So many parents feel tremendous pain at having children who leave their Christian faith and do not go to church. According to studies by both Barna Group and USA Today, the staggering numbers are almost 75% of Christian young people. The reasons for this defection are many–competing cultural voices, biblical illiteracy, poor parent role models, hypocrisy in the church, youth groups that entertained instead of equipped, etc.
Given our current state, what can we as parents do to curb this growing tide? Here are a few helps:
1) We are responsible to raise and train our children in the knowledge of Christ. This means we have to instruct, read the Word and teach our Christian world view. This is the foundation–it needs to be laid by the parents. Hopefully, the church comes along side and supports continued Christian education.
2) As parents, be faithful and active in church. Studies show that when both parents are active and involved in church, the chances increase that children will do the same later in life. It’s not a guarantee, but does improve the likelihood.
3) Be emotionally involved with your children. When adult children feel connected to their parents and share a strong emotional bond, it makes a difference, especially when they struggle to make faith their own. If the relationship with parents feels safe and open, questioning can happen and application of the faith can be pursued.
4) Model authentic Christian love. Preaching one thing and doing another doesn’t work and only builds cynicism and hypocrisy. Live an authentic life–admitting your mistakes, asking for forgiveness, being humble and aware of your own desperate need for Christ. Make prayer and Bible reading a regular part of your day. Pray with and for your children.
5) Be relevant and know their world. Talk about cultural issues so they can critically think about how to apply God’s Word to the world in which they live. The culture changes, God doesn’t. Help them think through how to respond to issues counterculture to the Christian faith–prepare and arm them to think and problem-solve using the Word of God.
6) Help them understand that tolerance doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas have equal value. Tolerance means you differ with someone and will be civil and respectful in your dissent. It doesn’t mean silencing your voice to political correctness or operating in fear of opposition. We have to stand for Christ and won’t always be liked. The cross offends, even when people do not. Help them tolerate this and defend their faith in a growingly post Christian culture.
7) Recognize the individual will of your child. Even when you teach and equip, your child has a will of his/her own. They can get distracted, pulled away from God by cultural thinking and temptation if they don’t engage in spiritual disciplines that keep their relationship with Christ strong. They are ultimately responsible before God even when they make bad choices. As a parent, this is painful. Stay connected, help them work through pain and hurt and be there to pick up the pieces.
7) Pray and don’t give up. If you have planted the seeds, they are still there. Continue to pray that God uses someone or something to bring them back to Him. Remember our fight is against principalities and powers so be warrior in prayer. Nothing is impossible for God.
At the end of the tour, I was struck by one of the survivors who spoke on video. In tears, highly impassioned, he cried out, “God where were you? Did you care? Did you listen to our pleas for help? We are your chosen people.” His pain was so raw.
Where is God when evil strikes in such an inhumane way?
During difficult or dark times, do you ever wonder the same? “Why doesn’t God take me out of this difficulty? Surely he will not let me suffer.” But Daniel 8 paints a different picture.
Daniel has a vision that later was explained by the angel Gabriel–trouble is coming. God’s people will be persecuted and even destroyed. Evil will reign and wreak havoc on the world. But at some point, God will say, enough!
The vision did come to pass, hundreds of years later.
When we suffer, it feels like God is far off. But He reminds us in His Word that He is present and still on the throne. He hasn’t fallen asleep or forgotten us, even though it may feel that way. And that is why we can’t lead with our feelings. They often betray the truth-God promises: His presence through the dark night of the soul.
Deliverance may not come in the way we envision nor on our timetable. That’s because we don’t have the entire picture and only God knows the details of our life. We have to trust, especially when He warns us that in the last days, evil will ramp up.
But Jesus rules even in the midst of suffering. He wants us to endure, to stand in the battle and trust His timing. I’m not going to lie–this isn’t always easy. We want to be rescued from problems, suffering wiped out, and pain relieved. But the promise is He will walk through the valley and be present in our pain and suffering. God has purpose in suffering even though we may not understand it.
So what do we do to stand strong?
1) Stay in fellowship with God. The enemy’s strategy is to disrupt our fellowship through doubt, fear and hopelessness. If he can get us to doubt (it worked for Eve), he can derail us.
2) Stay in fellowship with each other. The enemy wants to sow dissent, disharmony, guilt and shame but the cross took care of these things. God’s people are strengthened when we help and encourage each other in the faith. This is why unity and fellowship are so important.
How long do we suffer? That we don’t know. But what we do know is that evil was broken by the cross. God knows and has numbered the days for evil to reign. If you are His, nothing happens to you that He doesn’t allow. And He uses it all to His glory and purposes. One day, we will be with Him and suffering will be no more. Until then, we stand.
Stress affects people differently. Some people carry stress in their physical bodies. Others are more stressed because of their thoughts. They worry and become anxious. When stress originates from your thoughts, you need cognitive strategies to help you relax. The Bible even directs us to do so, “… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things” (Phil 4:8, NKJV).
All you do is focus your mind on things that bring you peace and a sense of well being. For the Christian that is God’s intense love. Meditation is prayer. When we pray and spend time with our heavenly Father, we feel better and less stressed. We have a dad who promises to take care of us and meet our needs. If that doesn’t lessen your stress, nothing will!
As you mediate, think about the promises of God and direct your thoughts to His love. Scripture versus help. You can google a topic and get several verses. And at the back of my book, Letting Go of Worry, I have scriptures on peace, contentment, worry, anxious thoughts, etc. The idea is to read and mediate. When you do, tension leaves and you feel refreshed in spirit and mind.
When you feel stressed and tense, you can also visualize yourself in a quiet peaceful place. This is calming. Some people like to imagine themselves on a sunny beach with a gentle breeze, the smell of the ocean, clear skies and water. Other people find a mountain cabin in the snow to be a quiet calming place. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just think of something peaceful and try to engage all your senses in the scene. This distracts your anxious thoughts to a peaceful place.
We know that true peace comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the promises He gives us is to keep us in perfect peace if we keep our mind stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). God is the author of peace and serenity. Think about Him, His goodness and all He has done for you. So next time you feel stressed, pray and mediate on the goodness of God and all of His promises. Use imagery to guide yourself to a peaceful place, to relax, to enjoy God’s creation–the forest, the beach, the mountains, and remember His presence is with you while you rest.
Sally looked down and a bit anxious. “I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m just not that interested in sex with my husband these days. I feel exhausted with three small kids, I’m working part-time and have been on an antidepressant. Any thoughts?”
One of the top sexual concerns for women has to with desire and interest. We wonder, are we normal? Why don’t we feel and act like the women in the movies and on television? For starters, media is heavily sexual laden to peak your interest and get you to watch. It rarely depicts reality–those are called documentaries!!!
First, there are a number of physical causes to low sexual desire. Everything from diabetes to heart disease impacts desire. Smoking and substance use (alcohol) can affect desire as well. So the first step is to have a physical and make sure there is no medical cause at the root. That said, the biological and psychological are intertwined when we are talking about female sexuality.
Along with medical conditions, consider the medications you may be taking. Many have side effects of low desire. Certain antidepressants and benzodiazepines (anxiety) are associated with sexual dysfunction, so check with your doctor. Sally is on an antidepressant and when it was checked, it was one that does negatively affect sexual desire.
Second, is there a psychiatric link to low desire–are you depressed, have concerns about sexual performance, struggling with guilt, dealing with the effects of past trauma or have attitudes towards sex that might affect desire? This is an important list because about one-third of women who present for sexual dysfunction are clinically depressed and anxious. And past traumas that are untreated also make up a bulk of women who struggle. This means you may need to treat the psychiatric cause for things to get better.
Third, examine your relationship. The relationship itself is a determiner of satisfaction and desire. So how are you doing as a couple? Emotional well-being is important for you to feel desire. If you are angry, upset, worried, etc. in this relationship, it will translate to the bedroom. Work out your couple issues and sex usually improves.
Finally, other life issues like negative self-image, chronic stress and distractions, heavy work load, having a baby, etc, play a role in how much desire you have on any given day. Certainly fatigue and stress are the top 2 on my list.
So as you think about what might be the cause of low desire, look through this list and decide if working with a doctor or therapist might help. Making a few lifestyle changes like getting rest, limiting your workload, taking time to relax, improving your relationship also help to boost desire.