Suffering is a part of life, as we all are well aware. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves and our loved ones, there are always trials on the horizon. It can be so easy to turn to God in anger, in our resistance to the suffering we perceive He has control over, and quite frankly we expect more from a loving and good God. Yet Christ himself was not even spared the element of suffering in His life. In fact quite the opposite. Christ, being God in the flesh had opportunity and power to avoid suffering and yet didn’t. Even now as God watches over all of us, His children, He Himself suffers as much, if not more, than we do.
So then if God won’t even prevent His own Son’s suffering, or Himself from suffering, why should we expect any different?
A couple of differences between our suffering and Christ’s is firstly that Christ was willing to suffer, where we commonly resist it. And secondly is that Christ had no need for a spiritual audit because He had no sin in Him.
A spiritual audit is exactly as it sounds, a deep inspection of the condition of our hearts, our behaviour, our thoughts, our habits, our obedience and our relationship with God.
Suffering is a result of sin, not always directly tied to our own personal sin, as in “I shouldn’t have had an affair because now my family have left me and it hurts.”, rather as a general rule of the state of sin in the world. God suffers not because of His own sin, but because of the sin in the world. Christ’s death proves that it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ we are, sin will still impact us during our time on earth and cause us pain.
When we go through sufferance, it weakens our resolve taking us to a place where our stubborn hearts have need of God and His assistance. For those who are willing to perform a spiritual audit on themselves there is hope in trials, as evidence that a better change is coming, bringing a brightness of the new spiritual position to be obtained, as even more darker elements are cleared out. A new level of growth in Answer to fervent prayers for God to change our hearts and free us from temptation and despair.
For those of us who expect an easy life and refuse to acknowledge the need of a spiritual audit, by believing ourselves already acceptable, self-assessment is an unnecessary pass time. Because of an ignorance to the pride in our hearts, suffering is a reason to question and challenge God, and to fight against His will. However, when the level of suffering is personal in such a way that we can not ignore the role we played in the consequences of our suffering, more hearts are inclined to self-assess and want to change their ways.
Stubborn hearts pray for others to be as ‘good’ as they are, and pray in anger towards God against the suffering of the innocent. Whereas humble hearts pray for the improved condition of their own standing, and in submission pray for all sin to be overcome, easing the suffering for all, not just the apparent innocent.
For, all of us, every single one has sinned against God, and against our fellow man, in more ways than we like to admit. Our Inner Enemies make our decisions for us so often and we begin to wonder how we ever became who we are. Performing a regular spiritual audit keeps track of exactly what our inner enemies are up to, self-awareness removes all excuses and distractions, and pays attention to ourselves in ways we avoid daily. Being mindful of our thoughts and behaviour gives us back the power to change them, to bring them under the captivity and obedience of Christ.
The enemy of God has tried to convince us that our failings and sins are reasons to avoid God, out of fear, so we not only hide them from Him, but also from ourselves. A spiritual audit clears out this reasoning and reduces us to a humble servant of God, willing to be cleansed, forgiven and loved. Loved with such intensity that our relationship with God is not dependent upon our ‘goodness’ but rather our ability to spiritually audit ourselves and our hearts under God’s gaze and be reassured and confident in His Grace and His Love.
We feel beforehand that this process is a scary thing, yet let me reassure you, you will never regret it, you will grow, grow within yourself, and grow in your relationship with God, and fall deeper in Love with Christ every time you experience the comfort of His Forgiving Grace.
The theme of my concerns over recent weeks/months/years, has circled my role as a Mum. I have this tremendous fear that my insecure reactions may have already damaged my children’s sense of self worth. How it is especially hard trying to raise them to be healthy, happy and secure, while I am still trying to get myself there. I get angry at myself for falling short, giving them less than they deserve. Tears well up as I confess this, it is extremely difficult to share, so please bear with me. I will try to allow my vulnerability and shame to create something worthwhile here…
I lean heavily into my faith, repeating the mantra, “Don’t Stress, Do your Best, God will take care of the Rest and You’ll be Blessed”. I trust in this, yet I admit my trust wavers, especially when it comes to me doing my best, am I really? While He develops my faith, I pursue healing… I must for their sake and my own.
My children are older now (9 & 16), they are dealing with emotional issues, more than behavioural ones. They are extremely well behaved, and try their best to be so. Recently I watched my reactions as a parent to my children even more closely; I saw how often my desire to teach them sounded as if they were ‘less than’. How my attempts to help them understand happiness made them confused and sad. How my reaction to their unhappiness made them self-conscious and withdrawn.
I broke down…
“How is this still happening?” I thought to myself. After over 6 years of therapy and 13 years of developing faith, I still have not figured out how to stop the cycle of damage and self-loathing which has infected its way throughout my family tree.
I wrote and wrote, I poured out my confessions on every scrap of paper I could lay my hand to. I let the tears fall as I held myself accountable for their growing hearts, which need to be nurtured by a Mum that loves in healing ways, not toxic ones. Yet I had no idea why my love was so poisoned.
Then as usual I withdrew again…. into distractions and a couple of glasses of red.
I had a 2.5 hour session with my therapist the other week, and we spent time figuring out the core of my parenting crisis. It was supposed to be the usual hour, but he knew I needed more time and gave it willingly, bless him.
After many tears shed and much rambling, probably mostly incoherent, we came to a few realisations. Firstly, that I have a list of responsibilities in the forefront of my mind. Fighting for the top spot of that list is my desire to make my children happy, along with being an obedient, self aware, child of God, and a supportive, capable and loving wife etc.
We narrowed in on my role as a Mum, to find out what causes me to react in unhealthy ways rather than healthy ones (besides the general thesis that my reactions spring from a platform of shame and insecurity). We needed to discover the more specific catalyst.
Eventually this catalyst revealed itself to be a connection between being happy and being right. I grew up believing being ‘right’ was the be all and end all. I spent so many early years unhappy for being so very far from ‘right’, believing many lies were truth, that somewhere along the way of realising this I have attached unhappiness with being wrong.
As we dug a little deeper we found that whenever I see a need to correct my children’s behaviour or teach them how to deal with something new, my fear of their unhappiness attaches itself to them being human (not perfect) and my panic causes an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is more powerful than my words aimed to teach, more powerful than my good intentions. My way of defending against the fear is what shows on my face as I react. My anger at myself for believing those early lies is what shines out, and all they must see is an angry, scared Mum. No wonder it doesn’t work out well. 😦
We also figured out that I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, the place of stability that helps gauge which situations are worth getting upset about and which ones can be met with a neutral, unemotional response. In my desperate mission to stop my girls ending up like me, I have been allowing my fear to unconsciously correct their emotions and even their opinions. I cant express in words how ashamed I am. Forgive me Father, Forgive me Girls!
And so now that I have become aware of this in more detail, I must learn to give supportive freedom for them to experience their own emotions and opinions in each situation and not link them to being right or wrong, happy or sad, damaged or healed. Just to simply accept them, for all that they are. The Lord will teach them in life what I cannot, I need to change my focus to be less about teaching them how to not be like I was/am, and more on helping them be who they are. Using Affection, Approval and Acceptance to help them believe they are good enough, that they belong and are loved.
My psych has given me some tips to practice, in order to attempt to undo some of these patterns.
- Sitting face-to-face with them wordlessly, non-judgmentally, soothing the internal dialogue inside me, which drives me to teach them to control and avoid imagined catastrophes.
- Sit and listen without responding so much. (Oh my, that is hard for me at anytime)
- Try not to challenge any opinion they have unless 99% sure that it is incorrect.
- Try not to challenge any emotions they have, merely SHARE the experience with them.
- Try not to let their emotions change my emotions reactively. Wait until I can think neutrally before making decisions. This will teach what my words could not, that emotional manipulation is unfair and unhealthy.
- Before I respond to anything, ask myself this question, “Do I feel good enough or defensive?”, and wait until I feel good enough before I respond.
- Use soft eyes and a low pitch when correcting and teaching.
- Be aware of my fearful reactions during meditation, run through these tips from a calm relaxed place and allow the fear to pass by without being the catalyst for reaction.
This list is not going to be easy for me to apply, but I have been trying and had a few successes. I hope that someone else out there can gain something useful from this post. So that other children don’t have to stay in unhealthy cycles. I ask for your prayers, pray that this is finally the breakthrough I have been waiting years for and that God will reach down His hand and help me walk these new strategies out in my life. That His love will flow through to fulfill my girls when my love is tainted with fear. That my inner enemies will not win out, but will end up in the pit far away from my me and my family. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen!
In my previous blog Discipline + Trust = Love I took you through the story of my emotionally manipulative behaviour and how perhaps a lack of discipline and trust contributed to it. I hope it helps others recognise similar behaviour in themselves, and to learn how to access powerful angels to combat this all too common inner enemy. Please read the previous one first, as it sets the foundation for this post.
If you would like to hear more about the emotional trials I faced in my relationships and the success that came from my new perspective have a read of Less Tantrums, More Love. I’d like to keep the focus here to explain more about what God has been trying to help me understand, about how disciplining our children with love helps to build trust and a healthy perspective of how to feel love and be grateful of Godly discipline.
Discipline means, the trait of being well behaved; a branch of knowledge; and training to improve strength or self-control. Trust means, the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others; allow without fear; and complete confidence in a person or plan.
Seeing as I am a parent currently learning these lessons myself, I feel my readers may as well be learning this right along with me. God has been showing me that it is our job as parents to seek His advice in deciding what is right for our children and stick to that with all the tenacity and prayer we can muster, even if they don’t like it, even if they panic, and even if they cry! The hope is that this may help them develop strength, self-control, good behaviour and knowledge. If our children learn that they can trust us, they will believe in our honesty and reliability, have complete confidence in us and our guidelines, without fear.
When I first became a parent I was mindful of the problems the lack of discipline in certain areas caused me, I did my best to address this early on, and was indignant if my children battled against me, sometimes I would win and sometimes I would be defeated. However it wasn’t until I developed some faith that I was more able to withstand against their emotional manipulations. I am far from a role model parent, I loose my temper, react badly and still struggle with the effects of my psychological conditions. However, I am willing to try to stick to my convictions and trust that God will cover areas I am unable to! Amen! I always hope to keep improving as a parent so that during times when they may stand against my authority, or when as they grow and begin to decide for themselves, I can adapt with each phase and yet must remember to recognise the enemy’s tricks and pray for the strength to stand strong with Godly principles in mind.
I came to recognise the inner enemy as the force at work that is trying to get parents to crumble under the emotional pressure and allow children to get away with bad behaviour. The only weapon we have against any inner enemy is God’s army of angels we must call upon with faith and the armour which God provides. This article by a fellow blogger explains The Armour of God from the scriptures if you want to read more on this subject.
After many battles of will with my children and seeing the difference the help from my inner angels makes, I am beginning to realise that ‘meaning what you say with love in your heart’ is the most important way of building your child’s trust and gaining their respect. If we offer a punishment for bad behaviour or a disrespectful attitude, and fail to pass it out, why would a child be concerned by our threats and learn to respect us? If we allow our children’s emotions and tantrums to dictate a change in our rules or our decisions, doesn’t that change who’s in authority? Why then, would they trust us to know what is best for them? I believe we need to teach our children to understand that when we insist on what is best for them and what is acceptable behaviour, even if they don’t ‘like’ it, it proves our trustworthy authority over them and therefore our stable, dependable love for them.
I am seeing more and more that Godly discipline is proactive discipline. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ This is an understanding of what the consequences will be before the child continues with bad behaviour, a warning, then following through with the threatened consequence every time they ignore the warning. I hope my girls grow to trust me to mean what I say, and know that I’m trying to teach them that for all of life’s decisions, there will be consequences. Good or bad. God gives us warnings, that small voice of conscience reminding us of what is dangerous or unacceptable behaviour. We can choose to ignore the warning, but be assured there will be a consequence eventually.
Too often tactics of discipline don’t always work, because a quick sting on the hand may cause tears, and parents do not want to cause their precious baby to cry, as quite frankly the baby cries enough already! It then becomes common to wait to begin disciplining until around 2 years old. By this time the child has already gotten away with unacceptable behaviour without understanding consequences, they have no idea how or why to heed a warning.
Usually the frustration parents feel at having no control or no respect from their children can lead to emotionally reactive discipline, for example yelling, swearing, smacking in anger without warning, unreasonable punishments or irrational threats that may sound scary but will never be carried out. Reactive discipline may actually be the cause why the child does not trust us or respect us! From the minute they try to get their own way, we need to take control and mean what we say with love in our heart.
As we grow older it is much easier for us to accept the ups and downs in life if we have a stable foundation to build on. As a child we may feel angry, scared, sad or confused when we aren’t allowed to get our own way, but if we are disciplined correctly we grow up to learn that our parents loved us, were trustworthy, helped keep us safe, to make stable choices and display appropriate behaviour. Wouldn’t that also help us see that when life gives us warnings and consequences, we can interpret that as God’s unfailing, trustworthy, guidance and love for us, rather than acting like defiant children who throws a tantrum when we don’t get our own way.