Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mother Violates Privacy

Dear Aunt Dara,

When I was in the hospital for four days in October, I gave a copy of my house key to my mother so she could feed my cat and change the litter box.  When I returned home, I thought that it might be a good idea for her to keep the key in case there is an emergency.  However, whenever she comes over she has been using the key to let herself inside.  I have told her that I don’t like for her to let herself in and that the key is to be used only for emergencies, but she hasn’t stopped letting herself in.  Yesterday she let herself in while I was in the shower, and it nearly scared me to death when I realized someone was in my house and I was in the shower!  When I told her that the key was just for emergencies, she said she thought it was an emergency because I didn’t answer the door.  Had I been expecting company, I would not have been in the shower, but she never calls before she comes over.  I don’t know how to get her to stop coming in on me like that without hurting her feelings.  My friend suggested that I tell her to give the key back and change the lock if she doesn’t.  I don’t want to do that because I think it would be disrespectful.  What should I do?

No Privacy in Montana

Dear No Privacy,

You should pray that God will guide you in doing the right thing, then give this situation some prayerful thought.  Have you had any past experiences with your mother that were similar to this one?  If so, how did you resolve them?  Based on your letter, it appears that you have tried to set a boundary with her regarding the use of the key.  Have you given her specific examples of what may constitute an emergency?  Does she know how many minutes to give you to answer the door before she comes in?  Does she know that you would appreciate a call from her before she comes over so that you will be expecting her?  Make sure that she understands all these things, and you should be very specific about your wishes.

If you have explained all these things to her and she still has not changed her behavior, that’s another issue.  Does your mother typically understand your feelings and honor your wishes?  Does she understand how much her behavior bothers you?  Does she understand how frightened you were when she came into your home when you were in the shower?  Try to explain to her how this affects you by saying something similar to this: “Mom, I really appreciate your looking out for me and being concerned about me.  I felt scared to death, though, when you let yourself in while I was in the shower because I thought an intruder was in the house.  I would like for you to call me before you come over so that never happens again.”  (This is an example of assertive communication, and it is not disrespectful to use assertive communication with a parent.)  If your mother continues to disregard your wishes and continues to use the key inappropriately, you have the right to tell her to return the key.  However, I do not recommend that you change the lock if she refuses to give the key back.  Changing the lock would be harmful to the relationship because it would be passive-aggressive, contrary to the love of Christ, and would show dishonor to your parent.

God bless,
Aunt Dara 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Girlfriend Has Wandering Eye

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have been with a girl several months now, and she is very special to me.  We only see each other on weekends, and my problem is her wandering eye.  She feels a need to comment on the attractiveness of celebrities, talking about how cute they are, how great their bodies are, etc.  Anyway, this makes me very uncomfortable to say the least.  She says that it is no big deal because “she doesn’t have a shot with them” and they’re not regular people.  It’s probably my low self-esteem or something, but do you think this is okay?

Insecure in Louisville

Dear Insecure in Louisville,

It’s understandable that you feel uncomfortable when your girlfriend makes these comments.  Not many “regular” people can measure up to the ones that we see in movies, television, music videos, and magazines.  It seems that you have tried to address this with her, but she does not appear to understand why her comments bother you.  She seems to be trying to reassure you that you need not feel threatened by her comments.  However, does she know that her comments make you feel insecure?  If she understands that you feel uncomfortable, insecure, or whatever else (perhaps hurt or inadequate), she may be able to recognize that her comments are a big deal to you and she might stop saying such things about other guys. 

My guess is that you would like to have her assurance that she finds you attractive.  Few things attract a girl more than a guy who cares about her and treats her well.  So, what can you do to be more attractive to her?  Show her that you care.  Keep doing the things that you are doing to show her that she is very special to you.  Tell her how attractive you think she is, and she might return your compliments.  Remember, those celebrities are just images on paper or a flickering screen.  You are the living, breathing person in front of her.  She can hear your voice and touch you.  No picture can compete with that.

If I may, I’d like to say something regarding your low self-esteem, which you recognize may be contributing to your feeling uncomfortable with these comments.  The Apostle Paul said that we should not regard anyone from a worldly point of view (II Corinthians 5:16).  That includes ourselves.  From a worldly point of view, we see our faults and our inadequacies, and then we tend to feel bad about ourselves.  However, our worth is not determined by our physical appearance, our age, our gender, our race, our intelligence, our education, our socioeconomic status, or our behavior.  From God’s point of view, our worth comes from being a part of the human race, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and declared “very good” by our Creator (Genesis 1:31).  Psalm 8 tells us how God feels about His human creation, and Psalm 139:1-18 tells us how God values us individually.  We have been wonderfully made and God knew us before we were born.  He fashioned us into how He wanted us to be (Isaiah 64:8) and His works are marvelous.  You are so valuable to God that Jesus died for you (John 3:16, Galatians 2:20), and God sees the righteousness of Christ when He looks at you (II Corinthians 5:21).  God has adopted you as His son through Christ (Ephesians 1:5), and God loves His children more than anyone will ever be able to comprehend.  Every human life is valuable.  That includes you.

God bless,
Aunt Dara 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Is it Too Soon to Remarry?

After 27 years of marriage, my husband passed away unexpectedly in January when he had a heart attack at work.  Three months ago I started dating Ronnie, my high school sweetheart, whose wife passed away two years ago.  Although I loved my husband very much, Ronnie and I are in love and we believe that God has blessed us by bringing us together again.  We plan on being married at the end of November.  We have reserved the church and we have been participating in premarital counseling with my pastor.  Our parents and our five adult children (three are mine, two are Ronnie’s) approve of our relationship and are happy about the marriage.  My daughter is excited about the wedding and is helping with the arrangements, and my mother has been sewing the bridesmaids’ dresses.  However, my brother refuses to accept Ronnie and he says he will not be attending the wedding.  My brother and I have always been close, and I am hurt that he refuses to acknowledge my fiancĂ© and will not participate in celebrating our marriage.  He thinks I should still be grieving.  As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say anything about how long the mourning period should be, does it?  He says if I had truly loved my husband I would not even consider being with anyone else this soon after his death.  I do still grieve for my husband, but Ronnie has helped me to understand that God wants us to find comfort in our loss and hope for our future.  Furthermore, my brother said that getting married less than a year after my husband’s death is unacceptable and he believes I am making a huge mistake.  When I ask him why he thinks I am making a mistake, he just keeps repeating, “It’s too soon.”  Our mother has tried to talk to him, but he just won’t listen.  How do I get him to change his mind and be happy for me?  

The Widow Bride 

Dear Bride,

I am glad that you are finding comfort in your loss and I wish you and Ronnie a long and happy life together.  It’s regrettable that your brother currently does not wish you the same.  Family relationships can be very complicated.  Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers, but I can offer some suggestions.  You are correct in that the Bible does not say how long the mourning period should be.  Each culture, social system, and religion has its own customs and rituals regarding how long the mourning period should last and which behaviors are acceptable during mourning.  Furthermore, these customs tend to evolve over time.   When a time period is mentioned in scripture, it tends to be short and related to the cultural customs involved at the time.  For example, Genesis 50:1-14 tells us that the Egyptians mourned Jacob’s death for 70 days.  Afterward, Joseph took Jacob’s body to the land of Canaan where they mourned an additional seven days before burial.  The mourning period for ancient Israel appeared to be 30 days, as was the case for Aaron (Numbers 20: 29) and Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8).  It would appear that these were official periods of mourning.  Individual mourning is personal and unique.  Each person grieves in their own way in their own time, and there is no set time.  Genesis 37:34 simply says that Jacob, when he believed that his son Joseph was dead, mourned “many days.”  Ephraim also mourned his sons “many days” (I Chronicles 7:22).  The Bible does not tell us how long these fathers mourned, nor should anyone determine for you how long you should mourn. 

It would appear that your brother believes that you have violated your culture’s norms.  It would also appear that the rest of your family and your pastor do not think that you have violated your culture’s norms, or if you have, it is irrelevant.  Since your mother has already attempted to persuade your brother to accept your upcoming marriage, perhaps your pastor might be willing to speak to him.  However, you should try to understand your brother’s point of view.  His objection may go beyond his concern about violating cultural norms.  There could be a many reasons why your brother objects to the marriage beyond his belief that it’s too soon.  If your brother had a close relationship with your husband, your brother may still be grieving the loss of his brother-in-law or having difficulty accepting Ronnie as a “replacement.”  Also, since Ronnie was your high school sweetheart, your brother probably knew him then.  How did they get along back then?  Your brother may share his concerns with you if he believes you will be receptive.  However, your brother will be less likely to be open with you if he feels as if he is being pressured.  Instead of trying to persuade him to change his mind, it would be best to acknowledge his concern and let him know that you value and respect his opinion, whatever that may be.  Regardless, this is your decision to make and you should do what you believe God would have you to do.  In time, perhaps your brother might accept your new marriage. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to Let Go of Anger

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am a married woman who has been singing in a gospel trio for two years.  Five months ago someone started a rumor that I was sleeping with “Paul,” the man who sings with us.  The accusation was untrue, but it spread like wildfire through our church and all the other churches where we sing.  When I investigated where the rumor started, three people told me that they heard it from “Julie.”  They said they had no reason to question its truth because Julie was my best friend.  I went directly to Julie, and she admitted that she had started the rumor.  However, she did not apologize or admit that she did anything wrong.  She justified her actions by saying that she honestly believed that I was sleeping with Paul and she was trying to “help us with our problem” by asking people to pray for us.  Furthermore, Julie gave me the impression that she still believes that I was sleeping with him.  I know that many people still believe the rumor is true, even though both Paul and I deny it.  Meanwhile, the damage is done and I am hurt and crushed beyond words.  Most of our singing events have been cancelled, and the alto says we should just call it quits.  I am still very angry that my friend did so much damage to my reputation and our trio is probably going to break up as a result.  I’m just thankful that my husband is supportive and knows the rumor isn’t true.  Anyway, people tell me that I need to forgive her and restore our friendship to what it once was.  I feel as if I have forgiven her.  I have been praying for her, I don’t wish her any harm, and I am able to be civil when I talk to her even though I am still very angry.  However, I have no desire or intention to restore our friendship.  Her actions ended our friendship and I no longer trust her.  They tell me that my refusal to restore our friendship and my continued anger are evidence that I have not forgiven her.  What do you think?  Does forgiveness mean that I have to restore the relationship to what it was before, and how can that be possible if Julie has no regret for what she did and I no longer trust her?  How do I let go of the anger?  Please help.  I pray about this many times a day and I really want to do the right thing.

Still Angry and Hurting 

Dear Angry and Hurting,

I commend you for how you have handled the situation so far.  A lot of people in the same situation would have left the church and given up on following the Lord.  It’s good that your husband is supportive, because something such as this could have ended your marriage.  You did the right thing by going directly to Julie to address the issue.  You have completed the first step according to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18: 15-17.  Regrettably, Julie doesn’t seem to have had a change of heart.  If you follow through with the next steps, perhaps the rumor will have less credibility and fewer people will believe it.  The next step would be for you speak with Julie again with others present, preferably your husband and Paul.  Make sure that all of you pray diligently before talking to Julie, and then speak to her with an attitude of love and gentleness, not with anger or defensiveness.  The goal is Julie’s repentance and restoration (Galatians 6:1).  If that is unsuccessful, Matthew 18 tells you what the next step should be.

As for your anger, nobody likes to be falsely accused.  To feel hurt, angry, and distrustful is only natural, considering the circumstances.  However, anger is caustic and will damage you physically, mentally, and spiritually if you hold onto it.  To help you to release the anger, I offer what I shall call, “Anger Management for Christians.”  Follow each step exactly as written, in the order given.  Do not skip any steps, and do not tell anyone what you are doing.

Step 1: Stop talking about it.  Often this first step is the hardest because it is human nature to want our thoughts and feelings to be validated.  We want people to listen to our story and to understand our pain.  We want to hear someone say, “I know you are hurting and you didn’t deserve to be hurt.”  However, for anything to remain alive, you have to feed it.  If you stop feeding the anger, it will die.  Since talking about what happened refreshes your memory of the event and the associated emotions, you are feeding the anger each time you talk about it.  A vicious cycle then develops.  The more you talk about it, the more you think about it, and the more you think about it, the more you talk about it.  The first step in breaking this cycle is to stop talking about it. 

Step 2: Write about it.  Since you have stopped talking about it, most likely you will feel a strong desire to “get it out.”  Write a letter to the person who wronged you.  Be very honest, open, and specific about what they did that hurt you and how it has affected you.  Do not hold anything back.  Especially, do not judge any of your thoughts or feelings by thinking, “A Christian shouldn’t feel that way or say those things.”  Be brutally honest about your thoughts and feelings.  Because writing this letter may be very painful, you may be tempted to skip this step.  Don’t.

Step 3: Pray (1 Peter 5: 7).  Tell God that you have expressed in this letter everything that is in your heart about what happened, how it has affected you, what you think about it, how you feel about it, and how you feel about the person who hurt you.  Affirm in your prayer that you know that God fully knows and understands the thoughts of your heart and the depth of your hurt.  Affirm that you know that God cares about you and cares about your pain.  Tell God that you forgive the person who hurt you and you are releasing to Him your pain and anger.  End this prayer by thanking God for delivering you from your pain and anger.

Step 4: Destroy the letter immediately after completing the prayer in Step 3.  This letter MUST be destroyed.   Do not keep it or reread it.  Do not show this letter to anyone and DO NOT deliver it to the person who hurt you!  If you chose to not destroy the letter immediately, the possible results could be disastrous.  Destroy it completely by shredding or burning it, and then dispose of the remains.  Completely destroying and disposing of the letter is symbolic of your completely destroying and disposing of your anger.  Thereafter, whenever you remember what happened, how it affected you, what you thought about it, or how you felt about it, remember the letter and say, “It’s gone; it’s completely gone.”

Step 5: Pray for the person who hurt you (Matthew 5:44).  This prayer should have four parts.  First, thank God for enabling you to forgive the person who hurt you.  Secondly, thank God for releasing you from the pain and removing your anger.  Say this even if you still feel angry or resentful.  If you say, “But I’m still angry,” you will continue to be angry.  Simply tell God that you are thankful that He has released you from the pain and removed your anger.  DO NOT say anything else about the pain or the anger that may remain.  Next, ask God to bless that person.  Lastly, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to this person.

Step 6: Do something good for the person who hurt you (Matthew 5:44).  This step if vital!  You must demonstrate Christ’s love by doing something to bless the person who hurt you.  Otherwise, you will not be able to let go of the anger.  Resist the temptation to think, “But she doesn’t deserve it.”  Our place is not to determine what a person does or does not deserve.  We are to do good to others, even to those who hurt us deeply (Romans 12: 14-21).  Whatever God places on your heart to do for that person, do it.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 as needed until the anger is gone. 

Finally, you asked if forgiveness means that you have to restore the relationship to what it was before, and how can you restore the relationship if that person has no regret for what she did and you no longer trust her.  Forgiveness does not mean that a person must restore the relationship to what it once was.  If you follow through with the steps in Matthew 18, hopefully she will repent and you can begin to work on rebuilding your friendship, if that is what you choose to do.  If she does not repent, I see no reason why you should place yourself in a vulnerable position in which you could be hurt again. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Should We Give Money to Churches?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I read your reply to the person who asked if church attendance is necessary, and I mostly agree with what you said.  However, the reason that I seldom attend church is because they always want money.  It seems that every time the door is open they pass the offering plate.  Then the preacher or one of the deacons stands up there and says that the church needs more money.  Even the preachers on TV are always asking for money.  It just makes me sick!  When was the last time that you heard of a church having to close its doors because they did not have enough money to pay the bills?  Why should I give more money to the church just so the preacher’s kid can go on a so-called mission trip to India?  Furthermore, most of the TV preachers live in mansions, drive nice cars, and live a life of luxury.  Why should I give them money just so they can continue their lavish lifestyle?  At least I can turn the TV off when they start asking for money, and if I don’t go to church I don’t have to worry about being hassled about not tithing.

Fed up with their greed

Dear Fed Up,

I may be wrong, but you sound somewhat disgusted and a little angry.  Nobody likes to feel pressured, and it appears that you feel as if you are being pressured to give money when you don’t want to.  The Bible has much to say about giving, so much so that it would not be possible to reference all that is recorded.  Therefore, I will try to address some of the reasons that a Christian should give.

When we look at the issue of giving, I think it would be helpful to look at the ultimate example of giving—God Himself.  James tells us that God is a liberal giver (James 1: 5) and that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1: 17).  What blessings have you received from God?  Do you appreciate the things that God has given you?  How much do you appreciate His gifts?  When we give to the Lord’s church, we are giving to God Himself and expressing our gratitude for His blessings. 

Love gives.  When we love someone, we do not begrudge the things that we give them.  For example, we don’t grumble and complain about having to give food to our children (Luke 11: 11-13).  God gives blessings to us because He loves us.  Because God loves us, He has given us far more than we could ever give back (John 3:16).  Do you love God?  Do you truly, deeply love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?  Do you love God enough to give back to Him—through service, worship, obedience, and yes, even monetarily? 

Though our primary motivations to give should be our appreciation for God’s blessings and our love for Him, we also should give to God to please Him and to be obedient to His wishes.  Jacob made a vow to give God 10 percent (Gen. 28: 18-22).  Later, God instructed His people to give 10 percent to Him, and when they did not Malachi 3: 8-10 says that they were robbing God.  The Apostle Paul expressed his wishes that Christians grow in the grace of giving (II Cor. 8: 1-7).

Finally, we will be blessed when we give and we will receive much more in return (Acts 20:35, Luke 6:38, Prov. 11: 24-25), though not necessarily financially and not necessarily immediately.  When we give back to God by giving generously to others, we will have treasures in heaven and we will find a level of spiritual joy that cannot be experienced by those who do not give. 

When we disagree with how the money is being used, we should not withhold from God.  What happens to the money after we give is not within our control.  The churches, televangelists, and other ministries who receive our funds are using them the best way they know how, according to what they believe is God’s will.  They pray regularly for God’s guidance and wisdom in using His money to accomplish His work.  We need to trust that they are following God’s leading, and we should not judge or condemn them when we question their decisions.  Instead, we should pray that God gives them wisdom and guidance in using the funds according to His will. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Church Attendance Necessary?

Dear Aunt Dara,

Two months ago I gave my life to Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  I have been praying and reading the Bible every day since becoming a Christian, but some of my friends tell me that I need to start going to church.  I don’t believe that a person has to go to church in order to be a Christian.  Besides, there are too many hypocrites in the church and churches are full of cliques.  What do you think?  Is church attendance necessary?

Independent Christian

Dear Independent Christian,

Congratulations on your decision to follow Christ.  I know that heaven is rejoicing because of your decision.  I commend you for your making daily prayer and Bible study a priority in your life.  Prayer is the breath of a Christian and the word of God is life.  Both are necessary for a Christian to remain alive in Christ and to grow in grace and wisdom. 

Regarding your question on church attendance, David, King of Israel, said that he was glad to go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1), so he must have seen a benefit in worshiping God in an assembly of believers.  So, rather than determining if church attendance is necessary, I wish to explore with you the possible benefits of church membership and the possible benefits of attending the Bible studies and worship services offered by the church.  Since I will be referring to several scriptures and quoting few of them, I encourage you to have your Bible handy so you can read these verses.

First of all, we know from Matthew 18:20 that Jesus is present whenever Christians come together.  Therefore, when you attend a church service, you are in the presence of the Lord.  Who wouldn’t want to be in the Lord’s presence?  Why would anyone want to miss out on being in the presence of Jesus because hypocrites may be there too?  Peter, James, John, and the other disciples remained in the presence of Jesus even though Judas Iscariot was there.  They didn’t allow Judas’ presence to hinder their relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Why should we?

Secondly, one of the main reasons to gather together with the church is to collectively worship God.  True, we can worship God alone, but the New Testament is full of examples and references to the public worship of Christians.  There are too many to list, but please refer to Acts 2:42-47, Acts 20: 7, Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Another benefit of church membership and attendance is the assistance and fellowship that is only available through regular association with other believers.  One of the first things that God said after He created humans is that it is not good to be alone (Genesis. 2: 18).  We need each other because we are fallible human beings who draw upon the strength and encouragement of other Christians (Hebrews. 1: 13, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, II Corinthians. 13:11, I Thessalonians. 5:11).  So important is fellowship with other Christians that the concept of “independent Christianity” is foreign to scripture and contrary to the example set by the First Century church.

An additional benefit of church membership and attendance is the opportunity to learn and grow in faith and to be accountable to one another for maintaining sound doctrine and achieving Christian maturity (Rom. 15:14, Tit. 2: 3-4, II Tim. 3:16, Acts 20:28, Heb. 13:17).

Next, church membership and attendance is beneficial for providing us more opportunities to evangelize the lost and to serve others (Acts 6: 1-7, Galatians 5:13, John 13: 14).  Nearly every church has organized programs that minister to the community and support missions. 

Finally, we should desire to maintain regular attendance at church services because doing so is pleasing to God.  Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

If you still doubt the importance of the assembly of Christians and its priority to God, read the entire book of Acts.  However, with all the benefits of church attendance and membership, why would anyone want to miss out on the blessings?

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, May 23, 2011

Should She Return the Money?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am a single mother trying to raise two young children alone.  I work full-time, but barely make enough money to pay the bills and keep my kids fed.  Money has been tight for a long time, but my financial situation has become worse with the recent increase of the cost of gasoline.  I have been praying that God will bless us by giving me enough money to get us through until I am able to get a better job.  Last week, I used a $10 bill to pay for a $5.27 order at a drive-through window.  The cashier gave me four dollar bills (so he thought) and some change, but what he had actually given me was three $1 bills and a $20 bill.  The extra $19 couldn’t have come at a better time.  My gas tank was nearly empty and it was three days before pay day.  When I told my sister-in-law the good news about how God had answered my prayer by providing gas money, she said that it was wrong for me to not correct the mistake and I should return the money.  I don’t understand.  Why should I return the money when God was using the cashier’s mistake to take care of my family’s needs?  Besides, the restaurant doesn’t need $19.  It’s a major fast-food chain.  How do I get my sister-in-law to understand that it was an answer to prayer?

Poor and Puzzled

Dear Poor and Puzzled,

First of all, let me commend you for your faith in God, your dedication to prayer, and your reliance on God for His help.  Truly, God has heard your prayers and He will bless you in time.  I also commend you for your dedication to work, especially since you are supporting your children as a single parent.  However, I must agree with your sister-in-law.  Regardless of how much money the restaurant chain makes, the money is theirs and should be returned to them.  God would not have taken money deceitfully from the restaurant to give to you, no matter how deep your level of neediness.  For you to accept the money as yours is dishonest gain.  Consider this:  Instead of a blessing as an answer to prayer, God may have been using the cashier’s mistake as a test.  Jesus tells us that if we are faithful with little, we can be trusted with much (Luke 16:10).  To pass the test, you must return the money.  However, do it anonymously so that you will not get any recognition or praise for your honesty.  Buy a money order for $19 and mail it to the restaurant’s manager with a note explaining what happened.  Be sure that the note says that you are returning the money to please the Lord and to bring glory to God.  Sign it, simply, “A Christian.”  That way you will be a witness for Christ and God will bless you for doing the right thing.

As a final note, read Matthew Chapter 6 every day and continue to have faith that God will supply everything that you and your children need (Psalm 37:25, Philippians 4:19).  Be a person of integrity, be faithful to God, be trustworthy with what you have, and honor God by giving back a portion of what you have been given 
(I Corinthians 16:2, Luke 6:38).  Then in time God will bless you by giving you that which is far beyond your needs.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feels Resentful Toward Sisters

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have two older sisters who live over 1000 miles away, and the three of us haven’t been together since our mother’s funeral four years ago.  My sisters recently told me that they are planning to be in the area for Mother’s Day weekend so they can visit the cemetery and spend time with me.  I have mixed feelings about the visit.  I stayed home with Mom and took care of her during the three years that she was ill, but neither of my sisters did anything to help with her care.  They never listened to me when I told them that I needed help with Mom, and now they want to act like it doesn’t matter that they didn’t help me.  I know that I’m supposed to forgive them, but I just feel resentful.  Also, they said that they want to go out to a bar and party like we used to do.  I used to have a problem with alcohol, but I quit drinking two years ago after I gave my life to Christ, and I don’t want to be in that type of atmosphere again.  How do I tell my sisters that I don’t want to go to a bar with them without offending them, and how do I get over my resentment?

Resentful and Confused

Dear Resentful and Confused,

First of all, I am so sorry for your loss and I commend you for your dedication toward your mother.  Taking care of an ill person is not easy, especially when you are the sole provider of care.  The Lord will not forget your labor of love (Hebrews 6:10) and will bless you for it.  Secondly, congratulations for your sustained sobriety.  That, too, is not an easy task.  By these accomplishments, you have demonstrated that you have strength of character and a strong sense of responsibility. 

How do you tell your sisters that you don’t want to go to a bar with them?  Simply and honestly.  Make it about you, rather than about your disapproval of their plans.  Tell them that God delivered you from your drinking problem and now you do not feel comfortable going to a bar.  No other explanation should be necessary.  Then, offer to go somewhere else with them or suggest doing something else with them that does not involve alcohol.

Now, regarding the resentment that you feel.  It’s only natural to feel disappointed and hurt when family does not provide needed assistance.  However, resentment comes from unresolved anger.  Most likely, underlying the anger are thoughts such as:
1. An expectation or “should” statement, such as, “They should have helped me.”
2. A judging statement, such as, “It was wrong for them not to help me.”
3. A self-pity statement, such as, “It was unfair that I had to take care of Mom alone.” 

The first step is to acknowledge to God that you feel resentful, being honest about the reasons and thoughts that you are harboring about your sisters and their behavior.  Next, ask God to help you to resolve the anger.  Pray for you sisters.  Pray God’s blessings for your sisters.  Ask Him to open your heart to other points of view, other thoughts toward your sisters and their behavior.  Then, let your behavior be the example of God’s love and forgiveness, even if you don’t feel as if the forgiveness is complete.  Do what you know is right, even if you don’t feel like it.  A forgiving heart often must demonstrate itself first through acts of kindness.  (Matthew 5:44)  Finally, give it time.  Forgiveness is often a process, especially if the hurt is deep. 

Here’s one other thing to consider.  Their visit this weekend should be about your relationships as sisters and the mutual loss of your mother.  Now is not a good time to confront them about their failure to help you or to tell them how you feel about their lack of support.  Concentrate on reuniting with your sisters to share feelings about your shared loss and make a commitment to reestabilishing and maintaining a relationship with them.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Sunday, March 27, 2011

She Hates Her Job

Dear Aunt Dara,

I hate my job.  After 15 years of working there, I’m ready to walk out the door.  I know I should be thankful that I have a job, and I am—sort of.  So many people can’t find a job nowadays.  I am thankful that I do have a job and I really do appreciate my salary, but I’m just miserable when I’m at work.  I have a supportive supervisor and I get along well with my co-workers, but I work in customer service and most of the customers are unhappy.  They all have problems that they expect me to solve.  I used to like my job and found satisfaction with helping people.  I care about meeting my customers’ needs, so I try my best to help them, but most of the customers are unappreciative and some you just can’t satisfy.  A lot of them are angry and rude.  I am so stressed at work that it is starting to cause increased problems with my blood pressure and I’m afraid that my health will decline even further if I keep working there.  I have tried to find another job.  I have submitted numerous applications and have been interviewed several times, but nobody seems to want to hire me.  If I quit my job, I’m not sure I will be able to find another one, especially since I am over 55 years old.  Also, I don’t want to disappoint my husband.  We don’t need my income for our living expenses, but my husband is counting on my earnings to build up our savings for our retirement.  How can I get back that spark of enthusiasm that I used to have for my work and cope better with all this stress?

Completely Burned Out

Dear Burned Out,

Your husband should be aware of how much stress you are feeling with your job so that he can be a source of strength and encouragement to you.  Perhaps you are only assuming that he would be disappointed if you quit your job.  After all, he probably would want to spend retirement with a healthy wife rather than a hefty bank account.  When he understands how you feel about your job, the two of you should spend some time in prayer to determine what God wants you to do.  If you believe that staying in this job is what God wants you to do at this time, here are some suggestions on how to regain your spark of enthusiasm and deal with the stress:

First, take a look at your thoughts and your words.  Underlying a lot of the stress you feel at work are several “should” statements.  (People should not be rude.  People should appreciate what I do for them.  I should be able to solve people’s problems and make them happy.  I shouldn’t hate my job.  I should feel the way I used to feel about the work that I do.)  You feel the way you think.  If you tell yourself that your customers should live up to your expectations, you will feel disappointed when they don’t.  If you tell yourself that you are miserable at work and you hate your job, you will feel miserable at work and you will hate your job.  If you have the thought that you would like to walk out the door, eventually you will.  Keep in mind that words have power, and the words that we say aloud tend to become our truths.  Start concentrating on the positives about your job, and tell yourself that you like your job because of the positive things.  When you are feeling deeply discouraged with your job or you are faced with a really difficult customer, say to yourself, “This is only temporary, and I can tolerate anything that is temporary.”

Secondly, take a look at the people you are serving.  You are dealing with people who have come to you for help with their problems, but most of them are unappreciative of your help.  Jesus experienced the same.  When He healed 10 lepers, only one thanked Him (Luke 17: 11-18).  He did not let that stop Him from continuing to do good and heal the sick.  Rather than looking at your customers from a human point of view, as difficult or unappreciative people, try to see the face of Jesus in each person that comes to you (Matthew 25: 40).

If you still feel just as burned out after you try these suggestions, maybe God is trying to tell you that it is time for another chapter in your life.  Talk to your supervisor about transferring to a different position, if that is possible.  Take some time off.  Perhaps cut back your hours to part time.  Explore options for putting your talents and gifts into other uses besides a traditional job.  Think outside the box.  You have gained tremendous people skills in the 15 years that you have been working with unhappy people.  Trust the Lord to guide you, and He will direct your path (Proverbs 3: 6).

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Didn’t Get to Tell Him She’s Sorry

Dear Aunt Dara,

I broke up with my boyfriend on February 1st.  We had been seeing each other for three years, but he was not ready to consider marriage.  He was always jealous and suspicious because his ex-girlfriend cheated on him.  I couldn’t speak to another man without his making a big deal out of it and questioning me endlessly.  Finally, I had enough when he accused me falsely of seeing a male co-worker after work.  (I had actually gone to the mall to find some new shoes, but unfortunately I didn’t buy anything to prove my whereabouts.)  We had a nasty argument.  I told him that I didn’t want to see him anymore, but I instantly regretted it because I still loved him.  Afterward, he kept sending me messages saying that he loved me and wanted me back, but I didn’t answer any of his messages because I thought my silence would shake him up and teach him a lesson.  However, he was killed in an automobile accident on February 5th.  It’s been over a month, but I can’t stop crying.  My only comfort is knowing that he was a Christian and that I will see him again someday.  In the meantime, I feel so guilty and lost.  He died thinking that I didn’t love him anymore.  I wish I could go back and tell him that I love him, and that I’ve always loved only him.  How do I tell him that I’m sorry?  How do I forgive myself for hurting him so badly? 

Alone and heartbroken

Dear Alone and Heartbroken,

I am so, so sorry for your loss.  I know you must be devastated by what has happened.  There are no words that can adequately soothe the pain that you feel at this time, but I will try to soften it some.  According to the fifth chapter of II Corinthians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Believe and trust that your boyfriend is with Jesus.  Please allow the One whose arms are around your boyfriend to comfort you. 

You may not be able to tell your boyfriend directly that you love him and you are sorry for hurting him, but there is a way that he can know it.  You can write all your thoughts and feelings in a letter addressed to him. Be sure that you say everything in the letter that you want him to know.  This may hurt a lot, but that is natural and to be expected.  After you have finished writing the letter, pray and ask God to tell him what is in your letter.  Know and trust that God is faithful and will deliver your message; then trust that your boyfriend, who still loves you, understands and forgives.

I hope this helps.  Please be assured that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and let me know if you need anything else.

God bless.
Aunt Dara

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should She Attend the Funeral?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I hope you get this and answer it in time before it’s too late.  My former mother-in-law just died and I don’t know if I should go to the funeral or not.  She and I maintained a close relationship even though I divorced her son six years ago.  It was an ugly divorce and each time my ex-husband and I see each other, we’re at each other’s throats.  I don’t want to cause a scene at this mother’s funeral, but I loved her and I’ll miss her.  Please tell me what to do.

Confused ex-daughter-in-law

Dear Confused,

First of all, let me say that I’m sorry for your loss.  I know you will miss her.  Please let God comfort you with His love and tender mercy.  Now, regarding your question—only you can decide what is best for you to do.  Here are some things to consider before you make your decision. 

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  You said that when you and your ex-husband see each other, you’re at each other’s throats.  Keep in mind that emotions are stronger in grieving individuals.  You may hope that both of you will be civil with each other in such a solemn and public situation, but only you can determine that likelihood.

What would your mother-in-law have wanted?  Would she have wanted you to place yourself in what may be a very vulnerable position in which hurt and humiliation may be added to your grief?  Consider this—if there is a scene, as you fear there might be, the grieving family may consider you the outsider who is causing problems for the family at their relative’s funeral.  Is it worth taking that chance?

You didn’t mention whether or not you and your ex-husband share any children.  If so, you would need to consider whether or not their presence at their grandmother’s funeral is important for healing their own grief.

If your decide to go, ask yourself how you will be able to avoid your ex-husband as much as possible and how you will handle the situation if a confrontation becomes likely.  Some pointers:  “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15: 1).  In order to keep peace, use the broken-record technique.  Just keep repeating, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  If you ex-husband tries to provoke you, do not try to defend yourself.  Instead, turn the conversation back to his mother’s good qualities.  If you feel yourself starting to get upset, leave!  You won’t regret keeping the peace.

If you decide not to go, you could ask the funeral director to record the service for you.  Then ask yourself how you can meet your need to grieve in some other way.  Perhaps you could write a letter to your mother-in-law, plant a tree or a rose bush in her memory, start a scrapbook of your memories, or make a donation to her favorite charity.  Finding comfort in your pain and loss is more important than your physical presence at her funeral. 

I hope this helps.

God bless and comfort you,
Aunt Dara

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

She's Old Enough to be his Mother

Dear Aunt Dara,

My boyfriend “Jacob” and I have known each other for three years.  At first we were just friends.  I thought that he would make a good husband for some nice young woman, but I never dreamed that he would ever be romantically interested in me.  Now he wants to marry me.   I know that he loves me.  He treats me well and I couldn’t ask for a more loving man.  I love him too, and I really want to marry him.  We are members of the same church and I believe that God brought us together.  We have similar interests and get along well.  Both of us are employed and have a good income.  This would be the first marriage for both of us.  Neither of us has any children and neither of us wants children.  However, I am having some misgivings because he is 27 years old and I am 49.  I am concerned about what others will think, and I don’t know if such a marriage can last.  What do you think about a woman marrying a man who is young enough to be her son, and do you think we have a chance of making it as a married couple?

Not his Mama

Dear Not his Mama,

Congratulations on establishing a loving relationship with a man who wants you to be his wife.  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all,” and Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”  You are wise to not rush into marriage without examining possible problems. 

I am not aware of any scriptures that specifically address problems related to age differences in married couples.  However, with any marriage in which there is a large age difference, there are three possible problem areas.  You have already mentioned one of them:  What will people think?  Anytime there is a large age difference with a married couple, there will be critics.  This is especially true when the wife is the older one.  In general, society seems to be more understanding of marriages in which the husband is old enough to be the wife’s father, but tends to be disapproving of the reverse situation.  The older wife can be criticized for “robbing the cradle” and the younger husband can be accused of wanting a mother instead of a wife.  You didn’t mention what your family and friends think of your relationship, but even if they seem to be okay with it, don’t be surprised if they voice objections or disapproval about your marriage.  Unfortunately, this may be a life-long issue as future friends and associates will voice negative opinions.  Do both of you have enough ego strength to not be affected by other people’s opinions and negative statements?

Secondly, the issue of roles can be a problem.  You are from two different generations and have different maturity levels.  You have experienced things that he has not.  You have lived through historical events that he has only read about.  Because of that, there is a natural inclination for the older person to think and/or act more like a parent than a spouse, and for the younger to take on a role more similar to that as a child.  This is especially difficult for the couple when the younger man takes on the role as the “head” of the older wife (Ephesians 5:23).  For this marriage to work, the younger husband must be mature enough to be a man, and the older wife must be wise enough to let him.

Thirdly, while he will be getting older, you will be getting old.  He will be exposed to younger women and consequently he most likely will be tempted by them.  Is he committed enough to God and to you that he will honor his vow of faithfulness when faced with temptation (Proverbs 5:18-20)?  Are you secure enough in your relationship and in your own self-esteem to not become suspicious and jealous of younger women?

Finally, there is another problem unique to the couple in which the wife is the older one—the issue of children.  You said that neither you nor he has or wants children.  However, one cannot predict the future and the urge to procreate is a strong one.  The young man who does not want children now may change his mind as he ages, and his options to have a biological child will be greatly limited by having an older wife.  Are both of you absolutely sure that he will never want children?  If either of you might want a child in the future, would you be satisfied with adoption?

Bottom line:  You and Jacob need to have a long, heart-to-heart discussion about these issues before taking marriage vows.  You asked whether you would have a chance of making it as a married couple and if such a marriage can last.  Yes, absolutely, but only if both of you are aware of the potential problems, are emotionally and spiritually mature, and are thoroughly committed to God and to each other.

Best wishes and God bless,
Aunt Dara