“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Paul: missionary, writer, church leader, 1st Century (Eph. 6:12)
The Battle is Very REAL
I grew up with three sisters. My oldest sister left for college about the time I was entering high school, and my younger sisters were almost ten years younger than me. Because of that, I really didn’t know much about fighting with family and squabbling over things that were mine. As the only boy, most of the stuff I wanted to play with had little to no appeal to my sisters.
Now I’m a father of two boys and two girls who are both within two or three years of each other. This makes for a very interesting dynamic in our house around Christmas time when they are getting toys and they are in close proximity with each other all the time. Proximity may breed familiarity and community, but it also breeds high stress levels and annoyance of each other when you are a teenager and a pre-teenage boy.
Just last night I had to try and offer wisdom and insight to my boys as they fought over some personal likes and dislikes they have between each other. Realizing that I am increasingly becoming a daily mediator between my teenage son and my pre-teen son, I had to calm myself down and settle in for another night of struggle and battle between my boys.
Through the whole conversation, it felt like I was in a losing battle. I still don’t know if we figured out the problem. But some things came out of our conversation that I’ll share with you today.
1. You aren’t only fighting your brother.
Early teen years are a time of turmoil and angst. The struggle to find your identity is definitely a wrestling match at times between what you know to be true and what you are feeling constantly. “Emotional roller coaster” is a tame phrase for what’s happening. More like explosive moments in the middle of absolute green pastures. Things can be going along really well for a while and then “Ka-Boom!!!”, something (or someone) just blows up.
I often feel like I’m an Army captain trying to teach my family how to duck and cover, run and hide, or just dive into a foxhole. The battle is fierce and it feels like the enemy is breathing down my neck. It is in these times that I need to lead my children to understand that their primary battle isn’t really with their sibling.
2. You are in a spiritual battle.
Your first battle is the battle within. Raging emotions and hormones, tantalizing temptations all around you, and difficult circumstances at either home or school all collaborate to create a world where the battle feels intense, unfair, and unevenly against you. Recognize this about your life… you are in a spiritual battle.
3. You’re fighting at least three foes.
Your spirit is your internal heart. There is a constant battle going on for the allegiance of your heart. As a Christian, I understand this battle to be one waged in three different realms: the world, the flesh, and the Devil himself.
- The World. The system of thinking around you that vies for your attention is the world. The world has many ways in which it tries to pull you in. Advertising and marketing are huge in the world. The world has a way of thinking about life and how it works that is diametrically opposed to God and his ways. The general consensus, the sway of the crowd, the opinion of the masses…these are all ways in which the world tries to suck you in to its philosophy of living. The world’s message appeals to self, the sinful nature, the flesh that you live in. This battle is a battle that begins from without your body. It enters in through your mind and then moves to influence your heart.
- The Flesh. The flesh is the sinful nature within your body. Born into this world, you are born into a body that is sinful. No matter how good you try to become, your flesh will always sabotage you. Sin is anything that misses the mark when it comes to your ability to be like God. Sin expresses itself in both attitudes and actions, thoughts and deeds. Some sin you willfully commit. Some sin you unintentionally commit because you have a sinful nature. The flesh is a monster that feeds off of continual self-pleasure and self-glorification. This battle is a battle that begins from within you. It resides in your heart and then moves to influence your mind and your actions.
- The Devil. Little is really known about how much the demonic influences the physical world. But Scripture leaves little doubt that the Devil is a real adversary and that his minions are “legion” and are out in full force, working to deceive, disturb, and destroy humanity. The Devil stirs the pot of our thoughts and often fires thoughts and ideas into our mind to distract us from God and from the things that will bring us back into a good relationship with Him and with our fellow human beings. This battles is a battle that has been raging since time began. Though the Devil lives outside of you, his influence is strong, powerful, and difficult to resist. He can only be overcome by constant dependence upon the Spirit of God to fight off his wiles and tactics.
Pray for Guidance
As I think about how all of this is affecting my family, I realize that my children need me to constantly be on my knees in prayer for them and for our family as we walk through the journey we are on. It is no small thing to recognize when you are fighting a spiritual battle all around you.
We can try and convince our children of the truth of who God is, of the way that their world works and all that is going on around them in the spiritual realm. But we must recognize that our first line of defense is always to depend upon and ask for God’s help in dealing with the spiritual battles that are constantly taking place in our homes.
Where are you finding this battle to be true for you? Have you recognized that something deeper is going on in the hearts and minds of your children? How can you fight for the hearts of your children? What tactics do you use to keep your kids grounded in recognizing that the battles that they are fighting are not always simply between them?
Post in the comments below. Help me to better understand how we can help each other in this struggle of parenting children through their squabbles and arguments.