Have you ever felt like you were constantly battling with your kids – or a particular child – over one thing or another? If you answered yes, then welcome to the club because all parents go through tough parenting seasons. Sometimes we are in a battle for our kids, when our love for them demands that we address attitudes that will lead to their downfall. Like a Special Forces unit, we go on missions that are precise and with a specific target (i.e. dealing with dishonesty or disrespect). But sometimes we can find ourselves in an all out war with our child(ren), firing everything in our arsenal at them, not knowing how the war even started. If you’re currently in the midst of one of those battles, I’d invite you to ask yourself the very difficult question with which I recently wrestled: What if the enemy isn’t my child? What if I’m fighting the wrong battle?
Ephesians 6:12 says that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I don’t like to dwell very long on the subject of spiritual warfare because I think it can cause us to see the enemy as too great for us, when 1 John 4:4 tells us that, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” God is mightier than our enemy, but make no mistake, we DO have an enemy whose plan for us is destruction. His weapons are fear and lies, and he knows that we are most vulnerable to the power of fear when applied to our children.
Think of all the foolish things parents do out of fear: keep them from developmentally appropriate activities for fear of safety, rescue them from consequences because of a fear of failure, push them to do things that bring misery for fear of not being successful in life (because they didn’t play peewee soccer – really??). Fear blinds us and makes us feel like we’re stumbling around in the dark, causing us to strike at anything that seems threatening. Our blind blows then land on our kids because we believe the lie of our REAL enemy that the way to conquer fear is to control our kids. Fear and lies keep us at war, and we don’t even know that we’re fighting the wrong enemy. It sounds extreme to call the child you love and would die for “the enemy,” but if your home feels like a war zone, that may be how your child perceives your relationship.
This is what I realized last week when I was in the midst of a battle with one of my kids. So what do we do when we realize we’re fighting the wrong enemy?
- Apologize to your kids. We may be in the right, but sometimes we need to acknowledge to our kids that we’ve pushed too hard in a particular area that God alone is able to help them overcome. They need to hear from us that we don’t expect perfection from them, nor do we think we’re perfect.
- If you are exhausted, take care of yourself and get some rest. Pay attention to your eating habits and how they can be affecting you, too. (I’ve been counting guacamole as our vegetable for the past 3 days – it’s time for some roasted broccoli!) We are more vulnerable to temptation when we are physically weak. How many squabbles could be avoided if we all just had a good night’s rest and decent breakfast!
- Put on the armor of God and stand up against the real enemy! Ephesians 6:14-17 tells us how.
“With the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (v. 14)
A belt keeps your pants from falling down around your ankles, and there’s nothing we fear more than the humiliation of being caught with our pants down! Remember, the devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He will try to convince us that if we don’t control our kids (which we can’t), we’ll end up looking like bad parents (which we might – but are we living to please God or men?), and if we’re bad parents then we must be bad people (for whom Christ died, by the way – Rom. 5:8). Truth protects us from falling for the enemy’s lies by reminding us that God is in control, He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and our children are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [them] to do” (Eph. 2:10). It’s not up to us to mold our kids into our image, but rather to cooperate with what God is doing in their lives. If obedience to Christ makes me look foolish, then truth (found in 1 Cor. 4:10) tells me I’m in good company!
“With the breastplate of righteousness in place” (v. 14)
The breastplate protects your heart, and God’s righteousness is our protection from false guilt. Righteousness does not come from my efforts to be holy, but from Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that made it possible for me to be in right relationship to God. The enemy hurtles accusations at us – “Look at how you screwed up with your kids. You’re such a failure!” – but God’s righteousness protects our hearts from false guilt by reminding us that 1) we’ve all sinned and are only saved through faith in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24), and 2) ” there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). If we have accepted Christ as our savior, the Holy Spirit will let us know when we’ve gone down a wrong path and need to make things right, and the goal will always be to restore relationship, not to make us wallow in defeat. Being in right relationship with God protects our hearts from condemnation, which will affect our parenting because when we feel judged, we are quick to find fault in others.
“With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (v. 15)
If we’re going to stand up in battle, we need the right kind of shoes. I can’t do battle in cozy slippers, clinging to the desire for a comfortable life. I can’t go to battle in high heels, caring more about how I look than whether I’m prepared to fight. If I’m going to be ready, I need my feet to be firmly planted on the solid ground of the gospel of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace. Jesus promised his followers in John 14:27 that he would give them his peace – not peaceful circumstances or an easy life – but peace in the midst of life’s struggles, which includes difficult parenting seasons. We can access this peace through prayer. There is no mightier warrior than a mother on her knees in prayer. To put on the shoes of readiness, we follow the instructions from Phil. 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we have the mind of Christ that comes through prayer, we will be ready to approach tough parenting issues with love and grace – the way God deals with his children.
“Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16)
The shield is the first line of defense. When the enemy sends flaming arrows of fear at us, our faith in God deflects them right up to God. We are not alone in this battle. Stand your ground and hold up your shield of faith in God. Let God deal with the arrows. I’m currently working on memorizing Psalm 27, which is a wonderful Psalm written by David when he was being pursued by Saul. The first verse reminds us that the Lord is our stronghold. He is able to deal with any parenting challenge we face. In fact, he is able to do “ immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
“Take the helmet of salvation” (v. 17)
The helmet protects your head, and when we lift up the name of Jesus, our Savior, we remind the enemy that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). When we praise our Savior, the enemy must take a knee! It’s hard to feel like praising in the midst of a battle, but I can testify that when I lift high the name of Jesus, the enemy often will flee. The accusations stop. The oppressive feelings of fear leave. There is power in the name of Jesus, so put on your helmet (and some favorite praise music, if necessary) and praise God for your salvation in Christ!
“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17)
The armor of God is how we defend ourselves, but the word of God – scripture – is how we fight. Commit God’s word to memory, especially any promises you come across that pertain to your children. Several of the scriptures I’ve mentioned in this post are ones that the Holy Spirit brings to my mind when I’m under attack. The truth of God’s word reminds us and the enemy that God holds the keys to victory. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:41). So pick up your sword and fight! Let’s fight the good fight – for our kids, not against them.
Are you in the midst of a battle with/for your kids? I would be honored to pray for you!
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 1:24-25
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