Volume 3

January 2007

A Grace Perspective on Outcomes: Learning to Deal with the Disappointment of Failed Expectations

Unhappiness rooted in the disappointment of failed expectations is an anticipated issue in the counseling we do, especially this time of year when people more tend to evaluate their lives.

My own struggle was resolved as I learned (incrementally over a very long period of time) how not to focus on outcomes, but to focus instead on being renewed daily in personal health, especially spiritual health, through my experience of God's presence in my life (grace).

Through the years, as I have grown in my confidence (faith) that God alone is indeed the explanation for any fruitfulness we may have in our Christian lives and service to others, I have been enabled more and more to give up my intense preoccupation with outcomes.

I now have no goals that represent my expectations for God's purpose and calling for my life. My confession of faith is this: It's God's Work and his Will - not mine. We who are in his service are earthen vessels he has chosen and prepared, so I trust him to use me accordingly, and also that the outcome of the work he does through me will be absolutely all it needs to be.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who gives the increase (makes things grow)." - 1 Corinthians 3:7

If God is indeed the explanation for our fruitfulness, then keeping score of the results is just not an appropriate concern for us to have. An interest in outcomes is appropriate only if what we do has no eternal value and is self-enabled.

Although disappointment may still sometimes surface when the outcomes we experience don't seem to be positive, it quickly diminishes as the Holy Spirit renews us in our confidence that "God gives the increase" and that we do not need to take ownership for a concern that is not our responsibility.

The Apostle Paul's perspective is perfect: "For me to live is (to experience) Christ; and to die is gain (to experience him even more)" - Philippians 1:21.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #701

February 2007

Waiting on God's Timing to Work Out Good According to His Purpose: What It Means

You have right now in your possession (or available to you at the door) absolutely everything you need to live out God's purpose for your life - both at this specific moment (the most relevant point in time for you to be concerned about) and in the place where you are. You need nothing that you must chase after or go in debt for.

This principle is the basis for our saying to counselees, "When you stop chasing after what you think you need, what you really need will be provided to you according to God's purpose and in his own timing."

Jesus said (paraphrased from the Sermon on the Mount): "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat, or drink, or wear?' For the pagans run after all these things. Focus first on my purpose for your life, and all that you need to enable it will be given to you. For your heavenly Father knows what you have need of. And do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough concerns you can trust God for" (Matthew 6:31-34).

Waiting on God

Waiting on God is not the same as doing nothing; rather, it is responding to (caring for) your essential health needs (especially spiritually) and also the needs of those you serve as God enables you, then waiting for the process to work (that is, waiting for the outcomes as God gives them according to his will and in his timing).

God's Timing

Also, God's timing does not refer to a point in time when God decides, for whatever arbitrary reason (unknown to us - perhaps, some insist, just because he is God), to give an outcome; it references, rather, the normal passing of time required for a process to work toward its intent according to and consistent with the laws (powers) God has ordained to govern his creation (for example, the law of gravity and other laws of physics, and also spiritual laws).

(The exception, of course, is God's sovereign purpose for miracles, which, in the sense we understand it best, transcends the normative laws that govern everyday life.)

It is in this waiting on God's timing that we surrender to his control, and also guarantee having everything we need.

"And we know that in all things God is working to accomplish good for those who love him, who have been called (this is not an invitation but an effectual call, a cause and effect, as the sun calls or causes vapors to rise) according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #702

March 2007

The History of a Hurting Wife

And then there is the wife who comes into the marriage already broken, having suffered a lifetime of being used. It started early in her childhood. Her parents had an authoritarian view of God - that he is in a power position over us rather than in a service position to support us, and that to him, in relationship to us, it is all about him.

To her parents, she was in the home to serve their needs, to make them happy and proud, or else get scolded, rejected, or pounded on. It may have been subtle, but she grew up understanding that to her parents, in relationship to her, it was all about them. Never mind too much about her health and happiness needs.

At church, she learned more of this authoritarian God, that he had written a rule book, had high expectations, and also pounded out compliance to his standards for behavior. The authoritarian person in the church was the pastor who was a little god. He needed and deserved to be stroked and given loyalty and high esteem. Her role in the church was again to give up herself in service to the needs and self serving vision of others in leadership over her. Never mind too much about her health and happiness needs.

Then she marries her husband. He's rooted in the same nonsense and doesn't know any better either. They both relate to each other out of their legalistic notions and ignorance. Again she is used. Never mind too much about her health and happiness needs. To her husband, in relationship to her, it is all about him, his support needs, hobbies, and career. Of course.

Some among women will suffer unmet needs until they die, motivated by legalistic rules, the religious expectations of others, ego, fear, and guilt. Never mind too much about their own health and happiness needs - it's not spiritual.

But many women in time will realize something is not right. They will decide they have had enough and will either leave the marriage or begin to fight back.

Sometimes a wife will come into her marriage already having had enough and is poised and ready to fight. Her husband will have an uphill climb to meet her needs and may not stand a chance. He must bear the weight of his own failures to her but also those of her childhood experiences transferred to him.

The challenges of a marriage will be a wonderful opportunity for a husband to confess his own brokenness and inadequacies, to learn, embrace, and, with God's enablement, live out his Scriptural role in the home as Christ models it to his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), and to become a resource for the flow of God's grace to renew his wife in her health and happiness needs.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #703

April 2007

Understanding Broken Behavior: The Tragedy of Unmet Needs

At the core of grace counseling is the concept that every person is born subject to the adversity of living in a broken world filled with broken people. This means, we are subject daily to elements and influences that are dangerous and evil. We are subject also to the adverse health and behavior predispositions of our own fallen human nature (including genetically and maybe even also culturally).

Even so, the good news is we were not born into a world in which God failed to make adequate provisions for our health and happiness. We call these provisions from God "resources." When we are connected to these resources for the flow of his provisions, we are supported in strength for our lives and work and also for our relationships to others. But when we are not connected, or when the resources to which we are connected are dysfunctional, the result is brokenness.

"Broken behavior" is behavior that is not supported or that is rooted in weakness. While adverse influences may be a factor in broken behavior, the overlooked root cause of brokenness is unmet needs. This means the problem is not what is present, but what is missing, i.e., the absence of support essential to good health.

The support needed may be biological or, in some instances, medical. Sometimes, it is psychological (information, emotional, and decision-making needs that support socialization).Ultimately, however, our greatest unmet need is connection to God through relationship with Christ.

The tragedy of unmet needs is compounded when broken people make unwise choices for relief from their pain that result in increased brokenness and pain. It is these failed choices that open widest the doors of our vulnerability to the psychological and biological diseases and disorders (including addictions, anger, anxiety, and self-hatred) that produce rage and violence and other extreme behaviors.

Some worldviews offer no clue to explain broken behavior except maybe as an unfortunate blip in man's evolution toward perfection - where, in another billion years or so, they postulate we are to arrive - out of which notion they are forced to the shrugging conclusion that, in the meantime, some broken behavior at best can only be managed by drugs or in an institution. They also conclude that some broken people are beyond recovery, so are disposable and can be discarded like a cracked windshield.

Grace counseling appreciates the need for institutional and even pharmaceutical support in society to help manage the behavior of the sickest among us.

But it is not our only hope.

"God's divine nature has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge (experience) of Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3 paraphrased

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #704

May 2007

An Appropriate Response to Adverse Behavior: Understanding Your Neighbors Unmet Needs

A client called recently to ask, "What is the appropriate response to my neighbor's adverse behavior?" I answered that it began with understanding the difference between a response (her word) and a reaction.

A response, I explained, promotes healing and reconciliation, and is grace enabled, but that a reaction invites war and is the normal disposition of the fallen human nature for dealing with adversity.

I then explained the following about human behavior:

There is a behavior that is rooted in evil. This is the behavior of our enemies committed to our destruction. The Bible (Romans 12:9 - 13:1-4) gives clear instructions to Christians for dealing with our enemies: It is to love (Gr. agapao: "to unconditionally value") them. This is not taken to mean that evil is to be accommodated, but that it is not the purview of individuals (but God and governments only) to deal judicially with Evil.

But not all adverse behavior is rooted in evil. There is a behavior that is adverse only in the sense that it imposes upon our comfort and convenience needs.

You know: Obnoxious, irritating behavior, like jumping ahead in a customer service line, parking in the wrong parking space, or talking too loud in public. (A street sign on the boardwalk near the old Grandstand at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina reads, "It is rude to talk loud in a crowd" - or something like that.)

(Note: Intolerance to this kind of behavior is more intense with some temperament types than it is with others. For example, Melancholies and Cholerics, because of their intense need for order, sameness, and quiet are particularly insufferable to it.)

The root of this kind of adverse behavior, however, is not evil; rather, it is brokenness and pain coming out of unmet needs.

Central to the concepts that guide grace counseling is the understanding that we all live out of our support. If the support is not present and in good supply, we suffer. People do not get over their unmet needs, but instead hurt, and worse, in their hurting, become self-absorbed with their pain - consumed by it, so much so that they are (at least appear to be) unaware of their insensitivity and disrespectfulness to the needs of others.

The behavior of people with unmet needs is different from the behavior of people whose needs are being met.

Reacting to behavior that is rooted in brokenness - to punish or eliminate it - rather than to understand and care for the missing needs - will only lead to more brokenness.

"When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were faint and helpless, like sheep having no shepherd." - Matthew 9:36

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #705

June 2007

Grace Concepts for Marriage Counseling

As you work toward a conclusion concerning your need for marriage counseling, consider the following concepts that guide the counseling we provide

1. It is the role of the husband to invest in the health and happiness needs of his wife: This is to the degree that if she is unhappy and broken in health, he should consider in what ways he has complicity.

2. God is not in a power position over you, but in a support position beneath you. Whatever a husband perceives about God's relationship to him, either that he is authoritative or supportive, he will relate to his wife in the same way.

3. Christ's relationship to his bride, the Church, as revealed in Ephesians 5:22-33, is the model for the husband's relationship to his wife.

"Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (v. 25).

Also, since Christ is the Vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-8), we can conclude that the husband is the vine in the home to serve in a support relationship to his wife.

4. The home is a living organism, not an organization. (The Church is also an organism.) The dynamics of leadership and relationships in an organism are different than in an organization.

5. The New Testament word "head" means "fountainhead" when referring to the husband in the organic home, and does not mean "ruler" as when referring to the head over an organization or institution (in the way Moses was the head over the nation Israel).

6. The word "authority" in the context of the organic home means "freedom to act." Christ's authority in our lives is not imposed but invited when we open the door of our hearts to him. This means, the husband's freedom to influence his wife is not imposed, but must be an opportunity he earns.

7. It is not the responsibility of the wife to serve in a support role to her husband, especially for his moral and spiritual recovery needs. The only appropriate support from the wife to her husband is that which flows back to him out of her strength from the support he has invested in her life.

8. The word "submit," in the context of an organic relationship, does not call a wife to surrender her freedom to her husband's rule or control, but rather means to "give him opportunity for influence" as illustrated by opening a door (Revelation 3:20).

9. Our goal for marriage counseling is: 1) To provide the husband guidance and support leading to his own recovery, beginning with his relationship to Christ; and 2) To serve the wife as an advocate for her renewed health and happiness, to explain the Scriptural role of the husband in the home, to encourage her concerning God's care and favor for women and children, and to teach communication skills from the grace perspective in order to help reduce tension in the relationship.

10. When the husband does not embrace his servant role in the marriage in the way Christ models it, we will in some cases provide counseling support for a wife who has nonetheless chosen to remain in the home, but only when no abuse of any nature is suspected.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #706

July 2007

Good Works: A Failed Hope for Going to Heaven

Christ, the Bible says, died to satisfy God's judgment against the human race (because of Adam's transgression - Romans 5:15-19). This means you do not need to try to make it to Heaven by doing good deeds. The Bible calls the accumulation of such efforts "dead (useless) works" (Hebrews 6:1).

Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace (God's provision of Christ) that you have been saved through faith... not by (your) works, so that no one can boast."

And Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy."

This was the mistake Cain made (Genesis 4). The Bible says he brought the fruits of his harvest (representing his labor) to God as an offering in order to earn forgiveness and eternal life. But the Bible says God rejected his offering and instead accepted the offering of his brother, Abel, who offered an innocent lamb as a testimony to his faith and trust that only the life of the sinless Lamb of God could take away the penalty and power of sin.

That was also the testimony of John the Baptist. When he saw Jesus coming toward him one day, he said to the crowd, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

When you turn away from trying to accumulate good works as an offering to God in order to satisfy his judgment against sin and trust instead in the offering that Christ has already made of himself on the cross for you, the Bible says that God spiritually unites you with Christ (similarly in the way that a man and a woman are spiritually joined together by God as one in marriage - Matthew 19:5-6).

I illustrate this in counseling by immersing a sponge into a bowl of water. I then ask, "Is the sponge in the water, or is the water in the sponge?" Of course, the answer is both. We are in Christ, but he is also in us.

This means: Because you are in Christ, you are going to Heaven. Because he is in you, you are being transformed from within to be like him.

"...the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life." - Romans 6:22b

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #707

August 2007

Identifying Resources for Meeting Needs

We define our counseling sometimes as "guidance and support for health and happiness." We borrow this phrase from our understanding of God's faithful love and care to provide resources for meeting our essential needs.

These resources are multi-dimensional - physical (biological), psychological (mind, emotions, and will), and spiritual.

Physical. Private First Class Vemp (Pfc. Vemp) is how I remember the biological needs we have. It is an acrostic for Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates (the macro nutrients) and Vitamins, Enzymes, Minerals, and phyto-chemicals (the micro nutrients in plants).

Of course, we add to these, oxygen, water, and sunlight. Included also is movement (or exercise), maintenance of the movement, and momentum (bio-rhythm).

The goal of these resources is to establish 1) a strong immune system to help protect our bodies against the elements we ingest in our food, water, and air that are adverse to good health, including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and parasites, 2) other properly functioning biological systems including the cardio-vascular, nervous, and digestive systems), and 3) skeletal and muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Psychologically. These resources meet our need for people to be involved in our lives with respect to: 1) learning how the world we live in works (the mind), 2) the experience of affection - i.e., the feeling of being accepted, approved, appreciated, admired, and wanted (the emotions); and 3) decision-making, i.e., the power (ability) to say "yes" and "no" appropriately, also impulse control (the will).

Spiritually. Our most essential resource for support, however, is the life of Christ, or the divine nature birthed and nurtured in us by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:3).

God has provided for these resources in 1) creation to support physical health, 2) through community (relationships to people in the home and church) to support psychological (mental and emotional) health, and through relationship to Christ and his Word by the Holy Spirit to support our experience of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

When our multi-dimensional support needs are met, the outcome is manifested in health and happiness and also in enablement for service to others, beginning in the home.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #708

September 2007

Understanding Your Child's Needs: An Open Letter to the Parents of a Hurting Child

Dear Parents:

The parenting support we offer begins with an understanding of the following:
  • Children are born with tri-dimensional (physical, psychological, and spiritual) needs essential to support their health and happiness.
  • God has provided resources in creation, in community (home and church relationships), and in relationship to Christ sufficient for these needs to be met.
  • When children are connected to those resources, the outcome is renewed health and happiness. When they are not, or when the resources to which they are connected are dysfunctional (as in a broken home), the result is unmet needs (lost health and happiness). Children do not get over their unmet needs. Either their needs are met or they suffer.
  • It is in search of relief from the pain of their unmet needs that children make poor, unwise choices. The outcome of these failed choices is compounded brokenness and pain (including addiction and lost self-esteem) which motivate additional inappropriate choices and behavior.
From this we conclude:
  • Inappropriate behavior is not the root problem but a symptom or result of the problem.
  • The root problem is always the unmet needs.
Your child's needs include:
  • Exercise and nutrition. Unmet fitness and nutritional needs can significantly contribute to inappropriate behavior.
  • Information, supervision, and affection. These are the psychological needs.
  • Confidence that God unconditionally loves (values) him/her, that he is passionately and intensely interested in every detail of his/her life, and that his commitment to his/her happiness and well-being is unfailing. This is your child's greatest need.
This is where your assignment begins:
  • Embrace your role in the home as a conduit for the flow of God's love and care into your child's life. You are not the Source of that love, but only a resource for its flow. This will establish your child in the confidence that s/he is not in your home to serve your needs, but to have his/her needs supported and cared for by you.
  • Discuss all behavior issues with your child from a health perspective. Research with him/her relevant information.
  • Find appropriate opportunities to hold your child in your arms. Don't mention the problem of his/her behavior or your disappointment. Ask, "What do you want me to know?" Give him/her opportunities to talk to you without interruption for as long as s/he needs, even if you don't agree or like what s/he says.
  • You will not be able to do this without God's enablement, because it is not a human ability. You will need to begin taking extended time daily to sit quietly before God with an open Bible for Scripture reading (in the Psalms), confession of need, and prayer.
Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #709

October 2007

Counseling Options for the Failed Wife: Plan B Support for Surviving a Dysfunctional Spouse

Except in cases when there is evidence of abuse, we commend a wife who is committed to staying in her marriage even though her husband does not understand or embrace his Scriptural role in the home as Christ models it in relationship to his Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

(Note: Instead, in his relationship to her, he is living out his wrong view that God's favor to us is based upon our performance.

When a wife also embraces this religious view, she predicably will be motivated by guilt and fear to perform for her husband in order to win his favor.

The real tragedy in this is: In her jumping around to please him, she teaches him how to treat her and perpetuates his behavior to use and further disrespect her. Even worse, the essential needs she has that support her health and happiness remain unmet.)

However, in most of these cases, we recommend to her a different kind of counseling that we sometimes call Plan B Counseling.

This is because we believe she is in a dead end relationship and that she needs to learn coping skills, also communication skills, to help reduce the tension in the marriage.

There are very qualified counselors, secular and pastoral, who specialize in teaching communication and negotiation skills sufficient sometimes to help couples tolerate each other enough to stay in the marriage without killing themselves or each other.

This means the counseling we offer is not for everyone. In the instance when a wife's goal is not her own health, the counsel we can provide is limited.

That is with the exception of our passion to remind her that God has made provision through relationship to Christ to meet her most essential need, which is spiritual, and that he can make up the difference.

But this calls for her to take time each day (at least an hour) for Scripture reading, confession of need, prayer, and worship in order to hear God speak to her through his Word so that she can be renewed in her confidence of his great love for her, and also in order to experience God's presence to renew in her his love, peace, joy, longsuffering, kindness, faith, wisdom, and righteousness.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #710

November 2007

God's Inclusive Plan to Meet Your Multidimensional Needs

Your inborn needs for health are multidimensional - body, soul, and spirit. When they are not met, you suffer; but when they are met, you are energized and happy and enabled for life and service to others.

For example, the right foods will energize you. That's what food is for. Also, oxygen is the body's most powerful biological fuel. When you increase your uptake of it during exercise, you are increased in your energy, including to your brain.

This is true also psychologically. Kind words and warm embraces and meaningful time spent together with loved ones energize the soul (mind, emotions, and will), and are essential to overall good health. Loneliness is epidemic in our society because of unmet relationship needs.

Interestingly, the deeper your needs are dimensionally, the more essential they are to your holistic health. This means, as essential as food and water are to your physical health, met relationship needs are even more essential longterm with consideration of overall well-being. That's because 90 percent or more (we are told) of physical illnesses is the result of unmet psychological needs (called psychosomatic illnesses).

Also interestingly, the more inclusively your needs are being met, the more supported you are for energized living. This means, when your biological and psychological needs are both being met, you have wonderful increased potential each day to be and feel energized for your life and work, and especially for your interaction with others.

But this means, also, that as beneficial as these met needs are to your overall well-being, the most essential need for health and energy to support your life will be missed without your experience of Christ's life flowing up from your spirit (where he lives by the Holy Spirit) into your soul (your mind, emotions, and will), then onward and outward, psychosomatically, to manifest in health for your body.

Your experience of Christ each day is your most powerful provision for health and happiness. Without him, really, you may do okay in terms of meeting your minimal needs for not being unhealthy, but it is his power alone that makes the abundant life possible.

"I have come that (you) may have life, and have it more abundantly (fully)." - John 10:10

"God's divine nature gives us everything we need for life and godliness through our experience of Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective 7K02/#711

December 2007

Adversity and Broken Behavior: Why We Suffer

There are two aspects of suffering, particularly as it relates to grace counseling. The first is our experience of suffering which we are subject to because we live in a fallen world filled with broken people. A large number of words represent this experience, including pressure, exhaustion, grief, sorrow, and even pain (Recognize any of these?). I call this experience of suffering, adversity.

Included in this first aspect of suffering are the pains of childbirth and the necessity to toil the ground for food - also the loss of life and possessions we are subject to by our exposure to the elements of adversity (adverse people and circumstances) that exists in a broken, dangerous world, including those perpetrated against us by Satan. This is the experience of suffering in which we are called to have participation or fellowship (koinonia) with Christ.

To help illustrate, think of this first aspect of suffering as (let's say) a fifty pound weight that God in the Garden of Eden placed upon all creation in judgment of Adam's disobedience. This suffering or adversity is illustrated by the normal, expected experience of living under a fifty pound weight. (The second law of thermodynamics explains some of this.)

But we do not need to consider this weight or experience of adversity apart from the resources God has provided (including the one blessing after another in John 1:16) that enables us to bear up under it and to endure.

Which leads us to consider the second aspect of suffering. This suffering is the experience of broken health and pain that is the result of the unwise choices we make in our attempts to deal inappropriately with the pressure, exhaustion, grief, etc. of living under this fifty pound weight - choices that are made with disregard to the resources God has provided in creation, community, and through Christ to support us. Fifty pounds is heavy, but it does not need to be too heavy (in that we are broken) except if we do not have the strength to bear up under it. I call this experience of suffering, brokenness.

The first aspect of suffering is inevitable in that we are exposed to adverse people and circumstances subsequent to living in a fallen world. But suffering in the sense of broken health and unhappiness is not our fate.

I was taught in seminary that "pain is God's number one tool for molding us into his image." It was supported by the Old Testament concept of the potter and the clay. I lived a long time with the notion that God mainly uses pain and pressure to mode and make us to be like Christ. It is a conclusion that fits nicely with the authoritarian view of God's relationship to us (explaining, by the way, why parents who live out of this mis-notion pound on their children as a first line of discipline), but it doesn't hold up considered in the light of our understanding of grace theology.
Suffering is certainly a part of life, but we are not left without divine resources to support us in and through this suffering. God's provisions of grace are sufficient (abundant and effectual) so that we are enabled not only to endure our inevitable experiences of living under the weight of a fallen world, but also to make the appropriate, essential choices for establishing us in health and happiness.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #712

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