20 Aug 2020
Journey companions form relationships that help us grow towards sexual and relational integrity and intentionally pursue transparency, Christ-centered conversations, and a mutual commitment to becoming more like Jesus.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing one of our resources, such as Sex and the Single Girl by Ellen Dykas and What’s Wrong with a Little Porn When You’re Single by R. Nicholas Black. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” which corresponds to this video.
20 Aug 2020
Galatians 6:2 instructs Christians to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Bear someone else’s burdens?! How are we supposed to do that when our own hearts are buckling under the weight of our own problems? Even if we did try, how are we supposed to do that? What does it look like?
Paul uses the phrase “bear one another’s burdens” in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Ephesus (see Ephesians 4:11–5:14). These letters are not filled with suggestions; rather, they are commands for believers to “grow up in Christ.” When we are ensnared in sin, Galatians 6:1–10 beautifully explains how we come alongside each other by pursuing with love, seeking restoration with gentleness and humility, and compassionately carrying the weight of pain, shame, and struggle. In addition to Christ as the ultimate bearer of our burdens, God provides fellow Christians to share life’s weight. God never intended that our spiritual journey be limited to living on our own islands; instead, he gave us the body of Christ. But what does it look like to bear one another’s burdens in real life?
Our Harvest USA Women’s Ministry team calls those who bear our burdens “journey companions.” Journey companions are people you invite to intentionally help you grow in your relationship with the Lord. Some people might call this an accountability partner, but we prefer the term journey companion because, honestly, many Christians have taken the concept of accountability and formed misleading, unhelpful practices that, in the end, haven’t worked!
The journey companion relationship is more than a set list of accountability questions regarding particular sin struggles that only require “yes “or ”no” answers. We have found that for true burden-bearing relationships to work most effectively, there needs to be a relationship. This means that people come together for the purpose of transparent life-sharing about sin struggles and make commitments to grow in Christ through prayer and applying God’s Word. Simply put, journey companions agree to know who we really are and to encourage us through listening, speaking the truth in love when we fail, and faithfully praying for us.
The problem is that many of us have not experienced this type of life-on-life, burden-bearing relationship. If this is you, don’t be discouraged! You can find guidance for these relationships by seeking God in prayer and in Scripture.
Here are four ways we can bear one another’s burdens:
Provide encouragement for the painful and often difficult race of faith. II Corinthians 1:3 calls God “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” Those verses don’t say some of our afflictions, but rather all. With God, “all” means “all.” In our heartaches and struggles, God lavishes us with his direct and personal comfort. Verse 4 says that God comforts us so that we might be able to comfort others with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. This is one of the most beautiful “pay it forward” blessings we can be a part of. May we be gentle, humble, compassionate conduits of God’s comfort to others.
Exhort one another to seriously battle sin without growing weary. Ephesians 4:12, 16, and 29 mention building one another up. Often, we take “building up” in Ephesians 4:29 to simply mean lifting up or encouraging someone. However, if we compare these three verses in chapter 4, we see that Paul has in mind all that is involved in building up the body “into” Christ—in other words, helping each other know and love Christ more and love each other more in him. Journey-companion relationships will involve real-life conversations that are specific to the struggles we experience, so ”challenge” should include speaking truth that is specifically shaped by that. The goal of our truth-speaking to each other is not merely to curb an undesirable behavior, or even to prevent sin. It is nothing less than deeper relationship with Christ and all that that entails, especially love.
Establish intentional and regular meeting times with life-sharing as your primary focus. Hebrews 10:24–25 soberly reminds readers that the day of Christ’s return is drawing near, and one of the things the author emphasizes is to “not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some.” Persevering in faith is a community effort, and encouraging one another to persevere requires consistently being together.
Notice any movement of the Spirit and celebrate spiritual growth together. This is often an element absent from these accountability relationships. We tend to focus so much on our sin or what we need to do to be a better Christian that we miss the beauty of seeing God’s hand at work. To be celebrated is to be seen by another. Don’t neglect to celebrate victories, new responses to temptation, surpassing peace, God’s provision of physical needs, or changed thought patterns. Basically, be on the lookout for any movement of the Spirit in someone’s life and name it! As we are called to weep with those who weep, may we also joyfully rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
To some, the idea of seeking out a burden-bearing journey companion may prompt excitement, hope, and inspiration; others may feel fearful, anxious, and ashamed. We are all most likely in different places in our willingness to actively engage in these types of relationships. You know what? That’s okay! These relationships take time, but as we grow, we can seek to bear one another’s burdens by being present, offering Bible-based counsel, following up on struggles, listening intently, and celebrating any movement of the Holy Spirit that happens in our lives, one step at a time.
This blog post is taken from our upcoming Harvest USA Women’s Ministry discipleship workbook, which will be released in December 2020.
You can also watch the video, “Finding Faithful Journey Companions,” which corresponds to this blog.
18 Jun 2020
I watched her body tense as she made eye contact with me and said tearfully, “I don’t want to pray; I don’t know what to say.”
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing God, You, and Sex: A Profound Mystery by David White and When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography: Healing Your Wounded Heart by Vicki Tiede. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, “How to Pray When Your Heart Hurts,” which corresponds to this video.
18 Jun 2020
Pain is deafening. Whether physical or emotional, pain not only has the ability to hurt deeply but also to smother our faith and hope in Christ. Pain of betrayal. Rejection. Broken relationships. Loss. Loneliness. Uncertainty. Ongoing sexual struggles. Deferred hopes. Or simply the consequences of living in a broken world with our sinful choices. The sad reality is that, regardless of what triggers our pain, the aftermath can be just as disorienting.
Many Christians have been taught that prayer is a wise response to painful life circumstances. However, one of the things I hear the most from women amidst their suffering and heartache is that they struggle to know what to pray. In the throes of emotional turmoil, many people find that words evade them, or they don’t think they are allowed to say what they truly feel to a holy God. Sexual strugglers can mistakenly believe that their temptations and sins cannot be voiced at the throne of grace. Shame keeps them silent and stuck in an internal dialogue of unbelief: “Can God really handle my truth?!”
God is holy and deserves our reverence, but he also desires to be in relationship with us. For relationship to thrive, there must be communication. But what do you do when the pain of life cuts so deep that you can’t think, let alone find the vocabulary to pray?
Well, you can pray God’s Word. Let his Word come up with what to say for you. Scripture shows us examples of God’s people crying out gut-raw, honest prayers in the midst of their pain and suffering. The Psalms are a great example of this appropriate honesty. When life hurts most, we have a guide!
Here are some ways you can pray when pain is disorienting.
When you feel weak and weary, pray…
“Lord, I am so tired; I don’t feel like I can do this. Your Word says you give power to the weak, and you increase their strength when they have none. Please give me strength to get through this day” (Isaiah 40:29).
When you feel ashamed, pray…
“Father, I am so ashamed; I just keep failing. Please remove my shame because, in Christ, I am your beloved one. Thank you that as I look to you, my face is never covered with shame, regardless of what my emotions tell me” (Psalm 34:5).
When you feel alone and afraid, pray…
“Father, I feel all alone. I’m so scared that this pain is never going to go away. Your Word says not to fear because you are with me, but it is so hard to believe that you are near. Please help me believe. Strengthen me, help me, and uphold me with your righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
When you feel grief, pray…
“Father, my hopes and dreams are caving in. As Proverbs 13:12 says, a deferred hope makes the heart sick, and that’s all I feel right now. Thank you that a day is coming when you will wipe away every tear from my eyes; when there will be no more death, sorrow, or crying; when there will be no more pain as the former things pass away” (Revelation 21:4).
When you doubt God, pray…
“Lord, I just don’t understand! The pain of this ongoing struggle is making me question so many things. Please help me trust in you and not lean on my own understanding. I acknowledge you as God. Help me believe that you will make straight my path” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
When you feel tempted, pray…
“Father, help! I don’t feel like I can say no to this. I know this temptation that is trying to overtake me is common to mankind, and your Word says you are faithful—you will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. This feels like too much to bear, so help me see the way out that you provide for me to endure this” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When you need hope, pray…
“Lord, I feel hopeless. But thank you that I have more to hope in than my present circumstances. Thank you that, according to your great mercy, you have caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for me. By your power, I am guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last days” (1 Peter 1:3–5).
Are you struggling to know what to pray? Be honest with God about how you feel. When we are crushed in spirit, God doesn’t expect us to package all of our emotions into neat, little gift boxes. He doesn’t say, “Child, don’t speak until you have something eloquent to say.”
Instead, he meets us in our honesty with mercy and compassion. He speaks tenderly to us with peace, love, and forgiveness (Hosea 2:14). He does what only he can do by taking the pain meant to destroy us and using it to make us more like Jesus, the person who is most able to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15).
The next time that life hurts so bad you can’t think of words to pray, or when circumstances make despair seem like the only feasible option, let God’s Word be your guide. Our loving Father already knows exactly what you’re feeling, so accept his invitation to tell him about it.
You can also watch the video, “Praying with Someone in Pain,” which corresponds to this blog.
09 Apr 2020
In this video, Shalee Lehning discusses the pain that women endure when the men in their lives use pornography.
Shalee also reminds us that Christ offers hope to women and men. Where trust has been broken, Christ offers forgiveness. Where there is ongoing struggle, Christ offers grace that is sufficient for you.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing What’s Wrong with a Little Porn When You’re Married by Nicholas Black or Your Husband Is Addicted to Porn by Vicki Tiede. When you buy these minibooks from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Coming to Grips with How Porn Damaged My View of Women, which corresponds to this video.
20 Feb 2020
Our thoughts can be transformed by Jesus as he gives us the ability to think as he thinks.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sex and the Single Girl: Smart Ways to Care for Your Heart by Ellen Dykas. When you buy this minibook from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Common Lies We Believe About God, which corresponds to this video.
20 Feb 2020
Nobody talks to you as much as you talk to yourself. Your mind, constantly filled with an internal dialogue, interprets the world around you. What do you think about this? What do you believe about that? With little effort, your mind continuously feeds thought after thought.
As we experience the world around us, we develop interpretations in the form of our beliefs and how we think life works. Whether we are aware of it or not, we develop beliefs about God, family, church, gender, sex, relationships, pleasure, and so on to help us navigate life. The problem is that our interpretations and beliefs are often tainted with perceptions and ideas that aren’t true. The result? Lies bang on the doors of our belief systems and invade our thought lives.
Living with the lies and messages that we believe is like breathing—we don’t even think about it. These automatic tapes in our internal dialogues can get stuck on repeat. As trials and pain seep in through the cracks of our experiences, we grapple to process our realities. Often when we can’t make sense of life, we become aware of how we view God. We begin to take inventory of our experiences. In our thoughts, we tally up the pain of our lingering sexual sin struggles, our deferred hopes, and our life circumstances that aren’t going as planned, and we start to consider what God has—or hasn’t—done for us in these situations. As we look through the lens of our experiences, we question, we doubt, we blame God, and we believe lies.
Here are four common lies we believe about God, as well as truths we can learn to apply.
Lie #1: God is not good, but distant and cruel.
The Lie: We believe that God doesn’t really care about us. If he is good, he would have stopped that unpleasant thing from happening. If he isn’t cruel, he would offer me victory over my out-of-control sexual desires—or allow me to indulge them. He must delight in taking away the things that we love and letting us suffer.
The Truth: Life can seem cruel, especially for those who have experienced sexual abuse or ongoing temptations like lust and same-sex attraction. While we live in this sinful world, we will both sin and be sinned against. Human sin, not God, has caused the pain and suffering that we experience. God cares so much about restoring what sin has broken that he sent Jesus Christ, his only Son, as a sacrifice to make payment for our sins (Romans 5:8). Instead of condemnation, he offers salvation, through the death of Jesus, for all who believe in him (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).
Lie #2: I will never be able to overcome my patterns of sexual sin.
The Lie: Sexual and emotional desires are out of my control. It is not possible—or desirable—to be free of what is so natural. I engage in sex outside of marriage because I am only responding to my urges and desires. Self-soothing through masturbation is an addiction that won’t ever go away.
The Truth: For some, it may feel this way at times, or even most of the time. However, to believe this is to say that Christ is insufficient. Christ came to bring liberty to the captives (Luke 4:18). These struggles may last a long time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be overcome or that Jesus withholds his aid. While accepting this lie is to give up in defeat, challenging the lie looks like believing that change is possible and that there is hope as we fight against our sin. Not only is God’s grace sufficient for us, but his power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Lie #3: God helps those who help themselves.
The Lie: God only helps us when we work to help ourselves. Being saved, accepted, and forgiven is dependent upon us. If we continue to fail or don’t do what is right, we are displeasing to God. The burden falls on our best efforts and religious works.
The Truth: Legalism says we can be good enough in and of ourselves, earning God’s favor by constant self-improvement. This denies the gospel and rejects the Bible, which says that God saves us and grows us, by his grace, through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10). The gospel is a message of radical grace and love: God in his love does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot and are not required to change ourselves to earn his favor. God wants our hearts, not our perfection.
Lie #4: God thinks sinful sexual behavior is the worst; therefore, he sees me as damaged goods and unforgivable.
The Lie: We identify ourselves by our sin. Since we struggle with this sin, God must hate me. Even if God’s love is real, it can’t possibly be strong enough or deep enough to extend to my sexual brokenness. What has happened to me is how God sees me.
The Truth: Please hear me, you are not your sin; your sin does not define you. There is increasing pressure to identify ourselves by our feelings, attractions, and experiences. These things were never meant to carry the weight of a person’s identity. As believers, we are forgiven, gifted with a new heart, no matter what our besetting sins may be (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10) or what sins have been done against us.
We should be looking (and thinking) through the lens of God’s Word, not our experiences. When we do this, we will rightly see who God is, and that will nourish our thoughts. In order to break free from our faulty interpretations about life, we must name the lies and replace the false messages we have believed with the richness of God’s true Word (2 Corinthians 10:5). As we grow in knowing the Lord, lies are dismantled and replaced by faith and obedience.
You can also watch the video, How to Recapture Our Thoughts, which corresponds to this blog.
06 Feb 2020
The Bible discusses the reality that we all struggle in different ways–none of us are immune to sin. As a result, we need to grow in becoming people who welcome honesty from others.
In this video, Shalee considers four ways that we can invite men and women to be honest with us about their struggles with sexual sin.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Ellen Dykas. When you buy this book from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, It Can Happen to Anyone: A Wife’s Fight Against Porn, which corresponds to this video.
07 Nov 2019
Have you felt maxed out beyond your capacity to handle, stretched beyond what you feel able to endure any longer? Me too! Like the women I’m discipling who need help overcoming sexual sin, it’s easy to blame my behavior and my heart’s responses on the tough circumstances I find myself in.
But Jesus reveals the source of our distress. It’s not our circumstances; it’s our heart; it’s the way we respond to our circumstances. Jesus diagnosed all of us when he confronted the Pharisees (see Matthew 12:34-35). Like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube when we press it, our hearts reveal their true nature when pressed upon or squeezed by trials and situations that threaten to undo us.
Our hearts reveal their true nature when pressed upon or squeezed by trials and situations that threaten to undo us.
I am going through a lot of transition in my life. I’ve moved to the east coast to begin full-time ministry at Harvest USA, so most everything familiar has changed: living situation, church family, and my social network. I’ve felt pressed and squeezed in this season of change!
What came out of my heart? Insecurity in certain friendships, anxiety as I engage the reality of being a support-raising missionary, and doubts about whether God will provide for me.
Oh, and that’s not all! I’ve also felt frustration because if I’m honest, I flat out desire an easier road to walk than the one God has chosen for me. At times, all of this squeezing has led to feeling completely overwhelmed.
Although my circumstances may be different than yours, when we get down to heart issues, we are more alike than different. I’ve recently been facing my own unbelief, and that’s the same thing that happens in the heart of a woman who keeps going back to porn to numb her pain or that guy that insists he’s just wired to have sex all the time and can’t stop.
On a heart level, we question if God will actually do what he promises. We doubt his goodness; unbelief creeps in, and fear paralyzes us as we grapple for control of our lives.
Life presses in on all of us!
How is life pressing in on you today? Did you wake up with one of the following thoughts?
I can’t kick this pornography addiction.
I can’t overcome my attraction to the same sex.
I can’t get over my fear of being single forever.
I’ll never trust my spouse again.
I can’t keep fighting my sexual temptations on top of everything else. I just can’t.
Or maybe, if you’re in ministry like me, you feel squeezed with fearful thoughts threatening to paralyze you: I don’t want to engage this cultural issue; it is too risky. I don’t want to get caught in the weeds of someone else’s sexual sin struggles; I don’t know how to help them.
Maybe you’re feeling like Moses in Exodus 4:13 when he asked God to please send someone else to do the job. Or perhaps you’re like Jonah, and you want to run away from what God’s called you to do.
These things can be painful beyond words, but the truth is, being squeezed by life can actually humble us in him. In the midst of struggles, God builds a redemptive bridge into the lives of others from our challenging circumstances. God allows these hard circumstances to tether our attention back on our need of him.
You need to hear this: being squeezed isn’t an indication that God is rejecting or abandoning you. In his sovereignty and love, God allows our character and lives to be refined. And the beauty is that in the midst of this refining squeeze, God is tender and gentle to us, even though it may not feel like it. Isaiah 42:3 says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” He loves us enough to allow hard circumstances to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus. But as he does so, he brings comfort and encouragement to our weak and oppressed hearts.
God loves us enough to allow hard circumstances to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus.
Aside from living with a heart that is surrendered to Jesus, we do have some responsibility in all this. It matters what we allow “in” to our minds and heart. I recently heard a pastor say, “Where our minds labor, our hearts will follow.” The reality is, our minds are always dwelling on and being filled with something, and what you allow in will directly impact what comes out.
So, what are you filling yourself with in your free time? What is your thought life really like? What voices have the most influence in your life? It is time we stop being so surprised and not allow ourselves to play the victim when sinful and destructive responses come out of us.
Many things in life are out of our control, but being mindful and intentional about what we fill our tube of toothpaste with is up to you. Filling yourself with anything other than the things of God will leave you cleaning up messes. If you choose to fill your mind and heart with God through obedience to his Word, meditating on his majesty, and communicating with him through prayer—then when life squeezes, you will see things coming out of you like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
So, next time life presses in on all sides, pay attention to your responses and trace them back to the root of what you’re believing about God in those moments. Then replace any lies with truth found in God’s word (2 Corinthians 10:5). Do this over and over, and you will see your responses begin to change. This process can feel daunting, but as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11:30, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. As you feel hard-pressed on every side, he will give you rest for your weary and burdened heart and the strength you need to persevere.
To learn more, watch Ellen Dykas’ accompanying video, God’s Pruning Is Always Purposeful.
02 May 2019
To say that ministry is incredibly challenging is an understatement. It’s a joy to see God work in those you minister to, but it’s really hard when God begins to expose your struggles, sins, and limits. In this video, Shalee explains that God works in us by undoing things that aren’t of him. The undoing process is often uncomfortable and painful, but if it is of God, it is worth it. You can read more about what Shalee learned in her year-long internship at Harvest USA in her blog, “Jumping in the Deep End of Ministry.”