession, and forgiveness, restoration is a process of rebuilding trust, respect, and closeness in a relationship. Reconciliation and restoration have different goals with different paths. However, restoration requires sufficient reconciliation.

The illustration of a broken bone might be helpful to understand the difference between relational reconciliation and restoration. A broken bone must be “set” or returned to its proper place in order to heal properly. Some breaks are so serious that the break and the surrounding tissue damage require extensive intervention in order to bring the broken bone back into place. When the injured limb is finally in a position to heal, the protective cast is employed.

Reconciliation is like setting a broken bone and, when conflict is severe, reconnecting severed arteries or torn muscles. Restoration, on the other hand, is like placing a cast around the “reconciled” bone, providing the necessary time to heal, and employing physical therapy to regain the use of the injured limb.

It is unhelpful to attempt to restore what has not been reconciled. Counseling that focuses on restoring trust and respect, in the absence of reconciliation efforts, fails to be effective for people in significant conflict.

Make Every Effort

Believers are called to “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14). The apostle Paul instructs us that, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). How are we to live at peace?

Living at peace with others is hard work. It is also transformative. When we keep in mind the message of the gospel, God reconciled us to himself through Christ, we are inspired to see and own our sin, seek forgiveness, help others see and own their sin, and extend forgiveness. With God’s help, we are enabled to repent, confess, and forgive.

However, others with whom we find ourselves in conflict might not choose to join us in this God-honoring endeavor.

What Do We Do Then?

When we have done all we know to do to pursue reconciliation, and we have prayed and asked God for help, and we have repented and confessed our sin, and we have forgiven the person who has hurt us, and we have included others in the process to help promote reconciliation, and we have turned to our church for help, and we don’t know what else we can do… there is still one thing left to do.

Leave room.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Leaving room for God’s wrath is not washing our hands of the relationship, turning our back on the person, ceasing to be concerned for them, or hoping that God punishes them. Leaving room is an act of faith in the God who is always at work to grow us more into the likeness of Christ.

Leaving room is an act of hope in the God who delights in reconciliation, and might choose to work in other ways to promote repentance, confession, and forgiveness in the reluctant party.

Leaving room is an act of love when it is accompanied by a watchful and prayerful heart waiting for the “green light” to reengage our efforts to live at peace.

Join the Conversation

How could you apply these principles of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration to your life and relationships?

Topics: Anger, Bitterness, Christian Living, Conflict, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Picture Perfect: The Remedy (Part 3)

Picture Perfect - The Remedy (Part 3)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 3 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Taylor and the Rest of Us

In the two previous posts, we’ve been focusing on Taylor, a perfectionist whose life is often filled with stress and frustration as a result of the expectations she has for herself and others.  Think for a moment now about what you really want on a day-by-day basis. If, like Taylor and me, your heart and mind are often ruled by self-focused desires, it won’t be long until you experience frustration, fear of failure, unrelenting pressure, and guilt. It won’t be long until you seek to control others to get them to live according to your expectations. It won’t be long until you live with a sense of dread that just around the next corner someone will discover you are a fraud; you’re not really as put together as everyone believes you are. These are heavy burdens.

Taylor wants things done right because in her heart she believes this will bring her satisfaction. But Taylor has been deceived into believing that the perfection she is seeking will bring happiness. Taylor has been lured into believing that performance leads to perfection and that performance-based perfection leads to happiness and satisfaction. These deceits are advertised regularly by the world around her promoting the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect job, the perfect investment, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect life. But the reason they resonate with Taylor is that she wants to believe them. She wants to believe that if she works hard enough she can attain perfection. She wants to believe that performing well will remove her anxiety and fear. She wants a life with no hassles or trials and she believes being perfect will fulfill this desire.

True, there have been brief moments of satisfaction. Occasions of recognition have brought fleeting good moods, but these have inevitably been followed by pressure to do more and fear of being exposed as imperfect. For the perfectionist, achievement results in demands for greater achievement. Not a moment should be wasted in resting on your laurels or celebrating victory. There is always the next game to win, the next project to perform, the next expectation to meet.

And the greater the recognition, the greater the fear of being exposed. The more people point to you as a model to follow, the higher the potential for humiliation when you don’t live up to the exalted status conferred on you. Perfectionism is a harsh master and serving this master is frightening and exhausting.

Exchanging a Heavy Burden for a Light One

A life ruled by our own desires and shaped by what the world tells us is perfection eventually becomes an exhausting life full of disappointment and frustration. In contrast, how radically different it is when the one true Lord rules our lives. When the true Lord rules our lives, we find that his rule is very different. This ruler invites you to come to him and have rest. Listen to his kind invitation in Matthew 11:28–30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Does this seem attractive to you? Do you feel worn out trying to meet all the demands of perfectionism? Do the anxieties, pressures, and fears that come with perfectionism keep you in turmoil, your mind always churning? Would you enjoy rest for your soul, a relief from the churning?

Jesus promises his yoke is easy, his burden is light. How can he do this? He did it by taking the crushing burden of our failure on himself and inviting us to turn to him in trust and repentance. As we turn to him, he offers us his perfection—his righteous record with no mistakes or flaws. With his perfection as our foundation, he then equips us to live with a whole different mindset. Different things become important to us. We develop different goals and desires. We pursue different agendas.

Be advised, the old desires, fears, anxieties, and goals will still tempt you to rely on them but in Christ they no longer have the power to rule you. Woohoo! All those tensions that Taylor has lived with for years, no longer have to have mastery over her. There can be peace.

Taylor needs a different way. Her striving for perfection has gone badly wrong—led by a heart that has been blinded by the promises of false gods. Her striving for perfection has brought tension into almost all of her relationships. Her striving for perfection has resulted in tremendous pressure to do better and better. Taylor has a love/hate affair with perfectionism, and she needs a better way.

Christ offers a better way. He makes incredible promises that only he can deliver. The life he promotes is radical. It’s restful. It’s stunningly beautiful. It’s available to Taylor and to us.

Join the Conversation

How can you receive and rest in the “light burden” of Christ?

Topics: Christian Living, Conflict, Faith, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

Picture Perfect: The Root (Part 2)

Picture Perfect - The Root (Part 2)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 2 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. You can read Part 1 here. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

The Perfectionist’s Self-Assessment

Yesterday, we met Taylor, a perfectionist whose high expectations create pressure and stress for everyone around her. And while Taylor causes stress in everyone around her, what you might not realize is that she too feels unrelenting stress every time she approaches a new task and she knows she places tremendous pressure on herself to avoid failure.

The fear of failure can easily consume her, often causing her to lay awake in bed at night thinking about everything she needs to do so that she won’t mess up. Her fear of failure often pushes her toward irritability, and those around her would probably describe her as controlling, inflexible, and impatient. But even though Taylor invests heavily in not failing, she rarely feels as though her investment has yielded a high return. When she’s done with her latest project, whatever it may be—from cooking dinner for company or launching an initiative at work—Taylor is hardly ever satisfied. For every one thing that went well, Taylor can usually identify twenty things that weren’t right. When Taylor perceives she hasn’t lived up to the perfection she demands of herself, she then beats herself up as a complete failure and berates herself as a loser who can do nothing right.

Taylor has learned several defensive maneuvers to try to cope with all of this stress. Her fallback strategy is to try harder, believing that more effort will allow her to achieve her goal. But, although she doesn’t realize it, this puts her in a repeating loop with no acceptable exit. Her desire to be picture perfect means that she is always trying to reach her goal through her performance. When she falls short of the high standards she has erected, she concludes she is a failure and wallows in misery. This ends with a resolve to try harder, greater effort on her part, falling short, more misery, and a renewed resolve to try harder. Because she never reaches the perfection demanded by the performance-driven standards she has erected, she has no way out of the loop other than to quit.

Many perfectionists do end up quitting in some, if not all, areas of life. When you can’t keep your home as spotless as you would like, you might quit by abandoning chores and allowing things to pile up. If you can’t get all “A’s” you might just drop out of school. If a job becomes too demanding or you make a mistake at work, quitting might seem like the best option. Or, you may procrastinate on projects out of fear of failure—putting them off because you don’t think you can get it exactly right. Taylor however usually just keeps looping back through the cycle.

A Distorted Perfection

Yet with all the tension that accompanies her perfectionism, Taylor is reluctant to abandon it. She still desires to be picture perfect. In a distorted sense, Taylor’s desire reflects her original purpose. She was created to display “perfection.” From the very beginning, God’s purpose has been that men and women would reflect his image, that they would radiate the glory of a perfect God, their Creator and Friend. Sadly sin has turned what was once a glorious mission into a source of tension. Sin has also caused us to come up with our own definition of perfection, a man-centered definition that often focuses on performance and outcomes that glorify us, not our Creator.

Why would wanting perfection leave you angry, frustrated, discouraged, or hopeless? The obvious answer would seem to be because others don’t share your standard or because you fail to achieve the perfection you desire. But if we go beyond scratching the surface, this answer no longer makes sense.

If we truly valued perfection, we wouldn’t quickly become angry and frustrated; those aren’t “perfect” responses. Nor would we be controlling, inflexible, and impatient. Those aren’t right or perfect responses either. So there’s got to be something more going on than simply a desire to do things perfectly.

We’ve got to start asking questions, “What do I mean by perfect or right? Why do I want these things done perfectly? What makes perfection important to me? Where does God fit into all of this?” These won’t necessarily be easy questions to answer. Uncovering desires can often be difficult. It’s also difficult because the answers aren’t the same for everyone. But wouldn’t you like to be free from nitpicking, paralysis, self-hatred, and irritation? Wouldn’t you like to be free to enjoy and accept others even though they don’t do everything right? Wouldn’t you like to be free to move forward despite your own mistakes and fears of not being right? God can change those things in you, but it doesn’t happen by magic. Change begins by looking closely at what is going on under the surface of those feelings and behaviors. It all starts with what we want—our desire life.

Because of sin, good desires become warped and twisted. When you look closely, you can often see that wanting to be excellent doesn’t come from a heart that longs to show others the beautiful perfection of God. Instead that desire shrinks and the focus becomes self-centered. You find you want to do all things with excellence because you want others to think highly of you; you want to look good to others or feel good about yourself. You want to have things under control so that nothing can hurt you.

God’s desire for Taylor is much different (and so much better) than what she wants for herself. He wants to make her like his beloved Son (Romans 8:29). He wants her to have rich, full relationships where she shares with others the grace and mercy she has been given as a dearly loved child of God.

As Taylor begins to understand that the frustration and discomfort in her life comes not from the failures of others or even herself, but from her response to those failures, she can turn to God with her true failure: replacing God at the center of her life with her own desires for perfection and control. As she turns away from her own desires and turns toward God, he will begin to help her function as he originally designed humans—to display his image and his glory. This will be a process and there will be many failures along the way, but God will not desert Taylor. When he begins a good work, he carries it on to completion. He will do the same for you.

The Rest of the Story

In Part 3, we’ll discuss the remedy: exchanging a heavy burden for a light one.

Join the Conversation

How could you use this root analysis of perfectionism in your life and ministry?

Topics: Christian Living, Conflict, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Stress | Tags: , , , ,

Picture Perfect: The Problem (Part 1)

Picture Perfect - The Problem (Part 1)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

I Love Perfection! I Hate Perfection!

Taylor could feel her frustration level rising. This was the fourth time she had taken the car to the dealership to get the damage corrected. Before purchasing the car, a hailstorm had created multiple dings in the car’s surface. As a condition of the sale, the dealership had agreed to remove all the damage at no cost to Taylor. While almost all the dings had been removed, one stubborn ding remained. Taylor had returned the car to the dealership four times now to get it removed. Each time she had brought the car in, the dealership had said they had the problem fixed. Now the service manager was acting like Taylor was making a big deal over nothing.

Taylor’s husband told her to quit being so picky. He kindly pointed out that the remaining ding was practically unnoticeable and that the dealership had done a good job on the car. From his perspective, the dealership wasn’t obligated to do anything else.

Taylor didn’t think she was being too picky. For Taylor, it was simply a matter of doing things right. The car dealership should remove every last ding because they said they would do that for her. And, if they said they would do it, they should. They shouldn’t act like it was the customer’s fault when they didn’t live up to their promise. What was wrong with wanting things done right?

Taylor doesn’t just expect this of the car dealership; she expects it of herself as well. She expects to deliver flawlessly when she commits to something. Flawlessly! No shoddy work. No half finished product. No neglected detail. Picture perfect. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I’ve been there. Taylor’s story could be (and often is) my story. Perhaps you’ve been there too.

Taylor doesn’t really think there is anything major about her life that she needs to change. She wishes a whole lot of other people would change. In fact, although she wouldn’t say this out loud and may not even realize she feels this way, Taylor wishes others would be more like her. If others would change, life would be better. If the people at the dealership would just be more committed to doing things right (like Taylor) she wouldn’t be having this problem.

From Taylor’s perspective, she cares about doing things right, even perfectly, while others don’t seem to have the same commitment. In Taylor’s eyes, a whole lot of problems would be solved if other people would just do things right.

Perfectionism’s Trademark Characteristics

How about you? You don’t have to be exactly like Taylor to have a struggle with perfectionism. Do you want things done right? Does it annoy you that others seem so easily satisfied with what appears to be mediocre performance? Do any of the following “perfectionistic” tendencies resonate with you?

  • You want to be the best in everything you do.
  • You have very high expectations for yourself and others.
  • You are very upset with yourself if you make a mistake.
  • You feel guilty for relaxing. You feel like you are never doing enough.
  • You’re very particular about the details of tasks.
  • When you perform well, you analyze your performance for the weak spots and quickly gloss over the things done right.
  • You want something done right or not done at all.
  • You are perceived by others as a role model.
  • You feel like others are never satisfied by your performance.
  • You compare yourself to others. If you perceive someone is better than you, you analyze that person to see how to measure up.
  • You don’t attempt things you know you can’t complete with excellence.
  • You are frightened by the thought of failure.
  • You procrastinate.
  • Your relationships are often strained or difficult.
  • You feel like you won’t ever be perfect.
  • You rarely experience joy.

The list identifies some traits that are positive, but it also points out characteristics associated with perfectionism that are clearly troublesome. Traits that make it hard to love God and to love others.

A Source of Tension

Would it surprise you to learn that Taylor is often frustrated and unhappy? One barely noticeable ding has become a source of strain in Taylor’s relationships. Her high expectations have resulted in conflict.

Taylor’s relationship with her husband has been strained, even though he only disagreed mildly with her. Other people in Taylor’s life have had to listen to her complaints. Their concerns have been minimized while Taylor’s have been maximized. At the dealership, the service manager has begun to view Taylor as unreasonable. He is no longer interested in keeping her patronage because who wants a customer like her? Who wants to do business with someone who can’t be satisfied?

On the flip side, Taylor isn’t interested in giving the dealership her patronage. It’s an easily broken relationship, just one of many in Taylor’s life—relationships strained or severed because of unmet expectations for perfection. That story has been repeated hundreds of times in Taylor’s life. She has wanted things done to a high standard and others haven’t delivered.

There is nothing in and of itself wrong with Taylor’s desire to have things done right. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with asking dealerships to honor their promise. There’s no law against having great-looking landscaping, keeping your car washed and shiny, putting your shoes neatly in the closet, having an organized desk, making sure you always use your blinker when changing lanes, looking your best, living by a strict budget, preparing sharp-looking reports, avoiding junk food, etc., etc., etc. Most people would agree these are good things.

What creates the frustration and unhappiness that comes with perfectionism is what lies under the surface and drives these behaviors—the motives, beliefs, desires, fears, anxieties, and goals that live in and rule the heart and mind. These beliefs and desires interfere with loving relationships with God and others. Happily, our beloved Savior offers to rescue us from these passions that create so much tension in our lives, and offers us instead joy and peace that are given in such abundance that they overflow.

The Rest of the Story

While that may seem almost unimaginable, the God of truth is ready and willing to give us this beautiful gift. In the next posts, we’ll take a closer look at making the most of this present from God. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at Taylor’s thoughts about her own performance. In Part 3, we’ll discuss exchanging this heavy burden for a light one.

Join the Conversation

How has perfectionism—in your life or those you love—impacted your life and ministry?

Topics: Anger, Christian Living, Conflict, Forgiveness, Patience, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Weekend Media Resource: Pastor’s Conference Call with David Powlison

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we often highlight one of our many free resources. This weekend we highlight the Pastor’s Conference Call with David Powlison.

This is an audio recording of a conference call with several leaders in the biblical counseling movement. Today’s phone conversation centers around a phone interview that Pastor Deepak Reju did with author and CCEF Executive Director David Powlison. In addition to sharing his own personal testimony, Dr. Powlison addresses various topic including the nature of biblical counseling, lay/local church counseling, and the current state of the biblical counseling movement. Other participants include Garrett Higbee, John Henderson, and Robert Cheong.

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NOTE: The following blog is mentioned in this interview: Why We “Care” Instead of “Counsel” One Another.

Topics: Audio, Interview, Pastoral Resources, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Drowning in Distortion: Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”

The Christian blogosphere has been all abuzz about the new “Noah” movie, with opinion varied. Al Mohler provides an insightful review from an Evangelical perspective. You can read it at Drowning in Distortion:  Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah.” 

Biblical Counseling and Theology Proper—God the Father

Paul Tautges has been blogging about theology and biblical counseling. In this post, he focuses on what systematic theologians call “Theology Proper”—the doctrine of God the Father. Learn how the biblical understanding of God the Father impacts our approach to biblical counseling in The Fatherhood of God.

Missional Motherhood

Being “missional” is an “in” word these days—and a good one. In this post at Desiring God, Gloria Furman shares practical, insights into how mothers can be gospel-centered. Read her thoughts in Missional Motherhood.

7 Things a Good Dad Says

Here’s a very practical, heart-felt, biblical post by Tim Challies on 7 Things a Good Dad Says.

Leaders in the Church

Spence Shelton of The Summit Church, shares:

“The only way real growth is going to come to our churches is by leaders dreaming impossible dreams for their people, risking themselves to advance God’s kingdom. Will you be among them? What risks will you take? What dreams will you dream?”

Read the rest of Pastor Shelton’s thoughts in Leaders in the Church: Listen to God’s Pep Talk.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.