When there is a loss in the family, whether due to divorce or death of a family member, children tend to feel like it is their fault. Professionsals call this belief system magical thinking. In the movie, Home Alone, Kevin wished his parents would disappear. Then he woke up the next morning and found them gone. He believed his impulsive wish had come true. He thought his momentary desire caused the permanent loss of his entire family. Although he found resourceful ways to fight the bungling thieves, Kevin believed he was alone in the world and tried to make the best of it. When his family returned, he leaped into their arms with joy. That example shows how children process loss. They need to know it is not their fault that there was a change in their family. The adults in their lives must help them know the loss is not their fault, but in a way they can understand. On this blog we will spend some time examining ways to help grieving children. We will also discuss things parents and churches can do to help raise emotionally and spiritually healthy families. I invite you to share ideas of your own and to ask questions about family issues. We can work together with God to build a better family, whcih helps to build a better world.
The news is full of stories about childhood sexual abuse, but most of the articles leave out one important fact. Even one incident of sexual abuse can change a child’s life forever, leaving anger that can be turned outward to the abuser, but is usually turned inward. Even if the abuse is just touching or inappropriate exposure, it can have a life long effect on the child. The story doesn’t stop there. Child abuse leaves a wounded spirit that opens the door for Satan to implant lies into the child’s soul. People can tell the child the truth, but that may have little impact on the core beliefs of the child: “I’m alone, I’m dirty, I’m worthless, I’m powerless,” and on and on. These beliefs can become so entrenched in the child’s mind that only the truth of Jesus can abolish them. 1 Corinthians 6:16 NIV says, “Or do you not know that he who is joined with harlot is one body with her? ‘For the two,'” He says, ‘shall become one flesh.'” That doesn’t mean the abused child is possessed by the other person or by the devil. I believe it does mean there is a soul wound that must be healed by God. The Lord in His love and mercy followed that statement with comforting words. “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” If you were abused as child, there is hope. Please hear this. Jesus can heal your pain. Find a Christain counselor and get help. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Are you feeling heavy? Leftover anger is exhausting, like a backpack full of books you have to carry around all day. Because it steals emotional energy that could be used more effectively another way, it handicaps you in your life. “Oh, but you don’t know what they did to me,” you say. No, but no matter what they did, your anger still doesn’t hurt them. Your behavior might, but not your anger. It, meaning they, still controls you and they are going on with their life. “I want to forgive, but I just can’t,” you say. That may be true, but with God’s help, you can. I believe that Jesus’ sweat became great drops of blood as he felt the burden of all the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane – and He forgave. Luke 22:44. If He was willing to do that for you, don’t you believe He can help you forgive if you ask? After all, Psalm 18:47a says, “It is God who avenges me.” He can take care of that better than we can. Try this prayer out loud: “Lord, (Say name of person who hurt you) hurt me by (Name the hurtful event). I want to forgive, but I can’t do it by myself. Please take this anger from me. I give it to you freely. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Now, let Him lift the anger from you. He will take it, but you must let it go. He will not take it against your will.
The next step to spiritual healing is taking an honest look at the turkey you have stored in the refrigerator. When you put it in there, it was fresh and tasty. Now it looks green and shiny and offends your sniffer. Stored anger does that to your spiritual and physical health. It becomes bitterness to your heart. Hebrews 12:14-15 (NIV) says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord: looking carfully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble and by this many become defiled.”
Take a look at your anger. Have you been storing it in your heart for more than a day? If so, it is becoming spoiled like the turkey. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us, “‘Be angry, and do not sin.’ Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Old anger is like spoiled turkey. Both pollute the body. We can try to hold it down, but then we get sicker. We can let it explode all over everyone, but then we hurt people and feel guilty. There is another answer – God’s answer – forgiveness. Many people say they want to forgive, but just can’t. The next blog will give you a way to get rid of the anger without hurting anyone.
There is a stench in your refrigerator and you want to get rid of it, but there is a problem. The refrigerator door is closed. As long as the door is closed, you can’t get the remove the spoiled turkey. You don’t smell it, so you can pretend it isn’t there. That is just like anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that keeps us from looking deeper to find the lie that is causing the problem. As long as the anger is there, we can keep the door closed on the real problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. It keeps us trapped and controlled by the person we perceive to have caused our anger. That person isn’t hurt by the anger, we are. Our behavior may hurt the person, but not our angry emotion. If we take that one step further, we find that it leads to a more serious problem: it gives control to Satan. The Bible is clear about this:
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, not give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
Have you ever opened the refrigerator door and found a disgusting smell? Then you searched through everything until you found a small container of chicken or broccoli hiding way in the back. Until you clean it out, you will be overcome by the stench. Life can be like that, too. As children we see the world through literal glasses. When a child hears the classic Christian song, Gladly the Cross I’d Bear, he or she pictures Gladly, the cross-eyed bear. We tend to interpret present events in light of past experiences, even from early childhood, the time in our lives when we were developing our core beliefs. Some have a pleasant aroma, but some are nauseous. Too often the facts don’t change these sometimes stinking beliefs, because they are not only in the mind, they are also in the spirit.
In Ephesians 4:23-24 NKJ, the Bible says, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, … that you may put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Verse 25 demonstrates the importance of truth: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth to his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”