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Life of an Ordinary Aussie Woman

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Another Teen Suicide: Building resilience in youth through true hope.

A youth suicide from bullying is once again headlining news here in Australia at this time.

It moves me to my core as a mother of 3 teenagers.

It moves me as a professional who has worked with children and youth for over 20 years.

And it moves me as a Christian.

I am deeply grieved thinking about the loss of a wonderful young life, and I admit I cannot bear thinking about how this family must feel or to extend this thinking to my own teenage sons…yet I do, as I not only believe what I say, I try to live what I say.

For those of you unaware, I made the decision recently to stop working as a school chaplain caring for the wellbeing of other children and youth, to be more present with my own 3 teenagers who like many others are facing their own struggles.

After two years of chaplaincy I have returned to homeschooling my boys who have often faced bullying and isolation in school. Honestly it’s not an easy job to homeschool my children but I also know the limitations of schools and will not shirk my responsibility to care for my own children God has blessed me with.

From my study and experience I’ve been taught that we need to work towards building resilience in the children and youth we work with…or grit as one academic calls it. The ability to bounce back from set-backs, to have a positive internal belief that you are worthy (aka a good self-esteem), and an understanding that you never stop learning (growth mindset).

With staggeringly high and alarming statistics in Australia today concerning mental health issues such as psychosis, anxiety, depression and suicide, along with a massive decline in church attendance, schools have taken on the wellbeing role of community for many Australian children and youth.

While schools do not want to replace the role of parents or upset people, family values, morals, ethics and progressive cultural beliefs are very much a part of education today, as they have been for a long time.

It’s my personal belief that a large number of people working in Australian schools today feel they are only putting ‘band-aids’ on problems beyond their abilities or control, and are mostly reactive in their wellbeing rather than proactive. It seems as if the problem of family dysfunction which results in bullying and poor mental health has ‘overnight’ become an epidemic.

Again we’re hearing via the media a call for more public awareness and people sharing about their own experiences of bullying to help create a culture of change. And while this has some merit, (similar to the #metoo sexual harassment movement) this is also reactive rather than pro-active.

We know from psychology in order for people to be more resilient they need to have a hope for the future, beyond what they’re going through at any particular time. We also know that to have a hope for a better tomorrow or optimistic outlook, it begins with cultivating a grateful attitude or character for what we have rather than a focus on what we don’t…

Now if I’m sounding preachy that’s probably because what I just said sounds similar to what’s in the Bible. Yet I assure you this is modern psychology…you can look it up.

So many schools (which now include wellbeing education) instruct mindfulness to students. These sessions instruct class members how to focus upon themselves and to thank themselves for what they have; to breath deep to relax and see energy (bubbles) float off themselves, and so on and so forth. The education department now teaches students how to be a good person based on the premise that this makes a good citizen, rather than this is moral righteousness. They teach our children that we come from nothing or a big bang which eventually became an ape, and expect our children to have gratefulness and a hope for the future…

Many people today in Australia look down upon families who are Christian and furthermore upon those who are Christian and homeschool…yet they also feel helpless and ill-equipped to deal with their own family problems. They do not comprehend what is happening to their child from a ‘good home’…

No family is perfect or immune from problems, not even Christian homeschooling ones.

The best families able to fight this epidemic I believe are the ones willing to fight in love as a soldier of Christ, and take on the responsibility of equipping their children with true self-belief, gratefulness and hope that comes from Jesus alone.

This is true pro-active parenting. 
It is not a ‘band-aid’. 
It is the anchor for one’s soul.

The enemy comes to kill and destroy. The enemy will take out as many lives as possible, and the poor children who do not know the truth about this life are like sheep to the slaughterhouse.

So many young people today find life meaningless and disappointing. They do not get to experience true joy and fulfilment, as they don’t know the Creator and Saviour. For them life is a puzzle with too many missing pieces…escapism suddenly become very appealing.

Psychology basically tells us that gratefulness leads to optimism, optimism leads to resilience, resilience leads to good self-esteem and good self-esteem leads to good mental health. But this will always remain a theory with missing conviction…It is a lie of the enemy that tells us we’ll be fine on our own...We can do all things on our own.

God tells us through His Word that we are fallible human beings born in a sinful state, separated from Him by sin, and that we need forgiveness and reconciliation only possible by His own sacrificial atonement.

He tells us of the lacking state we find ourselves in, and of the joy He is willing to give us when we repent of our sins and give our life to Him.

He tells us that upon the cross He died a death that can become ours, so that we will live eternally in the new world that is to come. He tells us He gave His life as a human being in trade for ours.

He then tells us that all things are possible for His reconciled children, through Jesus Christ who will give them the strength and courage.

The world tells us we can become resilient on our own by being grateful to ourselves. The Bible actually says this…

Suffering as Christians produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3)

Let me paraphrase it for today, with some modern psychological wording:
Hard circumstances as Christians produces grit, and grit produces decent hardworking human beings, and decent hardworking people create optimistic communities.

So many young people are not equipped to face challenges as they have no foundation for suffering and persecution. Sadly so many have no foundation as an anchor in the storm of bullying or poor mental health. Also sadly many feel they have no adults in their life to whom they can turn to for the support they need. From experience I believe this is because they are looking for the missing puzzle piece. They are looking for God’s genuine agape love. They are looking for support from people with something they don’t have – a strong core and anchor who is Jesus. Yet sadly there aren’t many Christians here in Australia in comparison nowadays to the majority.

Young people today need to hear they are not accidental creations…or highly advanced mammals. They need to hear they are human beings created in the image of a loving and awesome God who wants to become their best friend. They need to hear they struggle in this world because of sin as we all do, but there is a solution provided if they choose to repent and follow Jesus. They need to hear of God’s love displayed upon the cross and of the ‘good plan’ He has for them which is why the enemy wants to snuff them out...

Let’s not give our kids an ‘Aspirin’ when we can take them to the Great Physician. Let’s not be satisfied with more awareness of mental health…Let’s go forth by the grace of God and live the Gospel to all whom we encounter! 

By His Grace, Melanie.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Freedom in Euthanasia?

Euthanasia has become legal in Victoria, where I live in Australia.

On November the 29th 2017, my state became the first in Australia to legalise assisted dying.

People have fought for the right to have the legal freedom to suicide (with assistance) if they are able to convince a doctor they are suffering while living and continuing to live will only extend their pain and suffering…so a compassionate plea is made to have their life ended.

My own biological dad suicided some years ago.
He was mentally unwell at the time and if this law was passed I think he could have convinced a doctor to grant and assist euthanasia. He could always deliver a compelling argument. Yet my dad was more than likely (I am not a clinician) mentally ill all, or most of his life…and he still had marriages, children and successful  businesses…

I am left to ponder, what did he gain from his suicide other than a quick fix for his pain?

Could he not have gained more from therapy, such as restored mental health and relationships with others? The law in Victoria once said yes to this.

The truth is as human beings we don’t like suffering in any form.

We don’t like to see others suffer and go through pain, so we want a quick fix to relieve their misery. You may wonder what is wrong with this? Yet is this not alike putting a lame animal “out of its misery”? Yes, we don’t like others to suffer and we certainly don’t enjoy it ourselves.

Most people do not like suffering in any form. Who enjoys self-sacrifice and suffering for their family? I know I don’t. I recently stopped work in order to care more for my family by Homeschooling again and have needed to take stock of less income and recognition, for the huge work I will be doing…I mean we all love our kids but it’s a huge sacrifice to be around teenagers 24/7 with their hormonal outbursts and negative behaviour at times (sorry just being honest).

Who enjoys therapy sessions to heal from trauma? Seriously! Who likes going over the details of horrific events to ‘process’ and deal with the junk in your head?

Who likes working hours and hours to pay bills and provide? Yes, even when you ‘love’ your job and are really good at it. It’s tough to consistently work to a high bar and give your best to often ungrateful strangers.

Who enjoys working on broken relationships? Who wants to suffer in loving someone else who is struggling to show the same love back? What’s more, who wants to suffer monogamy when something new is on offer? How often today do we hear the catch-phrase, “Live your truth”... In other words “be as selfish as you want”!

Once upon a time we used to treat gender issues as psychological disorders, but so many today can’t be bothered with the long hard journey needed to deal with these problems…So now these issues have a different label, and the quick-fix hormonal treatment/surgery is offered. Sadly today we don’t often hear about the wonderful success stories of people recovered from gender related psychological disorders with the help from wonderful clinicians.

Once upon a time when a female was pregnant out of wedlock, she had to ‘suffer’ by the having the child. Nowadays she can go to a clinic and have an abortion…even if she is married and simply does not want the child or pregnancy. Again sadly we don’t often hear anymore today of the wonderful outcomes of the woman and the ‘unwanted child’. We don’t hear of the incredible bonds and life experiences when people rally to raise the child together or of adoption.

Today there is a cultural narrative in the West told to us and our children that in order to experience freedom, we must be free from any hardship or suffering. In order to be agents of positive change in our world we must embrace all truths and personal choices as valid.

And we are beginning to face the consequences.

The consequence of a rapid rise in family dysfunction and mental illness diagnoses…the production of even more dysfunctional, broken, lazy, selfish and disrespectful, adults and children.

And the truth is, even for simply claiming this I will be hated upon, as the narrative is so embedded. It is deeply embedded already in common people who don’t want to do the hard yards of suffering for a better outcome and who are blinded by the seductive lights of the lustful depraved world that will suck their souls. The sad truth is that the common people are actually truly hungry and thirsty for change and a better life, yet they’re dying from starvation and thirst due to their own stubborn pride and laziness.

Everyone WANTS change but it seems today most are not willing to suffer for it to occur.

Everyone WANTS change but again it seems today most are unwilling to be the change themselves. The question they ponder is, “Why can’t everyone else…?”

Today so many of our family and friends are believing the lie, that in order to experience freedom, we must be free from any hardship or suffering. The lie that truth is personal rather than factual.

Euthanasia is therefore now for most who live this cultural narrative, a ‘no-brainer’. Why would someone suffer if they can be free from pain? Furthermore, why would God be against this if He doesn’t want us to suffer and not be happy? This then logically leads to the new ‘gospel’ that God accepts all truths and changes, just as we do culturally because the bible is a work of literature and problematic for modern-day issues.

This is a lie that keeps people trapped. People trapped in their illness and dysfunction, when Jesus came to heal the sick and set the captives of sin free for eternity.

The sins we see today are not new…regardless of how old or new one’s cultural lens is.

Change and suffering is hard. But God does not change. He changes us and this is true freedom. This is the True Gospel.

God does not leave you dead in your sin. He gives you forgiveness and His blessed Holy Spirit to live with a new desire to live according to His ways as in scripture through Jesus Christ alone.

Death is not freedom. Without forgiveness of our sins and being reconciled to God as His children through Jesus, death only leads to eternal separation and suffering, also called hell. And yes, this is what Jesus said.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no-one comes to The Father except through me”. (John 14:6)

Jesus said for us to take up our cross of suffering and follow Him and His ‘yolk’ is light. He said we will endure suffering for bearing His Name, but He also said for us to ‘take courage’ for He will be with us, and we have a great reward coming of eternal life upon the new earth that is to come.

Euthanasia is not freedom, it’s just another quick-fix that leads to continued brokenness rather than healing. Brokenness on the other side of the grave, and brokenness for the people left behind. It is not compassionate to let people make wrong life-altering decisions. It is not compassionate to tell people a false gospel that leaves them trapped in their sin. I would not like to be a hospital chaplain today who is unable to share the true Gospel due to legislation….

What have we become?

A product of our own choices.

I made the best choice in life and found true healing and freedom from my rebellious, lazy, and broken human nature and His Name is Jesus.

Yes, today there is a cultural narrative in the West told to us and our children that in order to experience freedom, we must be free from any hardship or suffering. In order to be agents of positive change in our world we must embrace all and truths and personal choices as valid. This is a lie of the enemy.

There is true freedom and the ability to heal, through enduring the pain of transformation when we give our heart and life to Jesus.

The true love of Jesus which we CAN HAVE through Him looks like this:
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7, NRSV).

There is no freedom in living your own truth – It will only lead to enslaving and breaking you.

True freedom is found in Christ alone. It will lead you on a road of healing and love that is not easy, yet leads to peace and joy.

In His Service, Melanie.