The Psychology of Partisan Politics

Originally Published on:


Mon 9 Apr 2018 16:36 EDT


Partisan politics are alive and well in America today. From negative ad campaigns to political soundbites, examples of partisan politics abound. Julia Azari wrote of the great political divide in her January 19, 2018 article, “We’re now one year into the Trump era, and politics seems more nasty, divided and polarized than ever.”

Social media has become a hot bed of partisan mudslinging from both sides of the political aisle. In fact a Pew Research Center article published February 23, 2017 stated, “Partisan criticism generates most engagement in social media.” They went on to say, “Critical posts get more likes, comments, and shares, than other posts.” One political meme circling social media askes the question, “What if Hillary Clinton had five children with three husbands, and had openly cheated on the first two? Would constatives overlook it like they do Trump?” Another picturing Hillary Clinton reads, “I don’t understand, I thought we had killed everyone who had dirt on us.” Yet another displays a picture of a young Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton standing together smiling. It reads, “Straight out of options.”

Social welfare, Involvement of the U.S. in global affairs, gun control, and LGBTQ rights are just some of the countless items that divide Americans. Have you ever stopped to wonder how the country got so polarized? Would it surprise you to learn that there are psychological causes for much of the partisan politics in America today?

One of the many psychological causes of partisan politics is politicians and political pundits who tend toward narcissism. According to a March 15, 2018 MSN Lifestyle article, “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), in general, refers to traits central to that of a sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, an unrealistically high self-esteem and an expectation that others will comply with and validate their self-worth.” This combined with elected officials in high places is a recipe for division.

On August 11, 2017 Phycology Today defined whole object relations and object constancy in an effort to explain (NPD). Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D. wrote, “Whole Object Relations: This is the capacity to see oneself and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges both the person’s good and bad qualities. Object Constancy: This is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to someone that you like while you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by his or her behavior.” Dr. Greenberg went on to say that without “whole object relations” and “object constancy” people with (NPD) can only see themselves and other people in one of two ways: either they are special and unique, or they are defective or worthless.

Without the ability to see those with differing views in an integrated way politicians and pundits fall into a thinking error called, “dichotomous thinking.” This is a kind of black or white, or all or nothing thinking. Dichotomous thinkers believe that you are good or evil, the best or the worst, amazing or awful. This leads to statements like, “My opponent wants seniors to die,” and, “My opponent is for dirty water and polluted air.”

Another psychological cause of partisan politics is, “Awfulizing.” According to the Phycology Dictionary, “Awfulizing refers to an irrational and dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events, situations, or perceived threats. AWFULIZING: “A person who engages in awfulizing, likely predicts the most catastrophic outcome in every circumstance.”

One modern example of this can be found in the conservative response to the Obama presidential election. According to an October 13, 2017 article in the Chicago Tribune, “13 percent (41 million people), thought “Obama is the antichrist.” In September of 2016 rumors abounded on social media that Obama would not step down from office if Trump were elected president. This was fueled in large part by a satirical article published by The Burrard Street Journal.

At the close of 2017 we saw another example awfulizing when some liberals played Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling,” over the issue of net neutrality. It was believed that the FCC’s vote would mean higher prices for consumers to access the websites they visit the most and worse Americans would not get important text messages from loved ones potentially putting children in danger. The vote was made and the news story died all the while Americans are still getting text messages from their children.

Obama turned out not to be the antichrist who set up his one world order and net neutrality didn’t cripple the economy or put children at risk, and the world somehow marches on. When people think of the worst possible outcome and then convince themselves that it is not only possible but likely to occur, they speak out strongly against it widening the political divide.

Politicians and pundits who lean toward narcissism, dichotomous thinking, and awfulizing are only a few examples of the phycology of partisan politics. Other examples include:

  1. Focusing on the negative. This occurs when your thoughts reflect only the bad in a situation and ignore any of the good. By focusing only on the negative in a politician or political party one will seldom see any good. Seeking to find the positive brings balance and optimism to a world we view far too often as negative.
  2. Fortune Telling. Similar to awfulizing, fortune telling occurs when you predict the worst possible outcome to a situation. This can be seen in the example, “He is going to run this country into the ground.”
  3. Mindreading. Mindreading is another thinking error that leads to polarization of political parties. Mindreading occurs when someone believes they know someone else’s thoughts and motives without any proof.
  4. Personalizing. This occurs when one takes someone’s contrary views as a personal attack. This leads to isolation, division, or counter attacks.
  5. Labeling. Perhaps one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of politics is the label. By labeling something it is easier to pigeon hole or typecast them into something that is easier to hate.

Having examined some of the phycology of partisan politics let us not leave this as an interesting intellectual exercise. Rather, may we examine our own thoughts to see what thinking errors we may be making and how we ourselves may be contributing to the political divide.

What are other contributors to the political divide?  Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow this blog. 


Just for Today


I woke up this morning feeling less than enthusiastic about going to work, or even getting out of bed for that matter. My feet still hurt from the uncomfortable dress shoes I worked in all day yesterday. I was feeling cranky in part due to the lack of sleep I got the past few nights, and I wasn’t looking forward to going back into an environment that can be extremely negative.

I reluctantly rolled out of bed, and started my morning routine. That’s when it all changed. The thirtieth chapter of the book of 1 Samuel records an event where King David and his men returned from battle to find that there town had been plundered and their wives and children had been taken captive. The Bible says that the people were bitter in soul and even thought of stoning King David. Remarkably, when all seemed lost, and David was in this great distress, the Bible tells us that David encouraged himself in the Lord. That is what I decided to do this morning.

AA has a wonderful saying. It is, “Just for today.” The idea is this, “Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.”

The Lord taught a similar principle in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words, “God give me today, what I need today, to get through today. Then I will come to you tomorrow and pray, “Give me today my daily bread.” I love how the NLT translates Matthew 6:34 where Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

With these thoughts in mind I began to encourage myself by praying something like this, “Father in Heaven, when you called the Apostle Peter out of the boat to join You as You walked on water, You were calling him to join Your holy presence for a miracle. Despite the circumstances of the wind and waves around him Peter stepped out in faith and did something no one on earth had ever done. May I have the same faith to step out today and join You for the miracle that You have planned for me today! Just for today I choose to put all of the negativity behind me and focus on the good that You desire for me. I pray you bless this day according to Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. I pray in Jesus Name, Amen!”

I’m not going to say that my face shined with the glory of the Lord the way Moses face did when he came off the mountain having spent time in the presence of God. I will say that I faced the day with optimism and a renewed sense of the presence of God having acknowledged Him and prayed for His abundant blessings. May each of us continue to acknowledge the presence of God in the everyday situations in life and choose to live, Just for Today!

The Lies of Strife, Infidelity and Divorce in a Christian Marriage


Originally Published by: THE CHRISTIAN POST

By Brian H. Fontaine | Sun 11 Mar 2018 10:03 EDT

Strife, infidelity, and divorce are not uncommon even among those who profess to be Christians. According to Professor Bradley Wright in his book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. Although this is lower than the national average it points to the fact that Christians are not immune to marriage trouble.


To far too many the pain of a broken marriage, infidelity, or divorce is very real. Although Christ came to set us free from the power of sin we still live in a fallen world and are susceptible to the works of the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21a, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these.” Many of our homes are not void of these poisons. How many marriages have been sacrificed on the altar of jealousy? How many families have been destroyed by uncontrolled anger? How many couples have been torn apart due to sexual immorality? How many homes were broken by drunkenness?


The good news for us today is there is hope, healing, and a future. Several years ago I officiated a wedding for a couple at our church. The husband had an interesting hobby. He flew remote control airplanes. He enjoyed going out to the RC airstrip to fly his plains and watch as other hobbyist flew theirs. He explained that it can be an expensive hobby and that a lot of people get discouraged because they can spend hundreds on an airplane only to crash it on its maiden voyage. He also told of the wise old men that would hang out at the airstrip. They would happily take home the broken pieces of crashed airplanes that had been discarded by newbie piolets. The old men knew how to make beautiful new aircraft out of all of the broken pieces. The Lord is a lot like those old men. He knows how to make beautiful things out of the broken pieces of our lives much like an artist takes broken and sometimes shattered glass and fashions together a stained-glass masterpiece.


Like those in broken marriages, Jesus was all too familiar with the pain of being misunderstood, abandoned and betrayed by those He loved. He suffered alone in the Garden of Gethsemane as His friends fell asleep, unaware of His pain. He suffered alone as He was tried and then beaten and whipped. Christ alone died on the cross for the whole of mankind and was placed in a tomb all by Himself. In the Bible Luke recorded, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus,” Luke 24:1-3 (ESV). Angles appeared to the woman saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”


Jesus suffered greatly. There is no way we can minimize the pain he felt. Yet, by the resurrection power of God the Holy Spirit Christ rose again from the grave. He exchanged His death for life, His pain for promise, and His shame for glory! The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:4b, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” There is hope! Yes the enemy comes into our lives, our marriages, and our families only to steal, kill and destroy but Christ came that we might truly, literally have an abundant life. I believe God is more than able, and is in fact longing to pick up the pieces of your life right where you are and begin to make something new and wonderful.


Are you in the midst of a broken marriage? Are you the victim of infidelity or have you yourself been unfaithful in your marriage? For healing to begin we must combat these five lies.


#1 Lie: I can do this on my own.


The truth is that the enemy uses this lie to lead us to and keep us in our brokenness. We were never created to go through life alone. We were in fact created to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2 (ESV). Let others in. Seek help from your pastor or Christian counselor. Find a support group or Bible study where you can learn and grow together. Healing doesn’t happen in isolation. Humble yourself enough to allow others to walk this journey with you.


#2 Lie: My mess is beyond healing.


The truth is that strife and infidelity are not always a death sentence to a marriage and even divorce is not a death sentence to a believer. The Profit Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,” Isaiah 59:1 (ESV). You are never outside of the presence, potential or power of God. I know a couple who not only survived over a decade of infidelity they have grown to become one of the most rock solid examples of a Christian marriage I’ve seen. There are countless others who have gone through the agony of divorce whom God lovingly picked up and place back on their feet to find a renewal of the supernatural love, joy and peace of God by the power of God the Holy Spirit.


#3 Lie: God will never forgive me.


The truth is that God does not overlook, brush aside or otherwise wink at sin. God is perfect holiness. Timothy richly describes Him this way, “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see,” 1 Timothy 6:14-16 (ESV). This holy, sovereign, immortal King lives in unapproachable light! Sin has no place before Him. There is but one power in heaven strong enough to deliver us from the assured sentence of death that our sins require. There is but one power in heaven strong enough to wash us clean from the filth of our sin and present us holy, new and acceptable before the one true, great, and awesome King of kings, and Lord of lords, God Almighty. This one power is the shed blood of Jesus applied to our hearts by God the Holy Spirt! Make no mistake. We are all deserving of death, eternal separation from the living, and most holy God. Yet by the work of His matchless, amazing grace He forgives. By the work of His mercy He gives pardon. Sin is ugly and sometimes consequences of the choices we have made are saver and long lasting. Still as the modern song says of the love of God, “His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” 1 John 1:8-9 states, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We are not always faithful, but thanks be to God that He is faithful and just, and forgives us of our sins!


#4 Lie: I just have to wait for God to change my spouse.


The truth is that you must willingly participate with God to do your part to be the person God created you to be. Times of trials offer wonderful opportunity for self-reflection. The Bible tells us that, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him,” 2 Chronicles16:9 (ESV). I love the picture here of God searching diligently throughout the whole earth looking for those whose hearts are completely His, who are fully devoted to His purpose, and plans. When He finds them He becomes to them an anchor in the fiercest storm. We love the idea of God being our anchor in the storm, our strong tower in the face of our enemies, and our shelter in the storm. Yet God’s promise is for those whose heart is blameless toward Him. Too often we wait around for God to change others wholly unaware of the work God has yet to do in us before we can fully realize His amazing promises.


#5 Lie: There is no future for me.


The truth is that God knew the choices that you and your spouse would make before time began. As the Psalmist said, all the days ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be. God still has a plan for you as He did for Jeremiah, it is a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, it is a plan for a future and a hope!


Let me leave you with a final thought. Jesus taught a kind of, “Day by day,” principal by which to live. In the famous Sermon on the Mount He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words we might pray, “God give me today what I need today to get through today.” Later on in the same sermon Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The NLT simply puts the verse this way, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” If you are a child of God struggling with strife, infidelity, or divorce I’d like to encourage you to live life a day at a time. Each day make it your aim to live not according to your flesh, which is your natural instincts, but by to the will of God, according to the Word of God, through the power and direction of God the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul encouraged us in Galatians 5:16-17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

The Opioid Crisis Hitting America Today – Is There Hope?


Originally posted on The Christian Post:

By Brian Fontaine |

The drug problem in America and around the world has truly grown to epidemic proportions. President Trump stated in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 30, 2018, “In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses: 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour.” It is rare to meet anyone who doesn’t know someone affected by substance abuse.

Many people point in all directions looking for solutions. President Trump stated, “We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge. My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

William J. Bennett and Robert L. DuPont suggested in their June 30, 2017 Newsweek article, “But the main unaddressed nature of the opioid crisis is focus and energy on prevention.” Robert Charles also suggested in the Washington Times, “The current opiate crisis is traceable, in large measure, to false messages. States are promoting drug abuse — especially of marijuana — with false narratives. They must stop. Narratives suggesting drug abuse is relatively harmless, non-addictive, generally reversible, medically sustainable, or socially acceptable must stop.”

Part of the solution no doubt is to get tougher on drug dealers and pushers as well as helping get treatment for those in need as Trump suggests. Prevention too has its place on the table of solutions as suggested. Education is also part of the overall solution to the drug crisis. Still, I believe there is major piece of the puzzle that is missing from the national dialogue on this subject.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless amidst the growing number of lives lost to drug overdose each year but there is hope. Countless people have begun to find freedom as they came to believe that a power greater than themselves could restore their sanity. In a culture with an adversity to the 10 Commandments and where the Name of Jesus is offensive the power of God has been reduced to meaningless, “Christian,” platitudes and lifeless cliché sayings fit for greeting cards.

As followers of Christ may we never lose our faith in the power of God to change lives. The same Jesus who made the lame to walk and the blind to see, who caused the deaf to hear and raised the dead to life can bring resurrection power to the lives of those in bondage to addictions and compulsive behaviors. The Apostle Paul offered this word of encouragement to those in the city of Corinth sometime around A.D. 55. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:8 (ESV). These words ring true in 2018. The message of the cross of Christ, His death and resurrection, the message of hope for a new life through the power of God is to our culture foolishness. Yet to those of us who have tasted His goodness, have experienced His grace and mercy, who have begun to live by His strength, this message has proven to be the very power of almighty God.

The late Charles Colson, former insider of the Nixon White House, turned Evangelical Christian leader and founder of Prison Fellowship International said, “I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

After all of these years our hope remains the same. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13 (ESV). The hope that each of us has is in the power of God who works with in us to heal, restore, and to revitalize broken hearts.

Lewis Edgar Jones penned the words to this now famous song in the 1830’s, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” May we never lose our hope in the power of God who still heals the sick and raises the dead. Perhaps then the words of Trump will come to pass, “The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.”

Longing For Longing

Longing For Longing


Have you ever read the bible and been struck by the fervor from which the men of old wrote? It has often occurred to me that there is a greater passion, a greater zeal, and greater power in the lives of these men than is currently being experienced in my own life as it pertains to my relationship with God. The passion for God can be felt when we read verses 5 and 6 of the 130th Psalm, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” After the Apostle Paul made a list of his impressive earthly accomplishments he went on to say in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” At first glance you might chalk it all up to spiritual fervor much like the mountain top experiences we have after a particularly inspiring time at Sunday morning worship. But then we read passages where people say things like, blessed is the man who, “Delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” This is far more than some passing feeling. This is not some obligatory morning Bible reading. This is someone who has delighted himself in the Lord and in return God is showing them more and more of Himself. How I want this kind of vibrant, living, exciting, and precious relationship with God!


The Apostle Paul boldly stated, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Here Paul spoke of something that was worth losing everything for. Here Paul spoke of something so amazing, so profound, so valuable that the worth of everything else is but rubbish in comparison. And what was this great prize for which Paul sacrificed? It was the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, gaining Christ, and being found in Him!


Surely this knowing Christ and being found in Him is more than a feeling. Surely it is more than just a daily devotion before heading off to work. There is a hint in these words of a strong bond, a relationship. Paul knew Christ in same way one can know his loving father. It is more than just a knowing about him. It is an experiential knowing. Paul went on to say that his aim is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection that by all means possible he may attain the resurrection from the dead. I believe Paul is here speaking both literally and metaphorically. On one hand Paul is longing for a literal resurrection from the dead unto eternal life in the presence of his Savior, on the other hand I believe he speaks of a spiritual resurrection in this life.

The question remains as to how this knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection is to be obtained and or fostered. I think there is a strong hint within the words of Paul. In Philippians 3:10-11 Paul wrote, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”


Perhaps part of the cultivating this knowing of Christ, and the power of His resurrection has much to do with sharing in His suffering and becoming like Him in His death.

The author of Hebrews wrote, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood,” (Heb. 12:3-4). I confess at times I grow weary. The struggle against the sins of this world is real yet should not be surprising.

I picture a man holding a rope. At the end of the rope is sin. Sin is pulling the man with all of its might toward the sin. As the man resists he begins to sweat. He wraps the rope tighter around his hands and pulls against the force with all of his mite. Others grow weary and give in long before this point but the man holds on. The pressure from the sin is so great that the rope begins to cut into the man’s hands and they begin to bleed. How often do we give in long before the point of shedding blood?

I believe that part of cultivating a knowing of Christ and the power of His resurrection is directly related to sharing in His suffering, and becoming like Him in His death. This in part means that we suffer in the face of temptation. We are promised in Scripture that if we resist the devil he must flee. This is all well and good but first there must be some resisting. To resist is to stand against pressure.

In Ephesians chapter 6 the Apostle Paul spoke of the full armor of God. This armor is to protect us as we, “Wrestle,” in a spiritual sense. In a matter of just a few verses we are told that we must stand or withstand four times. This, I believe, is in part what it means to share in Christ’s suffering. It is to stand against, and withstand temptation.

The good news is that as we continue to cultivate this knowing of Christ and experience the power of His resurrection in our lives we behold His glory more and more. It is the glory of God that our souls long for. It is the glory of God that we truly hunger and thirst for. As God reveals His glory to us more and more we taste of it and suddenly hunger for more. We drink of it and suddenly thirst for even more of Him. The old hymn explains it this way, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” The good news is that as we share in His suffering, in part by resisting temptation, we see His glory all the more. As we see His glory all the more sin becomes less, and less pleasurable in light of His matchless glory.


May we burn with a passion for God as we cultivate a knowing of Him and the power of His resurrection!

A prayer by A. W. Tozer:

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully

conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I

long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know

Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come

away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’

name, Amen

Longing for Longing

By Brian H. Fontaine

Cold and dark, the ways of man

Show us how to die that we might rise again

Root from our hearts, that which is sin

That Tho in all Thy glory may enter in

We long for longing, Thirst for thirsting

To know the everlasting God beyond the knowing

Pain is a great place to start!


Step one of the 12 steps of AA states, “We admitted that we were powerless over our problems- that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Every journey has to start somewhere.  Ours starts with pain…

Let’s take a look at a lowly servant who found hope for a brighter future beyond her current situation in the darkest hour of pain.   

Genesis 16:1-15 (ESV)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.   And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”[e] 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi;  it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.


Like Hagar, in our active addiction we too run from the pain and hardships of life and seek comfort and peace in our addictions and compulsive behaviors.  Like Hagar, the challenges we face are real.  The pain is very real.

Hagar learned two valuable lessons that changed the course of her life.  We can learn from those same lessons and begin to find hope and freedom from not only our addictions, but also the pain that lead us there.

Hagar was so mistreated by Sarai that she could no longer stand it.  The near certainty of death for her and her child seemed to Hagar more bearable than one more night in Sarai’s home.  She had come to realize that she was powerless over her problems, and that her life had become unmanageable.

It was in this state of utter desperation that the Lord God heard Hagar’s cry.  The Lord God sent an angel to deliver a life changing message to the desperate woman.  What is just as notable as what the angel said to her that day is what the angel did not say.  We don’t read that the angel spoke harshly to Hagar commanding her to get her life together, or asking what is her problem.  We don’t hear the angel telling Hagar that it’s not that bad, or come on you can do this.  We don’t hear any negativity, criticism, or judgment.  Instead the angel offers hope.

Hagar was told that she was to bear a son and that she shall call his name Ishmael, which means, God hears.  Every time she was to call the name of her child Hagar would be reminded of the miraculous encounter with the angel of the Lord.  She would be reminded of the lowest, most desperate day of her life when from the darkness, God heard.

Questions to consider:

  1. In your darkest hour, at the lowest point in your life, in your addiction were you met with negativity, criticism, and judgment, or with grace, mercy, and hope?
  2. Are you hesitant to call out to God in your darkest hour, perhaps because you have fallen and repented and fallen again?
  3. Are you hesitant to call out to God because you feel like you have fallen so far that you aren’t sure He will forgive you?
  4. Do you wonder if God is even real, if He really knows you, if He cares?

Be encouraged, the same God who heard the cry of the lowly servant girl hears your cry.  The same God who had a future for Hagar has a future for you if you will only step into it.

The second lesson the Lord God had for Hagar was that beyond the pain of her current situation was hope for a brighter future if she was willing to follow God’s plan.  The same is true for us today.  The Lord spoke to another person in the Bible, Jerimiah.  He said to him, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” (Jerimiah 29:11)ESV.  God has plans for His children.  Unfortunately just like in our own lives children don’t always follow their parents and miss out on blessings.

God promised to bless Hagar but first she had to obey Him and return to her less than ideal situation.  The same is true of us today.  Believe it or not, God’s best plans often start at the deepest level of despair.  If you have come to the point in your life where you realize you are powerlessness over your problems and that life has become unmanageable, you are in a prime position to begin stepping into the brighter future beyond your current pain that God has planned for you!

Questions to consider:

  1. Have you come to the point in your life where you realize you are powerlessness over your problems and that life has become unmanageable?
  2. Do you believe God has a plan for your life?
  3. Why do you think we don’t always live out God’s plan and end up missing out on the blessings He desires for us?
  4. How are you encouraged by the life of the lowly servant Hagar?

Words Heal


The Bible says in Proverbs 15:4, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Woven into the fabric of my being are the countless words spoken to me by the people who have meant the most to me over the years. Among those people are Pastor Dean Christianson, former Pastor of Washington Church, and my first real mentor.  Pastor and counselor, Ed Bontraiger, is another man who spoke so much truth into my life.  Pastor Jim Wellsand is another whose words have impacted me.  Anyone who knows Pastor Jim is certainly familiar with his many, “Jimisms.”  Perhaps no one’s words have had a greater influence on my life than that of my mom and dad.

About a month ago my co-worker sneezed and several of us who were nearby said, “God bless you.” She sneezed again, and again we said, “God bless you.”  She sneezed again, at which point I said, “God bless you; now knock it off!”  She laughed as I explained that this was something my mom would always say.  This morning my co-worker told me that when she was out with her friend the other day her friend sneezed.  She told her friend, “God bless you; now knock it off.”  She then explained to her friend that where that silly phrase came from.

When I was a child my dad would take us on family outings, mostly to friends or relatives homes. When we would pull into our drive way back at home my father would often say, “Home again, home again, jiggidy jig.”

When you think of all of the wisdom passed down from your parents you might not think of such silly examples as these. When you think about all of the words spoken to you that make up who you are today you might not think about seemingly meaningless or arbitrary statements as theses, but I do.  I am so blessed to have grown up in a home where laughter and fun were celebrated and God and family were important.  It was in my parents’ home where I first heard those three most powerful words, “I love you.”  They told us kids that all the time.

Now whenever someone keeps sneezing I say, “God bless you; now knock it off!” Often when I pull in the driveway of my home I say, “Home again, home again, jiggidy jig.”  When I do I am reminded of the loving home where I was raised and I realize that those words are synonymous with these, “I love you.”

Every day you and I have the opportunity to be a Pastor Dean, Pastor Ed, or Pastor Jim to someone. We have the opportunity to use our words to build into someone’s life.  If you are a parent, no matter how old your child is today, you have the opportunity, from this day forward, to pour into them words of life.  Words that say, “I love you.”

I’d love to hear your story. What are some things your parents used to say?  What is the wisdom they passed on to you?  Leave a message in the comments below.