Perilous Times

CViE|22 Sep 2018

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The title of this post “perilous times” are words written by the apostle Paul in one Timothy 3:1-3 and is so descriptive of the world in which children and young people are living today (as well as ourselves).

  • Family relationships are particularly important for girls
  • Outdated gender stereotypes are damaging to boys’ and girls’ happiness
  • Non-stop comments about appearance are harmful to girls’ well-being
  • Alarming numbers of children are self-harming
  • Pressure to fit in with society’s expectations is making children unhappy

These are the key findings of the Children’s Society (with the University of York) “The Good Childhood Report 2018”.

The press release issued with the report, picked up by the media, focused on the finding that nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 (22%) said that they had self-harmed. One in six (16%) of more than 11,000 children survey reported self-harming at this age, including nearly one in 10 boys (9%). This survey is only a sample of the total number of young people in the country however it does raise concerns as to the challenges that young people face. Behind the statistics are young people’s lives and the following quote illustrates the pressures faced “Feeling not pretty enough or good enough as other girls did contribute towards my self harming, however, I don’t feel just being a girl was the reason is I think boys feel the same way to.”

The report also picks up on the high level (46%) of self-harming among those who were attracted to people of the same or both genders. This is a sad indictment on our society that has turned its back on the teachings of the Bible and drawn in by an ideology that aims to destroy the gender identity of man and woman and every ethical standard of sexual behaviour – gender mainstreaming. Nonetheless, our heart goes out to young people caught up in the confusion of gender identity.

The finding regarding the importance of a strong supportive family in helping young people to cope with the pressures of life is not a surprising one. However, the onslaught over the past century and heightened by the advancement of promiscuity in the 60s has seen the breakdown of families.. This finding, although not acknowledged in the report, reinforces the biblical teaching on the importance of abstinence, marriage and the family.

Ephesians 6:1-4 sets out the framework for the relationship between parents and their children. Matthew Henry has commented “The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age prosperity has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents. The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason. Bring them up well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the duty God requires. Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children’s disobedience, though it may be awfully occasion it. God alone can change the heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents, and answers their prayers. But those, whose chief anxiety is that their children should be rich and accomplished, whatever becomes of their souls, must not look for the blessing of God.” How this highlights the responsibility upon Christian parents and the need to walk prayerfully and seek wisdom from the Lord in walking out our practical pathway.

A testimony

On the Christian Medical Fellowship website, there is a very frank, honest and challenging account of someone who was set free from self-harming. In the article the author shares the following:

I have had (and continue to have) complex and enduring mental health problems from a young age. Sometimes I’ve been well enough to work with children with special needs, or as a physio assistant, and to do nurse training; at other times I’ve been consumed with depression and hallucinations with extended periods in psychiatric hospitals.

My primary diagnosis is bipolar affective disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder. I used to be upset when doctors disagreed on my diagnosis and how best to treat me. But now I take a more rounded view; I am a person who struggles with mental health issues, not just a label. Recovery is about changing negative attitudes and behaviours, accepting what I can’t change at the moment, and functioning as best I can, as I try to put Christ at the centre of all I do.

I’m learning to put God’s attitudes towards my thoughts and behaviours higher in my mind than those others, which vary widely. Some nurses, doctors and therapists have gone ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ to care for me. Others have been hostile and cynical – particularly when I have had to attend A&E with more severe self-harm, and have been called a liar because they can’t appreciate that I don’t always remember what has happened, and frequently been referred to as a ‘time waster’.”

“So, what made me stop self-harming after 17 years of being trapped in a vicious cycle? I have been under eleven different psychologists and psychotherapists, and been advised about relapse planning, and distraction techniques. Some of these have had short term benefits, but none addressed my underlying thought processes deeply enough.

It wasn’t until a close sister in Christ rebuked me (not for the first time), that the Spirit really worked in me to make me realise that self-harm is actually a sin in God’s eyes. For years I had seen it as part of my illnesses. The Spirit made me realise that it is my choice whether I dwell on my thoughts. That was a very difficult thing for me to hear, because seeing them as part of an illness made me an innocent victim in my eyes, rather than a human accountable for my actions before God.

But praise God that he was powerful enough to free me from this trap. It took five more months to completely break free. When ill again last year I had the odd episode or two, but praise God I did not fall back into the deliberate self-harm (DSH) cycle again.

A particular verse which I frequently call to mind when tempted in a variety of ways, is Colossians 1:21-23:

‘And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him’, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven’ (ESV) [Click here for KJV]

I frequently feel worthless and evil, but these verses clearly state that because of Christ’s sacrifice I am now holy, blameless and above reproach before God – what an amazing truth!

“Lastly, I would encourage you to be gentle with anyone who self-harms (this may include yourself!). Yes, there may need to be times of rebuke, but there also needs to be much support, love, encouragement, and reminding of the gospel. Remind them that God has a better way to deal with suffering than through DSH, and of the price he paid to ransom them from captivity to their thoughts and behaviours.

Stopping is not at all easy, but it is possible in Christ.”

The article reminds us of the need, as mentioned earlier, for compassion in dealing with others and that the devil works in the minds of people (Ephesians 6:10-14). Also, the exhortation of Paul is very apt and needful “Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).

We live in challenging times, there is a need to be aware of what dangers exist around us and to be careful not to say “it will never happen to me/us”.

The Lord grant help and support to Christian parents to invest the time in bringing up their children in this ‘time-poor‘ society and the wisdom of how, what, when and where to speak.

This comment has been kindly provided a medical practitioner who read through this post “There is no doubt that there is an epidemic of mental distress in the current generation of teenagers. If only they were taught to seek their happiness in the God of Jacob, and not in themselves. Self-harm is regularly being seen in our GP surgeries. Such a response to the pressures of life is destructive. How much better to listen to the scriptures: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15)”

Click here for the “Good Childhood Report

Click here for the CMF article

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