Friday, August 8, 2014

It's Just Too Hard

Romans 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

It's been so easy to get discouraged this summer. I really can't think of a summer that's been worse in terms of hassles and stress and just big life stuff. Mary's anxiety started the season on a sour note, followed by my realization that she wasn't reading as well as expected because of dyslexia. Why didn't I see it sooner? I feel like a failure there.

Now more recently, possibly because of not sleeping through the night, Mary's been very impulsive and gets in trouble frequently, which is not like her. ADHD can show up around this age, and she's showing many signs; she already had signs of the inattentive type, and now I see signs of the combined type (both inattentive, and hyperactive/impulsive). She is very discouraged and suffers from low self-esteem because of her fears and because school is hard for her.

Right now as I type there are two bug containers on the computer desk, both belonging to Mary, who is my naturalist (along with Peter). She's at peace with the world when she's outside, and it's a fight to get her to concentrate when the creepy crawlies are out, waiting to be discovered. The trees and the grasshoppers and the katydids and the snakes don't care how fast she reads, or if she gets her numbers reversed or not. Life is not complicated for her there.

So two large woolly bear caterpillars, her pets, make my skin crawl as I type, though I admit they are quite fascinating. They ignore me and eat their leaves, and two large grasshoppers, in a different container, watch the antics of the caterpillars, or so it seems. Both want their freedom and I entreat my children to keep them only 24 hours, except for one caterpillar of each type for metamorphosis.

But I digress.

I tell my 12-year-old son all the time that his anger and behavior problems are triggered most often by this one line of thinking..."It's not fair." The longer he allows himself to walk along the "it's not fair" bunny trail, the more his anger rises up and gets him in trouble. It's his responsibility to change his self-speak and have alternative positive statements ready, because the negative self-speak is the trigger. People don't have anger management problems, they have trigger management problems (thought management problems).

Similarly, I have felt so often this summer..."it's too hard." It's too hard to have four kids with special needs. It's too hard to have two kids with behavior problems. It's too hard to keep up with everything else and stop frequently to coach someone on their stance against OCD or phobia. I can't be a magician with the budget and a therapist and a special-education teacher, a decent housekeeper, a delegator of chores, a savvy manager, and still have energy to give hugs and smiles and laugh and play as though life is a rose garden. What about when life is one long summer of stinging nettle?

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

I have seen the parallels with what I'm teaching my son, and I know my problem this summer isn't really the dyslexia or the anxiety or the OCD or the behavior problems. It's the..."it's too hard" bunny trail. Biblical teaching and cognitive-behavioral teaching coincide on this point: our thoughts get us in trouble. As Christians, we're to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We belong to Christ so all our thoughts belong to Christ as well. The more we let ourselves go on negative bunny trails in our minds, the further we get from Christ and the closer we get to the enemy, who is the ultimate "thought deceiver".

Cognitive-behavioral therapy says if you change your behavior, regardless of its dysfunctional cause, you can change your outcome. You don't need to sit on some therapist's couch for hours to talk about what a weird upbringing you had, and try to figure out how it messed you up. You just need to change your problematic behavior.

Studies show that those who keep gratitude lists are happier and healthier people. They have changed their behavior (stopped complaining?), and thereby changed their outcomes. It works and the Bible backs it up, but for different reasons. When you change your behavior and keep your eyes on the Lord and not on your regrettable bunny trails, you will have peace of soul and mind. Our outcomes improve as we embrace Christ and his plan.

Does this mean we won't have a care in the world just because we've embraced Christ more? No one will ever lose their job or find a suspicious lump? They might, but it won't matter. It would only matter if we were on the "it's too hard" or "it's not fair" bunny trail, and those trails aren't of Christ.

What is of Christ? That no one should perish; the Lord sets his mind on that. His plan revolves around it and we are instruments in his plan.

That plan, for me, includes having four children with exhausting special needs. What does it include for you? I look around me and I see that being a Christian is never easy. If there's no monumental challenge, what attention and glory does Christ receive? My challenges with my children are an opportunity to let Christ shine. Indeed, I'm exhausted and discouraged because I want to shine and I can't. Discouragement comes from the wrong focus, not usually the wrong footsteps.

My self-speak needs to change, and fast. I'm no good to my family or to my Lord until I can get my thoughts held captive, and embrace and recite some holy ones. I encourage you to get some index cards and write these scriptures down, or print them from the Bible Gateway site and paste them onto index cards. These scriptures are food for life. They are the nourishment our souls crave, and the self-speak our minds need ready at a moment's notice, when the enemy comes by with an enticing bunny trail. Think of these verses as not only nourishment, but armor too.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

1 comment:

Tesha Papik said...

Love all the scriptures you shared!!! I am actively working on taking every thought captive and getting off the too hard bunny trail! Praying you get the victory also!