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The Prospect of 2013

December 29, 2012 1 comment

The Year 2013: Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Following the Christmas holidays, its natural for people to get sentimental, reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming year.  The media always has their “wrap-up” citing the headlines that most impacted the nation and the world.  There are wishes for a “Happy New Year,” promises, conjectured in the form of “New Year’s resolutions” (lose weight, spend more time with family, etc.).So, as I sit here and ponder the events of 2012, I must admit, my outlook is….bittersweet.  By nature, I consider myself neither an optimist, nor a pessimist.  A realist.  I know, I know, most people like to overuse that label for themselves, but truly, when asked if I see a cup half full or half empty, I will always respond, “BOTH!”Perhaps, it’s not my outlook, so much as my bull-headed determination.

I’ll stick with the previous assertion, thanks.  (Its my blog. Well, for now.)

This year has obviously been interesting with the election.  For my part, I was absolutely unclear about who was going to win, though, I certainly thought I saw tremendous support for Mitt.  However, in light of the direction the world was turning, reading the tea leaves also gave strong indications that Obama would pull through, in spite of no record, nothing what-so-ever to recommend him, and a continuing treasonous scandal.  I advocated for Romney, as much as I could, grew tense, like the rest of the country, fervently prayed, and waited.  Like many of you, that night, though I wasn’t shocked, but I was shocked.  I had been on my face, begging for God’s mercy on this country.  However, I also prayed for His will to be done.  The Lord spoke, the fate of America was solidified.

I went, immediately, to a somber state of acceptance.

Like most of you, the prospect of 2013 is dismal, in light of the political arena.  I have lost all faith in politicians, even in those I thought were truly fighting for truth and justice.  Time and time again, we have seen them bow to the will of those who grow in worldly power.

NATIONALISM VS. PATRIOTISM

I have recognized, through this process, that there is a clear distinction in “nationalism vs. patriotism.”  Nationalism retains that sense of arrogance, even in the face of God that we are better, bigger, and stronger.  That nothing will stop or hold us down.  Contrarily, patriotism is vastly different.  The patriot humbly clings to the principles that make one’s country great.  He recognizes the blessings, even undeservedly, that have been bestowed upon his nation, contingent upon obedience to the Lord and the principles for foundation.  A patriot doesn’t put faith in any man, but looks to the Lord for his sense of national direction.  He bows his knee to the Great I AM, accepting His plans, knowing that the protection of the nation is directly hinged upon what is done with the blessings and how well we uphold Biblical precepts.

As I stated before, I am an eternal realist.  My worldly outlook for the nation ,as far as the state of this planet, is grave.  Evil has been unleashed.  All too common these days, we hear of rampages of brutal murder.  People immediately want an answer,

“WHY?” 

What could possibly be the reason for such senseless violence? Now we see a spectrum of blame, polarities that want to crackdown on this heinous barbarianism.  On one side, governmental leaders are grasping, white-knuckled, to the claim that the problem is GUNS.  “We MUST eliminate firearms!” Another argument from the other side is that “We MUST revisit mental illness!”

As you might expect, I do not subscribe to either.

The problem is that all sense of morality, more specific, humility before the Almighty, has been cast out.  Society, as a whole, has spit in God’s face and pushed out any shade of godliness.  People have been hypnotized by the Dark Angel, masquerading in light.  They don’t believe in evil, unless it suits their purposes.  They don’t believe in the antithesis of evil, that being salvation only through Christ’s blood.  Instead they exchange one lie for another, until all sense of rationality and reason is subjective and without basis.

So you see, we could talk about the continued, growing scandals that have growing tentacles over the White House.  We could talk about the wildfire of Radical Islamization.  We could talk about the fiscal cliff that looms, in mere hours.  We could talk about genocidal dictators racing toward mass-extermination.

But, the crux of the matter is not as complex as it seems.  People are hung up on the thousands of symptoms of a simple, albeit, eternal crisis.The world has cocooned itself in a cozy bed of Godlessness.  They have set up their own altars, whereby they sit on their own throne.  Rather than serving the God of the universe, humans, regardless of culture, ethnicity or nation (a true testament to color blindness), embrace and worship the god “within.”

This cannot last.

Just as God is grace, He is the perfect balance of Justice and Judge, as well.  He does not force His will on man, yet retains the control in decision-making.  He can allow us to make the ridiculous choices that will cause self-destruction, both individually, corporately, as a society, and internationally.

Though He allows us our own way, don’t think for a second that He isn’t angered by it.  We cannot be so pompously deluded to think that we were created by a limp-wristed pushover.

He is YAHWEH!

THE GLASS IS HALF-EMPTY, BUT IT IS ALSO HALF-FULL.

In God’s never-ending kindness, the removal of protection can serve as a wake-up call.  When we are stripped of comforts, whether in leadership, or in security, we have the opportunity to turn to the only lasting truth in YESHUA, Jesus Christ.

For the few of us, who are truly watching, wide-eyed at the plans unfolding around the world, faith is strengthened.  I’ve heard it said, “The national and international headlines are now catching up to the Bible.”  The cards are on the table.  We are coming to that fork in the road, whereby we can choose to move toward God, or turn our backs on God.  Sadly, the Bible tells me that many will fall away from the faith. (Matthew 7:14, 2Timothy 4) Further, Christ tells us, “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev.3:15-17)

My hope is in the Lord.  I do not know the specifics of what 2013 will bring, but I trust that He is JEHOVAH.  I take great hope in His mighty power.  (Ephesians 6:10-18) My outlook for this world, in the direction it is hurtling toward, is bleak.  People have chosen the path of Baal.  The Lord is rousing from His Holy Hill and He will come with absolute Authority and Justice.

Though, I am desperate to see His glory and His might, at the same time, I tremble at the prospect of an angry, JUST God.  I fear living in a land that has chosen to shove the Lord’s hand of protection away for the false notion of self-preservation and governmental rule.

If this nation refuses to humble herself in fear of the Lord, it is doomed to destruction. 

Nationalism is idolatry.  It is an ideology that dominates both parties, both sides of the aisle. 

With all of this bleakness, comes great hope, when one seeks and clings to the ONLY hope we have!  We have access to TRUE LIBERTY!  We can be unfettered and freed from bondage in the hope that comes from faith in the Lord, through YESHUA.  When we recognize that He IS the source of life; we are liberated, REGARDLESS of worldly powers.

These days, I treasure God’s Word.  I recognize the NECESSITY OF IT.  It is easy to get enthralled and overly distracted with the events unfolding.  Though Christ commanded us to, “WATCH!” (Matt.24:4, 42 read all of chapter 24) I must keep my FOCUS upon HIM.  We must SATURATE ourselves in the WORD.  I am constantly amazed and deeply grateful for the Bible.  Without it, faith and hope would be very burdensome.  But again, God in His grace and mercy, gave us the Cliff Notes version.

In summary: I know how the story ends;

He wins.

——————————————————————

SCRIPTURE TO MEDITATE ON:

1 Samuel 12:24-25

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Chick-Fil-A in a Stew

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Chick-Fil-A ruffles feathers with stance on traditional values

“Guilty as charged,” was the statement recently made by Chick-Fil-A owner, Dan Cathy, when asked about his company’s support of  traditional family values.  Cathy’s stance has ruffled more than a few feathers and the cuddly cow has now been stamped as one bad egg.  The Leftist brood is squawking the usual cries of hate, bigotry, and homophobia.  A Bostonian mayor has now infamously stated that he won’t let the company nest anywhere near his city, so long as he reigns.  One “gay rights” group has hatched a mass “kiss-in” idea at local restaurants, in an apparent gay PDA showdown.It seems gay pride activists shouting typical accusations of homophobia (“You’re just chicken!”) is supposed to really show Cathy who rules the roost.  (Note:  Don’t mess with their pecking order.)

Like chickens with their heads cut off, the media is flapping about in an attempt to subdue and bully the only company willing to stick its neck out for faith and family values.  Yes, walking on eggshells is the name of the game these days, what with Oreo creating the ever diverse rainbow cookie, it seems even food should be tolerant and diverse in social issues.

Unfortunately for liberals it looks as though Cathy won’t be chickening out anytime soon, further stating:

We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,”

Rather than taking Cathy’s statement viewed as a personal set of values with overtones of gratitude, leftists are outraged, crying “Fowl!” It is possible that much to the chagrin those who support “diversity and tolerance” (wink) one projection is that sales will shoot through the hen-house with all of the publicity and free marketing.  Funny, Chick-Fil-A has had plenty of chicks to count even without a sunrise on Sundays.

And seriously, who doesn’t want a chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a down-home sweet tea after a good hen-pecking?!

What has flown the coop is any rational idea of freedom of speech and freedom to practice religion of one’s choosing.  It takes a bird brain to go on a vicious and personal counter attack to one merely civilly expressing his freedom of belief.  When it comes to diversity and tolerance, many on the left proudly display the egg on their face.  Give them a solid, Bible believing person of faith, they set up the ring and strut around like a banty rooster, waiting for the cock-fight to ensue.  (Sorry, PETA.)

For now, it seems it’s sunny side up for the “Eat more chicken” folks at Chick-Fil-A.

When it comes to standing up for faith, family, and values, that truly is something to crow about….

Response to a Viewer’s Comments in “Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, a Loss of Faith”

In response to this viewer’s recent comment regarding Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, a Loss of Faith, which I thought were wonderful points for discussion:

Hello Jennifer, I would suggest that you do more research into Islam before posting about it. Theologists are not in disagreement about the relationship between judaism, christianity, and islam. There is no question the three are based on the same God, but veer off into different direction concerning interpretations of biblical events, prophets, afterlife, and messiah. Just as you have written “Judeo-Christian”, merging Judaism and Christianity (which is very much the new trend in today’s conservative Christianity, largely based on political reasons), you are contradicting yourself as the Jewish faith doesn’t reflect the criteria you stated above either: They do not believe Jesus was the Messiah, similar to Islam, they see him as a ‘good guy’, a wise prophet. Judaism does not discuss the idea of afterlife or heaven and hell much either, instead, it focuses more on life on earth, and this is in contrast to Christianity whose primary focus is preparation for the afterlife. Many conservative Christian sects today are blending Judaism with Christianity to focus on the commonalities rather than the differences, and I believe this is a good thing. People should always focus on a similarities first, and often in doing this, the difference resolve themselves or prove inconsequential. You could do the same with Islam, focusing on its many similarities with Christianity, and that is what the pastor stated above is doing, its just not the Politically Correct, cool thing to do, so of course, he is taking heat for it.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Order in the Quart. I appreciate your viewpoints and taking the time to comment.  This is certainly a topic that is worthy of discussion and I invite it.

Firstly, you state that there is no question that the three religions mentioned in the post are based on the same God.  I would disagree with that statement, though I see your argument.  It is more accurate to state that, historically, the three religions were connected and began under the same view of God.  Judaism and Christianity believe in the same Old Testament teachings.  Islam believes much of it, but they have their variations of traditional biblical stories, such as Noah and the Flood.  The historical division takes place, as I am sure you are aware, with the children of Jacob and Ishmael, children of Abraham.  The Ishmaelites are now known as “of Arab descent”.  Jacob’s descendents are now known as the Jewish people.  Finally, Jesus Christ, himself was Jewish by birth and was the Savior.  By ethnicity, many Jews and Gentiles followed after Jesus Christ’s teaching and have accepted that He is the Savior for all mankind, thus the label “Christian”.

You are correct in your assertion that Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, a similarity with Muslims.  I did not dispute this in the article.  As a Christian, based upon the direct teaching of Jesus, I believe that this is essential to eternal salvation. (John 14:6) Your assertion that Jews believe that Jesus was a “good guy” and a prophet is, however, not correct.  It is a historical and Biblical fact that Jesus was hated by the majority of the Jewish people.  The Pharisees were responsible for the death of Jesus, believing that He was a threat to the Jewish faith, tradition and a general troublemaker, who blasphemed God. (Mt. 21:46, 22:15-22, 23, 26:65-68)

Therefore, I would argue that there are great differences between each faith.

It is vital to understand that simply because I use the term “Judeo-Christian” does not imply that I fully embrace the Jewish faith.  

However, the Jewish people share the same Old Testament (Christians refer to it as old.) It is congruent with the New Testament. Further there over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  Judaism refuses to acknowledge this, continuing to look for their Messiah.  So when I refer to Judeo-Christian values, there is no conflict in doing so; Christians have adopted the same scripture and laws that were set forth by God, but we have recognized the prophecies set forth in the Old Testament as fulfilled and leading directly to the person of Jesus as Messiah.

Further, just as there are many sects that proclaim Christianity, there are also sects of Judaism that do not depend upon a strict adherence to traditional, historical values.  Take for example Jewish mysticism, Kabballah, and the many contradictions between that and Orthodox Judaism.  The Old Testament makes many references to hell, often called Sheol, and heaven, so I would disagree with your assertion that Judaism does not discuss the idea of an afterlife. (Isaiah 26:19, 14:9-15, 2Kings 2:1-14) I would also disagree with your assertion that linking Judaism and Christianity is “very much the new trend.”  The linking of the faiths stems from the fact that Jesus was Jewish by birth.  Most of the original disciples were Jewish by birth.  Paul, who was called Saul prior to his conversion, was Jewish by birth.  Traditional Judaism has been linked to Christianity from the onset.

So in summary, as far as the link between Judaism and Christianity: there are differences, but Christianity was, quite literally, birthed from Judaism.

The Qu’ran is not steeped in the tradition of Judaism.  The book’s claim is by a man named Mohammed, who is referenced no where in the Bible.  Further, his assertions and “prophecy” about Allah contradicts Scripture, unlike Judaism and Christianity.  As a prime example, Allah commands that “infidels”, Jews and Christians be killed because of their faith, that being, the lack of faith in the god of Islam. The God of the Bible is the Father of the Jews and Christians.  How is this reconcilable as the same God?  This is only one of the many contradictions of the portrayal of the God of Islam to Judaism and Christianity.

I agree with you that there are many similarities in issues of morality, but I do not accept that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Judaism and Christianity.  I believe that there are many ways, outside of the acceptance and adoption of the Muslim faith, that we can build bridges of communication and respectability.  Mr. Warren’s idea is not one.  He is not finding similarities, he is forsaking the foundations of one faith and attempting to fit them into another.  Essentially, he has put a circular peg into a square hole and is trying to lead people into believing that this is the right way to faith.

Lastly, the comment you made, “and that is what the pastor stated above is doing, its just not the Politically Correct, cool thing to do, so of course, he is taking heat for it.”  I find that very ironic and actually quite the opposite!  The Politically Correct idea IS to embrace all faiths and have “tolerance” for other religions.  By tolerance, as defined by those who ascribe to PC is to accept without reservation. I do not believe in that.

Mr. Warren is actually doing the “cool,” trendy, acceptable thing.  As a follower of Christ, I am not into what is cool, acceptable, and trendy.  I am interested in truth, based in love.  I am happy to find commonality and respect for people of all faiths, but I will NOT compromise my faith and my belief system to accept and adopt theirs.  That is not loving.  Jesus tells us that there is ONE way to heaven and that is through him.  It is my calling to live out that truth.  He ate, taught, and had discussion with people who were different than his “people.”  But he never compromised the truth of what he knew.  He never sold himself out for the sake of popularity and economic gain.  He loved without abandon, he was desperate for the people to know Him and accept him as Messiah.  (The Jewish people need the Lord, too.  I do not overlook this.) Truth and love are only achieved in perfect balance when we embrace Christ and are lead by the Holy Spirit, not enticed by culture, fame, and prestige.

I pray that you continue to search for the truth, as only found in Christ.  God bless you.

Chrislam: A Blending of Religions, A Loss of Faith

Chrislam: A Blending of Religion, A Loss of Faith

You may remember Rick Warren.  He is the author of Purpose Driven….stuff.  He has a slew of Purpose Driven materials that hit churches and homes full force in the early part of the decade.  It seemed every church on every corner was offering small groups that focused on this premise.  I admit.  I was cautious.  Any time one man’s work gets a vast number of groupies, I’m usually skeptical.

As a person of faith, a follower of Christ, it is vital that I maintain the proper perspective of man and God.  Man is given to failure, pride, and manipulation.  God is perfect.  Throughout history, especially in the church, people’s hopes in men are dashed to pieces, based upon the fact that they thought their “hero” could do no wrong.  They forget that man is easily deceived.  They forget the humanity of humanity.  Thus, placing such high hopes on the ideals of a man is a dangerous business.  When people come face-to-face with the harsh reality that their “idol” isn’t Superman, but wrought with frailties, given to the temptations of this world, they often give up hope.  Hope in people. Hope in institutions.  Hope and faith, altogether. Gone.  At the same time, people who are so strongly led by men, who forsake thinking on their own accord, who don’t take time to look into “facts”, and research what they have been taught are often seriously misled.  There are many great thinkers, writers, and philanthropists, but ultimately, it is necessary to come back to a source of truth and check in.  Men are easily swayed, manipulated, and deceived.

I come, now, to Mr. Warren.

Pastor of a mega church in California, New York Times bestselling author, philanthropist, Rick Warren has obtained tremendous influence and power in the last 15 years.  His most recent endeavor has been the bridging between world faiths.  While many would see this as a laudable, even admirable, action, many are now deeply concerned.  The last few years, in particular, Mr. Warren has been called upon to serve on world faith councils.  He is consulted upon in unifying and bringing “peace” among the great religions.  Actually, his main focus has been Christianity and Islam.  Though men and women around the world have a heart to find like-mindedness in issues of morality and respect, Mr. Warren has sought to take relations among the faiths to a whole new level.  Last year, he brought the Qu’ran to be placed side by side the holy book for Christians, the Bible, in the auditorium during what were typically Christian services.  Most recently, he was a primary participant to “A Common Word Between Us and You”, the “Christian response” to a letter written by King Abdullah of Jordan and over 100 Muslim clerics.  In this document, those who proclaim Christianity have proclaimed that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are one in the same. Here is an excerpt:

The Task Before Us
“Let this common ground” – the dual common ground of love of God and of neighbor – “be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,” your courageous letter urges. Indeed, in the generosity with which the letter is written you embody what you call for. We most heartily agree. Abandoning all “hatred and strife,” we must engage in interfaith dialogue as those who seek each other’s good, for the one God unceasingly seeks our good. Indeed, together with you we believe that we need to move beyond “a polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders” and work diligently together to reshape relations between our communities and our nations so that they genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another.  Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well.  We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another. It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose.

There is one (among many) problem with this:  Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. The Qu’ran forbids the belief.  Why is that a problem?  Because Christianity proclaims that Jesus Christ is God, the son.  (Hence, the name of the faith/religion?  Christianity?)  Muslims do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Savior.  They believe he was a prophet, a good guy. But, for Christians, the Bible, from cover to cover is about the Messiah.  The focus of the book is not about a good guy, but about the Savior for all of mankind.

(Kind of a big deal to us Christians.  The true followers of Jesus Christ, that is.)

The two faiths are incompatible. It is impossible to believe that Allah is the same is the Judeo-Christian God, when their book and our book define two different Gods.

One is a big ‘G’ God, the other is a little ‘g’ god.  And both sides claim to serve THE God. 

You may ask why this is really such a big deal.  Many of you have genuine concern and a heart for the Muslim community.  Let me be clear that I believe that there should be mutual respect and kindness toward all people, people of other faiths, people who have different lifestyles, and those who do not believe as I do.

HOWEVER, as a follower of Christ, our hope is to reach out in love, as only modeled in the mind and spirit of Jesus. Yet, Jesus never compromised who He was!  He never forsook his purpose and always maintained truth and honesty.  He was gracious, kindhearted, and stood upon truth. 

Without the full grace of the Holy Spirit, we WILL most certainly forsake a merciful attitude and come across in an unloving, un-Christlike manner. So our ONLY hope is full reliance on and constant prayer in the Lord.

It is easy to want to see good intent of these men and women, both the Muslim, and those who define themselves as Christians, in “reaching out” to each other.  But, I also see a power play with people who are very influential as primary proponents.  A person can be loving, kind, and respectful, and still maintain their integrity, belief system, and commitment to truth.  I DO believe that there are some who are genuinely ignorant of what they have signed onto.  It is possible that they did not fully read or understand, pick up on all of the seemingly small, albeit powerful statements with wild implications laced throughout.

The following video clip explains the inconsistencies of Islam and Christianity and the complications that Rick Warren, Robert Shuler, Bill Hybels, and others have created.  Essentially, they have renounced Christianity, as the Bible sets forth, for a new faith.

 

Essentially, as this video so effectively states, this document renounces any higher allegiance to Christ and places common ground – “A Common Word” (which as the creator of the video points out is a direct reference from the Qu’ran). If we don’t have Jesus, we have nothing. Jesus and his sacrifice are what make our faith transcendent and unique from all others.

Without this essential person, being Jesus Christ, the namesake of our “religion”, Christianity, one could argue that Allah were the same as the God we serve!

Alas, our Book, our entire reason for being is woven in the person hood of God the father, Christ, his son, and the Spirit that gives us power. This key element – the Trinity, is blasphemy to Muslims. This is what the Common Word has renounced.

Having said all of that, our task, as unwavering, uncompromising believers is enormous. The Bible foretells of the climax of this battle in the last days, when apostasy will be rampant and the muddling and mixing of faiths will occur.

It is absolutely essential, (I am talking to myself and praying to Christ, as I type) that I remain in Him – HIS word, HIS truth, begging and asking for the mind of Christ moment by moment, and throwing off anything that entangles, so that I can recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing and then know how to properly respond. I can ONLY know that if I am in Him and He abides in me.

Further, I completely agree that there could be dialogue between the faiths. I started to say “should”, but changed it.  If there is not a mutual respect, as there is NOT many times from the Muslim community, particularly internationally, (relations within America are different, largely) then, communication is not possible.

A response from the Christian community would be appropriate and even a gesture of good will.  But I believe that we would have to respectfully, yet clearly disagree. We can agree on issues of morality, ethical and cultural values, but this in no way demands commonality in pledging the same God and matters of faith.

This letter is not kindness and peace, but weakness, a lack of principle, a lack of biblical knowledge, and a wavering spirit.

Finally, we must pray for Rick Warren and the men who have unified themselves with these precepts, along with the Muslim community. It is undeniable that many of these men and women have tremendous influence and that is a VERY scary prospect. Those who are not careful, guarded in Christ, and saturated in Scripture will be easily swayed. Again, while I believe that there may have been some well-meaning, albeit, ignorant people who signed this document, there are absolutely people who have an agenda.

A Dose of Self-Awareness – Just What the Doctor Ordered

Gauging where I should be.

Gauging where I should be.

I have a fever.  I think.  The thermometer isn’t the most reliable, stupid little thing.  I just bought it too.  Well, I feel like crap.  I guess if I pass out and wake up in the hospital I’ll get extra attention if necessary.  Thankfully, at least I’m not delusional, yet.  (Hey, watch it…)

In talking with a dear friend, I began to reflect (alright ramble) upon some heartache I’ve had in the last couple years.  Funny, when we stop and actually listen to what we say we could learn a few things.  Sometimes, we learn how stupid we sound. (That’s where I’m going.) This time I’m reflecting upon the stupid things I’ve said and done.

About four years ago, I realized something. I really should have been on the debate team in high school.  I would have won, hands down, every time.  If my “high school” me was my “up to a year ago” me, that is.  I’m good with words, quick-witted, bold, and unashamed. I’m confident in this.  If someone comes at me with an arrogant attitude and is uncivil, I will do everything in my power to demean, condescend, and put him or her in their place.  I have no tolerance for incivility or disrespect.  There was nothing more gratifying that knowing that I won the debate.  If only the respect of the audience watching.

I am ashamed to admit that this crept into my passion in issues of faith.  Though my original intention was always to speak for truth and for what was right, my intellect, witticism, and conscientiousness became the prized idol. Admiration from others and respect was the game.  I won, but really I lost.  I sought out debates, I was harsh, critical, brash.  Even in scenarios where I began just wanting to communicate my feelings to friends and loved ones, I would get overly sensitive.  I wanted to win.  My intent started pure, always, but I was taking God off of the throne and putting myself there instead.  I was Master of my own, with pawns at my disposal.  This was my sin.  My attitude caused a rift in relationships.  I was spikey, uncouth, ungracious, and provoking. Known as passionate, but a hot head in political issues and sensitive in forms of communication.

About as comforting as cuddling a porcupine.

What is so sad to me, is that I now realize, that though my passion began with fiery fervor for truth, sadly became about me and not about Christ. I was prideful.  He humbled me.

God cannot receive glory when I get in the way.  I was in the way.  In a BIG way.  Thankfully, albeit, painfully, He took me out of the way.  I want Him to receive the glory.  It is HIS truth that matters, NOT mine.  It matters NOT what I think, only what He thinks.  I must remember:

Philippians 2:3-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves.  You should not look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but rather made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant”

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

November 14, 2011 1 comment

Courtesy National Geographic

Abstract

 September 11, 2001 was a day of tremendous loss and trauma.  Both people who were directly exposed and those who were indirectly exposed through media and second-hand accounts were shocked by what they heard and saw.  The effects of this tragedy rippled across the globe and have perpetuated an onslaught of post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses based upon the stress that witnesses endured.  In this paper, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, will be discussed as it relates to the events of 9/11.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND THE 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACKS

Key Words

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Direct exposure

Indirect exposure

September 11th, 9/11

Ground Zero

Introduction

            The events that occurred on September 11, 2001 will be forever apart of history as one of the most traumatic and horrific days.  For those who directly survived the attacks, most are permanently altered, perhaps not physically, but emotionally.  And for those of us watched in horror as thousands of innocent lives were taken, we will forever have the images burned into our memories.  Many of us can not forget where we were that awful day.  For many people, this event was the first realization that this world is not the place they once thought it to be.  Rocked straight out of their comfortable self-portrait of harmony, suddenly everything was tainted with the possibility of violence and evil.  This event was one of the largest and most visible acts of violence ever carried out.  Because of the accessibility of technology and media, the world watched as violent, raw evil converged upon New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.  As a result of the worldwide spread of images through television and internet, thousands of people suffered trauma.  For first responders, survivors, firefighters, police, and scores of innocent bystanders, their ability to easily move beyond their first-hand witness of the events became difficult in the extreme.  Amidst the physical injuries and the respiratory issues that plague many who were there at Ground Zero, there are wounds that are unseen.  Scars that have wounded the mind, dampened the spirit, and cast a shadow on the heart are common for those who were there.  When life as it once was, even in a new light, is unable to continue, the American Psychiatric Association (2000) calls this post-traumatic stress disorder.

Definitions

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV(2000) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as:

the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death injury or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate. (APA, 2000 p. 463)

Some events that are considered traumatic include:  military combat, violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, robbery, etc.), being kidnapped, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp, natural or manmade disasters, and others. (APA, 2000) Criteria for a PTSD diagnosis include:

  • The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:  the person experienced, witness, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others or the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
  • The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced, or re-lived, in one (or more) of the following ways:  Recurrent, distressing recollections of the event, through images, thoughts or perceptions.
  • Recurrent distressing dreams of the traumatic event
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
  • Intense psychological distress at exposure cues that symbolize or resemble some aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Physiological reactivity when exposed to cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three or more of the following:

Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma, efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma, or the inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.

  • Marked diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • A feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Restricted range of affect or emotional responses
  • Sense of a foreshortened future or feelings of doom
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal as indicated by two or more

Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Irritability or outbursts of anger

Difficulty concentrating

Hypervigiliance

Exaggerated startle response, jumpiness

  • Duration of the disturbance is more than one month (APA, 2000)

To be diagnosed with PTSD, the disturbance must cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” (APA, 2000)

Direct Exposure

Direct exposure is defined as someone who “experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events involved actual or threatened death or serious injury” (APA, 2000, p. 467).

Indirect Exposure

Indirect traumatic exposure is defined as “knowledge of an event through a first person account of actual or threatened death or serious injury (irrespective of the relationship to the survivor)” (Zimering et al, 2006).   Relief workers responding after the towers fell, received direct exposure to traumas at the disaster site and indirect exposure to trauma via survivor accounts of the terrorist attacks. (2006)

September 11th (9/11)

September 11, 2001 also referred to as 9/11 is the day that a terrorist attack upon the United States of America resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people.  New York City was attacked by two commercial jetliners that crashed into the Twin Towers, causing the fall of both buildings.  Two more airplanes were used as massive bombs, one hitting the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and one diverted by brave passengers, crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero is the common reference to the location of where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood and ultimately fell, resulting in a massive loss of life and an enormous pile of rubble and steel.

Statistics

PTSD is a serious and debilitating disorder.  It is estimated that the prevalence of PTSD in the United States is approximately 8%. (Kazi, Freund, Ironson, 2008) Though this disorder was once thought to occur only in veterans, we now know that it also civilians of all ages and walks of life.  It has no limits to culture or socioeconomic groups and can arise from many different traumas.  September 11th, was not exempt from these traumatic events.  Many of those who were directly and indirectly exposed to the tragic happenings of that day were traumatized, some resulting in classifiable PTSD.  In a speech given at Ground Zero, the speaker said, “Here we stand today as the Trade Center casts a shadow over all of us. (Kanarian, 2007, p. 121) An observer wondered what the speaker was talking about, noting that the World Trade Center was gone.

The speaker continued, “The World Trade Center will always cast a shadow over our minds for the rest of our lives; there is no getting over this one.” The observer then remarked, “His words were the truest I have heard relating to the World Trade Center attack and post-traumatic stress.” (p. 121)

Direct Exposure

            When talking about direct exposure as it relates to the 9/11 events, exposure characteristics such as:  injury, exposure to the dust cloud resulting from tower collapses, proximity to the World Trade Center or WTC site, personally witnessing specific horrific events, experiencing panic attacks during the attacks would qualify.  (Neria, DiGrande, & Adams, 2011Among retired firefighters, 22% were found to have symptoms of PTSD four to six years after the attacks (2011).  For those respondents who were at the WTC at the time of the attack, PTSD was almost twice as common compared with those who witnessed the attacks in person from outside the WTC (Bonanno et. al., 2006).  Individuals who were directly exposed to the terrorist attacks exhibited signs of PTSD at a rate of 20% (Zimering et al, 2006).

Indirect Exposure

PTSD was documented in individuals who were indirectly exposed to trauma that did not directly involve a family member or other close person. 4% of individuals living outside of the attack sites who were indirectly exposed to the tragedies via television were found to have symptoms of PTSD (Zimering et al, 2006).  These findings implore us to understand that health care providers should be sensitive to and aware of the enormous variability in response following a major national trauma. (Silver et al, 2004)  It is not only those who are directly exposed to traumatic events who suffer, though, obviously they are most gravely affected.  As Kazi, Freund, and Ironson (2008) state:

 Terrorist attacks may differ from the other traumas that are known to elicit PTSD, as in the case of 9/11, where survivors not only had to manage their own escape but had to witness a national disaster, fellow workers’ deaths, victims jumping out of high windows, physical ramifications of inhaling smoke and dust from the fire, and the demise of the entire buildings. This terrorist attack resulted in the American society’s questioning its fundamental belief of the world as a predictable, safe, and meaningful place to live. (p. 101)

In a national telephone survey of 560 adults three to five days following 9/11, 90 percent had one or more symptom of posttraumatic stress, with 44 percent to a substantial degree (Meisenhelder & Marcum, 2004).  Further, in another study, none of participants in a positive PTSD group reported a 9/11-related death or injury to a family member or close friend (Silver et al, 2004).  This finding supports the notion that PTSD from PTSD from indirect exposure can occur even in the absence of a personal connection a victim (2004).  The researchers state,

We have found significant psychological reactions across the U.S. after the September 11th attacks; our findings strongly suggest that the effects of these terror attacks were not limited to communities directly affected.  Instead, our data show that substantial effects of the events of September 11th rippled throughout the country. Importantly, the degree of psychological response to the September 11th attacks was not explained simply by degree of exposure or proximity to the trauma. Many individuals who lived hundreds of miles from the attacks or had low levels of exposure (i.e., individuals who watched the attacks live on TV and those who reported no direct exposure at all) reported high levels of symptomatology. (pp. 138-139)

Immediately following the attacks, three national studies found posttraumatic stress symptoms throughout the U.S. population (Neria, DiGrande & Adams, 2011). In a national telephone survey conducted within the first week following 9/11 44% of participants reported substantial stress reactions (2011). In a similar internet survey study, with a nationally representative sample of 2,273 adults, 4.3% reported a prevalence of PTSD that was significantly associated with the number of hours of television coverage of 9/11 (Neria, DiGrande & Adams, 2011).

It is clear that the events of September 11th had a tremendous, traumatic impact upon those who were directly exposed and those who were indirectly exposed. Until 9/11, little regarding indirect exposure to trauma has been studied, but is now, clear that there is a prevalent need of further study and examination.  Though it is certain that, naturally, those who were directly impacted by the events of that day were most traumatized, people who were indirectly exposed were also at great risk for tremendous stress and trauma.

Symptoms

            The symptoms of PTSD can be severely impairing to even normal daily activities for the sufferer.  Some symptoms are recalling or recollection, avoidant and numbing, severe, lasting emotional and affect change, hyper arousal or startle response, functional limitation, nightmares and intrusive thoughts, and survivor’s guilt.  (APA, 2000)  Many of these stress reactions are frequently caused by “triggers” that remind the sufferer of the events that were found to be traumatic (Kanarian, 2007).  Kanarian (2007) defines triggers as, “emotional trip wires that evoke memories of traumatic incidents.  They can be sights, sounds, smells, and feelings and are timeless, capable of making memories years later feel as if they occurred yesterday (Kanarian, 2007, p. 122).  When we are able to recognize what situations, sights, smells, or sounds trigger a stressful reaction within us, we are, thus, able to deal with them.  By learning the signs and symptoms of PTSD and strategies for dealing with the triggers, it is possible to become aware of a reaction within ourselves.  The severe affect change within people suffering from PTSD can manifest in edginess, irritability, nervousness, and easily startled (2007).  PTSD can also cause short-term memory loss that may result in repeating questions and trouble concentrating or focusing (2007).

Re-experiencing

Seeing the images that accompany that horrendous day in September can burn the memory into one’s mind, replaying over and over.  For those who were there at the site, stuffing the memories and pictures away is difficult.  As Kanarian (2007), “Even after you have forgotten an incident, one sight, smell, sound, or thought can bring you back to the moment and stimulate a vivid memory of a traumatic incident.” (p. 127)

In an online article about 9/11 survivors,

For about a year afterward [survivor, David Donovan] had nightmares and little appetite. The company hired psychiatrists, but he said he felt more comfortable talking with his colleagues who had been through the same experience. For a year and a half, he couldn’t fly and found being in a subway difficult. He said he still looks for the emergency exit when he’s in a large crowd.  (Ochs, 2011)

Another survivor reported feeling in a state of shock for weeks or months after 9/11 (Kazi, Freund, Ironson, 2008). She related feeling “dull,” had difficulty concentrating, and experienced visual hallucinations of objects falling. She was clinically depressed, crying daily, and felt “paralyzed,” after 8 months.

This survivor’s experience of re-experiencing was discussed,

Judy reported having post-traumatic stress disorder following this event. She admitted to having panic attacks when sitting in traffic on a bridge, overhearing stories about the tragedy, and at the thought of traveling by air. There was a time when the fire alarm was set off while she was in therapy, and she recalled having an overwhelming flashback of being on the 78th floor at the time of impact. She said that she thought that she might be thrown across the room. So she left therapy, walked 13 blocks until she found the subway, and then felt safe. She had difficulty watching the news or reading the newspaper for some time thereafter.  ‘There was all of this awful news coming out at me, so I had to focus only on healing myself and not to get caught up in it,’ she stated.(Squillace, 2003, p. 25)

Numbing

            In trying to cope with the traumatic events that one has witnessed, many times it is natural for a person suffering from PTSD to push the memories, emotions, fears, and feelings away.  Shutting down seems easier than continuing to relive the horror, thus they become numb and avoidant.  Because there are triggers that can continue to evoke a response in the traumatized, many times he or she will simply avoid any place, person, or situation that might bring about a stress-related response.  In the Newsday (Ochs, 2011) article mentioned prior, one survivor states that he simply could not function.  He began avoiding, even simple, daily activities, such as shaving.  He recalls staying in his bathrobe all day.  “I went into a total funk,” he had said (2011).  A first responder related his experience,

At first, it was discouraging to constantly pick up only parts, and after a while it stopped upsetting me. I realized that I was becoming numb to what would have been horrible to others. That is when I knew that I had to stop working and it was time to go home. (Squillace, 2003)

Survivor’s guilt

One survivor of the attacks of September 11th, said that he learned to handle triggers that might prompt a panic attack, such as a car making certain noises, but “the hardest,” he said, “was the survivor’s guilt.” (Ochs, 2011)  Survivor’s guilt can lead a person to ponder why they were spared when others were not.  Guilt colors the elation that might be naturally felt for surviving a traumatic event.  Questions about what more could have been done, why they made it, if they should have done something different, even if it meant their demise, are common.  As one survivor related,

‘There’s always this nagging guilt,’ he said. ‘Should I have stayed to help? What could I have done? The rational part of me knows I did the right thing. I’m not trained to rescue . . . but there’s always going to be a piece in the back of my mind: Could I have done something?’ (2011)

Finding Faith in 9/11

            The days that followed September 11th, 2001 were unique.  Many people, who ordinarily would not, flocked to churches across the nation.  Pews and benches were fuller than usual.  People were looking for reasons, safety, and solidarity.  This seemed to be a temporary comfort for many, but there are some whose faith was strengthened, who changed priorities and re-examined who they were, what life was about, and what purpose it had.  Genelle Guzman-McMillan (2011) is one who took her second chance at life and chose to make changes.  The last survivor pulled from the smoldering pile of Ground Zero, Guzman-McMillan (2011) was pinned under concrete and steel for over 24 hours.  During this time, she relates in her book that she drew near to the Lord, as her only source of survival.  She states,

I haven’t had any marked emotional ‘issues’ over the years as a result of being buried alive.  I mean it when I say that God was my psychiatrist, and still is today.  I have been blessed by never having a single nightmare about my experience.”  (p. 165)

Mental health professionals often remark about the tremendous benefits of “religious coping” with post-traumatic stress.  In particular noted are the feelings of comfort, collaboration, and connectedness evoked by faith and communities of faith (Meisenhelder & Marcum, 2004).

God may be a source of comfort and meaning in the midst of a senseless act. Seeking guidance and support through God decreases the sense of loneliness and isolation. Turning to religious faith brings an omnipotent and ever-present Partner into one’s life, lending a greater sense of control, which is a critical element to decreasing posttraumatic stress.  Lastly, connecting with a faith community entails a support system, a promotion of personal identity, and enhanced intimacy with others.  The combined benefits of positive religious coping result in lower perceived vulnerability, isolation, confusion, and, therefore, lower posttraumatic stress response (p. 157).

Witnessing a traumatic event often causes people to pause and reflect about the purpose of life and mortality.  Some people find tremendous comfort in their faith.  They have an assurance of control, even if they are not the ones who have that control, they know who does.  There are still others who are angry.  Rather than drawing toward their faith, they distance from it and some abandon it altogether.  They simply cannot process and find meaning in senseless tragedy.  But for those who remain faithful, they proclaim that they do not understand either.  That is faith, believing in what is unseen.  The bible gives great hope for those who have walked through a traumatic event.  Jesus said in John 14:27 (NIV),

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

There is great hope that in Christ we have assurance of peace.

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The Impact of Divorce Upon Children – A Thesis Study in Grief, Trauma, and Stress Children Face When Parents Divorce

September 5, 2011 11 comments

The impact of divorce upon children is enormous.

 Abstract

 When a marriage ends in divorce all individuals connected to the relationship are impacted.  There are perhaps none so affected as children.  Because of their innocence and immaturity, children are unable to process stressful events as adults are.  Their reactions and behavior can range from subtle to explosive.  The purpose of this paper is to provide research that illuminates that various facets of impact upon a child with the demise of a marriage.  Relationships with parents, and sibling are all pivotal in the life of a child.  These, along with therapeutic interventions, statistics, future outlook, and biblical underpinnings will be discussed.  Finally, the author, an adult child of divorce, will provide personal reflection about the subject.

Introduction

            The ultimate end to a marriage is tragic and its affect ripples throughout the lives connected to that couple.  Chaos and stress, probably feelings that have been prevalent for some time prior to divorce, ensue and impact the now divided family unit.  Children are particularly vulnerable to the affects of divorce.  Unable to understand and process such complex matters of life, children resort to alternative ways of expressing their heartache and confusion.  The fact is that the divorce of parents remains with children, to some degree, all of their lives.  Any adult child of divorce can relay past feelings that accompanied the demise of their caretaker’s marriage.  Regardless of the passage of time, few children of divorce are unable to provide some recollection of pain.  Relationships are often strained, physiology and psychology is affected, and the future can seem bleak.  When we understand the gravity with which a child is impacted by divorce, the hope is that couples will devote energy toward any and all opportunities to salvage the marriage.

Statistics

            In the quest to understand the full impact of divorce upon children, one must examine current trends and statistics.  Consider some sobering data (Portnoy, 2006):

  •     Around 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
  •     Approximately one-half to two-thirds of those who divorce will remarry.
  •     One in every six adults will divorce two or more times.
  •     Half of all divorces involve minor children.
  •     Forty percent of children in the United States will experience a parental divorce and half of those will reside, at least temporarily with a single parent.
  •     One in three of these children will live with a step-parent before the age of 19 .
  •     According to the 2004 U.S. Census, 1.1 million children lived with a parent who had experienced a divorce in the last year (Thomas & Woodside, 2011).

Ten years following a divorce, well adapted college students reported a continuance of pain and distress about their parents’ divorce (Kelly & Emery, 2003).  They reported more painful childhood feelings and experiences.  Feelings of loss were the most prevalent of the painful feelings.  Further, the majority of these students reported missing their father’s involvement, evening questioning whether they were loved by their father at all (2003).

Manifestations of Stress

Faber and Wittenborn (2010) report that on average, children in divorced families and stepfamilies, as compared to those in non-divorced families, are more likely to exhibit behavioral and emotional problems, lower social competence and self-esteem, less socially responsible behavior, and poorer academic achievement.  The fact is that the disruption of the family unit causes an inability to concentrate, remain emotionally stable, and move through daily activities without some form of distress.  As previously discussed, children are unable to comprehend the details of divorce and many result in false assumptions, such as “This must be my fault.”  When outward expressions of distress are not displayed, many children will exhibit physiological symptoms.  These can range from headaches, gastrointestinal upset, sleep disturbances, and inattention.  Depending upon the level of secure or insecure attachment, these manifestations may be more or less severe.  “Insecurely attached children have been associated with externalizing problems such as delinquent behavior and substance abuse as well as internalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, and other affective disorders (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 92).” Further, increased levels of parental conflict may lead to increased long-term vulnerability to cardiovascular and other illness (Luecken & Fabricius, 2003).  Parental conflict, perceptions of father caring, and time with mother are significant predictors of overall physical health (2003). “This is consistent with findings that adolescents from divorced families with low conflict reported fewer physical health symptoms and better overall well-being than those from high conflict, intact families (p.226).”  Divorce may also directly affect aggression, distractibility, behavior problems directed at parents, economic difficulties, and geographic mobility (Hodges, Tierney & Buchsbaum, 1984).

Behavioral reaction

The first few years following a divorce are typically a difficult and stressful period for most children and their parents (Faber & Wittenborn, 2010).  It is estimated that families typically re-stabilize parenting practices and pre-transition levels of children’s behavior about 2 years following divorce and 5 years following remarriage (2010).  After the divorce, children typically will respond in atypical ways.  The behavior variances are unique to the family and individual child, but often display symptomatic distress in their circumstantial change.  Verbal cues, play themes, transitional o jects and aggressive or withdrawn behavior may one or all be exhibited by the child.  A six year old child explained divorce in this way,

“It starts with love, then you don’t live together, then you get unmarried, then you love other people, go back and back and back and forth and back and forth.” As he chanted the last phrase, he picked up a Slinky from his own toy box and slowly stretched it, gesturing toward the playhouses on either side of him. With the Slinky fully extended, he concluded, “and then . . . you break.” With that, he let the Slinky snap close and crash to the floor between the houses. (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009, p. 672)

Children who are not as verbally expressive, often convey stress in imaginative play themes. During playtime, some themes that are often depicted by children are reunion fantasies, damage and conflict, security and protection, and back and forth travel between households (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009).  The most frequent play theme are reunion fantasies.

Another way that children display grief, loss, and stress is in that of transitional objects (McCullough, 2009). Children often respond to divorce with insecurity, loss of self-esteem, and repressed feelings of anger and loss, which may be manifested as aggressive or withdrawn behavior.

During periods of extreme stress, children may return to the use of transitional objects—more typically seen in the developmental period associated with an infant’s separation from his or her mother—as a way of coping with circumstances over which they feel little control (p. 19).

Transitional objects can be stuffed animals, blankets, dolls, etc.  Anything that provides the child with a sense of security and comfort can be transitional object.  Often times, transitional objects can become personified objects.  “As a child’s need for a security object decreases with increasing maturity, a transitional object may become imbued with personality and agency and emerge as a personified object.” (Gleason & Sebane 2000, p. 420) An object is personified when the child incorporates traits that are human personality oriented.  The blanket, doll, stuffed animal, or imaginary friends are animated and utilized for role-playing.  These can be a source of support and stress relief for children of divorce.  It should be noted that many children have transitional or personified objects who are not under stress.

Because feelings of shame, decrease in self-esteem, self-blame, anxiety and fear of abandonment may be prevalent for the child of divorce, children from divorced homes often perform academically worse than peers (Crow, Ward-Lonergan, 2003).  An inability or difficulty concentrating due to anxiety and worry is not uncommon.  Health issues that have resulted from anxiety can also cause a disturbance in sleep and ability to focus on school work.  Fortunately, with time and therapeutic interventions, most children are able to learn to cope with the grief and stress of divorce.

Therapeutic Intervention

With the tremendous influx of divorced families, therapeutic techniques have vastly improved in helping children cope with the stress and grief they face.  Therapies, support groups, role-playing, and picture books are all great resources to assist the child in coping.  Utilizing such tools gives children impacted by divorce an age appropriate view of the complex nature of divorce.  When a child begins to understand and is allowed to grieve, express emotion, and verbalize their anxieties, he or she has a greater chance to be relieved of the extreme pressure and stress that can impact for the duration of his or her life.

Fictional picture books provide children “an alternative channel of interpreting divorce by emotionally distancing themselves as story characters and expressing their feelings vicariously.” (Mo, 2007, p.23) Picture books allow children to understand the complexities of divorce at a visual level that is appealing and age appropriate in comprehension.  The illustrations provide children the chance to express feelings associated with divorce (2007).

Family therapy, psychotherapy techniques, play therapy and role-playing, art therapy and grief therapy are all models that have been incorporated into work with children of divorce (McCullough, 2009).  Each method has benefits and advantages, depending upon the individual and family.  Another form of intervention that has been found effective is group therapy.  Group therapy attempts to “communicate with children on issues of importance, providing support, enhancing their skill development, and promoting their mental health” (Rose, 2009, p. 227).  The three major advantages of group therapy in helping children of divorce are:

  1. Most schools and human service organizations are faced with large numbers of children who can benefit from help, thus working in groups is an efficient use of resources.
  2. The group work context normalizes the divorce experience and provides support to children who need it.
  3. Divorce raises many uncomfortable issues for children. Many children are more comfortable discussing these issues with peers present than they are in dyadic interaction with social workers. (Rose, 2009, pp. 222-223)

One final element of therapeutic help for children can begin with parents.  Parenting education can equip parents in helping them meet the needs of their children during the stressful time during and following divorce (Kelly & Emery, 2003)

Relationships

One of the most visible results of stress in a divorce is that of relationships.  Obviously, there is a demise in the relationship between the parents, but the relationships directly with the children are now critical and must be recognized and supported.  Some of the less obvious strains upon such relationships are economic, concerns of loyalty, parental conflict, and the previous level of nurturance prior to divorce.  Children often feel they are caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict (Gilman, Schneider & Shulak, 2005). Children living with parents who seek to contain and/or resolve their conflicts, will fare much better over the course of time than children who live in the midst of parental conflict (2005).  At the same time, children who continue a warm and loving relationship with parents and feel that their parents understand their experience will also fare better than children who have a less nurturing relationship with their parents (2005).

Children’s responses should be considered during the aftermath of divorce, and how well a child is functioning or not functioning should not be based on a parent’s need or self-interest to perceive fewer negative effects. (Moon, 2011, p. 348)

Children want to be understood.  They want to be listened to.  And finally they want to be able to express their feelings, which are just as real and raw as their parent’s.

Mother

 Children are naturally indwelt with the need for both parents.  The mother figure fulfills a set of needs and the father figure likewise.  In the case of divorce, eighty-five percent of children from divorced homes live with their mothers.  (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010)  The mother-child relationship may be one of the few relationships which remains intact throughout the divorce and remarriage process.  Mom is primary caregiver in almost all cases of divorce.  This can be highly beneficial, but can also place tremendous strain upon the relationship with the child and the father.  The type of relationship children have with their fathers, following the divorce “can either contribute to children’s resiliency or add additional risk.” (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 90)

Due to this fact the mother plays the strongest part in meeting the child’s needs post-divorce.  But, considerations of sensitivity and security are often overlooked.

Faber and Wittenborn (2010) eloquently state,

Parents who are sensitive and responsive to the child’s needs induce feelings of support and felt security within the child. These children tend to be classified as securely attached; as such they appear confident that support is available from their caregiver during times of need. Parents who are inconsistent in their response to their child’s needs often have children who display feelings of anxiety, vigilance, and anger. These children are typically classified as anxious/ambivalent and are unable to readily receive comfort from their caregiver in times of distress. When parents are habitually rejecting or not emotionally responsive to their child’s needs, they often have children who are prematurely self-reliant and repress feelings of vulnerability. These children are usually classified as avoidant and do not trust their caregiver to be supportive during times of distress. Disorganized children often experience their caregivers’ behaviors as frightening or experience maltreatment and tend to exhibit inconsistent or incoherent patterns of interacting. (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 91)

It is absolutely essential for mothers to allow children the ability to express their emotions, fears, and concerns.  Further it is imperative that consistency, sensitivity, and openness are offered regularly.  Structure and security are foundational to the health and healing for children of divorce.

Father

It is an undeniable fact that the court’s preference for mother’s often limits the interaction with healthy, well-intentioned, caring fathers.  Fathers often relay a sense of discouragement regarding “legal practitioners and a legal child custody system which they perceived to be biased against fathers as the reason why they were unable to obtain what they desired.”  (Kruk, 2010, p. 164)

The responsibilities of social institutions to support fathers in the fulfillment of their parenting responsibilities is a largely overlooked issue in the child custody discussion, which has largely focused on the competing rights-based claims of parents; a child-focused framework of child custody determination, focused on children’s needs, parental responsibilities in regard to these needs, and social institutional responsibilities to support parents in the fulfillment of their parental responsibilities, may offer a fresh approach to the issue. A principal finding of the present study is that fathers who wish to maintain a responsible, active parental role in the care of their children are discouraged from doing so, as the most common legal determination in disputed cases is non-residential fatherhood.  (Kruk, 2010, pp. 173-174)

The separation of father and child often begins at the fall of the gavel.  What is tragic is that children are often used as pawns in a game of gotcha between parents.  Someone always loses, often mothers, sometimes fathers, always children.  The children’s level of contact with their father can vary greatly.  Some children are allotted regular weekly contact, others once a week, and still others only see their fathers every other weekend (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010).  And some children have little or no contact with their fathers.  Positive father involvement following divorce has been associated with higher psychological scores, higher self-esteem, and lessened behavioral problems (2010).  However, a sudden loss in daily contact with fathers may lead to feelings of abandonment and anxiety about separation.  Ultimately, the lack of involvement by a father may begin to force children to question and even alter their internal working model of their father (2010).  It seems that indicators of positive father involvement are immediately evident post-divorce.  A poor relationship is characterized by low contact and higher levels of conflict (Peters & Ehrenberg, 2008).   Though all children need their fathers, there is evidence to suggest that girls, in particular, are especially impacted by the involvement of their father.  Disruptions due to divorce may lead to an increase female’s interest in and dependency on males (McLanahan & Bumpus, 1988).  Studies also suggest that positive paternal involvement in pre-school age children also leads to flexible attitudes toward male and female roles (Kruk, 2010).  Attachment in either parent is only possible with a sufficient level of engagement, and changes in engagement after divorce affect accessibility and responsibility (Kruk, 2010).

And as paternal engagement is necessary for accessibility and responsibility, so quality of attachment is largely dependent on amount of contact. Strong and secure emotional attachments between fathers and their children are not possible without routine and meaningful contact, beyond the constraints of court-ordered “access” and “visiting.” There seems little doubt that current laws and social institutional policies and practices present barriers to responsible fatherhood involvement and father-child attachment after divorce. (Kruk, 2010, p. 176)

It is clear that with each increment of increased contact between children of divorce and their fathers, there is also an equal increase in young adults reporting closeness with their fathers.  At the same time, when there is a decrease in contact, feelings of anger also correspond. (Kelly & Emery, 2003)

Siblings

The relationship with siblings can be, both, stable and unstable for children of divorce.  Siblings from the same marriage can increase bonds following divorce and many older children “adopt a caretaking role for younger siblings prior to their parents’ separation and are identified as the closest of all attachment figures in a child’s life.” (Shumaker et. Al, 2011, p.46) In one fifth of blended families, children have both stepsiblings and half-siblings (Ahrons, 2006).  However, children often do not think of their stepsiblings as brothers or sisters (2006).   Closeness between siblings often increases from the experience of going through the divorce of their parents together (Thomas & Woodside, 2011).  The addition of siblings through remarriage can bring added joy to children of divorce, but can also increase feelings of abandonment for the new child.

New Home/Separation

One of the most traumatic elements of divorce for children is the constant change and lack of control in his or her surroundings.  Not only is there a change in who they live with, but most often there is a change in where they live and the duration of time spent at each location.  These are a few perspectives offered by children regarding the toll of transitioning between homes,

  •      “Back-and-forth makes me sick. I want to throw up—both ways.” Another child repeated a mantra throughout the play: “Too long a drive, too long a drive.”
  •   A 5-year-old girl transformed the toy Band-Aid into a tool to help the dolls figure out where they belonged: “This [Band-aid] tells you if you’re in the right house.”
  • Another child focused so entirely on the ordeal of the travel process—stuffing each and every play item into the toy vehicle or her pockets, and then “driving” all over the house—that as soon as the dolls arrived at “dad’s house,” it was time to go back to “mom’s.” (Ebling, Pruett & Pruett, 2009, p. 675)

Children feel a loss of control about their situation.  They are often not adequately informed about the divorce and the implications for their lives.  Most often they are not consulted with about their living arrangements and often they don’t feel considered about their emotions and practical feelings (Kelly & Emery, 2003).   They often feel they live in a divided world.  “The lack of correlation between maternal and paternal involvement suggests that “Mom’s World” and “Dad’s World” are separate and disconnected (Finley & Schwartz, 2010, p. 516).

Remarriage

For children of divorce, it seems just as they are adapting to the new life beyond their parents marriage, new transitions arise.  Living in a single-parent household is a temporary situation for most parents and children (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010). Approximately seventy-five percent of men and sixty-six percent of women eventually remarry.  This can lead to further confusion and frustration for children of divorce as parents commonly respond to remarriage with a period of euphoria.  They become more focused on their new marriage than on their parenting.

Children may perceive the introduction of a new parent and possibly step-siblings as a threat to the attachment bond shared with their mother.  This threat may be further exacerbated by children perceiving their mothers as less supportive and available as well as more negative. These changes in the mother–child relationship have the potential to alter the child’s working models of his or her mother regarding her availability and responsiveness (Faber, Wittenborn, 2010, p. 94).

Future outlook

Most often children of divorce are able to adapt and move through the new normal of life following their parent’s divorce.  But, studies show that adult children of divorce tend to earn less income, obtain less education, have more troubled marriages, weaker ties with parents, and display more psychological distress symptoms (Thomas & Woodside, 2011)  One interesting conjecture about girls living with their single mothers was,

Daughters of single mothers learn that women are capable of managing a family alone. When faced with an unhappy marriage or a premarital pregnancy, they may be more likely than daughters from two- parent families to become single mothers (McLanahan, Bumpass, 1988, p. 133).

Parents must work to re-establish consistent rules, predictable expectations, and firm guidance and control (Johnston, 1990). Children feel out of control.  They need boundaries that they can expect to help give security and the feeling that they know what to expect.  This is true for children of intact families, but especially of children whose families have ended in divorce.  Parents, post-divorce, must work to restore warm and harmonious relationships with their children (1990).

Studies seem to suggest that adult children of divorce may also develop higher levels of acute and chronic health problems in middle-age (Luecken & Fabricius, 2003) This can also be correlated with current income, education, and family support, which report statistically lower than children of intact families.  It has been reported that  declines in physical health in older adults were related to the combination of early parental separation (by death or divorce) and high levels of current stress (2003).  Children of divorce also exhibit significantly more mental health issues than children from intact families (Strohschien, 2005).

Risk Factors

Portnoy (2006) highlights several risk factors for children of divorce which will cause more distress that may lead on to adulthood.  These include:

  •      Continuing conflict between the parents
  •      Diminished or incompetent parenting
  •      Economic decline
  •      Loss of non-parental supportive relationships
  •     Remarriage and re-partnering

However, there are several characteristics that will lead children of divorce toward positive coping.  These include:

  •     Positive coping
  •     The presence of positive social supports
  •     Competent custodial parenting
  •     An involved and competent non-custodial parent (Portnoy, 2006, pp.129-130)

Biblical Insight

The Bible makes it clear that God is not partial to divorce.  While it is allowable in cases of infidelity, it is not to be used as a “first option.”  Even when all else seems to fail, God is always grieved with a broken covenant of marriage, and desires that the bride and groom reconcile whenever possible.  Mark 10:11-12 (New International Version) states, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”  God thinks divorce is a very serious decision.  With divorce rates on the rise and the rapidity of the process in today’s age, God still considers divorce much more than the “end of chapter in life”.  Western society treats marriage like a weekend at the movies; when the plot isn’t interesting enough or the characters lose their appeal, it’s time to walk out.  It is important to note the there are genuine cases of complexity in marital discord.  That is not a fact that the author wishes to undermine, but it is equally true that divorce is taken too lightly, both in society and, sadly, the church.

Though the Bible has much to say about divorce, there is nothing said about the impact of divorce upon children.  However, Ephesians 6:4 (New International Version) states, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  (emphasis added) If anything exasperates a child, divorce will.  The Bible is clear that man is selfish.  Almost always, divorce is a result of one or both parties not relinquishing his or her will about one or more issues.  While marriage is usually never considered easy, with work, humility, and a relinquishing of selfish rights, it is possible in many circumstances to work differences out.  It is vital to note that there are genuine, necessary cases that warrant a separation or divorce.  (Physical danger to one or more parties in the home, rampant chemical, physical, or verbal abuse, and cases of blatant, continued adultery, provide justifiable, understandable, and biblical support in the consideration of divorce.)

Personal Reflection

My parents divorced when I was eight years of age.  Though it was highly traumatic being initially separated from my father, he almost immediately proved to be an uninvolved father.  My mother remarried and has stayed married to my step-father, who for all intensive purposes is my “dad”.  My father, however, has married and divorced two more women after the demise of my mother’s marriage to him.  I am now thirty-two years old and have no relationship with my father.  I can report as an adult child of divorce, that my parent’s choices have impacted me, thus far, my whole life.  Though I am not hindered by their divorce, I have had to work extremely hard to overcome maladaptive attitudes and patterns of behavior.  It is only with the Lord’s help that this is even possible.  I have now been married for almost thirteen years and have my own children.  Throughout the various stages of my life I have been able to view my parent’s divorce in different ways.  I continue to process the impact it has had upon me and now hold a strong fervor for marriage.  Marriage is not easy.  It takes more work than any relationship mankind forges, but it is necessary for us to learn, grow, and foster health into our marriages for ourselves and the sake of our children.  I have no wish to make my parent’s mistakes.  I have certainly made my own, but I refuse to allow the patterns of divorce and broken relationships to continue.  With God’s help and the recognition of my past, I remain dedicated to my marriage and my children.  Children are adaptable, with therapy, support from solid friends and family, and my faith, I have risen above the grief and trauma I faced as a child, resulting from my parent’s divorce.  This should, however, never be used as justification for parent’s decision.  The gravity of stress a child faces when their parents end their marriage is immense.  That point cannot be stressed strongly enough.

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