Posted by: Damon Whitsell | February 10, 2016

Positive Confession vs. Empathy by Stephen Rowland

careful what you say

Suppose your daughter walked up to you with a concerned look on her face, and started telling you about being really scared of certain kids at school who were known for bullying others. What if your response to her was “Scared? Don’t you know that fear is not supposed to play any role in a Christian’s life? By giving way to fear you are only inviting the devil to exacerbate the problem. Why be so negative? Banish fear in your life and start talking about how confident you are! Have more faith in God!” How effective do you suppose that “advice” would be in your daughter’s life?

Further suppose your daughter started complaining about some recurring pain she was experiencing in her abdomen. What if your response was “Don’t talk about pain, only confess how blessed you are by God! By talking repeatedly about your pain you are setting a law into motion – -what you talk about becomes reality. Talk about how good and healthy you feel — then your external circumstances will start lining up with your words!” How effective do you think such “motherly” advice would be?

Personally I think that most level-headed Christians, and just plain folks in general, would feel like nominating that mother for a “worst mother of the year” award. Bullying is a major problem in many of our schools, and it takes a concerted effort by students, teachers, and parents to put a stop to it. Teen suicides have often been linked to being bullied. Repeated pain in the abdomen could well be a serious indicator of appendicitis or something much worse; a trip to the doctor is in order. Unfortunately, however, there are quite a few Christians who have fallen prey to this strange teaching that we create our own physical reality by the words we speak. Supposedly if we only speak “positive” words, then “positive” things will happen to us, and conversely, if we speak “negative” words, then “negative” things will happen to us. This, many are told, is what “faith” consists of — it is taught in certain churches right here in the Columbia area.

It would be laughable if it were not for the fact that I have seen a lot of intelligent, devout Christian folks fall for it. It certainly is not traditional, orthodox Christian faith — if one could only step back in time a few decades prior in history and run that “teaching” by Christians back then, it would be met with shocked looks of incredulity. There is also nothing laughable about children being invalidated by ignoring their genuine concerns, fears, and health problems in the name of “having a positive confession.” It is more akin to folk magic beliefs in third world countries rather than the historic Christian faith.

Supposedly this is the same way God looks at us — we should only be speaking wonderful, positive things and never say anything that reveals our momentary fears, depression, pain, sufferings, etc. Isn’t it interesting that King David, one of the most revered Biblical heroes of the Old Testament, penned such psalms as “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalms 13:2). How about “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” (Psalms 3:1). Then there is that classic line “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalms 22:1). That thought was quoted by our Savior Jesus Christ hanging on the cross — oh my, the “negativity” of it all! An important point to remember is that these Psalms were ancient Israel’s hymnbook. It is what they used in their worship. In times of national distress they would sing these “negative” Psalms in their worship to God, fully expressing the depths of their misery. They knew that God was a loving father and would hear them in their distress. God wouldn’t browbeat them for expressing the fact of their misery.

In the New Testament the Apostle Paul repeatedly spoke of his sufferings, his fears, being hungry and cold, being without proper clothing, his hardships, persecutions, and other indignities in the epistles that he wrote. These became Holy Scriptures for us. Paul was commanded to carry on Jesus’ teachings, so we can rest assured that Jesus was not a proponent of the “never speak anything negative” philosophy.

If I truly love my child, and am the compassionate parent I should be, then I should be very receptive to all their spoken fears, concerns, depression, and pain of any sort — physical or of the heart. King David wrote “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?” (Psalms 56:8).  Your suffering and your tears are precious to God because He loves you. He is the ultimate “model parent” for us. We don’t have to wear that silly frozen plastic smile on our faces all the time to please him. We don’t have to hide our fears and lie about how confident we are. Covering up how we really are on the inside (He sees us on the inside anyway) is very close to hypocrisy.

You can be honest with your heavenly Father, and so should your children have the freedom to be honest with you as a parent. Be attentive, compassionate, and be willing to share their genuine sorrows. It’s called empathy, for heaven’s sake.  “Mourn with those who mourn” was Paul’s advice in Romans 12:15. Remember, “positive” and “negative” are not Biblical words. I would opt for a compassionate, Biblically grounded theology any day over a heartless plastic-faced philosophy. Be a Godly parent.

(This article was written by guest writer and former Word of Faith believer Stephen Rowland, I was very happy to publish it here and I pray it will help someone show empathy rather than a fear of fear.)



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