Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 4

This is the final part in a series on the theme of right thinking about God when parenting adopted children who have not integrated into the family. The series (starting here) is fashioned from a discussion by five experienced adoptive moms who are overcoming the confusion and doubts arising from dealing with very difficult children who deeply grieve their hearts.

For our discussion, we each identified at least two lies about God the difficult parenting situation has tempted us to believe, two attributes of God/truths about God that counter those lies, and identified the Scripture where we find that truth. Knowing and believing these truths produces comfort, compassion, and confidence in parenting.

Following are more thoughts from our discussion. (“I,” “me,” and “my” refer to any mom who voiced the particular point, not necessarily to me, the blog administrator.)

Lie: The Word of God does not have answers for my child’s behavioral disorder.

My child’s emotional/behavioral disorder isn’t in the Bible. Therefore, while the Bible is helpful for spiritual problems, it doesn’t speak to psychological disorders. I need psychology in addition to the Bible.
~~~

It is true that the psychologies observe, collect, and identify behavioral patterns. They even identify emotions that energize or correlate to behavior patterns. But they don’t go deep enough, nor can they provide heart-changing, eternal solutions. For example, common views of the resistant, remorseless adoptive child who seems to have no conscience include

    • mentally ill from trauma in the past, 
    • damaged, 
    • caught in a rage cycle,
    • has low self-esteem,
    • has a disorder.

Looking at the evidence for several years I eventually realized that, however well-intentioned, those analyses did not explain the behavior. 

    • Someone with an illness is sick even when he doesn’t want to be; this kind of child turns demeanor and behavior on and off like a light switch–there is choice.
    • Someone who is damaged needs a doctor; this child’s emotions are actually working just fine, showing the natural response to past maltreatment that we should expect. (Regarding emotions, “damage” is metaphorical.)
    • Someone in rage is angry, not helpless; someone “caught” in an emotional cycle is habituated.
    • Someone who esteems self lowly is humble; someone with high self-esteem esteems himself highly, acts for selfish interests–high self-esteem is pride.
    • Someone with a physical disorder or illness can’t help the symptoms, so is not morally culpable; oppositional behaviors are chosen and morally wrong. 
    • The psychologies assert that the solution is, well, that varies by which of the over 400 psychologies you choose to follow. Who is right? Who speaks effectual wisdom with rightful, trustworthy authority?

For years I did not see the contradiction in my thinking. I said the Bible is sufficient for the Christian life yet I needed this other source of wisdom (psychology) because the Bible does not provide sufficient counsel for this part of living over here (psychological disorders).

How illogical! Since God is Creator wouldn’t He be the expert on what He created? Jesus clearly said that man cannot live without the Word of God (Matt 4:4), so the Word must be essential for wise living on earth. If it is essential, it must have effectual solutions for every problem in living.

The Bible speaks effectually and authoritatively on choice, on maltreatment, on rage and habituation, on out-of-control emotions, on how we view ourselves, on moral behaviors.

 The Word of God is living, active in revealing the heart and convicting the conscience (Heb. 4:12).

The Word of God is given to us by God and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” That encompasses the whole maturing process. The training is intended to make men “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). “Every” encompasses every behavior a child could do. God claims His Word can a child dedicated to every selfish work she can contrive and equip her for every good work. That means, it can teach her how to live morally right, loving her neighbor, can tell her how she has gone wrong and how she can correct the problem, and can train her in right living.

How can the psychologies or any other guide book or religion possibly compete?

The Word of God has more than adequate solutions for my child’s
behaviors, emotions, and relationships.

~~~~~

A final series point:

In our discussions, one theme all the moms observed is that countering the lies we are tempted to believe requires submission, submission to the Word of God. What God says is true, and if God says it there is an implicit obligation on our part to believe it and live by it. Difficult people in our lives (like a persistently obstreperous child) may influence toward false ideas. Our trials may contradict our understanding of God. We naturally perceive circumstances inaccurately (Jer. 17:9). Add to that our innate tendency to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, to be morally autonomous. These human weaknesses are why belief in the Word of God requires submission to the Word of God.

“He who has my commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves Me” (John 14:21).

Posted in Adoption, Mother of Difficult Child, Mother of Prodigal/Criminal, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 3

This is part three in a series on the theme of right thinking about God when parenting adopted children who have not integrated into the family. The series is fashioned from a discussion by five experienced adoptive moms who are overcoming the confusion and doubts arising from dealing with very difficult children who deeply grieve their hearts. (part one, part two)

For our discussion, we each identified at least two lies about God the difficult parenting situation has tempted us to believe, two attributes of God/truths about God that counter those lies, and identified the Scripture where we find that truth. Knowing and believing these truths produces comfort, compassion, and confidence in parenting.

Following are more thoughts from our discussion. (“I,” “me,” and “my” refer to any mom who voiced the particular point, not necessarily to me, the blog administrator.)

Lie: God can’t really change my child’s heart.

(This is an implication of the lie, God isn’t really powerful.)

No one wants to believe that children can be willfully cruel and then refuse to feel remorseful, but with these kids it is obvious. I love my child, but I can’t ignore the evidence that his heart is hardened. He is cruel and treats it like making someone else suffer is his right. He won’t stop it. He has shown that he will endure any penalty for as long as it takes until he gets his way. He will outlast any adult, any authority, even police and social service authorities. The strength of a child’s will is amazing! It seems nothing can change his will, nothing can persuade him to do what is right. This has true for years.

~~~

First, just because God doesn’t change a person’s heart doesn’t mean He can’t.

Second, Proverbs 21:1 says, 

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever He wishes.”

A despotic king at the time of this writing was autonomous, accountable to no person or governing body on earth. He could do whatever he wanted in remorseless domination. Only if another king conquered him could he be subdued or displaced. Think of the pharaohs, Artaxerxes, Alexander the Great, Constantine, Stalin and Hitler. This is the kind of king of whom the proverb speaks.

What the Proverb is saying is that God is more powerful; He can bend and break the will of a despot without violating the king’s will. It’s like Pharaoh of the Exodus. He declared that he would never let the Hebrews go. God said that Pharaoh would not only let them go but would drive them out, and that is what happened (Ex 5:2; 6:1; 12:31). Centuries later, Sennacherib was conquering left and right. He laid siege to Jerusalem. Then God arranged to change his mind so that Sennacherib voluntarily returned home without conquering Jerusalem (1 Ki 18-19). Nebuchadnezzar exulted so much in his power and autonomy that he established himself as a god. Right at the height of his power the true God humbled him until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God, not himself, ruled supremely (Dan. 4). If God can change the heart of a proud, stubborn, ruthless, despotic king at the height of his power, then He can change the heart of the most hardened person, including a remorseless child.

Third, every person is born dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Something dead is unresponsive to all things. The spiritually dead are completely unresponsive to God; they are not able to respond rightly. So it should be no surprise that a child could be cruel and remorseless.

Fourth, only a regenerated heart can repent of remorselessness because only a regenerated heart is alive to God.

Fifth, only God can regenerate a heart. The dead cannot raise themselves. This is true for the parent and the compliant (“good”) child as well as the rebellious child. Dead is dead. The heart of the rebellious child is not more dead than the heart of the compliant child.

Sixth, God regenerates hearts. What a powerful miracle! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:5). God gives life to a dead heart! Regeneration turns a heart from stone to flesh, from self-seeking to God-seeking. Only God can do it, but He can do it (Ezek. 36; Tit. 3:5). And if God chooses the person, none can resist, but the person will want to turn to God (Eph. 1:4).

My child is certainly not more powerful than God.

God has all the power necessary to change my child’s heart.

Lie: God doesn’t see or understand how bad my situation is. Therefore, He doesn’t know best.

I know God is good but it just seems like my situation is so hard and every day is no better. In fact, the older the child gets the stronger and more defiant and dangerous he gets. It seems like God doesn’t understand and I don’t see how this could be what is best for our family.
~~~

Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good,” so God sees all. Not only that, God looks “to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chr. 16:9). That means He sees the hearts, not just a person’s actions. Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things…” and “since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18).

  • Knowing all, God has all the data needed for ruling His world wisely.
  • Jesus, having experienced the worst, understands the worst of situations.
  • God’s intent toward those who love Him is to “strongly support” them.

Therefore…

God does understand and know best and carries it out with compassion for His own.

Lie: God isn’t really wise. 

If God were wise He would never have planned for this situation. It is too messy and senseless.
~~~

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledges of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33).

The truth is, the problem is not God’s wisdom but my lack thereof. I am literally unable to comprehend every reason God has for doing what He is doing. I truly cannot fathom all that God is doing in my situation and with my heart and the hearts and lives of each person in my life. But I know from this verse that God is wise with infinite wisdom. So what may not make sense to me is not outside of God’s wisdom. To demand that my problems have to make sense to me is to designate for myself authority to which I have neither the right nor the capacity.

Posted in Adoption, Mother of Difficult Child, Mother of Prodigal/Criminal, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 2

The last post began a series on the theme of right thinking about God when parenting adopted children who have not integrated into the family. The series is fashioned from a discussion by five experienced adoptive moms who are overcoming the confusion and doubts arising from dealing with very difficult children who deeply grieve their hearts.

For our discussion, we each identified at least two lies about God the difficult parenting situation has tempted us to believe and identified the Scripture where we find the truth that counters the lie. Knowing and believing these truths produces comfort, compassion, and confidence in parenting.

Following are more thoughts from our discussion. (“I,” “me,” and “my” refer to any mom who voiced the particular point, not necessarily to me, the blog administrator.)

Lie: God doesn’t really care. 

The unceasing, very personal manipulative attacks from my child break my heart. I hurt so much every day all day long from the betrayals and rejection and resistance to every effort I make to love and teach my child. The hatred of her glares is so hurtful! I can’t describe the anguish. I just want the pain to end. How can God put this situation in my life and simultaneously tell me He cares about my pain? If God cared He would make the suffering end.
~~~

The truth is, God cares so much that He sent His own son to suffer and die for my salvation. When all I want is relief, I am seeking my interests instead of God’s, and that in spite of His great love for me. Instead, I must do what Peter dared to write to suffering Christians: “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

God intends every trial for my welfare (Jas. 1:2-3; Heb. 12:4-5). He will end every trial in His time, not mine (“that He may exalt you at the proper time”). While I wait, God wants me to trustfully roll my anxiety onto Him. And I can do that because I know He cares.

God cares. God cares like no one else can.

Lie: God isn’t really good. 

No matter how loving I try to be, my child adamantly resists a reciprocal, loving relationship. Grief over the loss of this relationship devolved into despair and then depression. I thought, “If God is good then this wouldn’t be happening.” (This lie is much like the lie, “God doesn’t care.”)
~~~

Actually, appropriate grief can be right and godly, but domination by it demonstrated unwillingness to accept a loss God had ordained for me. Here was a contradiction. I thought I totally believed God is good. Simultaneously, by discontent and depression, I functioned as though God is not good.

Joseph had such a more godly view than mine. Having suffered for years because his brothers sold him into slavery (which must have been so much worse than what I have endured), he assessed their betrayal, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20). Isn’t that what God does throughout redemptive history? He constantly employs evil to achieve His good will.

Romans 8:28-29 says the same thing.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.

God is orchestrating every situation in our lives, working it all together for the good of those who love God. What is that good? It is conformation into the image of the Father’s greatest treasure, His Son. What greater privilege could there be? How could I think the opposite!? Therefore, by granting to me this trial to endure God is doing good.

My suffering does not signify that God is not good. Just because I don’t see what the particular purposes are for my own trial doesn’t mean God does not have good purposes. That is why faith is essential. Rather than grieve myself into depression, I need to keep carrying out my responsibilities in an attitude of diligent trust that…

God is good–greatly, abundantly, and extensively good.

Lie: This broken relationship can’t be the will of God.

God wants peace among people, yet no matter how much I love and what I try, my adopted child endlessly provokes conflicts with everyone in the family. This situation just can’t be the will of God for us.
~~~

This view challenges the sovereignty of God. Regarding all the tragedy in Job’s life that seemed to contradict the truth that God is both sovereign and good Job concluded,

“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Nothing this child does can thwart the will of God. Just because my child remains hostile no matter my efforts to love does not mean that somehow the will of God is not being fulfilled. What is, is the will of God for me at this moment. So, I don’t know about tomorrow, but this broken relationship is the will of God for me today. It is a will intended to result in good.

Nothing that thwarts my will is able to thwart the will of God. I have a responsibility to submit to His sovereignty and respond rightly. To practice contentment and joy I must view sin and suffering biblically.

God is sovereign, even over trials and evil.

Posted in Adoption, Mother of Difficult Child, Mother of Prodigal/Criminal, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Comments Off on Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 2

Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 1

Many adoptions result in much happiness to both parents and children. For others, joy must be chosen in the midst of hardships from persistent rejection, defiance, and lies. Continuing to long for a close, rewarding parent-child relationship, the mom gradually realizes she either is losing that relationship or never actually had it. The anguish can overwhelm. She wrestles simultaneously with a determined trouble-maker in the home and the crushing weight of grief in the heart. In the messiness, this mom can feel temptations to confusion and doubts about God. 

In 2020, I met with some moms of difficult adopted children to discuss the topic of right thinking about God in relation to their parenting situation. The moms are all experienced, having adopted ten to thirty years in the past. Our goals were to reinforce our own right doctrine of God, to edify and encourage one another (especially in the endeavor of wise and loving parenting), and to elevate and gaze on God through our discussion. To prepare, we each considered:

  • Identify two lies about God your parenting situation has tempted you to believe.
  • Identify attributes of God that have countered those lies.
  • Identify Scripture that tells you about those attributes of God.
  • Tell us the difference knowledge of this attribute of God has made for you regarding how you have responded to the lies you are tempted to believe.

Let’s start with K. She wrote about overcoming the temptation to believe the lies that…

God is unfair, not wise, and not faithful.

A common temptation that arises in parenting a difficult child is believing in a subtle but dangerous lie: God is unfair. Specifically, that He has given me too much to bear as I parent a difficult child. This is more than I can handle. This is especially tempting when, as a mom, all the other responsibilities in life must be considered and completed. It is equally tempting when I compare myself with other moms who have not been called to raise such a difficult child. One of the dangers with these thoughts is how subtle they can be. It begins with a complaining thought rooted in a complaining heart. The knowledge of the scriptures that I have certainly does not always reflect the attitude of my heart. If someone directly asked me: Is God unfair? My answer would be an easy conclusion: I know God is not unfair. He is just and merciful. However, the struggle is rooted in my heart when I complain that He is unfair because of what He has ordained for me. I must battle this lie with prayer and the scriptures.

“Oh the depth of the riches of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways.” Romans 11:33

I can set my heart on this truth to see that I will not be able to fathom His ways. I will not be able to fully comprehend every reason that the Lord has sovereignly chosen this specific trial for my life. 

I can also know from scripture that His ways are perfect. This is a comfort especially as I reflect on His sovereignty of giving such a difficult child under my care.

“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous and that in Your faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75

The Lord is faithful in every trial and affliction. He has given me more than I can handle on my own. I will fail. I will fall. He will use this trial to expose my sin. I will need to continually seek dependence on Him and that is certainly a reason to rejoice in this trial. Even “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.”( 2 Timothy 2:13) In addition to this precious promise of His faithfulness, He knows my weaknesses that I will face while raising a difficult and He has compassion on His children:

“Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame. He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

His grace is always present in our frailty.

When He has opened my eyes to see my complaining heart, that I have believed a lie that He is not fair, I can taste and see that He is good. I can go to Him to satisfy every one of my needs, trusting that: “He is able to do far abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Posted in Adoption, Mother of Difficult Child, Mother of Prodigal/Criminal, Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Adoptive Moms on Right Thinking About God, Pt. 1

Forgiveness: “I Just Can’t Forgive Myself!”

Forgiving oneself is a popular concept. When someone bemoans a past action another will say, “You need to forgive yourself.” Many people feel caught in a mental traffic circle going round and round thinking, “I just can’t forgive myself.” The idea of forgiving oneself is taught by the psychologies, popular culture and, in many cases, well-meaning Christians.

But when someone who has received the Lord’s forgiveness for some sin or misjudgment they consider heinous keeps struggling over it, is lack of self-forgiveness the real problem? And is forgiving oneself the solution?

The place to find the answer is the Bible and the booklet, Forgiveness: “I Just Can’t Forgive Myself!” by Robert Jones, will show you where in the Bible to look.

For example, on page 2 it asks, what does the Bible say about forgiving oneself?

Answer: Verses like Ephesians 4:32 tell us there is forgiveness from God and forgiveness from others, but in no place does the Bible state or infer a forgiveness of oneself. Therefore, a person who believes “I just can’t forgive myself” has mislabeled his problem and is, therefore, missing the solution.

The booklet builds insight by going through different reasons a person might be hindered and weighed down by the thought that he just can’t forgive himself. Four of the reasons listed include:

  • The person may truly doubt God’s forgiveness, which then leads to lingering guilt over whatever it is he did.
  • He thinks he has to judge himself, which demonstrates an underestimation of God’s holiness.
  • He may doubt God’s forgiveness because he keeps repeating the sin. 

Some people think they hate themselves and say, “I can’t believe I did that!” This shows a high view of self in a lack of accepting just how sinful the person is, which then diminishes the forgiveness of Christ.

How can we help a struggling friend? Instead of being quick to reassure the burdened person, the solution is to take the person’s guilt-statement seriously, then compassionately deal with his problem of guilt in the way the Bible says. As we label the problem biblically it leads to a right application of that wonderful forgiveness of God given through grace.

Although I have studied this topic before, I found this 32-page booklet a helpful review and am keeping a copy for possible use with others.

https://www.prpbooks.com/book/forgiveness

Posted in Book Reviews, Counseling, Self-Esteem | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Forgiveness: “I Just Can’t Forgive Myself!”

Prayer for Growth in Grace

It may be an understatement to say that prayer is a profitable way to begin the year. I don’t claim to be an especially skilled pray-er. I find prayer to be sometimes an easy flow but more often hard work. Nevertheless, below is a prayer for your use if you wish. It requires only four minutes. It is written first person because that is how I used it yesterday, January 1. You can also go back through and change the pronouns to pray for others. (I did so for you who read my blog.) The words in italics are quotations from Scripture. You can pray these requests with confidence because, being taken from Scripture, these are all the will of God for Christians.

Note: For you perfectionists (and me), notice that the issue is growth, not arrival or achievement. And the goal is God’s glory, not self-merit.

May you be blessed!

Prayer for Growth in Grace

Lord, cause me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~ 1Pe 3:18

Your grace is that unilateral intervention for good that You exercise out of Your generosity, taking initiative to interfere with a person’s plans to accomplish good. By grace You do not leave us on the road to hell but intervene to draw some to Yourself in salvation. By grace You provide the desire and wisdom and power, the enablement, for the saved person to do what it takes to grow in godliness and in relationship with You. Since our change is only by Your grace-intervention, Your goodness is revealed and so You get all the glory.

While this side of heaven I will never arrive at perfection, cause me to be increasing in the size, strength, degree, vigor, and power of the graces Your Spirit plants in my heart. May the love, humility, faith, hope, repentance, zeal, kindness, courage, and other characteristics You have implanted grow stronger and not weaker, be vigorous and not feeble. Cause my sense of sin to deepen, my faith to strengthen, my hope to brighten, my love to extend, and my joy to resound.

  • May I be increasing in the [intimate, relational] knowledge of God.~ Co 1:10
  • Increase my love for Jesus. ~ Jn 15:9
  • Increase my humility, so that it is more complete, responding to Your Spirit more quickly, increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration. ~ Eph 4:2
  • Quicken and refine my gentleness. ~ Eph 4:2
  • Sensitize my conscience so that I respond more quickly against sin. ~ He 5:14
  • Grow me in holiness, purifying my heart desires, growing more watchful, gaining dominion over sin, more godly in conduct. ~ 1 Pe 1:16
  • May my love for others abound more and more so that I seek to do kindness and be generous and tenderhearted. Make me quicker to put off fault-finding and criticism, to assume good motives of others, to think kindly of others. ~ 1Th 3:12; Ph 1:9
  • May my faith grow exceedingly so that I trust in You more readily, and more frequently and intensely, and for longer times without wavering. May I see You more clearly as the Substitute, Physician, Priest, Intercessor, Advocate, Shepherd, and Friend. ~ 2Co 10:15; 2Th 1:3
  • Increase my thirst for You and spiritual things so that I apply myself to spiritual desires and thoughts more frequently and intensely and for longer duration.
  • Increase my zeal for godliness and for doing good to others. ~ Ga 6:9-10
  • Move me to choose joy, to rejoice, to resound with joy. ~ Ph 4:4

Make me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I know growth in grace from glory to glory will make me useful to others, happy in the faith, and will please You, as these are sacrifices with which God is well pleased. May You receive all the glory for all the transformation in me! ~ 2 Co 3:18; 1Th 4:1; He 13:16

Posted in Prayer | Tagged , | Comments Off on Prayer for Growth in Grace