Today our guest is Melissa Gendreau. Melissa is a Christian therapist, wife and mom out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has a heart for working with families. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she worked with teens in a children’s home through the Boys Town organization.
She felt led to pursue a master’s degree in community counseling after noticing the disparity between children and their families when working only with the children. During her graduate studies, she worked at Offutt Airforce Base, with military families.
She later worked at an assessment center. She learned about diagnosing children for treatment and placement, but was discouraged that she did not get to see the outcomes for these children.
Spiritually, this was difficult. It was not a Christian center, and she had to emotionally detach in her role there. She currently works in a Christian Counseling center and blogs about her experience as a Christian therapist.
What Can I Do If My Spouse is Spiritually Immature?
1.) Meet them where they are. It is not unusual for a crisis of faith to emerge when circumstances such as health scares or marital issues occur. If your spouse is struggling, Melissa advises “meeting them where they are. We can’t nor are we supposed to ‘force’ anyone into faith.”
2.) Pray for your spouse. It’s most important to pray for them. Pray for God to work in their hearts and to soften areas that have hardened.
3.) Pray for yourself so that you know how to be there with them. Pray for God to be able to guide you. Pray for wisdom of when to pursue opportunities and when to be patient.
You will have to be mindful of avoiding nagging your spouse. We have a tendency to want to “nudge” our spouses into a direction. It is not helpful. You want your demeanor to encourage an open dialogue.
4.) Have a conversation with your spouse where you ask them what role they feel comfortable with you playing. They may be comfortable praying with you, or may not.
You may find it may not be your role to help guide your spouse back to God; it could be someone else’s. You may have to be willing for you spouse to speak with a godly friend or elder of your church instead of you.
What Is My Role In Helping My Spouse?
Your role may be to be a cheerleader, a teacher, or to be a good listener who provides the environment for them to explore. Ask your spouse what role they are comfortable with you playing. We are prone to try to guess this, but this is not helpful. Be direct. Ask.
Melissa affirms that if the spouse is allowed to question, it creates opportunities to actually deepen faith. Don’t get caught up in the mentality that we should not question things, because our relationship is to be a personal one with God. It is not someone else’s faith, it’s yours. Don’t just worship God with a blind faith because someone else told you to.
If you are to stand back and play the role of someone who prays for the situation, it is going to be important to give God control and trust in Him. If we do not do this, we could actually do more harm than good and sabotage the process.
Q & A With Melissa
As a therapist, what do you find most helpful when working with clients?
Teaching clients the progression of thoughts lead to emotions and behaviors. Thoughts are based on past experiences, past hurts, and our perceptions of reality. Through these our emotions flow.
It’s important to understand the thought process. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul says we have to take our thoughts captive. We need to make this a practice.
Ask yourself if your thoughts are aligned biblically or are they irrational. If you find that you are discouraged because of your behaviors or emotions, it is important to learn where they are coming from and to work on how you think. Many times people act on untruths that they have believed to be true.
What is your most effective relationship skill?
Understanding your own worth through God, your identity in Christ. Your self-worth flows out in your interactions with people. If you do not love yourself well, others will not treat you well, either. God’s love can’t flow out of us if we do not accept that He loves and values us, too.
If we do not acknowledge His love for us as individuals, it cannot flow out to others from us. If we are not connected FIRST with God, then any ministerial work or relationships with others will burn out as we are trying to do things out of our own energy not from God.
What is your current passion?
I am in the process of writing a bible study for parents of teens. The focus of it is to help parents of teens to be able to address difficult topics that are happening right now. Our teens are struggling and questioning faith in comparison to what society talks about.
I met with teens at my church and asked them “What do you feel like your parents don’t know or don’t understand about such and such topic so that they can help you better?”
I then reached out to the parents and asked the exact same thing. The goal is to be able to address some of these big society topics, but recognize that from a biblical standpoint all of these have an answer. Giving the parents the tools that this is just as relevant today as two thousand years ago.
My hope is for it to be available on my website in 2019.
Final Lap: Speed Round
What has been your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?
There have been times where I’ve questioned whether I’m worthy of His love. I’ve allowed my own past insecurities to get in the way. I’ve had to remember and focus on God’s truth. Making sure that I’m armed with God’s truth about what He says about me.
Sometimes clients will feel like they have had success with their anxiety, depression or in their family and then feel they are under attack. It means you are living life for God. You’re being a little bit of thorn in Satan’s side.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
You don’t have to do and be all things. I can say ‘no’ and that won’t affect my worth.
Who do you admire the most, other than a biblical figure, and why?
My husband. He is a stay-at-home, homeschool daddy. He is my techie. It’s not at all what he envisioned for his life. God started nudging us and it is something he willing embraced. He is an amazing teacher to the kids. How beautiful that is to see–dad teaching the kids!
What is your favorite book, besides the Bible, and why?
I read all the time. The book “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge is a favorite. It is such a beautiful book about how God designed women. I’ll recommend that to a lot of my female clients, but I’ve also recommended it to husbands, to read, too. I love the vulnerability and the clarity that that book provides.
More recently, I’ve read “Everybody Always” by Bob Goff. He writes it so full of God’s love. Just be love. It’s not so easy when the people around you aren’t so loveable. He talks about loving everybody always; no matter what, and how amazing and powerful that can be to other people and glorifying to God. It’s a delightful easy read.
Meet everybody where they are. That’s the most important thing we can do for everyone around us. When we start putting expectations on other people, the relationships start going down. But when we meet them where they are, it’s so much easier to love them and provide joy to them and get to be that support and encouragement that they need.
I think sometimes people misunderstand this and think it means that we accept everything they are doing. No, it means to love who they are as a person, and be able to stand beside them, to walk with them on that journey wherever they need to go.
You may not agree with what they are doing at all. That doesn’t mean you accept or encourage the behaviors that they are doing, but instead love them as people, hopefully guiding them along the way.
Facebook: Humble Faith Family Wellness page