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!

Prodigals are in God’s Incubator

I have a new granddaughter who was born 10 weeks early.  She is spending the first weeks of her life in an incubator to help sustain her until she can survive on her own without its help controlling her body temperature, oxygen level and providing just the right amount of humidity.  I’ve been thinking a lot about incubators and prodigals during these weeks. It occurs to me that our prodigal sons and daughters are in God’s incubator.  Bear with me, this is a loose comparison, but one I think has some merit to it.

Incubators – Dictionary definition:  An apparatus for maintaining an infant, especially a premature infant, in a controlled environment; a place or situation that permits or encourages formation and development, as of new ideas.

Of course our children have already been living in the outside world, but now they need some extra TLC from their heavenly Father, their Great Physician.  They are not well and need to being lovingly cared for by their Creator in a type of intensive care unit.

In God’s incubator He wants to:

Warm their hardened, calloused hearts with His “motherly” love

Breathe His life into their lungs

Nourish their sin-sick souls with regular intravenous feedings of His Word

Care for them as their spiritual doctor and nurse, eager to provide all they need to not just survive, but thrive in the outside world!

Wash them with the priceless blood of His Son, Jesus Christ

Change them to be pure and clean both inside and out from the damage of their destructive choices through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit

Clothe them in His righteousness

Swaddle them in His tender loving care

Heal all their wounds and diseases

Give them a brand new life, an abundant life (John 10:10)

In His incubator none of their needs escapes His attention.  No errors!  No mistakes!  Nothing missed or overlooked!  They are receiving around the clock care.  He provides perfect attention to the smallest detail.  No problem is too serious or too difficult for him to heal.  None is beyond His training or expertise.  He is the best one to care for them anywhere in the world or out of this world!  He has all the wisdom, power and knowledge needed.  Every advanced degree, He has it!  So he knows exactly what is needed and is able to provide it at just the right time and in the right way.

This intensive care is quite costly.  On their own they can’t afford (neither can we!) such specialized treatment and would certainly never ask for it!  It cost God His Son, but he was willing to pay the price because he loves them so much.  When we just think about them our hearts burst with love, yet He loves them far more than we ever could!  He knows they need these things to thrive spiritually and He is able to orchestrate the events of their lives to provide it all.

As eager as parents of preemies are to have their baby out of the incubator so they can hold them whenever they want, for as long as they want (maybe your child was a preemie and you remember what it was like!) . . .  parents of prodigals are more than eager for their prayers to be answered.  They are so eager to receive their children back whole and well again!  Some have been waiting many years to have their child renewed, their relationship restored!  I remember the awesome feeling when my daughter (then gone from us for over a year deep into drug and alcohol addiction, near death) came running into my arms asking me to forgive her for all the hurt she’d caused, telling me she loved me so much!  I drank the moment deep into my momma-heart.

Father, please don’t release our children too soon!  As much as we want them “with us”, we want to keep them in your expert care, under your scrutiny and watchful eye until your redeeming work is done! 

O God, Great Physician of every soul, we beg of you to show your tender mercies to our children when they cry out to you for help, when they don’t even know what they need except that they are tired of the pain.  Allow them to feel as much pain, loss, guilt, loneliness, depression, and brokenness as is necessary to bring them to their knees in humble surrender.  May today be the day they fall down before you and beg you to take it all away.  Bring them to the place of being willing to renounce their sinful lifestyle and turn in simple childlike faith to You.  We believe, help our unbelief!

“Now to him who is ABLE to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”  (Eph. 3: 20-21)

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.
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!
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!
“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!”