Leslie Vernick
December 8th 2015                                                                                
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How To React In Times Of Fear

By Leslie Vernick

This week we mourn over the hateful act of a husband and wife who forever changed the lives of the people attending a company Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.


A few weeks ago, 130 people were murdered by terrorists in Paris, France. The world is becoming a scary place. A soccer game, a pub, and a Christmas party no longer feel safe. But how do we respond? Do we stay home bunkered down in fear? Overcome by the evil around us? Or as God’s people, are we challenged anew to learn to live by faith and overcome evil with good?


Don’t get me wrong. Fear is a normal human response to evil, terrorist attacks, and anarchy. And, if we are faced with such evil, our fear response enables our body to kick into action so hopefully we can protect others and ourselves.


However, it’s tempting today to live in fear of what might happen. In addition to living in fear of what might happen, many of us also struggle with living in fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of death, fear of conflict, and fear of change. As we do that we orient our lives around avoiding what we fear rather than around serving and glorifying God. That is not how God wants us to live


The Bible repeatedly tells us to fear not. God tells us “do not be afraid.” Why? Because he knows we are naturally fearful creatures and that life can terrify us to a place of being ruled by our fears rather than the love of Christ.


It’s interesting to me that the psalmist says two seemingly contradictory things in Psalm 56 about fear. The first one is “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:11)


And then he says, “When I am afraid, I will trust God” (Psalm 56:3).


So what he tells us is that sometimes our faith is so big we don’t feel fear. Other times, we are so filled with fear we will be overwhelmed by it if we don’t trust God. 


So, if you don’t want to be ruled by your fears, here are four things you can start to do.   


1. Name your fear. Whatever it is, it needs to be named and faced rather than avoided or ignored. It’s only when we face our fear and move towards it in courage do we practice the faith to trust God with the outcome. For example, if you found you had a lump in your body somewhere and you feared cancer, naming your fear of the possibility of cancer and taking appropriate action will help you have the best chance of living longer if it is indeed cancer. Ignoring it or avoiding it will not make it go away. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is relying on God’s strength to walk towards your fear in faith.


2. Get some support. In our individualistic, independent society it feels shameful to admit we need help. Yet, God created human beings to need one another and to need him. We were not meant to walk through life all by ourselves. The victims of last week’s shooting will need support to process the tragedy. I needed support when I was called to write a book and feared rejection. Sometimes we need to borrow someone else’s faith so that we can face our fear and move through it.


3. Take responsibility for your life and how it’s going. Sometimes we stay victims when we do not need to. We are afraid to make a change, take a stand or speak up against what’s wrong. We allow ourselves to be mistreated, abused, terrified and feel paralyzed to get help, get support, or implement consequences including availing ourselves of the laws of our land for our protection.


4. Center yourself in God and not in fear. By practicing step 3, taking responsibility, you choose whether you are going to center yourself in love or fear, trust or unbelief, God’s truth or human reasoning. When we center ourselves in God and live by faith, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re not supposed to. We were not given the gift of omniscience. 


But Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow today (Matthew 6:34). Tomorrow will have enough problems of it’s own. When tomorrow comes and it’s scary, then he will give you what you need tomorrow to face it with faith. Living in the “what if’s” cripples us for today.  


Ask yourself the question: Today am I going to live in faith or fear? Am I going to live in faith that God knows my story, faith that God is bigger than my story? Faith that God has a plan for my life and he is my helper in times of trouble? 


The psalmist reminds you that when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death – you don’t need to fear evil. Why? Because God is with you (Psalm 23:4).


As the Christmas season approaches, listen to the words of this beloved Christmas carol and allow it to speak to your heart.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


Friend, you can either walk forward by faith and in faith or cower in fear. I pray you choose faith, even when you still feel fear.


Is There Hope For A Narcissist?
Question: My husband was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and my daughter and I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our therapist professes to be a believer and understands our biblical views and is working with our pastor to bring about healing to our family. However, she is still coming from the clinical side of things, and sometimes I am very confused by her approach (validating his pain, hurt, etc. to build his trust and then patiently working with him to the point that she can hopefully open his eyes to the truth of his pain, etc). My pastor on the other hand, is skeptical of this approach and is concerned that she is just “feeding his frenzy” and that the deeper issues of sin are not being addressed, therefore, making the healing process very slow.

My question to you is this – given your training, biblical background, and experience – what thoughts do you have that a person with NPD will likely be able to truly see and deal with their sin issues? Would you be inclined to use a more direct approach? Also, if you can, what counsel would you give me in dealing with a person like this?

I realize there are many details that have not been provided to you. I am not looking for a detailed answer – just some general thoughts about NPD and its “victims” (if that’s possible).

Answer: I want to answer your question because I think many people in counseling struggle to understand why their therapist is taking a certain approach yet feel afraid to just ask him/her. As a therapist myself, if someone is unhappy with my approach or is confused by why I am doing something, I would welcome their question and I think most therapists would also. As a part of your own healing, as well as for the sake of your marriage and family, I’d encourage you to speak up and talk with your counselor about your concerns.

I am very uncomfortable making comments or giving an evaluation on the approach of your therapist with your husband because I do not know all the facts of the situation but let me give you some of my thoughts.

1. Working with a person diagnosed with NPD is a long slow process and there is not a high success rate. From the literature that I’ve read and my own personal experience, validating his pain may work to build his trust for the therapeutic relationship but it doesn’t transfer into his ability to validate the pain he’s caused other people.

For a narcissist it is about his pain and his pain only and that can be a bottomless well. If you try to talk about your pain, it may get a nanosecond of acknowledgment but it quickly and always reverts back to his pain.

Empathy for another person is lacking in NPD and an ability to view you or your daughter as separate people is minimal at best. In his mind your purpose is to be there to help him, serve him, meet his needs, and make him happy. His pain when you fail will always be a justification for his hurtful actions towards you. And because you are human, you will always fail in some way. Therefore, everything always becomes about him again and again. If your therapist isn’t on top of this, every session becomes all about him and his pain and how you have failed him and how you need to try harder to make sure you don’t ever cause him pain. Exhausting indeed.

2. Taking a more direct, confrontational approach with a narcissistic doesn’t often work either. They feel judged, misunderstood, unheard and will usually stop going to therapy unless there is a structure in place that helps him see why he needs to continue (negative consequences such as jail, church discipline, or loss of job, etc). A narcissist has selective attention and no matter how much you say it, he won’t hear it. Remember Jesus with the Pharisees? Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” (pretty direct and confrontational) yet they did not repent or acknowledge he was right. They just got defensive, angry, and more aggressive.

3. I don’t think it’s possible to effectively work with a narcissistic person when you are focused on only their pain. I think it’s crucial that the therapist also talks about their behaviors and actions that are hurtful towards others. Your pastor is wise to recognize that his “sin” or sinful behaviors and attitudes have to play a much more central role in his therapy for him to truly get better.
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How To React In Times Of Fear


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Is There Hope For A Narcissist?
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The Emotionally Destructive Relationship
Leslie Vernick

Leslie Vernick, counselor and social worker, has witnessed the devastating effects of emotional abuse. Many, including many in the church, have not addressed this form of destruction in families and relationships because it is difficult to talk about. With godly guidance and practical experience, Vernick offers an empathetic approach to recognizing an emotionally destructive relationship and addresses the symptoms and the damage with biblical tools. Readers will understand how to:


Reveal behaviors that are meant to control, punish, and hurt

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“Leslie never told me what to do. She simply reiterated the Truth over and over until it finally cut through all the confusion and lies and lit up the way so I could see clearly again. So I could grow up and make my own decisions in light of reality. Several areas in my life were in desperate need of an overhaul just a year ago, but one year later, every single area has seen a marked improvement even though my circumstances are, for the most part, unchanged. 

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