Hope for Today

a blog from Rapha Christian Counseling

Life is about Challenge

Real life has plenty of challenges…if we choose to accept them. As the key Scripture for this chapter says, we will have troubling situations in life (John 16:33). We each face daily challenges only the LORD and we can understand. It may be the challenge of going to work or school each day. Or it may be how physical health limits our activities. Or we notice slippage in skills that signal aging. Whatever the source, we all have challenges. And there are challenges we fear, because we cannot know what the outcome will be.
Notice I am using the word challenge and not problem. A challenge is neither good nor bad, just a part of life. A challenge is something a person can overcome. Some even create challenging situations or circumstances so they can have mastery over them.
Problems are often seen as hurtful and harmful. Each one seems to take on a life of its own. A problem can control and consume us, rather than we controlling and consuming it.
A key to difficult times is whether we choose to face them or ignore them. Avoiding life challenges is saying there is no offense, no scandal or troublesome time to be addressed. Facing challenges head on is to understand the nature of life. While a passive approach might work sometimes, it is in actively facing challenges we lessen and overcome our fears and feelings of helplessness.

Taken out of “From Fear to faith” (second edition), by Bob Mullen, Ed.D.
(Anticipated publication date January 2012, Ketch Publishing, Bloomington, IN)

Bob sees clients in Ft.Worth at the West Freeway Church of Christ.

The care and keeping of adolescents

by Kay Bruner MEd, LPC-Intern (supervised by Todd Linder MEd, LPC-S)

My husband and I have four children.  Two are in their early 20′s, and two are still teenagers.  We’ve been living in the transitional, hormone-infused, crazy-land of adolescence for almost 10 years, and we’ve got another 5 or 6 yet to go.  Over the past year, I think we have finally come to feel like we know what we’re doing.

When I say that we know what we are doing, I don’t mean that we have rules and techniques that will infallibly result in good grades, nice behavior, and excellent choices at all times.  Sorry to disappoint so early in this blog.

Here’s what I mean when I say we know what we’re doing:  we are way less worried about good grades, nice behavior, and excellent choices at all times.  We have gotten better at knowing what’s our part, what’s theirs, and what’s God’s.  We have gotten better at stepping back emotionally and doing the right thing as we know it in this moment.  We have gotten better at doing things differently when they’re not working any more, rather than being stuck on The One Right Way to Deal With This Child.  Adolescence is a training ground for adulthood.  Mistakes will be made.  By all of us.  We will all survive, thrive, and figure it out as we go along.

And we have come across some broad ideas about adolescents that are helping us to deal more calmly with occasional bad grades, irritating behavior, and sad choices.

They are children.

They need my love, my attention, and my care.  They need their dad’s love, attention, and care.  They may not speak to us for weeks at a time (and boy is it aggravating when that happens), but we have to show them that we love them and value them no matter what.  Just because they are big, doesn’t mean we can scream and yell and call them bad names.  When I am completely confused about what to do next, I can still love them even if they don’t want to hear it.  My love is right here, waiting for them.

They think they’re grown-ups.  

And this is just not true!  First of all, the State of Texas disagrees.  Secondly, the brain is still developing during adolescence, in particular the frontal lobe, which is responsible for planning ahead and making healthy decisions.  Newsflash:  teenage brains will come up with crazy things unless wiser parental brains prevail.  Therefore, we are still required, by law and by common sense, to provide boundaries and consequences.  (Read Boundaries with Kids and apply the principles as needed.)

Someday soon they will be grown-ups. 

That means I need to look beyond the current situation and think about the future.  Am I helping too much?  Saving my child from natural consequences?  If so, I might be teaching my kid that he can’t do it without me.  And the reality is, usually he can.  It might be painful and ugly for a while, but he can do it.  And I need to let him.  Unless I want him to live at home for a long, long time.  Experts are saying adolescence in America extends to age 26 these days.  That might sound like fun to you, but I’m hoping to come in under the average over here at my house.

They like freedom but responsibility is another story.

OK, let’s just tell the truth.  We ALL like freedom and not responsibility.  I would love to lay on the beach all day and have someone bring me one Diet Coke after another.  This is just being human.  But it’s not reality.  In the real world, freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand into healthy adulthood.

I bless the invention of the cell phone, because cell phone ownership is a magnificent laboratory for the balance of freedom and responsibility.  Cell phones, contrary to adolescent opinion, are not necessary for the sustenance of life.  They are convenient and fun and “everybody has one,” but believe me when I say, you can live without one.  Remember, none of us parents had one!  Having a phone is a privilege, a freedom, that someone has to be responsible to pay for.  So in our family, you are welcome to have a cell phone when you can pay the bill.  Similarly, you are welcome to drive when you can pay for your insurance.  You are welcome to have a car when you can buy it and maintain it yourself.  Either you want these things and will get a job to provide them for yourself, or not.  Up to you.  These are grown-up privileges, and this is how the grown-up world works.  I’ve had to stand up to some lectures from my kids about how this is unfair, unfeeling, and just plain unAmerican.  But I’m really OK with that.  I think they need to learn this, and I’m sticking to it.

Not every single thing they do is all about me.

Sometimes they do things because they’re angry and want to irritate me.  But a lot of times they’re just doing what they’re doing.  I can invite my child to talk to me about what’s going on, and if there’s something wrong between us, we can work on it.  But if my child declines, I need to back off and let her be.  Differentiating is a huge task during adolescence, and I’ve got to learn to be OK with that.  My role as a parent changes during these years.  Some kids need a lot of space and that can be really painful for us as parents.

I am not in control.  Thank God.

It’s not my job to be in control.  My job is to do my part and that is all.  God holds my children in His loving hands.  When I’m confused and afraid, He is not.  When my kids exercise their free will in ways I think are detrimental to their health and my well-being, God is still at work, doing more than I could ever ask, think, or dream.

Fear

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind! 1 Timothy 1:7

“Do not be afraid!” God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. Three hundred and sixty-five times in scripture God has spoken this message to His people. “Do not fear.”

It would appear that 1 Timothy 1:7 is setting fear and a sound mind, or faith, at opposite ends of the continium. Faith is good, fear is bad.

Fear is a familiar friend as it seduces us into believing or thinking in ways that are contrary to a life of dependence upon God. Adam and Eve were afraid to they would miss out on more knowledge so they ate of the fruit. The prodigal was afraid he would miss out on all the pleasures life had to offer. Saul was afraid David would overthrow his kingdom.

Today, in the richest country of the world, we live in fear of what we may be missing out on, or that someone will get something we are entitled to. Advertisers seek to heighten the discontentment and fear we have lying inside of us. Fear causes a breakdown in relationships. I don’t share my pain with my wife because I fear her response or lack of response. A wife may stop being sexual with her husband out of fear of getting close to him and being rejected once again. Teenagers may take drugs or have pre-marital sex because they are afraid of standing up for their beliefs.

The natural follow up question then would be, “If I let go of my fear, what do I replace it with?” Scripture talks about a life of faith.

As counselors we daily ask people to examine what is driving their decisions. Are they running away from something (fear) or to something (faith)? Are they obsessing about someone (fear) or resting in Him (faith)?

The thing that is so ironic about these choices is that even when we act in fear it is a form of faith. Fear is faith in ourselves, in what we can or cannot accomplish. We rely upon our own wisdom, resources, and abilities to solve our situational crisis.

Finally, there is a healthy fear, a reverence and respect of God. Scripture says, “it is the beginning of wisdom.” A healthy fear of God combined with a fearless determination to follow Him will put us on the path to power, love and a sound mind!

Hope

“Hope springs eternal.”  That well worn statement implies a need to be hopeful, it implies that hope gives us renewed vigor.  Scripture also states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Optimism with its fixation on positive thinking, futurism with its romantic hope in tomorrow, and egotism with its self-centered hopes all fall short of REAL HOPE.  God has planted deep within all of us a longing and desire to be satisfied only by and through relationship with Him.  Hope then is not a yearning for the unknown, but a longing for more of what we do know about Him.  Hope is not a preoccupation with what may come, but a concern for increasing and enriching what has begun.  (Phil 1:16)

The distortion of a sin nature that turns “hope” into something else.  Here are some of the ways hope can be twisted:

HOPES TWISTED BECOME FALSE HOPES

Togetherness- becomes a wish for no differences, conflict or diversity

Acceptance- grows into a demand for no criticism, no negatives, and no confrontation

Harmony- emerges as an attempt to feel no anger, conflict or arousal

Love- turns into a need to control, manipulate, and dominate

Adequacy- is expressed as a belief that tender, sad, or painful feelings must be suppressed or denied

Success- can make one afraid of failure, frightened of facing any imperfections

So the necessary hopes, the TRUE HOPES of effective relationships- needs fulfilled through an intimate relationship with our maker that we in turn long for and fulfill in our closest human relationships, such as togetherness, acceptance, harmony, love, adequacy and success – can, through fear and failure, become the FALSE HOPES of homogenizing people and relationships.  The FALSE HOPES gradually swallow up the TRUE HOPES.  Many families live by this cluster of FALSE HOPES and pass them along from one generation to the next.

So, in many ways, the paradox of the Christian life presents itself again with the conclusion that FALSE HOPES of life must die before TRUE HOPE can be born in us.  They must die because they can destroy not only personhood and relationships but community and the church, as well.

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