Through these few weeks of suffering the condition I mentioned in a recent post, I have been more focused than ever on bringing more of God’s presence into my day-to-day life. Funny that!
We always stretch further for Him when we are suffering, don’t we?
Last week I completed a 2 week fast. No alcohol, No TV, and did not touch a blog site or any social media. My intention was to meditate, and work on my novel, as much as possible (although my plans are not always His and He had other things for me to deal with).
The foundation of a successful fast, is giving up anything that seeks to control us, anything we enjoy enough to get lost in, or find a pull towards during tough times. Easy distractions or addictions, habits and weaknesses. During a fast we make a 100% non-negotiable promise, to God, to go without which ever thing we are fasting for an achievable amount of time.
Each time the tempting thought arises we acknowledge God and our promise to Him, we reinforce that promise and we ask for His help when it gets tough. By doing this we are making some huge expressions of faith from our softened hearts. (God just loves it when we do this!)
These are some things that speak out of our hearts during a fast like this – God is real, He watches us, We revere Him enough to want to keep our promise. We need his help when we are weak. We are willing to give up the pleasures of the world to acknowledge Him and invite Him in to our situation.
It is the most powerful exercise I have found to overcome the world and my flesh, and witness His presence.
The first thing I noticed during this particular fast, was how much spare time I had to get other things done. I accomplished so much, and after feeling useless for a number of weeks, I felt a great sense of achievement as I ticked off many things on my never ending to-do list.
The second thing I noticed was how much easier it was to discover God’s guidance and to find things to praise Him for. The medication I am on for this condition has exacerbated my mood disorder significantly, I am more emotionally sensitive than ever. It can only take a millisecond for me to burst into tears, or flick on the rage switch, grit my teeth and loose any place of calm. Often, in times like this, I pray. Usually something desperate like “Oh Lord help me, take away my emotions, help so-and-so see how hard this is for me and not aggravate me! I don’t want to feel like this” etc. Then I wait…with angry tears….until He changes things.
However, during this fast I found praising Him was a much quicker way to flick off that unpleasant switch.
I recommend everyone tries this, it is not always easy, but it works every time!
Right in the midst of a full blown attack, when our Inner Enemies are hitting us from every angle, rather than fighting back in anger, we can end the battle then and there. By pushing aside that tidal wave of ammunition, which fuels unpleasant emotions, just for a second, and find something, anything to be grateful for. Praise God for that, whatever it may be. It could be as simple as the ability to breathe, or the warm bed you are about to snuggle up in… It could be the legs that allow you to walk away from something aggravating. 😉
If there is anything that will send our Inner Enemies high-tailing it into the distance, it is Praise! Worship! Gratitude! Forgiveness! A sure way to grab onto the face of God and turn it towards you!
Ever get that feeling that the world is dragging you to become a person you don’t want to be?
When I’m asleep I can escape the world. No decisions to make, no temptation to resist, nothing to discern. During slumber I am not wondering if I will disappoint someone, I have no emotions to battle against. There is no war between Inner Angels & Enemies, no calling to obey and nothing to control.
Thank you Lord for precious sleep!
However, sleeping away our lives is not a productive option.
We open our eyes to a world of demand and opportunity, of obligations and expectations. A daily tight-rope walk toward faithful success, over the abyss of chaos and weakness. A balancing act between grabbing for the spiritual presence of God and functioning happily in the world we must live in.
When life gets tough I put on God’s armour, and draw nearer to Him. I know the best way to fight life’s battles is God’s way. In these most difficult times I live each day fully aware of the spiritual war that surrounds me. I become vigilant about what I allow my soul to be exposed to. I am guarded about what my eyes see and my ears hear, about who I spend time with, what movies I watch, books I read etc. I focus on my self-discipline and time in devotion. How much of the world I allow into my home and my soul becomes a constant concern.
Yet, when life goes well, when stress and drama fade, it’s common to get relaxed and drop our guard. It seems so easy to be pulled along by the world. Effortlessly slipping into self-indulgence when the opposition appears to be giving us a break. Time to celebrate the wins, and enjoy the blessings the Lord has given. A little of the world begins to show up here and there, the odd subtle seductive temptation. If you’re like me, you might breeze over them, certain these tiny battles are irrelevant after the masses of spiritual blood and tears shed previously.
Time passes quickly, more and more of the world creeps in, sneakily distracting us from our calling, from our dreams, from the character God has been developing within. Inner enemies are always hunting determinedly for an opening, seeking to slip into our lives and knock our character off track. Encouraging us to pick our distraction of choice and indulge in it.
Time and time again I recognise that the more intimate I am with God, the more offended I am by the evil in the world, and the more I resist it. Yet when my focus is not firmly on Him, I become less sensitive to it. After a while I get a tap on the shoulder from the Lord who impresses on my heart how much evil is being slipped under the door of each and every home. Desensitizing us to its poison, distracting us from the bigger picture. I lift my head, I open my eyes, I see it. I find myself knee deep in the world again.
I repent of my weakness and lean into the strong arms of Yeshua. I let His love wash over me, because self-condemnation is such a familiar foe, it will drag me down, making it even harder to climb out of the deep worldly waters. I come back to the place where His strength helps me to consciously regroup my focus with my calling, and leave the slippery slopes of the world behind.
Inner Enemies are real! Just look within, you will find them. Pushing the world aside limits their access to us…. I walk this line, I aim for balance, but no matter how hard I try, life has a way of reminding me that I can’t do it without the Inner Angels dispatched by God to help me.
A few years ago I read this statement by Author Lysa Terkerst and have tried to refer to it ever since.
“Don’t let the compliments of others go to your head, or their criticisms to your heart”
I failed to adhere to this advise recently, and it has become the foundation of a new level of perspective.
Having had a very successful couple of months of blogging, I have become somewhat ‘hyper-enthusiastic’, it has been so wonderful to see people all over the world reading my stuff, then even ‘liking’ some and giving such wonderful compliments. Yet I have fallen into a trap set for me by my inner enemies, I confess that I have come to rely on my ‘blog stats’ to verify the success of my calling. I can hear all the horrified ‘GASPS’ of shock. (*Wink) I imagine this is pretty common.
Unfortunately it is not as trivial as it may seem, nothing ever is with me!
This is dangerous territory, treading way too close to pride than I like to get. By no means can I take any credit for any of this success, I completely acknowledge all glory goes to the Lord for any ability He has given me to write. Besides people always like His stuff much better than anything I try to come up with on my own 🙂 I suppose it is simply that I have become overly animated by the evidence that He can use me.
A big element of my personality is an addiction to WORDS. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very busy mind, often have many thoughts, words and ideas buzzing around inside my head and I am drawn into sharing these with others. Sometimes expressing them and seeing them more clearly brings tremendous benefit to my chaotic state of mind, other times I become manic and fear that my testimony may be damaged as I ramble on in a state lacking control.
I am also compulsive by nature and harbor much nervous energy. I used to smoke irregularly when my busy mind found an empty moment to kill, when I quit smoking I took up Facebooking, filling the spaces by automatically checking for notifications using the app on my phone. On a bad or slow day this simple act can get out of hand, so I knew I needed to once again take action. When I quit Facebook, I took up blogging. You see a pattern here? I am now constantly tempted to check to see – Who has viewed? Where were they? Did they ‘Like’ it? “Does someone want to share ‘words’ with me?” All stemming from these long standing traits.
A month into blogging, this pattern began emerging (again) so as usual I went on a 3 day Fast. I didn’t go onto my blog site at all, didn’t check my ‘stats’, was determined not to read any comments or reply for 3 whole days! (Luckily God didn’t allow me to be tempted by comments during those three days, as my blog received none, He knows! Lol)
I have come to find that fasting something for 3 days, is extremely beneficial to our development of faith and victory in overcoming the habitual temptations of life. In times when either breaking a habit, or preventing one from forming, or simply going without something we enjoy for God, is a symbol of recognition that we need Him in our situation more. This is because 3 days is fairly achievable, and therefore we are less likely to break our promise and become self-condemning. 3 days is also long and difficult enough to need help to reach the promised goal. Every time the tempting thought pops up during this time, we can acknowledge the promise we made, and ask God for Help, this breaks up the automatic train of thought. It invites Him into the situation and an army of angels are dispatched to our aid.
So even though I have fasted blogging a couple of times, I must admit that due to all the new experiences it has brought me, my state of mind has become even more excitable than usual and I have allowed the compliments of others to somewhat go to my head (or perhaps rather my hands).
Compulsive nature can be easy fodder for our inner enemy to form habits, dangerous ones that try to to push us off the narrow path. It brings a whole other side to the coined phrase “Idle Hands are the Devil’s plaything”.
Next came phase two, when I received a couple of blunt criticisms which I let go straight to my heart, deeply. I reacted badly, defended, felt guilty, then that old familiar fear began to rise up from the depths of my soul, pressing hard on my heart, it began to choke me, forming a lump in my throat, and by the time this fear got to my head I was lost and consumed by it.
The main focus of these criticisms:- my unruly mouth. A negative response to the easy and common temptation to think too much and share every thought in my head, especially during a bout of psychological ‘mania’. I am aware of this, I have been all my life, it has brought me great shame, I have prayed and confessed about this more than anything else. While I have seen much improvement during the years God has been changing and developing me, this is the one area of weakness that I experience the most regular and regrettable backward slips. Old habits do die hard!
Often the desire to force being different from the reality of who I am causes severe bouts of depression.
When I get attacked with a bout of depression like this a few things commonly happen. I doubt and condemn myself and confess it all to God, I believe the words of people I care about and respect so much that I ask God to help me become what they think I should be. At the same time I try to remind myself that this is how God made me, I need to love and accept myself, and that I need to work with Him to bring about any changes He is guiding me to make. It can become quite a confusing mixture of thoughts as I try to determine which ones I should listen to.
This inner to and fro can lead to thoughts of insanity which creep to the threshold of my mind, leaving me unable to trust a thought in my own head. Battling these types of psychological conditions causes mental fatigue, I refer to this as an ‘emotional hangover’ , a few wasted days spent heavy and extremely sensitive. After this it is common to want to make up for lost time and I can become manic and go into overdrive to catch up and get ‘on top’ of things, only to fall short of my own expectations.
It is common to want to reach out to someone, needing them to help clear away some of the self-condemnation, however often human misunderstanding of spiritual or psychological systems can lead to badly timed good intentions which can clumsily handle a fragile heart. Now while I personally have found much support through professional therapists, they can not cover all the bases these situations require. Only God and His word know how to properly handle this type of vulnerability, so we need to reach out for Him in prayer.
These attacks soften the heart, making it fragile as it prepares to receive the new level of perspective and to break off old unwanted strongholds. Forcing a new level of complete submission to God, depending on Him for every thought and every action, begging Him to take the wheel and drive.
As usual I prayed for clarity and for sanity, I prayed for Him to keep a tight reign on my lips, I prayed for freedom and self-acceptance, I cried bitter tears of remorse, I asked for forgiveness, and I begged Him to meet me in my pit and rescue me.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”. Psalms 51:17 (ASV)
Within a few minutes of intense prayer at the time my heart was at it’s most fragile, I was sent comfort. First I received a pleasant surprise to distract me from my thoughts, a little later an unexpected, warm, lingering embrace and a confession of Love. The next day a special family evening, spent sharing ‘words’ with those I love and cherish most on this earth. Then a days break, a day alone to listen to soothing music and allow me to begin to collect my thoughts. Hallelujah!
Since all this has really taken it out of me I have taken some much needed R&R, which you may have read about in my recent post A Fragile Heart.
When we obey and make steps to fulfill our calling we open ourselves up to the inner enemies attacks to try and put us off track. This may come in obvious ways through physical circumstances such as a verbal attack from someone unexpected, perhaps burning your hand or cutting a finger while cooking dinner, or disturbed sleep from petty annoyances, perhaps just an unruly household with everyone in a ‘mood’, rubbing each other in the worst ways. Sometimes the enemies attacks can come through more subtle ways, through temptation, or creating a fearful mindset, through psychological weakness, or a moment of confusion at the expense of your faith. These are his scare tactics, hoping we will not follow through in obedience, and you can be sure that if we do continue on the obedient path we will see some of these attacks result afterwards as well. This is the enemies backlash in retaliation to any ground we may have made toward God.
Yet this is the war we are in, and when we are obeying the Almighty and keeping our hearts open to Him, He gives us comfort through faith by knowing He will be victorious. We are on the winning side even if the evidence all around may appear bleak. Depend on His strength when you are weak, find comfort in knowing you are Loved no matter what lies the enemy or the world tells you. And be prepared to suffer and to grow, and to rest and to fight again and to succeed, then suffer and grow, then rest and then fight and then succeed ……..and so on and so on….. Until this war and life as we know it ends, and we are finally free from this battle, changed by Him forever. When the enemy loses all influence and Righteousness Reigns into ETERNITY!
So often I hear stories and see with my own eyes the damage brought about when parents separate. Children from split families often struggle with insecurity, and a string of psychological conditions. This is a subject extremely close to my heart, as I was estranged from my father from the age of 10 until I was an adult, and I still battle with the internal scars it caused me.
After doing some research I found some shocking statistics effecting children whose parents are no longer together. Not only are the children from split families prone to psychological distress, which lasts well into adulthood. These statistics also showed frightening increased levels in the following areas when compared to children from homes with both parents, these include; lower grades, poverty, poor health, suicidal tendencies, incarceration, teen drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual encounters, and the likelihood of being victims of child abuse and assault. 40% of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers; commonly the case in Australia also. Half of the children in America and Australia will witness the separation or divorce of their parents. A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure”.
It seems that many marriage vows are no longer taken as an actual ‘vow’, it is a promise too easily broken, same goes for people who chose to have children together without considering how the child may be effected if there is no family unit. For example when I learned of my teen pregnancy I knew I would manage on my own just as my Mum had, but I never considered how my child might be affected by who her father was. It seemed irrelevant to me, because I was a child who grew up without a father, and at that time I thought I had turned out ok. (Ha! I can tick off well over half of the points above!)
Due to the rampant popularity of sex before marriage, it has become more common to agree to have a child with someone before we have even decided if we would marry them. Having a child together should be acknowledged as an even stronger commitment than marriage, yet this often fails to be the case. Children from separated families raising their own children are sometimes unable to see the consequences from that separation, as they have not developed the self-awareness to see their true internal stability or instability yet. Therefore the cycle continues and increases throughout society.
So often in our relationships we allow too easily the bumps of life to divide us, we live in a throw away, walk away society which has destructive, devastating consequences to the development of our characters and the spiritual “footprints” we leave behind. Western culture allows us to choose our own life partners, we choose out of emotion, need and desire, and then quickly, easily, we doubt our choice. Perhaps we assume it was the wrong choice because our previous lessons came from one of our bad decisions. Perhaps its because we didn’t apply Godly principles of LOVE to our relationships. Perhaps it is just too hard and we give up in search of something easier, of course we forget that it was not meant to be easy. For children this destroys their ingrained belief in the capability of their parents. The very foundation of a child’s perspective of stability and security comes from the belief that their parents are the most capable people on earth, they look to them for reassurance. When parents fail to work on their relationship and it breaks down, so does the trust of their children in them.
The emotions behind the reasons we chose our life partners are fickle! Once powerful and thought-consuming, eventually will change, develop, or even disappear completely over time. We are humans with much baggage and sin, and we expect our life partners to miraculously fill our empty places and help us carry the baggage weighing us down, and that means they are hoping the same from us also. Love and sexual connections actually allow our baggage and sinful nature to rise to the surface, so that we can face it and deal with it together as a couple. However, the ‘Better or Worse’ promise only seems to apply when we see their ‘better’ side, and we stop loving them when faced with their ‘worst’, too often facing each others sinful baggage causes much heartache and leads to bitterness and separation.
Speaking from personal experience, this is something I spend most of my time in therapy dealing with. The essence of both parents is within a child; therefore any bitterness viewed by a child from one parent toward the other is identified in some way as bitterness towards a part of them. It sends confusing messages into the inner foundation of their self-love and security.
Due to this inner battle, where I turned this bitterness upon myself, I have suffered from an incredible amount of insecurity, unsure of how anyone can truly love me because it took years for me to learn to accept myself, like myself, let alone LOVE myself.
The enemy within knows our inner wounds and is out to destroy the foundation of all of God’s designs, especially the functional family unit.The inner enemy can exaggerate our emotions, pointing to the hurt or painful memories over and over, knowing the action that follows will be a destructive one. We owe it to our children to use our inner angels to war against these emotions, striving to make sure our actions are the result of a selfless, logical decision and not a selfish, emotional one. We need to call on our Heavenly Father, knowing that our obedience to Him allows His promise to protect our children to be fulfilled.
Didn’t we make a secret promise to our children when we became parents? We would do anything to keep them safe. Their inner security is vital when determining the ‘safer’ path they will walk in their lives and it is our duty to steady their feet for their journey ahead.