Positive Psychology – do you mean joy?

Biblical principles sneak up everywhere to me: usually it’s literature, but today, it’s contemporary psychology.

From Australian psychologist Lea Waters’ talk on positive psychology.

There are various negative psychological states that characterise mental illness:
Depression
Anxiety
Insecurity
Addiction
Violence

When psychologists try to help people in such states, should they focus on the burden or the blessing? (Dealing with the negative state or encouraging positive attitudes.) Waters’ answer is BOTH.

Positive Psychology:
Hope
Optimism
Resilience
Gratitude
Perseverance
Empathy

She calls these attitudes “an armour against life’s challenges.”

Excuse me while I mentally connect each one to a facet of Christianity: Hope in God’s Plan, Trusting in God’s Goodness (through anything), Expecting and Undergoing Trials and Tribulations, Giving Thanks to God, Persevering in Obedience and Resisting Sin, Compassion. And are we not told to put on the armour of God? The assurance that if God is for us, none can be against us – not even the dark forces of hell.

Furthermore, that question of whether we focus on the burden or the blessing, and the answer being, “both.” When we recognise the burden of our complete depravity (sinfulness) AND the blessing of God’s complete goodness and sacrifice for our sakes we are much closer to the untouchable armour that is the joy of grace accepted.

Modern psychology just corroborated the truth of the gospel and Christian living.

Her talk is here:

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Punitive

The punitive God of the Old Testament.

That’s what people think.

Joshua and the Israelites are told in chapter 8 to do to Ai as they did to Jericho, only taking its spoil and livestock, but killing the people. This kind of thing is what skeptics hold up as barbaric and indicative of biblical madness meaning either that God is a gleeful and sadistic lover of violence, or that the Bible is not a holy and revealed word but made up by sinful people, leaving us no actual guideline from a lofty, non-specific kind of god.

Jesus passes most of the postmodern scrutiny, but Jehovah? Where do we find the punitive spirit of this bloody passage in the compassion of Jesus, if they are supposed to be one God? Actually, as I was thinking about it this morning, we kind of do. Jesus’ compassion extends to the depth of forcefully removing all that could separate us from him, surgically if necessary. Jesus calls on two occasions in Matthew’s gospel for us to tear out our eyes (Gloucester-style) and cut off our hands and feet if they cause us to sin. (Matt 5:29-30, 18:8-9)

Sometimes, when caught off guard, I don’t know what to say to such objections about Jehovah’s cleansing instructions. It is a matter of state of mind: If I’m not absolute enough with myself, I’m going to be offended when God is absolute with other people.

I normally do not consider cutting my arm off. It sounds barbaric. If I were Aron Ralston (in 127 Hours) trapped between a rock and a hard place with the choice to die there or to cut my arm off and possibly escape, I might consider it. And funny enough, Gloucester ‘saw better’ which son loved him and which one did not after he lost his eyes.

127 Hours

 

Gloucester Edgar

Edgar finding his father

To the thinkers

“Understanding will never bring you Peace. That’s why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not in your understanding. Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out, in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives. But the world presents you with an endless series of problems. As soon as you master one set, another pops up to challenge you. The relief you had anticipated is short-lived. Soon your mind is gearing up again: searching for understanding (mastery), instead of seeking Me (you Master).”

From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, August 7th (read it on the 7th, decided today that it’s too good not to share)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do no lean on your own understanding.”

– Proverbs 3:5, which sat stuck to my headboard for many many years.

Romans 8:38-39

Reading the August 1st entry from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, I noticed something in these verses that I didn’t before. Read the whole thing first.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [ESV]

What is it that I noticed? Paul is sure that neither death nor life will be able to separate us from the love of God. Life cannot separate us from the love of God. Sometimes I am convinced that things suck and I’m tired of it and wish God would decide that it’s time for me to go. There’s a faint sense, at least in thinking of what I would be like if I were convinced that God loved me much, that I am tired of life because I think God doesn’t love me hence this is what he’s giving me. Conventionally, death sounds something terrible, but sometimes for Christians, life is what conventionally sounds something terrible if, you know, we get to be with God in death and free from this world. I’m not sure this is an orthodox or accurate interpretation of the verse, but to those who think like me at times, here it is: even sucky times of life do not mean we are separated from the love of God.

I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast sprit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.  – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.  – Clive Staples Lewis

Eros will have naked bodies. Friendship naked personalities.  – Clive Staples Lewis

“Oh!” but they will say, “it is ridiculous — a man trusting in God.” But you do no think it ridiculous to trust in yourselves.  – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Event Planning 101

  1. Never completely trust an “I wanna go!!!” Save yourself the heartache. Don’t get excited until you’re all on the road / at the party … etc.
  2. Asking “Do you want to go on a road trip?” is the same as asking “Do you like road trips?” It gives you no indication of whether the person will actually go on a road trip with you on any day you suggest.
  3. Instead, ask, “Do you want to go camping at Location Alpha with myself and so-and-so from the umpteenth of Mayvember to the impteenth of Apruary? It’ll cost $300. We’re leaving by 19:07 and returning by 15:29.”
  4. Remember that your friends are still your friends, even if they keep bailing on you. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Sometimes, I feel that righteousness alone would not actually be that hard. (Now really, it is, but let us conjecture for a short while.) That would be to claim, perhaps rightly, that you are in the right and have been wronged and there’s no argument about it anymore.

But to have righteousness with grace and mercy and peace is another thing completely. To be in the right but not to boast, or be proud, or seek to dishonour others by pointing out that you were in the right (unlike somebody), and not be easily angered, and yet after that to keep no record of wrongs, and then following all the aftermath to still want to trust and hope and persevere? This is where the Bible gives us a far far higher standard than to merely be righteous.

Sovereign

If this year the additional theme to my journal of daily reminders about God’s faithfulness is to be God’s sovereignty* then in personal matters I must trust. For though personal matters seem of little worldly importance, or at least less than public or professional matters, they are of cosmic importance precisely because they are close to my heart and soul, and we know that the most epic of spiritual battles are fought first on such sacred grounds. Hence in these matters especially, I should be diligent and purposeful to do the thing that seems to most clearly honour God and can bring Him undoubtable praise and glory for works that must obviously be attributed to him.

Trust, though a solid-sounding word, is not necessarily a comfortable state to be in. One can be spurred to fearless trust with habit and practice (you trust your legs now though you didn’t when you were 5 months old), but trust is a risk. Having beheld more than two years of daily records about how God is faithful, I have more than ample personal material to supplement biblical claims that God is faithful to be good, because He is sovereign despite disappointing timelines in our eyes.

I’m not sure what the worship band had in mind a few weeks ago when they chose this song to play while challenging us to choose an attribute of God to meditate on in 2013. Could anyone choose anything but “sovereign” after this song? Funny.

Sovereign in my greatest joy,
Sovereign in my deepest cry,
With me in the dark,
With me at the dawn.