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How Do You Know When Someone Is Truly Sorry?
They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.
It’s not always easy to tell if someone is truly repentant. They may say the words, I’m sorry, or cry buckets of tears, but how do we know if their tears are for the pain they’ve caused or for the pain they are in?
The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I believe that it is crucial that the body of Christ learn to distinguish between the two especially if we are a people helper working with individuals in destructive relationships or ourselves are in one.
Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self.
The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.
I can’t believe I did such a thing.
Why is this happening to me?
Please forgive me – implying, please don’t make me suffer the consequences of my sin.
Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)
I’m so sorry (sad).
I’m a horrible person.
I wish I were dead.
I hate myself.
Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5). After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide. It is natural to feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain.
However, it’s crucial to not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind of sorrow that leads to biblical repentance, especially when you are the victim of someone’s sin or you are ministering to both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.
One-sided forgiveness may be granted, but biblical reconciliation is not possible when there has been no genuine repentance.
Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others.
John the Baptist said to the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sin and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).
Below are eight evidences that demonstrate fruit of genuine repentance.
Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.
Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).
Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.
Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.
Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.
Makes amends for damages.
Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.
Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term help.
In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not sin that ends a marriage.
All couples experience sin. Rather, it is one’s blindness and refusal to acknowledge their sin and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.
Question: I’m not sure how to pose this as a question, exactly. I’ve come to the realization that I’ve bought an awful lot of relationship books – even Christian relationship books – that are basically about how to do what you need to do to make your relationship look like you want it to look.
And I’ve realized that ultimately, the focus is always about establishing my kingdom and not God’s. Many of the things I want are good things and things the Bible says should be a part of marriage. But what if my spouse, for reasons I may never know or he may never overcome, is just broken in ways that most hit me at my own brokenness? How do I know when to grieve and accept that part of suffering in marriage may be God’s will for me and when I’m asking too much or too little of my husband?
What does it mean, in a practical sense, to be comforted by God? How do I become satisfied in Him so that I can be more gracious (even, or especially, when I need to set a boundary) toward my husband?
Answer: Your question is one every married person needs to ask themselves because in every marriage, there are seasons of dryness, unhappiness, and discontent. It might be that our spouse isn’t hearing us well, doesn’t meet our needs in the way we’d like him/her to, or is deceitful, abusive, controlling, or unfaithful.
The hurt, disappointment and anger we feel can either motivate us to try harder to get what we want from our marriage, turn to another human being to satisfy us, become despairing and depressed, or that pain can turn us toward God to cling to him in a deeper way.
Interestingly, studies at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicate that the highest rates for depression for both men and women are among those who are separated and divorced as well as those with high conflict marriages.
So what is the answer?
The Bible clearly affirms the importance of fellowship and relationship (Romans 12:10). The two greatest commandments God gives us have to do with loving connection (Mark 12:29-31). We are to love him first and to love others deeply from the heart (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10; 1 Peter 1:22).
Wanting good relationships and a loving marriage are godly desires. The challenge begins when we try to do just that but we don’t get the results we hoped for. How do we respond when we don’t get what we want?
Depression, anger, and anxiety result not only from relational distress (as the research has shown), but also from trying to make our human relationships give us something only God gives us. Having a good marriage can become an idolatrous desire when it becomes the centering desire of our heart and rules our life, not to mention our emotions.
How Do You Know When Someone Is Truly Sorry?
Accepting Coaching Applications
Take a look at the upcoming events to watch for from Leslie
The Heart Of Domestic Abuse
LESLIE ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Am I Expecting Too Much?
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The Heart Of Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse and violence are on the rise in our culture today, and just as prevalent in the church of Jesus Christ as it is in the population at large. With an estimated one-fourth of women in the church living with abuse and violence, pastors and biblical counselors need to have the resources to offer hope and help. Here is that help.
"Chris Moles gives us a treatment protocol for men who abuse that helps us see whether genuine heart change is taking place. It could save abused women from being misunderstood, blamed, and re-victimized by the church she has turned to for protection and help."
- Leslie Vernick
If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide your name and email address.
Winners of Lord I Just Want To Be Happy by Leslie Vernick are Jill W. and Sharon B.
October 30th, 2015
Leslie is doing an interview with Focus On The Family. Click Here to tune in on October 30th.
HERE'S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT LESLIE'S COACHING.
"Abraham Lincoln said whatever you are be a good one. Leslie Vernick is not a good coach, counselor, and spiritual advisor.....she is stellar.
I came to Leslie needing help with my relationship with my husband. I felt isolated, confused, and somewhat hopeless. Leslie provided me with a compass when I needed direction and gave me a road map to help me find my way.
I will be forever grateful for her handling me and my marriage with great care. She left me inspired lifted up and hope filled. No matter where my compass takes me and what direction I take, I now know God has His arms wrapped around me."
LESLIE WELCOMES YOUR QUESTIONS
Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.
Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.
Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.