Our Biggest Enemy – FEAR

As a parent of a child who has “issues” fear is always hot on our tails, hounding us.  It feels like you are in a frozen wasteland.  You may be dealing with addiction, self harm, an eating disorder, same sex identity, a mental illness, problems with the law, threats of suicide, an unplanned pregnancy, promiscuity . . . I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  I’ve had to walk through much of this with my daughter and I never thought it could happen to me!  So here are some of my musings about fear.  As they say in Al-Anon, take what you like and leave the rest.
Personally, I have found fear about my child to be a constant, unwelcomed guest.  I never realized I was a fearful person before my daughter began to rebel.  As a believer in Christ these past 40 years (Yikes!  Am I really that old?) I have learned how to surrender my fears to God and receive his peace.  However, when it is involving my child it is a whole different thing.  It is so much harder for me to gain victory over this kind of fears.
It seems to me that it is like:  Having an uninvited guest in your home who just won’t leave; having a monster under your bed or in your closet; a sense of overwhelming dread you can’t shake off;  waiting for the other shoe to drop;  the nightmare you can’t get over because it feels so real.  It is the shadow lurking behind every corner, the crazy cat hiding in the bushes for the right moment to jump out at you when you least expect it to scare the ba-jeebers (is that a real word?) out of you.
It’s like the jack-in-the-box that would suddenly pop up and startle you as a kid.  I always hated that toy!  Someone turns the handle (maybe even you yourself) while you sit there and wait  . . .  waiting for that moment, that frightening moment when the clown would unexpectedly jump out. ” Pop!” goes the weasel! (By the way, what is a weasel?  A small scary animal?)  I always jumped and often cried, even though I knew it was coming, knew what to expect!  I guess I was easily startled.  In our situations as parents dealing with these potentially serious issues, we never know what to expect.  Maybe that’s why our fears are so great.  There is much at stake.  Possibly their very lives!  And fear of the unknown can  be so paralyzing.   What if?  It can make you crazy!
Some of us know what might be coming.  You may see the handle being turned, but you never know when something will finally happen!  You can only wait with that sinking feeling in your gut.  So there you are, powerless . . . stuck . . .
What are you afraid of for your child?  Have you struggled with fear before this situation with your child?  Do you see signs of the “handle turning” even now as you are reading this?  Are you waiting with that sense of dread, full of anxious thoughts?  How do you cope?  How can you refuse this uninvited guest or go to sleep in the dark of night with this monster under your bed?  (especially if you have to make a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night?  Ha ha!)
Here’s how I have  faced my fears :
1)    Reminding myself that God is in control.  He is bigger than my biggest fears.  He can conquer every monster, defeat every enemy, calm my frazzled nerves, soothe my tormented soul.  (Jeremiah 32:17)
2)    Remembering, I Am Not Alone!  God is with me!  He will never leave me or forsake me.  (Isaiah 43:5 and Hebrews 13:5)
3)    Knowing I need not fight my fears on my own.  God Almighty is fighting this battle for me as I keep bringing my fears to Him.  I can depend on him to help me.  He is trustworthy.  (Deuteronomy 3:22 and Psalm 9:10)
4)    Resting in the Lord – in who He is, what He has done and can do.  As I rest in Him I am able to release my daughter into His hands.  In Him I find rest when I’m weary from the struggle and burdens.  (Matthew 11:28)
5)    Praying – giving my child and all my fears for her to God.  (Philippians 4: 6-7)

6)   Facing them – This was the most difficult, but most beneficial.  I wrote down everything I feared and then walked through my emotions with each one.  Even the worst fear, that she might die.  Before then I hadn’t even been able to say this out loud.  I grieved that possible loss.  It made a huge difference in how I faced my fears after that.  It seemed to disarm them of their power over me.  I did this with a trusted friend, not alone.  (2 Corinthians 12:9 and Psalm 62: 5-6,8)
Here are a few of my favorite Bible verses I turn to when I feel afraid for my daughter:
·    “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)
·    “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.”  (John 14:1)
·    “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  (I Peter 5:7)
·    Isaiah 43: 1-5  It’s a little long to write out here, but it is sooooo good!  It repeats several times not to be afraid because God is with you!

To be completely honest, I still struggle with fear.  Sometimes I still find myself getting stuck in this frozen place.   This enemy still rears it’s ugly head at me.  I think is part of our human condition!  We naturally fear pain and the unknown might be excruciatingly painful!  But I can tell you that I have come far from where I once was.  Fear no longer gains control over me or corners me like it once did.  I have gained new perspectives and strategies that help me “thaw out” my fears, if I will apply them as soon as I realize I am falling into that frozen state again.  I will talk a lot more about fear in future blogs.  It is such a huge problem for us as parents, we need all the help we can get to find some peace!  Hope something here is helpful for you!

Three Weapons Hurting Parents Have

Do you ever feel helpless to do anything for your child who is suffering with an addiction, mental illness, self harm or any other self destructive behaviors?   Join the club!  We all struggle with these feelings and they can be overwhelming.   You feel like there is no where to turn.  You feel desperate to do anything in your power to help your son or daughter.  Here are some very helpful thoughts taken from a devotional book by Robert J. Morgan called  Moments for Families with Prodigals.  It is from moment 81.  (It is available from Amazon) Morgan says we have three indomitable weapons in our fight for our children’s souls – they are code named PTL.  God wants us to be hopeful.  Here’s how.
P = PRAYER
We can pray!  Anytime, anywhere, without ceasing, while we are going about our daily routine.  As Archbishop Trench puts it, “We must not conceive of prayer as overcoming God’s reluctance, but as laying hold of His highest willingness.” His will is that none should perish.  Jesus taught us to pray and not give up; that we should believe and ask for the impossible; that anything was possible for him who believes.  Prayer is the most important and powerful thing we can do for our prodigal!
T = TIME
It takes time for many prodigals to come to their senses. “Maturity, recovery, and rehabilitation are processes.” Time is on our side and our times are in God’s hands.  After all, it’s taken a long time for Him to work on us, hasn’t it?  We can be confident of the promise in Phil. 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Morgan says we need to learn to tell time on God’s clock and to trust Him timing.  He knows when to work, when to wait, when the right time is.  He is never too early, never late, always right on time.  We know this in our heads, but we are not so good at waiting.  I am terrible at it.  When you begin to doubt God’s timing it’s hard to keep trusting His calendar of events.  Father, help us trust that time is on our side, because you are!
L = LOVE
“We may not think of love as a weapon, but it sends a radioactive blanket over its target.  There is no known antidote.  Paul said, “Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8)” and Psalms says over and over again that God’s love is unfailing.  We can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to love our child unconditionally no matter what they’ve done or how much they’ve hurt and disappointed us.  As we continue showing them His love by how we respond and interact with them this love will win them back.  Tough love changes lives.  It might not always be pretty – it might mean telling them they can’t live in your home if they persist living a lifestyle that consistently disrupts our home or is against your values.  Often the hardest and most painful thing is the most loving thing we can do.  “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Cor. 13:7 NLT)
“So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night feeling helpless, just remind yourself that you have an arsenal of weapons:  prayer, time, and love.  Together they have broken down many a stronghold and reclaimed many a life.  They are God’s weapons that he has put at your disposal.  You are not powerless after all!!  PTL!  Praise the Lord!”