Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When a Child Suffers: How to Avoid Despair


I set the breakfast table with oatmeal and nature, opening the blinds in our sunroom/dining room to invite God's glory into our hearts and minds.

"Oh no! Look at those dark clouds! Somebody check the weather!" 

And so Mary sank into despair, anticipating God's know what...tornadoes, the roof being blow away, intense thunder and lightening...a crisis beyond compare.

Anxiety doesn't make sense, ever. All common sense exits when it enters the room. It's like a destructive wave, trying to pull all our faculties with it.

Thunder is in the forecast this week, but not today, which will only hit the mid-50's. But I don't concentrate on the forecast with her. Each day her storm phobia invites her to concentrate on the weather, and not on God's glory, strength, or omniscience.

Last year we complied and read her the weather word for word, but sometimes left certain things out without actually lying. God has sharpened my ability to counsel and this year, I've decided not to make it about the weather, no matter how much she pushes.

So I said:

"God is the same today as he was yesterday. His power is greater than any storm in our lives. If the roof blows away, he is still the same gracious, glorious, loving, all-powerful God, able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine."

So each time the fear comes, concentrate on the promises and the power of God, not on the skies. You know a lot of verses by heart that will help you."

Ephesians 3:20 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,

Mary and Peter both deal with crippling anxiety at times, and it is tempting, when they are out of control with it, to see it as my battle. In fact, the younger the child, the easier it is to see it as our battle.

The whole family is upset when someone is dealing with out-of-control anxiety. It's all encompassing and all activities just hit a standstill until it passes. Even the unaffected can't concentrate well.

In order not to sink into deep despair myself, I have to maintain a perspective--separating myself from my children. I am responsible for comforting and counseling them, with patience and lovingkindness, but I'm not responsible for the battles God has deemed acceptable in their lives.

No other time is it as clear that they are God's, not mine, than when they are suffering or making mistakes. They are individuals, entrusted to my care and to my heart, but their battles are not mine. Each child of God battles afflictions of some sort, and it's important that in parenting our children, we lead them to God, not to ourselves.

We are not the answer. We are not the crutch. We are not the comfort their souls crave. Our loving arms can give them a taste of Jesus' love, and our counsel can give them a taste of the Lord's wisdom, but it really ends there.

The specific burden isn't important--whether depression, anxiety, disorder, or disease. All burdens are allowed in our lives for one purpose: to drive us to the Cross, to cause us to lean on Him so His glory can shine through our weaknesses.

I have to read about their various afflictions, yes. I have to be informed. I have to know how to respond helpfully, but I can't put my hope in psychology or medicine. The past several years have driven that point home.

Last year I was sure a psychologist specializing in Exposure Response Prevention was the answer for Peter. I tell you...I was so sure! And the therapy is in fact well proven, but not everybody responds. Thirty percent don't. And some others haven't hit rock bottom yet and think they still have control over their OCD. They reject the excruciating nature of exposing themselves to their fears.

I felt so defeated and discouraged, and I knew then that I hadn't put my hope properly in God.

This year promises, thus far, to be as difficult as last year with both Mary and Peter's issues. The Holy Spirit reminds me of these things:

~ Don't get stuck in today. The Lord is always working and we have to exercise patience in affliction. He is intimately acquainted with our children as individuals. He knit them together and he loves them far more than we do. Just think of that for a minute and marvel at it. Far more than we do. He's got this crisis.

~  Get on your knees. Plead with God on their behalf. Don't get so caught up in despair and worry that you forget to pray. Good parenting is prayer. Period.

~ Don't take responsibility for their reactions. Suppose they don't heed counsel and you don't see them praying or trying to improve at all? Disengage from their choices and let God work. He is chiseling away at them; they are masterpieces to him. They are not bundles of despair for good. Believe, Mom. Just believe. It may take months or years, depending on the affliction. But persevere in believing.

~ Don't judge.  It is hard to understand out-of-control anxiety and depression. If you don't know it yourself, especially refrain from judgement. I can tell from my children's symptoms that it's extremely powerful and can't be willed away. It takes them for a ride, and they have to decide when they've had enough and want to get off. It is a process requiring incredible courage. How mature do they have to be to make that decision? I don't know, but God does and he has not left the room. 

~ Post comforting verses and proven coping mechanisms on the walls, but don't preach them constantly. Your child needs to see you as more of a supporter and encourager then as a hard-driving counselor. Love and pray first, counsel second. Maybe stick with one short counseling session a day? Or only when you've learned a new counseling technique? Refrain from counseling every time fear or depression enter the room.

~ Don't neglect your own spiritual feedings. It is hard not to hit the psychology or medical books when you've run out of answers and stamina. As moms we always want to solve everything and in a sense this is a sign of hope. It is proactive. But in what are we placing our hope? Our children are watching and we need to make it abundantly clear where our hope lies. By all means, be informed. But always reach for the Bible, for prayer sessions, first, and the medical opinions after that.

~ Don't neglect family devotions. It is easy when everyone is emotionally exhausted to just skip family devotions. The heaviness makes it that much harder to concentrate, but stick with your daily family devotions anyway, as a discipline. Look upon this as your sustenance as a family. It is the glue that sticks you together as a unit, and it's what God mandates for parents. It can be messy and loud and not beautiful at all some nights or mornings, but do it. Just do it.

If you have a child suffering, let me know and I will pray with you. You are not alone, Mom.

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1 comment:

multicolouredsmartypants.com said...

Very interesting. Although I know my children are mine only in name, and they belong to God, I had somehow forgotten that in practice.

Praying for you all x