Taking Every Thought Captive
About the Guest
Has anyone ever broken your heart? Christian counselor Lou Priolo gives some sound advice for dealing with the emotions of a break-up. Lou explains that while we can't turn our emotions off, we can, with God's help, turn them around, and continue to love that person with the love of Christ, even if they aren't around.
Lou PrioloLou Priolo is the founder and president of Competent to Counsel International and has started several counseling centers throughout Alabama and Georgia. He is a graduate of Calvary Bible College and Liberty University, as well as holding a Doctorate of Divinity from Calvary University. He has been a full-time biblical counselor since 1985. He is the author of several books including The Heart of Anger, The Complete Husband, Teach Them Diligently, ...more
Has anyone ever broken your heart?
Taking Every Thought Captive
Bob: Have you ever experienced heartache in a relationship? If you’ve been in one for any length of time, undoubtedly, you’ve felt that pain. Lou Priolo says, “You’re not alone.”
Lou: Jesus was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. Jesus always walked around with a lot more sorrow than you and I do at any given point because He knew what He was about to face; but He never let the sorrow so fill His heart. He never allowed His sorrow to so consume Him, and that’s what the word “fill” means in the Greek—that it choked out all of His joy.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how we respond rightly to heartache. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have a “been dumped” story that goes back to when I was just out of college—
Dennis: People are wondering who has been dumped. [Laughter]
Bob: Now, I’ve been dumped. I was dumped. I got a “Dear Bob” letter from the young woman that I had dated for more than three years, and—
Dennis: Ooh! That’s an investment.
Bob: —it was a long time. I expected that this relationship would end up in marriage. I just wasn’t sure when that was going to happen. For her, the fact that I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen—
Dennis: So, you were dragging your feet?
Bob: Well, I—
Dennis: Your procrastination may have cost you, at that point.
Bob: It may have. Although the story had a happy ending because the young woman who dumped me—we ultimately got back together and got married. So, it does have a happy ending.
Dennis: Ohhhh! She drew a line in the sand and called for the question.
Bob: She sent the “Dear Bob” letter, and it was because she met another guy. I could tell the whole story, but here’s the thing. Here was the core of it. I remember getting the letter. I remember how I felt. I remember that I couldn’t eat a whole sandwich. I’d eat half a sandwich and I had no appetite left.
I remembered the morning I woke up after I had dreamed about Mary Ann. I remember saying, “Now, God, I’m trying to manage my thoughts; but my dreams—I can’t. You’ve got to help me on this one,” because you wake up dreaming about your old girlfriend. It was hard!
Dennis: Well, we have a counselor with us who has heard many a story like that. Lou Priolo joins us on FamilyLife Today. Lou, welcome back.
Lou: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Dennis: You’ve heard a few stories like this over the years. You have been in counseling for more than 25 years. You head up the Center for Biblical Counseling at Eastwood Presbyterian Church, down in Montgomery, Alabama.
Bob: You were nodding your head when I was talking about loss of appetite, when I was talking about not wanting to be alone, not wanting to sleep at night.
Lou: Very painful, very difficult, very lonely sometimes.
Dennis: You’ve written a book called Picking Up the Pieces: Recovering from Broken Relationships. Earlier, we were talking about how you have an illustration you use with both the “dump-er” and the “dump-ee” to explain what’s really happened—especially in a marriage relationship.
Lou: Typically, we explain to people that there are two bank accounts that are open. The first bank account is your spouse. The second bank account is a bank account that you opened with this other person. You have, over time, systematically removed the investments of time and thought—mostly thought, really—other things from your spouse and put it in this other bank.
I made the point that it’s as Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Now, you have feelings for both men or for both women. The solution to that is two-fold. You’ve got to realize that what you have done is wrong. You have to close the first bank account—and not only close it—but systematically, little by little, reinvest what you’ve taken from the first bank account, put into the second bank account—you’ve got to take those investments and put them back into the first bank account.
Bob: Let’s say there are a husband and wife. In this case, we’ll say it was the wife who was unfaithful. She opened a second bank account. She recognizes, “I need to close that account back. I need to go back and reinvest in my marriage. That’s what I want to do. I want to honor God.” She’s convicted. She comes back home to her husband and she says, “I’ve sinned against God and you. Will you take me back?”
Two questions: First of all, should he take her back right away? Should he be open to that? Secondly, what if he’s not ready to take her back? What does he need to do?
Lou: First question’s difficult to answer. I would say, as a general rule, “Yes.” If the person is repentant, you should take the other person back. Now, there may be exceptions to that. Again, that’s a very difficult question to be dogmatic about; but as a general rule, I would say, “Yes.”
I think the wisest thing to do in a case like this, Bob, is to have the leaders of the church interview the so-called repentant individual to ascertain, amongst themselves, whether or not the individual is repentant. Then, help the faithful partner determine what needs to be done, and how quickly it needs to be done, in order for the couple to get back together as quickly and reasonably as possible.
I think the other issue, though, that we have to remember here—whether the person comes back immediately or not—is that there is a big difference between forgiveness and trust. Jesus says we have to forgive someone when they’ve sinned against us. So, I sin against you, Dennis. I ask you to forgive me. You have got to, basically, take what I stole from you, put it on a silver platter, wrap it up in a big bow, and give it back to me. You’re obligated to forgive me. The trust that I lost, as a result of my sin, is not incumbent upon you to give me. I would argue, in some cases, it would be foolish for you to do that. It’s incumbent upon me to earn the trust back that I lost as a result of my sin.
Bob: I was speaking at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. During a break, I had a couple come up to me. The wife was in tears. She said, “Six weeks ago,” she said, “I found out that my husband had been unfaithful.” He’s standing right next to her. She said, “It was with a coworker—somebody that he spends a lot of time with. He was unfaithful over a period of six months. I just learned this six weeks ago.” She was sobbing as she told me.
She was asking the question—two questions, I think: First, “How do I deal with my emotions, which are flaring?” Then, the second question is, “How can I ever trust him again?” You talk about rebuilding trust. In her mind, six weeks later, he’s there—he’s broken, apparently. He’s telling me that it’s a little tricky. He’s trying to figure out—because he’s still working side by side with this woman. He works in a doctor’s office, and she’s the drug rep who comes by. It’s not easy for him. He’s not in control. We talked about he may have to change careers. Now, what does that do to the finances? I mean, it’s a tangled web; right?
Lou: It’s complicated. That’s right.
Bob: But for her, two issues: “How do I deal with these raging emotions?” Then, secondly, “How can I ever trust him again? This betrayal is so fundamental. I can’t even imagine trusting.”
Dennis: Let’s talk about the first part—about the emotions that are running rampant in this situation. You’ve got a woman, in this case, who has been ignored. There haven’t been any deposits made in her life. Now, she’s finding out why. They’ve all been going to this other bank account, with this other woman. She can’t help but feel violated— betrayed. The covenant has been breached.
Lou: In my experience—now, everything I’ve said on this broadcast, I’ve tried very much to substantiate biblically. What I’m about to say is based on experience. In my experience, when the faithful person finds out, there’s a period of time—usually, between six and eight weeks, when they are enraged.
I know, from experience, that if the faithful person continues on with the Lord—continues to faithfully read their Bible, continues to bring their thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, continues to respond internally in their thoughts and externally to their spouse in biblical ways—that in time, that anger will give way to compassion and to forgiveness, if we’re dealing with a genuine Christian.
Bob: So, the person who says, “Lou, every time I even think of him, all I see is an image of him being unfaithful. It’s just there in my head. I can’t get rid of it. I try to read my Bible. I try to pray, and every picture is him being unfaithful.”
Lou: Have you forgiven him? Yes or no?
Bob: “I’ve told him I forgive him.”
Lou: Okay. So, then, rather than wasting your time thinking about those things, put your mind to work on doing something biblical. Think about how you can bless him, think about how you can love him, and think about all the dozens of ways you can show him that you have, in fact, forgiven him. Don’t allow your mind to break that promise of forgiveness because when you told him you forgave him, you promised him that you weren’t going to dwell on it—as far as the east is from the west-sort of thing— “I will remember their iniquities no more,” the Lord says, “against them.”
Bob: So, when the picture pops in my head, what do I do?
Lou: You think about a way to love your husband. You think about something that is true, and honest, and just, and pure. You basically put your mind on a Philippians 4:8-think list but mostly towards how you can demonstrate love to your husband.
Dennis: Okay, I get this when the husband is there to be able to love. What if the husband has divorced his wife? He’s not there to love. He’s run off with somebody else. The wife is there, and these images come up. She’s just finding it difficult to get beyond the sadness, the grief, the sense of betrayal, rejection, and loss that she’s experiencing. What does she do, at that point? I know it’s the same thing in some regards, but the time it takes to get over this is not going to be the same.
Bob: You don’t flip a switch on this.
Lou: That’s right. Well, you don’t flip a switch on any of these things. You can’t turn your emotions off; but little by little, by God’s grace, you can start to turn them around.
That’s an interesting question, Dennis. It’s an important one. It’s so important that I actually address it in the appendix of the book. This is Appendix E: You Don’t Have to Say, “I Love You”. What I’ve done in this appendix is—I’ve taken the 15 elements of First Corinthians 13 love. I’ve demonstrated some possible ways that you can demonstrate or show love to an ex- who is not involved in your life, at the moment. In absentia, there are actually things you can do to show love, even though the person is no longer in your life. Now—
Bob: So, for example—give me an example of one of those things you could do.
Lou: Well, I’ve got them broken down. Love is patient; okay? I will not lose my temper—have a short fuse when my ex- doesn’t “whatever”. Okay? I will be forbearing with my ex-‘s foibles and idiosyncratic behaviors.
Many of the things—and I could do the same thing—love is kind; love does not envy. Many of these manifestations of love in First Corinthians 13 have to do with our thought process. So, just like we fell in love with our sweetheart—largely, by the things we did to, and for, and with him—and largely, by the things we told ourselves about him—so we can tell ourselves certain things and not tell ourselves—refuse to tell ourselves certain things about him—and love him biblically, even though he is nowhere in sight.
Dennis: Okay, I can hear a person saying, “That sounds real easy to say”—
Lou: Oh, it’s not easy to do, but it’s biblical. It’s possible, if you’re a Christian.
Dennis: I agree with you, but we were made in the image of God. We are emotional creatures. I don’t understand all this, but I know somehow that reflects who God is. There is an emotion—that we experience—that you write about. In fact, you have a whole chapter on this. It’s sorrow. What happens to the person who feels like they have just been taken down river, and it’s the Mississippi? It’s wide, it’s deep, it’s got swift current, and it is just keeping me paralyzed.
Bob: Yes, they say things like, “It would be better if my ex-spouse was dead because then I’d have closure; but she’s still alive, and I can’t get closure. The sorrow is just consuming me.”
Lou: Yes, that sorrow sounds like mixed in with a little bit of bitterness, which I also address in the book.
Jesus said something very interesting about sorrow. From time to time, He would remind the disciples that He was not going to be around on earth for a long period of time. They had various reactions to it—they didn’t like—but at one point, He says to them, “I’ve told you these things that I’m going to be leaving, and sorrow has filled your heart.” Now, that’s an interesting way to put things.
Jesus was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. Jesus always walked around with a lot more sorrow than you and I do, at any given point, because He knew what He was about to face—unthinkable sorrows that He carried around in His heart while He was walking on earth, but He never let the sorrow so fill His heart—that’s what the word, fill, means in the Greek. He never allowed His sorrow to so consume Him that it choked out all of His joy,—
Dennis: You use—
Lou: —all of his happiness.
Dennis: You use the words, “He was acquainted”—“acquainted with sorrow.” Sorrow didn’t control Him.
Lou: That’s right. Even though He had a lot more sorrow than we can imagine in His heart, He also had joy. He also had peace. He also had happiness. He also was able to fulfill His ministries. He had to take care of other things. He was a carpenter. He had to take care of His mother, at some point. He never allowed the sorrow to choke out even His other biblical responsibilities.
So, the answer to your question—the short answer—I mean—this is very difficult. I’m not trying to give a quick answer. I know that this is difficult to do; but I can tell you of hundreds of people, by God’s grace, who have been able to handle this in a biblical way. The solution to the problem is to basically do two things. First, we must do the things that the Bible says we must do in order to fulfill our responsibilities.
You say, “But I don’t have the energy to do that.” Well, fine, you may only be doing it the first day or two at 20 or 30 percent efficacy; alright? The next week, maybe you’ll be at 40 percent, but you cannot just stop fulfilling your responsibilities because you are so filled with grief. You’ve got to do the things that the Bible says you must do—fulfill your ministries as much as you can, fulfill your responsibilities as best you can. Then, in time, your sorrow will get back down to a manageable level. That’s the first thing.
The second thing you have to do—and this is probably more important. You’ve got to think the kind of thoughts that will produce joy, and peace, and happiness, and forgiveness. It really is a matter, even in the midst of one’s sorrow, to bring his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. As, over time, a person thinks biblically and responds biblically to life—little by little, those sorrows will get back down to a manageable level.
It may take weeks. More likely, it’s going to take months; but in time, if you are a Christian, and if you are doing what the Bible says you should do, and thinking the way the Bible says you should think, those sorrows will assuage.
Dennis: I have to tell you, Lou, you’ve just said one of the hardest things for me to do, personally. It’s Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise”—the following phrase, Lou, is what you’ve just said that’s very difficult for me to do—“think about these things.”
Dennis: My emotions can kind of do a body slam on me. I mean, they just feel like they grab me by the nape of the neck—
Dennis: —and I feel them welling up. It’s difficult to call out to your mind in those moments; but what I hear you saying to us—and frankly, what the Scripture commands us to do— “Think about these things.” Don’t be controlled by your anger, your resentment, and your bitterness. Let go of those things and think about the things that are pure, commendable.
Lou: Let me say, “I have no idea of what you’re talking about because I never respond that way!” [Laughter]
Dennis: I want to call your wife, if that’s the case. I want to call Kim, right now.
Lou: Yes, and my girls, yes; but no, Dennis, that is very true. We have the ability to speak to ourselves—that may be a thousand words per minute, especially when the adrenaline is going—but the problem with most of us, and myself especially, is we listen to ourselves rather than talk to ourselves—
Lou: —and as Christians, we’ve got to learn how to talk to ourselves the truth of God’s Word, rather than listen to ourselves.
Hey, I just thought of a great illustration.
Lou: Okay, I’m sitting—we’re all sitting in front of these big, enormous microphones. Our listeners are going to have to imagine this, but let’s suppose this room that we’re in is a library. Along all of the walls of this room are all kinds of really, really good books; and there’s this one microphone at this desk. This desk represents—and this microphone represents my mind. Basically, whatever I say into this microphone is going to determine how I think, and how I feel, and, ultimately, what I do.
Now, I can speak into this microphone good things or bad things; but if I’m in the habit of speaking unbiblical things into this microphone, without stopping to think, it does me no good. I have all of these good books surrounding me; but if I’m lying into the microphone, it’s not going to do any good.
I may have to get out of the chair for a moment, go over to the shelf, pull out one of those books, open those books and—even against my feelings—start speaking into the microphone the truth that I have internalized. It really is a matter of our learning how to speak the truth in our heart. As the psalmist said, how to bring our thoughts captive rather than to allow ourselves to mindlessly—because our emotions drive us sometimes—continue to think the things that are not true, and honest, and just, and pure.
Dennis: If we’re talking to somebody who’s wondering what those books are, one of them is Philippians. Turn to the fourth chapter; and it is verse eight. That’s the passage you need to read to speak into the microphone to remind your mind how you’re to think, feel, and do.
Bob: Well, I don’t want to suggest that Lou Priolo’s book is on par with Philippians; [Laughter] but his book is a helpful book in this regard, as well. It’s called Picking Up the Pieces. One of the reasons it’s so helpful is because you can hardly turn to a page in this book without the Scriptures being addressed—being cited—without us being reminded of what the Scriptures teach us about how we deal with hurt, and loss, and pain in relationships, how we respond rightly, how we speak into the microphone and counsel our on soul about what’s going on and what’s really true in our lives.
We’ve got copies of Lou’s book, Picking Up the Pieces, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order copies of the book from us by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329; 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Again, the title of the book is Picking Up the Pieces by Lou Priolo.
You know, one of the things that is always encouraging for us—in fact, I did this just the other day. I was on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, and there’s the information there about each day’s program. Below it, there’s an opportunity to leave comments or to read comments that others have left about a particular program. I clicked on and just read a few of the comments about a recent series and was so encouraged to read accounts of how God used something that a guest said or something that you said, Dennis, to really encourage them, or to equip them, or to just remind them of what’s true.
Our commitment here at FamilyLife Today is to effectively develop godly families—the kind of families that change the world, one home at a time. Our goal is to see every home become a godly home. You may say, “Well, that’s impossible.” I would say, “Well, that’s what we’re aiming for.” We’ll let God worry about the possible; we’re just going to stay faithful to what He’s called all of us to be about. We want to thank those of you who support that goal through your financial support of this ministry. You share with us in this outreach, and we appreciate it.
This month, if you’re able to make a donation in support of FamilyLife Today—help us cover the cost for producing and syndicating this daily radio program—we’d like to send you a CD of a message called What Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew about Men—a message presented to an audience of women several months ago, where I had a chance to talk about guys and what’s going on with men—how we think, how we feel, and what we wish women understood a little bit better than they sometimes do.
The CD is our thank-you gift to you this month when you make a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. All you have to do to make a donation is go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE”. You can fill out the online donation form, and we’ll send you out a copy of this CD automatically; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation by phone. Be sure to ask for the CD for wives about husbands. We’ll know what you’re talking about. We’ll be happy to send that out to you. Thanks so much for standing with us and for your support of this ministry. It really does mean a lot to us.
We hope you can join us back here again tomorrow. Lou Priolo is going to be our guest again. We’re going to talk tomorrow about liars. What do you do if the person you’re married to or if one of your children is a liar? How do you handle that? How do you respond? We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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