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Every person, at some point in life, will face at least one monumental, earth-shaking battle.  We’re only human… and much stronger than we ever imagined we’d be.  But we are certainly not made of stone.  And no matter how diligently we work to avoid struggles, hardship, and difficult times, we will all face them.  

ebb and flow

If you were raised in the church, in any church, you have been taught about faith since it is the primary impetus behind every religion.  I have faith.  You probably do too.  If faith is a seed, it is watered and fed by the church each and every time the doors are open.  As a result, our faith often grows into a magnificent and mighty tree.  But it is a shallow faith at best; quite possibly a false faith.  

  • With God, nothing is impossible.
  • If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.  
  • Everyone born of God overcomes the world.
  • Take up the shield of faith so you can extinguish all the the flaming arrows of the evil one.

See?  It just rattles right out of my head, because the message was ingrained in me throughout my life.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I actually believe every word, wholeheartedly.  But there’s much much more.

sunday school

The term “Sunday School” was chosen with intent.  Religion is meant to teach.  The definition of Theology, just as a reminder, is:  The study of the nature of God and religious belief.  In an attempt to offer hope and love, I fear the teaching is too “one sided”….and that the other side of the message is missed.

  • The testing of your faith will produce perseverance.
  • In the world you will have tribulation.
  • Do not be surprised when a fiery trial comes upon you.
  • Many are the afflictions of the righteous. 
  • The enemy aims to steal, kill, and destroy.

Wait….the enemy wants to KILL ME?  

That message is not nearly as pleasant (and definitely not as positive) as the faith message…but is it not just as vital to the spiritual health of the believer?  If you’ve been through a fiery trial, then you are fully aware, faith only counts when it is tested.  Think about it for a second.  What does anyone know about faith until God is silent?  Until God says no?  Until God allows tragedy to befall us?

god says no

In the same way, a person cannot grasp the concept of Hope until he has been buried under a mountain of uncertainty, fear, loss, condemnation, and/or despair.  At that point, Hope becomes the glimmer of light in the pitch darkness and a cup of water in the barren desert.  It becomes the sustenance of life!  And that is a whole different kind of message.  

But the naysayers would question the method:  

  • Wouldn’t the truth create fear? 
  • Who likes negativity?

Of course the truth will breed fear!  Have you read the Bible?  It’s a scary book!  But I’d rather know the whole story than only half of it, because then I am better prepared when the trials do come.  As human beings, we are preparers.  It is in our DNA.  Does this sound familiar:

By the age of three, a child should be fully potty trained, eating and dressing himself independently,  and able to successfully attend preschool.  

By the age of six, that same child should be able to read, ride a bicycle, and swim.  

By ten, multiplication tables and division should be learned, and he will read his first fantasy fiction novel.

By thirteen, he should understand the birds, the bees, puberty, and should be totally confounded by girls.

By sixteen, he should know the periodic table,  should be driving a car, and should’ve attended his first dance.

By eighteen, he is graduating high school and going to college.

By twenty and thirty-something, finding a job, getting married, filing taxes, obtaining a mortgage, and starting a family.

….and the list goes on.  

Children are told what to expect, when to expect it, and are over-prepared, if anything, to manage each step.  Rush Limbaugh tells them who to vote for,  Dave Ramsey teaches them how to stay out of debt, and Tim Hawkins reminds them to laugh along the way.      

I’ve over-exaggerated, of course, since I know there are some parents who are way more laid back about when and how their children come of age.  haha. But the point I want to make is that we don’t spend enough time preparing our children for the most difficult challenges they will face.  And so they find themselves facing the worst possible scenarios without a plan of attack…and therefore having to learn as they go.  Consider how disastrous that could be!  MUCH WORSE than if they weren’t prepared for the mountain of paperwork required when applying for a mortgage.  

Until the age of twenty-two, I’d characterize my life as generally wonderful.  I was raised in a glorious bubble, completely unaware of an enemy who wanted to destroy my life.  I saw others go through difficult times, but I was never brought in and shown how I should deal with it if something similar were to befall me.  I am forty eight now, and in the last twenty six years have experienced so much crazy trauma and tragedy and heartache that I was never prepared for.  Can you relate?  

Needless to say, my mighty tree of faith and hope was whittled down to the size of a number 2 pencil, because I wasn’t mentally prepared when the sin’s destruction hit my life.  Most times, I was an innocent bystander affected by the aftermath of things outside of my control, but the circumstances still knocked me down and wiped me out just the same.  And in the black hole, depression snuck in and produced uncontrollable panic attacks.   Time and time again, I have found myself in defensive mode, just trying to survive.  The only way I could get help was to FIND help.  And what kind of mindset are we all in during turmoil or crisis?  We’re just trying to get through it and typically don’t have the fortitude to take time to search for help.  But oh, if steps had been ingrained in me at an early age…I wonder what a difference it might have made.

In my opinion, it could be the reason why our current rate of mental health illnesses is spiraling out of control.  Prescribing a pill is sometimes necessary, but we are witnessing a generational time when pills are the acceptable norm.  Moms are asking for them.  Dads are getting hooked on them.  Teenagers are popping them.  And young kids are watching.

I’m a firm believer that THE STORY in general can be different.  IF we offer better preparation.  For instance, what if the church and/or schools offered an ongoing course on how to face trials and tribulations when they come?  How to face sickness?  Death?  Suicide?  Self-harm?  Drug and alcohol addiction?  Rebellion?  Abuse?  Financial hardships?  Poverty?  Hunger?  Abandonment?  Trauma?  Depression?   What if the course allowed the students to role play?  What if the course offered concrete, workable steps?  And what if they also offered a solid support group?  

sunday school 2

“Train up a child in the way he should go…” means so much more than preparing him or her for the easy steps of life.  As parents, as churches, as schools, and as a society, we must begin to teach children how to manage difficulties, because no one is immune.  The world is not all about Marvel Superhero movies with happy endings or Instagram photo likes or a number of Twitter followers or football championships or musical preferences or successful careers, big houses, vacations, fancy cars, an attractive spouse, and healthy children.  This life is so much more, and at it’s core, it’s hard.  

I said this at the beginning:  Every person, at some point in life, will face at least one monumental, earth-shaking battle.   That means YOUR CHILD, at some point in life, will face at least one monumental, earth shaking battle.  YOUR CHILD.  And mine.

What steps are we giving them to cope?  Are we saying “just have faith and you will move this mountain”?  Because that is not going to cut it.  We have an obligation to do more BEFORE tragedy/trials/tribulations hit.  The thought of one of my children waking up to a panic attack that has gripped her to the point of her body shaking uncontrollably is unacceptable to me.   The thought of my child wanting to end her life because what life is throwing at her is too much to bear, must not happen.  It’s time to be proactive and to do more…and the power to make a difference must begin with us!

Now there is plenty of hope and faith in that message, right?

If you are struggling right now, perhaps these steps taken from Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D., will help:

 1.– Recognize that your symptoms are normal reactions to an abnormal circumstance. Although you may feel like you are out of control or “going crazy,” in reality, you are experiencing what are called post-traumatic stress symptoms.

2.– Talk about your thoughts, feeling and reactions to the event with people you trust. Then, talk about it some more. Keep talking about it until you have no need to talk about it anymore.

3.–Do whatever it takes to create a feeling of safety and tranquility in your immediate environment. Do you need to sleep with a night light on for awhile? Can you develop a discipline of meditation or listening to soothing music?

4.– As much and as quickly as possible, resume your normal activities and routines. Traumatic events can throw your life into a state of chaos. The sooner you resume these activities and routines, the more normal your life will feel. Structure can provide feelings of security as you etch your way back to stability.

5.– You are in a recovery process. Give yourself the proper rest, nutrition and exercise. If you were recovering from the flu you would not forget these health tips. Do the same for yourself as you recover from traumatic stress.

6.– Take an affirmative action on your behalf. For example, if you were a victim of crime, prosecuting the perpetrator may be an empowering experience.  Take some action on your behalf.

7.– Become aware of your emotional triggers and learn to cope with them creatively. You may have a flashback to your trauma by engaging in a similar activity, going to a similar place, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is a reminder.  One way to cope with this is to recognize that you are experiencing an emotional trigger and engage in positive self-talk.

8.–Try to find some deeper meaning in what has happened. What have you learned from your experience? Record these insights in a journal or voice them in a support group that is sympathetic to your situation.

9.– Seek therapy/counseling/support group.

10.– Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Your recovery will have it’s ups and downs. Keep following the steps.

The battle is real, but the victory is ours.  In the end, we will tell the stories of how we’ve overcome…’cause we’ll understand it better by and by.