Provoke Not Your Children
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I learned something today that hit me hard. I learned what it meant when we don’t apply Scriptural principles to our lives. I learned something about myself and why I have certain reactions to goals and obstacles in my life.
I have heard my Pastor preach on Ephesians 6:4 before. I have heard him explain that parents provoked their children to anger when they were inconsistent when raising them, inconsistent when disciplining them.
My home life growing up was like this: My parents were divorced when I was two years old, and my mom basically raised us herself. Along the way, she had some boyfriends who were rough on us. She married again in 1984. My step-dad did not know how to deal with children, and with him being an only child raised in a military home, he chose strictness and abuse as the way he would deal with his new children. At first, my mom tried to prevent his mental and physical abuse, but eventually she began to deal with us the same way he did.
My parents did not discipline us consistently, instead they used abuse as their way to control us – whether we had done any wrong or not. Over time, I remember being so frustrated because the rules kept changing. I wanted to please them, but it seemed that I never could. It didn’t matter how good I was, I would still get abused. We were constantly told to do and not to do certain things, and yet when we would follow the instructions, we would still get in trouble anyway. This made life very frustrating for us.
Ours was the typical case of the abusers (our parents) hiding the abuse, while we (the children) were struggling to reveal it, yet no one believing us.
I began to withdraw within myself many times because I did not know how to deal with what was going on in our home. Because of my withdrawal, I got in more trouble with my parents.
As stated above, during my teen years I was so frustrated and discouraged from what went on in our home. There was so much anger inside because I could do nothing to please my parents, nor to change the situation. Many times in my teen years I thought of suicide because my life seemed pointless, seemed to have no purpose. Over time, I built habits to cope – habits that I only see clearly now.
I withdrew into myself and read a lot of fantasy novels and got involved in Dungeon’s and Dragons to escape reality. I had a very well-developed (if you want to call it that) imagination and preferred to live in the worlds these books and games created, or that I could create myself through my writing. This is something that the Lord showed me early in my Christian walk. I strive to read only the truth or Godly materials, whether it be fiction or Bible-based material. Sometimes I let books or games into my life that should not be there. If I let myself, I can get trapped by escapism, fall into old patterns for a few days to a few weeks, and focus on those things.
Now we come to the point where Colossians 3:21 applies in my life more than any other. I learned to “cope” with difficulties and lost dreams, by not striving for anything. I couldn’t be disappointed if I never got my hopes up. If I did not reach for something in my life – like a career goal for example – I could never be disappointed when it all fell apart. I stopped trying, I gave up too easily.
That habit of coping with the discouragement my parents provoked built a pattern in my life. According to a good friend of mine, they see me give up too easily in my life. They see me stop reaching for my goals and dreams whenever they seem like they might require some patience or diligence to achieve. Whenever I am unsure whether they might be God’s will or not or I am not sure how to achieve them, I stop trying to reach for them. I don’t petition God for wisdom (not on a regular basis, anyway), I just stop striving for it.
I acknowledged what my friend said she (and others like her husband and my pastor) saw in me, but was not sure where it came from, until my pastor explained this verse in church this morning. The Lord helped me to see some things. I was overwhelmed by the message because all the bad things the pastor was admonishing fathers against doing to their children as they raised them, I could see reflected in my life.
It was painful to see it clearly, but maybe the healing can come now. I can learn from my parents’ mistakes and move on. I can seek the Lord for the grace I need to deal with these areas in my life. For the longest time, I kept telling myself that I was over the past, that I was healed of it. Maybe that was true in a physical, and even somewhat in an emotional sense – but not in a mental sense. I am still dealing with the habits (the self-defense mechanisms, so to speak) that I had developed. Now I know some things to pray about, some ways I can plead for the Holy Spirit to change me. Being honest with myself and the Lord is the way to start.
Psalms 51:6 Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Why I am writing this today? Not to relive it all – I did that this morning – but to caution other parents against raising their children inconsistently, against provoking them to wrath, against discouraging them because of the lack of stability in the home. It isn’t just their younger years you are molding, you are forming the person they will be for the rest of their lives – good or bad.
Yes, by the grace of God, He can change us. But I plead with you; it is much easier to build bridges of love and stability than to later have to tear down walls of inconsistency and bad habits formed throughout our lives.
It was somewhat hard to write this, but I needed to get it out, and hopefully if you are a parent or one day plan to be one, you will see the difference obeying Scriptural principles in raising your family can make. I don’t know why the Lord allowed the bad things in my past, but I am His child now and He is working out all things in my life for my good, to conform me to the image of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour in 1992, He made me a new creature in Him. Now I had a purpose, now my life took on meaning. Within God’s Word, I finally found the answers to many of life’s questions that I had been seeking. I am not the same person I was when I was lost and following the course of this world. Yes, I still have old habits to overcome in my life, but I have a Saviour who can make all things new and can change me from within.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
He can strengthen me and give me the grace I need to serve Him day by day. I do not need to be limited by my past. Through faith in Jesus and His Word, I have the victory. His Holy Spirit will give me the measure of grace I need. In Christ, I have all I need.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
2 Peter 1:3-4 According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
As I abide in Jesus Christ, and cling to and apply His Word, He will make my way prosperous. I need not fear that my life is pointless for the Lord does have a plan for me, and I will trust Him to carry it out. He has a purpose for creating me, He has a purpose for saving me, and He has a plan for my life. He will order my steps day by day according to that plan. As I trust in Him and give all my cares and desires to Him, He will direct my path. In fact, if I cling to the Lord and seek His will, He will change my heart and give me His desires, desires which He will fulfill in His own time and in His own way. Though I fall many times, He picks me back up, dusts me off, and gives me a new beginning every morning. He has not failed me yet, and I know He never will!
Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Psalms 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
Psalms 37:23-24 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with His hand.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.
I pray that I will learn the lessons from this that God would have me to learn. I pray that you will learn them as well.
June 15th, 2003