Abuse. Though we read about horrible, twisted, terrible abuses happening all over our world, for most of us, to some degree, abuse has hit home with us personally. Maybe you are one of the few that have escaped hard and difficult abuse, but each one of us has been impacted in one way or another by abuse going on around us.
It is unremarkable, but the Bible speaks directly and often regarding abuse. I say it is unremarkable because the Bible speaks to all issues regarding the souls of people. Abuse is certainly a soul level issue. It shouldn’t surprise us that the Bible speaks so much about abuse.
Abusing is sin. Being abused is being sinned against.
Unfortunately, sin and being sinned against can both be quite complicated by our own sin natures as we process guilt, retribution, vengeance, fear, anger, and bitterness. Both fact and feelings can get twisted up in our souls and often further sin is the result. That sin spiral often defines who we are; we are abusers, or we are victims of abuse.
God gives us hope in His power by showing us examples in the lives of His people in Scripture and by explaining His plan for each of us as we endure His sin-cursed world.
God has given us many accounts of abuse in the pages of Scripture. The account of Joseph’s life broadly covers a life of abuse. In Genesis 37 we read of his siblings hatred and his imprisonment in a pit, threats of death, and ultimately his being sold into slavery. His dad was told he was dead, ripped to pieces by a lion. Genesis 39 picks up with Joseph being sexually harassed and ultimately assaulted by his boss’ wife. His upstanding character was maligned in that situation, which lead to him being thrown into prison for years. This account of mental, verbal, physical, and sexual abuses would lead us to expect a basket-case of bitterness, low self-esteem, and sinful/destructive coping habits. Most self-respecting psychologists would expect very little success dealing with at person with such baggage. Providentially, we have Chapter 40, which shows us a definitive resolve to all the abuse. Joseph is given power and authority over his sexual abuser and faces his brothers with absolute power over their lives. He literally has the ability to do as he wishes, being the second in command in the land of Egypt. Joseph’s worldview shined brightly as he faced his brothers with brokenness and kindness. Because he saw God as sovereign and good, he could see His hand in the details of his life, carrying him through the years and years of difficult trials for a greater purpose that was far outside of his earthly vision. There was something about his faith in The Great Creator God that allowed him to interpret the abuses in ways that refined him into a lover of God, strengthening his faith and trust, regardless of the situation. Joseph didn’t allow the abuses to define who he was and thus his future. Though we don’t have record of all the anguish and struggle of soul that he went through as he endured the years between the pit and the palace, we know the outcome. It is crystal clear. The abuses didn’t define him. They refined him. We see him successfully choosing to live God’s way, with excellence, honesty, and diligence toward all, including his abusers. He finished well, something we would never expect, considering the abuses he endured.
The Apostle Paul shows us how God can rescue an abuser and turn him into a man that lives with an effervescent love for the people of God. Acts 8:3 talks of Paul “ravaging the church, and entering house after house,” dragging men and women off to prison. In chapter 9 he was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Paul had a lifestyle of murder and persecution. He hurt a lot of people. He was defined by abusing. He had a reputation that even after three years away from the public he was still not trusted. People were scared of him and rejected him (see Acts 9 and Gal 1:11-24). But God stepped in in Acts 9 and we see a miraculous enlightening of Paul’s eyes to the truth of who God is. At that point, Paul could have crawled away into depression and despondency or he could have pressed on, rejecting God and hurting people (if God would have allowed that, which Paul preached concerning God’s limitations on our lives in Acts 17). While we might like a blinding light in the road and a voice from heaven, we have been given the amazing, enlightening Word of God in the Bible and an army of ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Co 5:10ff) that God has empowered to share the Word with us as we go through the abuses we face. With the power of God convicting him and cleansing him, Paul was able to move past the abusing and become refined into one of the most passionate and loving men of the Bible, impacting thousands throughout the regions of the Mediterranean.
The key to breaking the defining cycle and allowing God to refine us through the fires of abuse is three-fold. The first is to run to the foot of the Cross. Each of us must submit to Christ and cry out to Him for protection and wisdom. Considering our weakness, we really have no hope in ourselves. King David wrote Psalm after Psalm depicting his trust in God for protection and rescue from abusive people that were out to malign and kill him (Psalm 2, 3, 4…). Romans 8 is a great chapter to study out on the freedom we have in Christ. It culminates in verses 38 and 39; “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We must learn to put our hope in Christ whether we are in the pit or the palace. We need to be refined in the hard times, understanding that He alone can be the security and peace that we so long for.
Second is to immerse yourself in the Word. There is no substitute. Our minds are traps, trapping in all sorts of pieces of information and then processing that information, putting value and priority on each piece. Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 lay out the power of the Word to impact our thinking and our actions. The Word is a light to our paths regardless of how dark they are (Ps 119:105). Proverbs 4:23 commands us to guard our hearts (souls) with all diligence. We need to filter out the stuff that clogs up and degrades our thinking. Psalm 119:9 and Ephesians 5:26 talk about the cleansing effect of the Word. Without the Word flowing often and deep in our thinking, we are prone to believe things that aren’t true and make decisions based on our feelings. Believing lies and making decisions based on feelings are two cardinal, entrapping flaws that too often dominate our lives. The Word illuminates truth and lies and provides wisdom to know what to do in the situations we face.
Third is to connect with biblically solid people that will speak into your life. Second Corinthians 5 teaches about the ministry of reconciliation that God has given to all true believers in Christ. As ministers of reconciliation, we are to be at the work of urging others to live with clear, clean relationships with God and others (2 Co 5:18-20). Two things happen when we connect with biblically solid people. They challenge and sharpen us with encouragement and admonition and we challenge and sharpen them. Romans 15:14 reminds us that each of us are able to minister Truth to one another. A study of the One Another commands is revealing and convicting as they paint a picture of people ministering to (caring for) one another. When we look at the church we should see people caring for one another, connecting with one another to encourage and admonish each other. For those involved with abuse, the church should be a group of people that connect by taking time with each other, talking biblically together about real issues, praying together, and walking through the hard things together.
Run, Immerse, Connect; the three-fold key to breaking the defining cycle of abuse and experiencing freedom in the refining process God has orchestrated to prepare us for His glory in the Kingdom of Heaven that is to come.
The question of this article rests with our need to be attentive to and help our children learn to choose wisely as they are being bombarded by a plethora of temptations and influences.
Deuteronomy 6 shows that biblical parents are to be attentive to the influences that impact their children. I would assume that all good parents are concerned, if not worried, about the influences that are incessantly crowding in on their children. In today’s culture (as it always has been) it is a justified concern, if not worry. Influences and temptations have been a problem since the Garden of Eden. Certainly, we can start our own list as we look at the degradation of American culture. Whether it is people, ideas, media, or Google searches, influences bombard our souls.
Take a thorough look at what influences are weighing heavily on your child’s thinking. As you work through that study, look carefully at what is revealed about his values and the motivations of his heart. You want to know the “why’s” as they reveal the real him, who he really is. I John 2:16 says that the temptations of our world are at least threefold: things that appeal to our flesh (feel good), things that appeal to our sight (look good-could be inner satisfaction), and things that appeal to our arrogance. Each of those arenas of temptation appeals to our inner-man, our heart. In this passage, the Apostle John frames the concept as our “love.” It is at the Heart level, where “loves,” motivations, and values are formulated, that you want to engage and influence them with God and His Truth.
How do we become an “influence manager” in the lives of our kids? A business manager is tasked with identifying problems and solution processes, as well as organizing and utilizing all resources to produce a stated goal or outcome for the owner. As an Influence Manager, we are working for God in the life of His child. That fact should bring us to a greater level of focus and commitment to the task of parenting. God tasks us to bring Truth to bear on our child’s thinking so the influences that they face are seen clearly for what they are. So, we want to “manage” the influences by making sure our kids have their eyes wide open to the dangers and blessings in the many “voices” that are impacting their thinking. Our goal is our children’s spiritual and physical success, which will be a result of their thinking. Lessons about influences are clearly laid out in the commands and detail of Deuteronomy 6-11.
In Deuteronomy 6 and following, we see the commands to:
Set Your Stage--
The “stage” of your own personal pursuit of Loving God with all of your heart is where your influence plays out. While it would be great to just demand that they not listen to certain influencers, that would only work in a perfect police state…so, the key is to have the opportunity (the stage) to help your son or daughter learn which influencers to listen to and ones from which to guard their hearts (see Proverbs 4:23).
Foundationally, as biblical parents, we first have to be concerned with loving (think worshipping) and obeying God ourselves. We have to make that personal choice to love God with all that we are and then live that love out in obedience to His word (commands) (v5). God’s command to love Him is the prerequisite to teaching and training your children in the same spiritual issues of obedience and worship. Honoring God is the only way you can be the influence that God has called you to be (v6-7). Otherwise, your influence is part of what is drawing them away from God. When we don’t love (worship) God and pursue obedience to Him, it is like we are smoking our own brand of flesh and then trying to tell our kids to quit smoking the brand they like…They probably won’t buy the drama…
Engage the Heart--
There is no better way to get a full, robust picture of your kids’ hearts than to spend copious amounts of time with them. A lack of time engaging our kids’ hearts often results on us forming assumption-based conclusions and corrections. Some parents worry about what their children are doing on Friday night. I have to ask why those parents aren’t doing something with their children on Friday night? You must take time to be around to see the influences. Those will be influences that you physically see and those that you see the results of in your kids’ thinking and actions.
One of the biggest struggles I hear about is that a son or daughter won’t let the parent influence him at heart level. They won’t listen to them or maybe even flat out tell them to get out of their life and leave them alone. Though I plan to give an entire article to this in the near future, the short answer is that the parent of the struggling kid often must start small with kind, loving words, then work his way up to dates and creating special events and opportunities to spend time together. It may be that you are at a place where there aren’t a lot of opportunities to say positive, heart level words. Pray for and look for opportunities to get in those positive comments and kind actions. They know they are hard to live with and you have the opportunity to show the supernatural fruit of God’s Spirit at work in you (producing patience, kindness, gentleness, etc). Proverbs 20:5 highlights the truth that we have to become wise, carefully, discerningly working to prove that we are trustworthy enough for our children to open their hearts to us. It will take time to really study your child as well as deep thinking on your part. It will take a serious investment of “you” to prove your unconditional love. It is that level of love that compels us to love and honor God and it is that same level of love that provokes a humble and loving response from our children. Understand that it may have been a long time, if you have ever seen that response from your child, but the same is true of God’s relationship with us…yet Christ was and is faithful to pursue us.
Train with the Word--
The Deuteronomy passage is crystal clear that the Words (commands) of God are to be a central part of our lives.
Challenge their Worship—We need to look for opportunities to challenge our children in positive ways regarding the temptations (by influencers) they face to worship something other than God. When we position ourselves between our kids and their influences we parent by authority (and we can find that there are influencers that we miss or can’t quite block our kids from). We can also look like we are facing off against them and the influencers become a way to get away from us. When we position ourselves beside our kids, pointing them toward God we are in a better position to influence. God lays out some of the key areas that we need to train/challenge our children to make good decisions about things that affect their worship of God. Here are three that are predominate ones in Deuteronomy (for an old-school pastoral play on words I titled them "Whine, Women, and Worldliness").
Though you may have come to this article looking for a way to control the influences that your kids face, I hope you have been drawn to a greater challenge, one that also rests at the core of our children’s (and our) greatest need; to learn to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Mathew 22:37). Becoming an Influence Manager is about coming alongside and helping our children learn to love and worship God amidst the temptations and influences of our world.
Sinful sexuality has likely existed since shortly after the Fall of Man, and though nearly every ancient culture has embraced sexual debauchery on a national scale, America is relatively new to the practice.
The Sexual Revolution that started in the 1920’s primarily affected the lower class and fringe citizens. Promoted by those fighting for their right to get drunk, this dingy, back-room thinking was still considered base and dirty by the average American. Young people were easily sheltered from its effects.
However, the Sexual Liberation of the 1960’s had a different impact. Even though they focused on more extreme forms of sexuality, they managed to force their beliefs into a much wider slice of mainstream thinking. There wasn’t a class or demographic that wasn’t affected by the shifting tide of sexual thought. This made it far more accessible and culturally acceptable — especially to young people.
But the Sexual Explosion of the 2000’s hasn’t merely pile-driven its way into the majority of American homes . . . it’s highjacked our families. Today, sinful sexuality is not only considered acceptable by the majority of teens and young adults, but it’s the practical life-blood of our culture. In fact, to reject the Sexual Explosion’s teachings is to be considered abnormal, intolerant, and worthless.
At every turn our children are being led to believe that lifestyles that were once viewed as perverted and/or sinful for thousands of years are now the generally accepted norm. And it only took less than 50 years to do it.
What’s the danger our children are facing, and what can we parents do about it?
A number of years ago I predicted on Facebook that if homosexuals won the legal right to “marry,” people with all sorts of aberrant sexual fantasies would come begging for their piece of the pie. I proposed that gay “marriage” would be remembered by history as little more than the gateway drug for a dynamic sexual explosion in America. And though I had gay-rights advocates booing my prophecy, it took less than a year for my prediction to come true. But now, given the massive push in transgenderism, I believe we need to broaden our predictions and consider the implication all of this will have on our families. I believe that — barring an act of God — your children will see the following forms of sexuality legalized (or at least generally accepted) in their lifetime.
So, what does this mean for our families?
Lord willing, these predictions will be wrong. We’ll see. But I don’t think so.
Consider Romans 1:24-32, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
At the same time, we need to hold on to sanctified optimism. God can do anything and everything He sees fit. We’ve seen great spiritual awakening and revival many times in this nation. Perhaps the Lord will see fit to use His people to affect such a change before we die. That would be amazing, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Remember, this prediction can only come true “barring an act of God.” May we all be used as that act of God. Of course, today the real concern is not what the world is going to do, but what we need to do to prepare our children for the attack. Even if the predictions above don’t come true in our children’s lifetime, there are more than enough sexual attacks barraging them. How do we prepare our three year old, our thirteen year old, and yes, even our twenty-three year old?
Here are the two most powerful suggestions I can give you.
1. Talk about Biblical Sexuality Early and Often.
For decades, the “birds and bees” was an awkward discussion had in an awkward way at an awkward time because no one wanted to deal with it — and they didn’t really know how. May I say, that was an atrocity. In fact, I’m going out on a limb to say that parents not talking about sexuality from a biblical perspective early and often helped to lay the groundwork for the Sexual Revolution. Christian parents weren’t telling theirs kids about sex, so the world did it for them. This — in turn — led to the Sexual Explosion of the new millennium. However, I do understand our hesitancy. The idea of introducing a potentially destructive thing like sexuality into the pure mind of an otherwise innocent child is petrifying.
But it’s also a lie. None of the things I wrote above are actually true. The first and worst claim I made was that sexuality is an impure, destructive entity. Sexuality is just like everything else in this world — it was created to be a perfect and beautiful part of the human experience, but sin has corrupted it. Yes, it can be used to destroy, but when we scare kids into thinking that sex is wicked, we’re lying to them about how God created them and the plan He has in store for them.
Another major lie of which we try to convince ourselves is that our children’s minds are “pure.” Our children’s minds aren’t pure. They’re full of selfish lusts. And if we define “pure” as free of sexual thoughts, we will be surprised that they’re not pure in that context either. God created us to be sexual beings within the right relational context, and we’re not 100% certain when those drives and desires kick in. For some children, they start thinking sexual thoughts around puberty, but for others it can happen as early as kindergarten or sooner. I’m not even referring to the sexual thoughts that have been imposed from the outside. I’m just discussing the natural desires and thoughts that organically arise in a child’s mind because they’re human. I know that’s daunting to consider, but we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking they are “innocent” just because they’re young. I think most of us just need to pause and try to remember our first sensual thoughts.
The third lie I spoke was the idea that I’ll be the first one to introduce sexuality to my children. That’s impossible. It doesn’t matter if you homestead in Montana, there will always be husbands and wives who kiss, babies being born, barn dances, and countless other looks, posturing, films, songs, and books that hint at, flirt with, and subconsciously point to the sexual reality in all human beings. Please, do not avoid the topic of sexuality with your kids because you don’t want to be the first to sully their pristine minds with wicked thoughts of sex. None of that is true. I’ve been introducing sexuality to my children since they were old enough to understand language. The key isn’t whether to deal with it, the key is how. And as long as you deal with it biblically, there’s plenty of material in the Bible itself, and plenty more material that was founded on it. As an example, you can’t get through the first few chapters of Genesis before you encounter men, women, nakedness, marriage, sex, sin, shame, and child-bearing. Allow the Scriptures to be your starting point as you train your children in God’s Word.
But there are also great resources that provide a script.
2. We need to encourage others to talk about it early and often.
Not only has Christian culture convinced us that we shouldn’t talk about sexuality with our kids, many people have totally outlawed anyone talking to our kids about sexuality. I’ve preached in Christian schools where sexuality was completely off the table for anyone — including the teachers and pastors in the school. I’ve met parents who refuse to send their children to purity conferences like the ones that evangelist Ben Schettler organizes. This is a travesty! We need trustworthy men and women speaking Truth into our children’s lives. Why would we forbid them from addressing this topic? Because we’re afraid. But God has not given us a spirit of fear. He’s provided us a spirit of love and a sound, mature mind. Yes, we need to be wise, but why do we shy away from this topic? The world is pushing it down their throats!
I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, fifteen minutes past nowhere. I need to drive 45 minutes into another state to get to the closest Walmart. And yet, my family has seen all of the following while at Walmart: teens making out, homosexual couples, a man dressed as a woman, magazines featuring pictures and words all about sex, music that discusses sex, posters, movies, books, calendars, games, and makeup advertisements using sex to sell. And we were only there for 45 minutes! If you take your child to Barnes and Noble, swing through the children’s section, and head straight to the cash registers, your kids will see a number of things, not the least of which is a Playboy magazine sitting right at their eye level when the reach the check-out.
We must not fail our children in providing them a substantial, foundational, unmovable, and unashamedly biblical groundwork for sexuality. We need to speak that truth into their lives, and we need to enlist other God-fearing men and women to do the same.
This is why, every year, we take the students at Victory Academy on a week long snowshoe retreat. During that retreat we discuss God’s plan for satisfaction, and we relate it to everything from food to money to sexuality. We’re doing everything we can to help parents in the daunting task of training their children to understand God’s plan for sexuality. We’re also creating a sexual addictions curriculum to help everyone break the chains of sin in their lives.
If we’re not careful, Christians will lose this battle. But we’ll only lose it because we’re ill-equipped and afraid. The world system has all of its bullet-points orchestrated perfectly with its entertainment system to keep their philosophy of sex ever before your children . . . regardless of the age. Homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality are just some of the issues your children are and will be faced with in every imaginable venue. But the Bible offers everything we and our children need for life and godliness. It exposes us to genuine, all-consuming satisfaction the world cannot counterfeit. Hope lies in God’s Truth.
Train up your children in God’s Word to prepare them to successfully meet the temptations of the world.
For specific help for the sexual temptation attacking your home, here are some resources:
Victory Academy for Boys is a boarding school that specializes in ministering to boys who are engaged in sexual sin.
Victory Academy for Boys produces the Victory Digest, which is a compilation of articles and links to various parenting materials that help parents think and parent from a biblical worldview.
Victory Academy for Boys produces Parent.Point, which is our monthly blog of helpful articles written by our staff.
WildHeart Adventure Camp is a Christian adventure camp devoted to teach young men how to have a passion for God and adventure. We take three weeks to train our campers in three core areas: spirit, skills, and service.
I host a podcast called Truth.Love.Parent. We discuss everything you can imagine when it comes to God and family. Many of our episodes deal with sexuality. You can click here to subscribe to TLP on iTunes, or you can click on the individual episodes below to listen to them in iTunes.
Of course we do not claim to speak for God. However, by application, we can weave the truths of Scripture into what a letter from God might look like if written to the parent of a teen son who is struggling in his relationship with God.
We encourage you to read this and then study for yourself the scriptures mentioned and let God speak to and encourage your heart.
Dear Mom or Dad,
Don’t be afraid, I am with your son. I know when he sits down and when he gets up, when he goes out and when he comes in. I formed him and made him. I understand him even though you may not. (Psalms 139) In my time and in my ways, I will strengthen him. I will help him. I will uphold him with my righteous right hand. (Isa 41:10 and Isaiah 55:8-9) I am working every detail of his life out for his good and for my glory (Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 1:11) because I loved him before you did.
I love him with an everlasting love. While he was yet in sin, I sent my son, Jesus, to die for him. (Jerimiah 31:3 and Romans 5:8) I have laid a burden on your heart to suffer for him, pray for him, and love him. That burden you feel, it is from me. It is my Spirit leading you to love and care for his soul. I have begun a good work in him, I have lead you to love, care and pray for him and therefore it is right for you to expect that I will finish the work I started in him. (Philippians 1)
When my Spirit is leading you in prayer, he prays in deep ways that even you can’t understand, but touch the depths of my heart for your son. You may not know how to pray for your son according to my will, but he does. (Romans 8:26-27) Remember that my Spirit is at work in him even though you may not always see evidence of it. He is working to convince him of his sin, of my righteousness and that judgement is real. At the same time my Spirit is working to remind him of the free gift of salvation and a changed life through my son. (John 16:8)
I am the good Shepherd. I will look after him. When he goes astray, I will pursue him and bring him back. (Psalms 23 and John 10) You and I are coworkers together in this process. (1 Corinthians 3:9) but I am the source of his spiritual life, so let me do my work. Stay sensitive to my leading. Don’t get ahead of me, don’t lose your cool, be patient, firm, loving and continue to point him toward the truth in the Bible. Don’t get weary in the work. Your effort is not in vain. I am using you in his life even if you can’t see it right now. (Galatians 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Thank you for loving your son. I love him too even more than you do. Trust me even if it gets worse before it gets better. Once things got bad with my son, Jesus. He didn’t do anything wrong of course, but things did get worse before they got better. They did get better though and now everyone knows the plan was perfect. It will be perfect in your situation too. My way is always perfect. It is always good and it is always loving. (Psalms 18:30)
More from Victory Academy for Boys...
We see often see in Scripture the saints of God in times of suffering. Adam and Eve suffered the murder of their son by his own brother. Job suffered the loss of almost all he had. The faithful Christians in Revelation suffered and even in Heaven seem to question why they were not being avenged for their suffering. Hebrews 11 has a whole list of suffering saints. We are faced with the question of why God’s children suffer if an all-powerful God loves and cares for them. Though that seeming dilemma is not the point of this article, a few quick notes may lead you to further help and study.
1. Sin. We live in a sin-cursed world. Romans 8:22 reminds us that all Creation groans because of sin. In addition, the consequences of our own personal sin often bring pain. The sins of others can bring heartache, too.
2. Strangers. We are strangers in this world. Hebrews 11:13 reminds us that this world is not our home. This is not our place of rest. We can’t expect to be too comfortable here. Heaven is our resting place.
3. Sons. We are sons of God. Therefore God, as a loving Father, brings suffering at times to discipline us in order that it may yield the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Hebrews 12).
4. Satan. Job 1 allows us to see that Satan and his minions are allowed by God to bring about hard times for God’s children in order to bring glory to God. Always remember though, that God’s glory and the good of his children are eternally bound together. Our good does not suffer to bring God glory.
5. Selfishness. Although a derivative of #1 above, it still should be mentioned, because the selfishness of those we love (as well as those we don’t even know) can cause great pain.
So, Here Are The 5 Ways We Can Learn to Give Thanks Even When Life Is Hard
1. Relinquish control to God’s sovereign plan, knowing that He is never out of control. Even with the problem of sin and evil, God overrules and works all things for our good as we become more like Christ.
2. Rest in God’s wisdom and love. God is all-wise. He knows the end from the beginning and is always acting in love toward us, His children. We often cannot see that when in suffering, yet we can understand it when we compare parenting to God’s love. As a parent allows a non-understanding, crying baby to undergo surgery, an immunization shot, or other pain for ultimate healing or good, so God does the same. As the parent would not love the child if he/she stopped the pain, so God would not fully love us if He did not allow what was best.
3. Run to His Word. God’s Word, the Bible, contains “all things that apply to life and godliness.” We open it to find the truths we need, and we depend upon His Spirit to lead us in applying it to our situation and to our hearts personally.
4. Reach out to others. In the midst of our pain, it is helpful to serve others. Serving helps us get our focus off of our suffering. It is an encouragement to know that we have helped others and been used by God to bring joy to them. Even during Jesus’ suffering on the cross, He was mindful of His mother’s needs.
5. Share your burden. Don’t substitute fellowship with others for time with God; but if at all possible, find a close Godly friend who will faithfully listen and point you back to God’s truth when your faith begins to waiver. Confide in your church family to find healing and strength. God works through the body of Christ, the church. If you don't have a church home, we would love to fellowship with you and strive to encourage you during these hard times.
If you feel that Victory Academy may be part of the solution for your family or if you just need some Biblical advice on struggling teens, we are here to help. Contact us.
Other Articles and Info you may be interested in:
10 Suggestions to Help Stop the Yelling at Home
7 Biblical Ways to Begin 2015 to Be the Best Parent You Can Be.
10 Conversation Starters for You and Your Teen
Why We All Need Counseling
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret For Too Long
Proverbs 1:8 begins, “Listen my son…” -- but what if he won’t? Is that just his problem? Do parents bear any responsibility to try to help their teen listen, or is our only responsibility to give wise counsel? If we know our teen isn’t listening to our wisdom, advice, reproof, and correction, what do we do? Galatians 6:1 certainly could apply here. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
As parents, we need to do all we can to remove stumbling blocks and barriers to good communication with our children, seeking to help restore them to obedience in listening to us as parents. Although the final responsibility is on our teens to listen, we certainly must make sure we are not failing in some areas ourselves and creating barriers to their listening.
Here are 8 barriers to good parent-teen communication and some ideas for busting them.
1. Nagging – When your wisdom and advice are constant throughout the day, with little neutral or pleasant chatter, your words begin to lose their impact. Ecclesiastes 6:11 indicates this when it states, “The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?” Constant nagging short-circuits your ability to get your point across and tends to overwhelm and push your teen to anger or discouragement. Perhaps you could make a list of your child’s faults. Prioritize them in order of most grievous/consequential to least. Get input from other wise parents. Focus only on the ones you feel you must. Pick a top 4-5 and then plan to keep quiet about the others until the most important victories have been won.
2. Criticizing – Certainly in parenting there is always need for instruction, discipline, and training, but as parents we must be careful to not be overly critical, especially in areas that are not related to sinful behavior. If you’re struggling with major discipline areas with your teen, then be even more careful about other criticisms. Don’t worry if his shirt is wrinkled, his hair is messy, or he wore the same shorts yesterday. Avoid criticizing him in front of others. In fact, purpose to praise your teen at least 5 times each day, either in passing comments or in a specific conversation.
3. Wisdom Spray – Sometimes parents can turn on the firehose of instruction when we need to focus on just a trickle of wisdom from the garden hose. We get started on one area of weakness or failure in our child’s life, and then we begin to pile on. “And another thing…and another thing…and what really ticks me off is when you….plus you always seem to…” Don’t unload all of your frustrations about your son’s behavior all at once. Deal with the matter at hand, and leave the other issues for another day.
4. Trying to win the war all at once. Closely related to the point above, we must realize that the war against sin in our teen’s life is won one battle at a time. Certainly sin must be conquered once and for all through the Gospel’s work in his life, but the war with the flesh is ongoing and is best handled one battle at a time. Think of how God has worked in your life. The victories have come one by one, and the focus has been on a few areas of sin at a time as the Holy Spirit brought about conviction and strength to overcome. Pick some of the battles you feel your teen is most tender about. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in assessing which battle front to deal with next. Remember to praise and celebrate the victories along the way.
5. Negative, non-neutral atmosphere. I remember being told once in a seminar on leadership that I should sit behind my desk when talking with subordinates to subtly show my authority. I don’t necessarily agree with this ideology. (If you need a big desk to prove you’re a leader, you’ve probably done something wrong.) There may be places in your home that aren’t the best place to talk to your teen - places where he feels a negative atmosphere, places that remind him of past failures, places that subtly indicate that you are not interested in his opinion or his side of the story. Change the atmosphere. Go to a coffee shop, a fast food restaurant, or take a drive in the country. All of these are neutral locations and may open up communication in new frontiers for you and your teen.
6. One-way communication – Remember that, by definition, communication is a two-way street. Yes, your teen needs to listen to you, but as he grows older and matures toward adulthood, you need to listen to him, too. He may say things you don’t want to hear but that you need to hear. Listening to those comments will help reveal barriers. Perhaps he has seen inconsistencies in your life. Perhaps you need to ask for forgiveness. There may be an unreasonable teacher involved that you need to hear about, or a pressure he is dealing with outside the home that you need to know about. Ask questions and follow up questions. Listen, even though he may not be mature enough to talk without an angry outburst, tears, or bad language. Make sure he knows he is being heard. Don’t just listen to his words, either. Watch for those misty eyes or subtle gestures that indicate various emotions. More on gestures in the point below.
7. Gestures – Pointing fingers, snarling red faces, pounding fists, crossed arms, and more are all ways we communicate beyond our words. Your teen listens to you by watching these, too. You may say the right things and yet defeat the words with your gestures. Make sure your gestures are open, calm, reassuring, and kind as you talk.
8. Timing – The moment when you are feeling agitated, irritated, and angry at your teen may not be the best time to try to talk to him. Every bone in your body may be itching to go address the problem right then and there, and yet the timing isn’t right. Perhaps you’re too angry to address him, and it will be hard to speak the truth in love. If that’s not it, perhaps there is a ballgame on that night he wants to see, or he is in the middle of his favorite TV show. Take some time to stop and pray. Ask the Lord to work in his heart. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom regarding the right timing. Take some time to plan your words and how you will address the problem. What questions will you ask? How will you give him the benefit of the doubt? How can you offer praise with your rebuke? In the Bible we see that the prophet didn’t address King David right away regarding his grave sin; yet we know from Psalm 32 and 51 that God was at work in David’s heart before Nathan came to him. Learn to wait on the Lord and rely on his leading as to timing. You may find that God has already softened his heart before your conversation.
9. Super Authority Parent – As your teen gets older, you must learn to communicate with him more as you would other adults. This doesn’t mean to give in, give up parental authority, or be run over by your child. It does mean that you don’t treat him like an elementary student. Instead of a short, firm “No you can’t go,” try something like “I’m sorry, son, I don’t think it will work right now; is there another option?” Instead of “get your homework done at 3:30,” try “what time do you plan to do your homework tonight?” You may need to help him think through the homework plan, but you are also giving him some options. You are making the change from a sergeant to a coach. See this article for more insight. Click here.
What other barriers have you seen as a parent that you’d like to share here? We all can learn from each other. Continue to work at good communication with your teen. You can’t force him to listen and internalize everything you say, but you can work hard at tearing down barriers to your wisdom and advice whenever you can.
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The Bible reminds parents and specifically dads not to provoke their children. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." What does it mean here when it says not to provoke your child to anger? The phrase "do not provoke your children to anger" basically means not to do things that cause them to be irritated, frustrated or even enraged. We (especially dads) have to be constantly aware of our actions and our child's reaction to make sure this is not occurring. It is important to remember that anger and frustration can show itself differently in our children based on their personalities. Some may actually become enraged and yell, cuss or even fight. Others of a more introverted temperament may become withdrawn, discouraged and defeated, feeling like they can never measure up to our expectations.
We came across a great article by Pastor John MacArthur highlighting 8 ways that parents may be irritating children and not even realize it. Here are the 8 ways from Dr. MacArthur.
1) Well–meaning overprotection is a common cause of resentment in children. Parents who smother their children, overly restrict where they can go and what they can do, never trust them to do things on their own, and continually question their judgment build a barrier between themselves and their children—usually under the delusion that they are building a closer relationship. Children need careful guidance and certain restrictions, but they are individual human beings in their own right and must learn to make decisions on their own, commensurate with their age and maturity. Their wills can be guided but they cannot be controlled.
2) Another common cause of provoking children to anger is favoritism. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau. That dual and conflicting favoritism not only caused great trouble for the immediate family but has continued to have repercussions in the conflicts between the descendants of Jacob and Esau until our present day! For parents to compare their children with each other, especially in the children’s presence, can be devastating to the child who is less talented or favored. He will tend to become discouraged, resentful, withdrawn, and bitter.
Favoritism by parents generally leads to favoritism among the children themselves, who pick up the practice from their parents. They will favor one brother or sister over the others and will often favor one parent over the other.
3) A third way parents provoke their children is by pushing achievement beyond reasonable bounds. A child can be so pressured to achieve that he is virtually destroyed. He quickly learns that nothing he does is sufficient to please his parents. No sooner does he accomplish one goal than he is challenged to accomplish something better. Fathers who fantasize their own achievements through the athletic skills of their sons, or mothers who fantasize a glamorous career through the lives of their daughters prostitute their responsibility as parents.
I once visited a young woman who was confined to a padded cell and was in a state of catatonic shock. She was a Christian and had been raised in a Christian family, but her mother had ceaselessly pushed her to be the most popular, beautiful, and successful girl in school. She became head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and later a model. But the pressure to excel became too great and she had a complete mental collapse. After she was eventually released from the hospital, she went back into the same artificial and demanding environment. When again she found she could not cope, she committed suicide. She had summed up her frustration when she told me one day, “I don’t care what it is I do, it never satisfies my mother.”
4) A fourth way children are provoked is by discouragement. A child who is never complimented or encouraged by his parents is destined for trouble. If he is always told what is wrong with him and never what is right, he will soon lose hope and become convinced that he is incapable of doing anything right. At that point he has no reason even to try. Parents can always find something that a child genuinely does well, and they should show appreciation for it. A child needs approval and encouragement in things that are good every bit as much as he needs correction in things that are not.
5) A fifth way provocation occurs is by parents’ failing to sacrifice for their children and making them feel unwanted. Children who are made to feel that they are an intrusion, that they are always in the way and interfere with the plans and happiness of the parents, cannot help becoming resentful. To such children the parents themselves will eventually become unwanted and an intrusion on the children’s plans and happiness.
6) A sixth form of provocation comes from failing to let children grow up at a normal pace. Chiding them for always acting childish, even when what they do is perfectly normal and harmless, does not contribute to their maturity but rather helps confirm them in their childishness.
7) A seventh way of angering children is that of using love as a tool of reward or punishment—granting it when a child is good and withdrawing it when he is bad. Often the practice is unconscious, but a child can sense if a parent cares for him less when is he disobedient than when he behaves. That is not how God loves and is not the way he intends human parents to love. God disciplines His children just as much out of love as He blesses them. “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb. 12:6). Because it is so easy to punish out of anger and resentment, parents should take special care to let their children know they love them when discipline is given.
8) An eighth way to provoke children is by physical and verbal abuse. Battered children are a growing tragedy today. Even Christian parents—fathers especially—sometimes overreact and spank their children much harder than necessary. Proper physical discipline is not a matter of exerting superior authority and strength, but of correcting in love and reasonableness. Children are also abused verbally. A parent can as easily overpower a child with words as with physical force. Putting him down with superior arguments or sarcasm can inflict serious harm, and provokes him to anger and resentment. It is amazing that we sometimes say things to our children that we would not think of saying to anyone else—for fear of ruining our reputation!
You can read more from Dr. MacArthur on this subject by clicking here. John Piper also has some great thoughts on this particular verse as well. Read that here.
We hope this article has been a blessing to you. If so, here are some other articles from Victory Academy for Boys you may find helpful as well.
Read more helpful articles from Mark Massey and the staff:
How We Help Parents at Victory Academy
10 Conversation Starters for You and Your Teen
Why We All Need Counseling
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret For Too Long
Does Our Family Need Victory Academy or Some Other Help Outside our Home?
If you feel that Victory Home for Boys may be of help to you in your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have been working with struggling teen boys and their families since 1983.
Click here to contact us.
Click here to read about how we help.
Counselee: “My parents are such idiots!”
Friend: “When you’re talking with atheists, it doesn’t do any good to quote the Bible to them.”
Of course, you realize that few conversations actually work this quickly. Wisdom dictates that it take a bit longer to get from the first observation to the last.
Still, over the past ten years of family counseling I can’t remember a single situation where a counselee was perfectly innocent within a conflict. There wasn’t a single man who hadn’t provoked his children to wrath or not lived with his wife according to knowledge. I never counseled a wife who’d submitted to her husband and loved her children consistently. And -– believe it or not –- I never met a child who honored and obeyed his parents without fault.
They all had grievances, they all had mental fingers to point, they all had emotional subpoenas to deliver, they all had judgment to bear down . . . but they all had responsibility too. Each train-wrecked relationship was partially their doing. Each argument was of their own making.
The same goes for me.
And the same goes for you.
When there’s a Conflict, we’re ALL to Blame.
James 4:1-2 tells us that conflict arises because we want something and don’t get it.
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”
If I’m angry, annoyed, or aggravated, I’m to blame.
Luke 12:13-21 gives us a glimpse into the way Jesus handled a situation just like this:
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ And He told them a parable . . . .“
This guy comes to Christ hoping that Jesus will tell off his loser brother. Clearly the brother was being unloving and selfish, but instead of acknowledging the brother’s sinful choices, Jesus told a parable demonstrating that the guy in the crowd had a problem with greed.
Jesus even did this when the person before him wasn’t complaining about someone else. When two of his disciples sent their mother to tell Jesus “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left,” Jesus pointed out that their lusts caused them to miss the very important fact that while they were worried about their will, Christ was focused on supremacy of His Father.
The woman at the well tried to distract Jesus with racial and religious arguments, but He reminded her that she needed true religion.
Peter, trying to speak for God, rebuked Jesus for suggesting that He would be crucified. Jesus showed Peter that it was he who was in error.
A man just wanted to bury his father before following Christ, but Jesus showed him that his heart was in the wrong place.
The pharisees . . . well, every time Jesus interacted with them He had to show them that their motivation was only evil continually.
And the list goes on. Time and again people went to Jesus, and he showed them that their biggest problems were not their situations and surroundings, but their own self-serving hearts.
Our biggest issue, however, is not realizing that we are as much a part of the problem as everyone else it, but . . .
When there’s a Conflict, I’m the First one about whom I should be Concerned.“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
How many times have we flown at someone, teeth-barred only to find out our content, method, or motivation were all wrong? Unbiblical arguments, unloving behavior, and selfish priorities all betray that we’re the ones with the problem. We’d better look to the log swinging out of our head before we chastise another for his splinter.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus informs us that worship must take a back seat to reconciliation.
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
While in the process of worship, if I remember that a brother has been offended by something I’ve done, I need to make it right before God will be pleased by my worship.
How much worship this past Sunday was distasteful to God because the worshippers hadn’t acknowledged they had fault?
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s always about me. And it’s always about you.
In every conflict, we must look first to our own sin before trying to “fix” everyone else. Then we can be husbands that’re easy to respect, children who’re a joy to parent, and friends who rely on God’s Truth to turn the heart of men to their Creator
Failure. It happens to everyone. Young or old, rich or poor, new Christian or seasoned Saint, there is no one who doesn’t find themselves humbled and grieved because of their own failure or the failure of someone they love. However, there is great hope. For the true child of God who has a real relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, failure is NEVER final. There are five reasons for this, and they are all wrapped up in the person and work of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
1. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His precious blood. Jesus died by shedding His sinless blood so that He could be the substitute for us. Christ took the wrath of God His Father upon Himself so that we could be forgiven. Because of this sacrifice, God promised restoration, cleansing, forgiveness, and mercy. Of course, Christians are already declared totally righteous for all eternity, but those of us who are believers still find ourselves in need of asking God’s forgiveness throughout this life. Our failures, accidental or purposeful, hinder our walk with God, and we need restoration, just as we do in earthly relationships when failure divides. 1 John 1:7-9 reminds us that “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John goes on to declare that if we try to hide or deny our failures, we are liars; but, if we confess our sin to him, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sin, bringing about greater holiness and restoration.
2. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His power. Ephesians 3:20 declares that we should thank and praise God because He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God has promised His power to help us sustain a godly life. Even when we feel totally defeated and discouraged, His power is greater and can do far above what we feel can be accomplished in and through us. In addition, 2 Peter 1:3 reminds us that God’s power is given to us so that we have everything we need to overcome failure and live a godly life. Yes, we fail, but God’s power never allows us to live consistently in a state of sinful failure. His power saves us from a life of failure!
3. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His punishing. In Hebrews 12, we are reminded that any true child of God who fails and then refuses to return to the Father will be pursued by God and disciplined, just as a loving father disciplines his children in order to draw them back to a right pattern of living.
4. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His plan. Romans 8:28-31 is encouraging, because God states that all things are working together to cause us to be more like Christ. Life is like a giant puzzle with infinite pieces, each of which is needed, and all of which come together to accomplish God’s plan. Some of those pieces even include our failures. God, although never responsible for our failures, mercifully allows our failures to strengthen us for the future and make us more conformed to the image of His Son. The book of Romans also reminds us that when sin increases and failure happens, grace always increases more and overcomes our failures (Romans 5:20). Knowing all this, even in the face of failure, we reach the same conclusion as the divinely inspired Apostle Paul. Writing in Romans 8:31-33, he states, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies.” If all that weren’t enough encouragement in the face of failure, we can also rely on this promise of God in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” No, God is not ever going to leave His children helpless in a state of failure. He has promised to save us from (not in) our sinful failures (Matt. 1:21).
5. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His presence. Hebrews 13:5 gives us yet another promise for our failure: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Often in failure we feel that God is angry and frustrated with us, and we may even feel forsaken or deserted by God. On the contrary, like the analogy of God our Father and the father in the story told by Jesus of the prodigal son in Luke 11:15-32, God eagerly awaits to forgive and restore us.
If you have failed and are discouraged, or if someone whom you love has failed, there is hope in Jesus Christ! Failure is never final for the Christian.
Other Articles and Info you may be interested in:
Help I found porn on my son's laptop. 6 things to remember.
10 Suggestions to Help Stop the Yelling at Home
7 Biblical Ways to Be the Best Parent You Can Be.
10 Conversation Starters for You and Your Teen
Why We All Need Counseling
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret For Too Long
More About Victory Academy:
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Depending on a child's personality type, they may act in different ways when faced with problems and challenges. Some act out in anger and aggression while others begin to shy away from family and friends, become very depressed and reclusive. Those who act in anger seem to get noticed first. An effort is made to help. Those who become quiet and discouraged often go unnoticed for longer periods of time. Here are 9 Biblical ways to help defeat depression.. We hope you'll read them all, but at least scroll through the list below and allow God to use some of them to help you help your teen. You are not alone in your struggle.
“The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Your son or daughter is not alone in the struggle of life as it relates to discouragement and/or depression. You might be interested to know that numerous heroes of our faith struggled with these difficult types of situations.
Discouragement, where does it come from? Sometimes it feels like a dry, barren wind off a lonely desert. Something inside us begins to wilt. At other times, it feels like a chilling mist seeping through our powers, it numbs the spirit and fogs the path before us…it strips our lives of joy and leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed.
In the Bible, we see David struggled with these feelings. In Psalm 61:1–2 He writes, “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” We find it alluded to often in other Psalms as well:
Psalm 42:5-7, 9,11 –The Psalmist says,
"5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted (Disquieted=groan loudly; moan) within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. 7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. 9 I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. "
Another great Bible character, Paul, wrote of his struggle with difficult emotional, physical and spiritual anguish. 2 Corinthians 7:5–6 — 5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,
Throughout history, we find Christian saints who struggle with discouragement and depression. We could list the godliest people we know and if the truth were known, we would discover that to a large degree, most if not all have had a struggle in this area.
Abraham Lincoln thought the pain would lead to death; the body couldn’t tolerate it. He said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
Here are others who wrote about the pain we all feel at times:
· You seem to imagine I have no ups and downs but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy.… By no means! By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky--John Henry Jowett, pastor of New York’s Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and later Westminster Chapel in London to a friend in 1920
• Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and put an end to this miserable life.--John Knox
• There are dungeons beneath the castles of despair.--Charles Spurgeon, who suffered debilitating bouts of depression all his life
• I had my temptations attending me.… Sometimes I should be assaulted with great discouragement therein, fearing that I should not be able to speak the Word at all ...at which times I should have such a strange faintness and strengthlessness seize upon my body that my legs have scarce been able to carry me--John Bunyan
Perhaps today you are a “weary pilgrim.” You have known the dark nights and the days that seem like nights as you struggle through discouragement. You can take heart - as you can see, you are in good company.
We will only begin to scratch the surface of the topic of discouragement/depression/and burnout. Though they are not equal, they usually go hand in hand, so I have lumped them together.
Before we begin, here are a few myths about the causes of discouragement and/or depression:
1. Depression is always the result of lack of faith in God.
2. Depression is always caused by self-pity.
3. Depression can always be removed by spiritual exercises such as prayer and fasting.
4. Depression can be removed by making a choice to be happy.
5. The term “Depressed Christian” is a contradiction.
6. All depression comes from Satan.
7. Depression is God’s punishment.
8. Depression is never the will of God.
To overcome depression, there are some necessary and needed adjustments we must make.
Here are 9 places to look to help overcome discouragement and depression.
Looking to these places of help will aid in the correction our distorted vision and help bring our child out of the swamp or “slough of despond” as John Bunyan described it.
1. Look to others who have suffered and succeeded (Heb. 11)
Depression makes us feel alone. Even in a crowd of people, we can feel as if we are somehow separate from everyone else. This makes the misery only deeper.
We need to remember that there have been others who have been through deep waters in life yet they succeeded. I have mentioned several in Scripture and in church history. One of the greatest lists of those who struggle and faced incredible odds is found in Hebrews 11. We read of the real men and women of the Bible who learned through hardship, pain and suffering to live by faith.
v.13 – they never saw the complete fulfillment of God’s promises – a land, a race, a city, but they had faith. Our faith too must extend beyond this life to heaven. That gives true meaning to what we experience in this life.
v. 36 – so we realize that everyone faces different and difficult circumstances, these had faith in God when life was at its worse. When the greatest potential for discouragement and depression came their way, they had faith in God!
When you get depressed, it is good to remember that others have been through every imaginable pain and hardship (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and they testify that by faith, we can make it as well. Their lives remind me that everything in this life is not “pie in the sky”, ease and luxury. Read their stories and you will not only discover their pain and suffering, you will see that they had the same questions you ask,
“Does God hear me?”
“Does God love me?”
“Has God forsaken me?”
They made it and so can we.
2. Look to God Revelation 19:6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
You might think that “the beloved disciple” of Jesus, the one who wrote five books of the NT would have a life of ease and luxury for his service to Christ. John was the last apostle to die. He suffered in exile on the Isle of Patmos – a Roman Penal Colony – because he would not say that the emperor was “Lord and God.”
At potentially the most discouraging moments of his life, John saw God. This is our greatest need when we are depressed. God seems to be off the radar, so distanced form us that we have no connection with Him.
Remember the following realities about God:
God is good
God is all-powerful
God loves me
God is God
Write these statements in bold print in your Bible. When we are depressed, we need a proper look at god. Satan brings distortions and lies about God. John saw God for who He is – “The Lord God omnipotent reigns.”
3. Look to Jesus – Hebrews 12:2–3 — 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
When we go through pain and suffering we are also looking for meaning. Many people comment that if they could understand the purpose of their pain, then they could more easily handle the pain.
But that revelation of purpose rarely comes when we think we need it. Job had no idea of the Heavenly aspect to his earthly dilemma. Joseph went through decades without answers. Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
When we experience depression we must look to Jesus! V. 3 tells us why “lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” It literally means “to give out.” During times of discouragement, we want to give up.
4. Look to the truth – John 17:17–18 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
It has been said that if you tell a lie long enough, it will be believed as the truth. I think we can argue from history that this happens regularly. We are very susceptible to lies. Sometimes because we can’t verify them one way or another. Sometimes because we are gullible and sometimes because we want to believe them.
We need to be careful about what we listen to especially when we are discouraged. It is easy to listen to lies:
“God doesn’t care”
“God is not with me”
“No one has ever faced this before”
“God is gone”
These lies and hundreds of others feed discouragement and depression. It is easier to believe lies because we have to take no steps of action. All we have to do is live by our feelings. Feelings change constantly. Truth never changes.
When you go through the valley of depression you must “remember in the dark the truth you learned in the light.” Depression often happens as a result of replacing the Word of God as the driving force for our actions. Even the physical causes of depression require a Biblical response.
If we don’t replace the lies with truth we will have a “…faulty interpretation of the available information.”
I want you to mark several key references that are the truths you need to remember to combat the lies when you are discouraged.
1. God never fails – Heb. 13:5b
2. Pain has a purpose (it purifies) – I Peter 4:1
3. God answers prayer – John 14:13-14
4. God is with me in my struggles – Ps. 46:1
5. Good will be the result – Rom 8:28
6. This will make me like Jesus – Rom. 8:29
7. This is temporary – II Cor. 4:17
8. God is in control – Deut. 33:26-27
9. God gives me strength – Is. 40:31
There are times when we can only cling to God and His promises. That is a choice to live by faith and not to give in to our feelings. Remember, “People who give up are people who have first given in (to their feelings).”
Mark, memorize and study these truths from Scripture. They are the truths that will set you free.
5. Look at the past
Many people are depressed because of their past. As they think back, there may be many, if not hundreds, of failures. Failed projects, rejection, abuse, misrepresentations, sin, failure as a parent, spouse or friend, school failures, failures in relationships. The list could be endless. Why would anyone want to think about the past to overcome discouragement and depression?
Though this is not my main point, I should point out to you that caution should always be exercised when we think about the past. Our mind may distort the facts. Since we can rarely remember events exactly as they were, we may exaggerate the severity of an incident or we may minimize the good that has happened. It’s easy to be the victim when we are discouraged. Be careful how you remember the past! The apostle Paul taught us that he forgot the things that were behind because his remembrance of those things would be a hindrance.
That does not mean that we never remember the past. We don’t live in the past. And we don’t have to allow the past to control us.
What should we remember about the past?
Lamentations 3:1-9, 15-20, 21-25
We need to remember that the God of the past is with us today. There may be necessary, even unexplained, pain and difficulty. But, as Jeremiah remembered, so must we. In order to “crowd out the hopelessness” that can evade our lives we must have three memories from the past:
o God’s inexhaustible supply of loyal love (“mercies”)
o God’s warm compassion (Hebrew word that basically means “the womb”)
o God’s forever faithfulness (His dependable support that will not let me down)
When we are discouraged, “It is though what we know by faith is struggling with what we are experiencing.” One of the ways that the Israelites learned to not forget God was to build/have memorials. The rainbow, is a great example of God giving a reminder. Gen. 9:13-16
We too need memorials of God’s faithfulness.
o Keep a journal – answers to prayer, favorite verses, times of God’s special favor
o Write in your Bible
o Sing hymns
o Review with a friend
o Specific provision by God
We need to be careful that we don’t forget God's faithfulness and promises!
6. Look to the future
The grim shadow of depression creates false images and impressions. Like a restless night, we think it will never end. We admit that there are many difficulties, heartaches, pain and struggles in our lifetime. Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” For some it seems worse than for others. It is easy to lose perspective when we are the ones facing difficulty. When discouraged we should look at the future:
Job did - Job 19:25-27 “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
Jesus did - Heb. 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Paul did - II Tim. 4:7-8 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
As a Christian, we can honestly say that the future is brighter than today. We have to be careful that we don’t look only at our present distress.
“When will it ever end?” may be the cry from our hearts. I certainly cannot answer that question. We may go through depressing times that last days, months, or years. You might have chronic pain or an extended illness. But “if in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable” (I Cor. 15:19)
To overcome discouragement, we must realize that there is an eternity with God. There will be no more pain, suffering, disappointment, heartache, injustice, or tears. We will worship and enjoy God forever . . . that is our future.
7. Look at the benefits
At first glance, it would seem that there are no benefits from struggling through the realities of life that cause us discouragement and depression. Yet we find benefits listed in Scripture. Here are a few to consider:
a. Job 23:10 – you will have greater value
b. Psalm 119:67,71 – keeps you from going deeper into sin
c. Romans 5:3-5 – you develop patience, experience, and hope
d. II Corinthians 1:4 – you will have a ministry to others
e. II Corinthians 12:9 – you will experience God’s strength
f. Hebrews 5:8 – you will learn obedience
Our difficulties in life can either bind us to the point of discouragement, depression and despair or we can see how everything that touches our lives has a divine purpose. It is literally true, “No pain: no gain.”
I am not suggesting that you go out and look for circumstances so that you can experience difficulty and discouragement. They will automatically come to you! However, since we know they will come, we should look at what God can and will do in our lives when we face the inevitable hard times.
8. Look at praise
Psalm 69:29–31— 29 But I am poor and sorrowful; Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. 30 I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving. 31 This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull, Which has horns and hooves.
The Bible is full of praise to God . . . in all circumstances and situations. When we are discouraged, it is difficult to praise God. That is probably what we most need to do. Praise gets our focus off of our surroundings and on to God. When we truly praise God, we are not thinking of ourselves. A lot of what is termed praise today is not really praise of God. Too often, there is still a focus on what I might get out of it: a feeling, relief, or some emotional high. The Scripture calls it a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). The time of sacrifice is when it cost me something. The greatest cost is o truly praise God when there is nothing, humanly speaking, that would hint of praising God. But the remarkable truth is that praise of God needs to be a priority when we are discouraged. Praise precedes deliverance. Go back to “Look to God” as the beginning of a long list of what to praise God for. Praise means we truly rejoice in God. We bless God; we take pleasure in God.
9. Look to a friend
1 Thessalonians 3:2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
When we are discouraged we need a friend, a true friend. A true friend will listen to you. They will help adjust your perspective:
· They will listen to you, help discern truth from error and reinforce the truth of God's Word to you.
· They will pray with and for you.
· They will help redirect your thoughts to the big picture and the joys of life.
· They will “lend you their faith”.
When we face discouragement and depression, we should find a friend and pour out our heart to them. Our friends become our supporting allies and will be there even though we feel as if we cannot make it. And in a worst-case scenario, where we are friendless, as believers we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Final Necessary Reminders:
• Proper rest is essential
• Watch your diet
• Have a regular exercise program
• You need a diversion (hobby)
• Take time off
• Learn to say “No”
• DO NOT QUIT!!
These are the encouragements we need when we are discouraged and/or depressed. If you choose to live by these principles, you will be able to get out of depression. But you must remember that to win over depression, it is a fight and will take effort and spiritual cooperation with the Lord if we are to overcome. We are VICTORS IN CHRIST!
If you believe Victory Academy for Boys may have solutions for your struggling son or your family's discouragement, please contact us. We are hear to help. We would be thankful for the opportunity to offer a free consultation by phone. Please contact us by clicking here.
In the meantime, here are some other articles and resources you may find helpful on this subject and others.
A good book is: “Depression: Looking Up From The Stubborn Darkness” by Ed Welch
A classic book on this topic is: “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Other Articles from Mark Massey and the Victory Academy Staff you may find helpful:
10 Suggestions to Help Stop the Yelling
Victory Academy - A Well Kept Secret for Too Long
Extinguishing the Darkness at Home
Scroll though all our articles - Click Here
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