Thursday, February 5, 2009

Overcoming the Enemy's Lies

Sometimes Christians know the source of true freedom, but cannot apply it because of sins of parents or others that leave lasting wounds. What can they do? Arnold grew up with an angry, alcoholic father. Though he longed to bond to his father, all he received was neglect, criticism, verbal mistreatment, and physical abuse. Arnold remembered at age seventeen standing in the kitchen and in total frustration screaming at his father, "I can never please you, no matter how hard I try. No matter what I do, it's never good enough!" Years of abuse, neglect, and criticism took a toll. At age thirty, Arnold would weep uncontrollably every time he made a mistake. Often, when he "flubbed up," he would hear the echo of his father's voice in his heart: "You stupid idiot, you can't do nothing right." When Arnold was young, his father followed such devastating words with the sting of a belt or the bash of a fist. Just recalling the memory in my office caused Arnold to shake all over. The tears would then stream down his face. He told me that over the years he had been unable to hold down a job, the fear of failing so paralyzed him. Despite these setbacks, Arnold was sensitive and intelligent. He accepted the Lord at a young age. His mother was a quiet Christian woman who stayed with her husband despite his abuse. She suffered as much as her son and put up with other sins. Like infidelity. His mother told me she remembered Arnold's father becoming angry when Arnold was one year old. The boy began crying for long periods. One day after slapping Arnold several times, his father threw him and his car seat across the yard. I spoke to Arnold gently of his need to trust the Lord, but that became a major hurdle. He said, "If God couldn't set things right when I was a child, how can I trust Him with anything now?" After thirty minutes of weeping during our first session, Arnold calmed down enough so he and I could pray. The amazing thing here was that not only was Arnold a believer but he had also served in a Christian ministry before becoming totally dysfunctional and unemployable because of his depression and despair. Two years ago he decided he could no longer wall off the awful memories of his past. Several people encouraged him to seek counseling. By the time he came to our office he was desperate to find real freedom-to live, to work, to give. To find real freedom, Arnold did what many must do: He forgave his dad. I could see the struggle on his face when he know he must do so. Finally, bowing his head and shaking with grief, he forgave his dad. In tears, he released the pain and offenses to the Lord. He asked the Lord to take back the ground given up by his bitterness, anger, and lack of forgiveness. "God, please forgive me, my dad, all of us!" This became the beginning of a process in which the Lord revealed deep-seated lies in Arnold's heart. As we prayed, the Lord began to speak to Arnold in a still small voice. In the end, God revealed to Arnold nineteen lies he was believing, everything for "sex is dirty" to "you are hopeless; God can't help you." Nineteen lies! They were piled there in his heart like so many logs on a bonfire that consumed him with anger, depression, and despair. As we dealt with each of those lies, though, Arnold found real freedom and praises God today. As he continues to renew his mind in the Scriptures, the remaining pain and bondage of the past leaves daily. Again, true freedom often means forgiving those who have hurt and offended you. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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