Finding Joy When Our Kids Struggle

woman with childWhen those we love hurt, often our first response is to try to fix things. Or, if we anticipate a potential threat, we may attempt to orchestrate things so that those we care about somehow remain pain-free. At least, that’s how I’m tempted to respond. Until I take a step back and consider life through a more grace-filled lens and remember, God always has a hope-filled plan, one intended to bring healing and growth.

I’ve always hated to see our daughter struggle emotionally, spiritually, or physically. As a result, at times, my parenting became entangled with my heart’s desire to make my daughter happy. Many times, watching tears pour from her big green eyes, I forgot God’s primary focus was on her growth, not her momentary comfort or pleasure.

Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, growth involves pain.

When our daughter was young, we home-schooled, and after an expensive and unproductive first semester, I started adapting my lessons to her learning style. I realized rather quickly, textbooks and paperwork didn’t work for her, so I tossed out over a thousand dollars’ worth of curriculum and began planning my own.

I found a way to teach everything through dialogue, stories, or hands-on activities. She excelled and quickly developed a love for learning punctuated by questions and personal exploration. In fact, many times I felt as if I was simply trying to keep up!

Everything changed once she entered institutionalized school. To paraphrase her next eight-and-a-half years of learning, she struggled. A lot. Though I saw her angst, I largely didn’t understand what was really going on. Initially, I assumed she was simply having a difficult time adjusting and that I’d left some holes in her educational journey. When she reached high school, I figured her challenges came from taking a demanding course load, from not having developed proper time management and study skills, and from not clicking with teachers.

I didn’t realize how hard she was working nor how many adaptations she’d made in order to be successful.

Then came college when everything moved much more quickly, was much more challenging, and where her adaptations proved insufficient.

She called me often, in tears, saying, “Mom, this just isn’t working for me. No matter how hard I try or how much I study.” She would routinely stay up until one or two in the morning, doing all she knew to do in order to prepare for a test or master an assignment, only to fail. She became so sleep deprived, her vision blurred, and she had migraines more often than not. She also developed severe testing anxiety to the point she’d vomit every morning before class.

Her stress level became so high, she acquired her second and third bout of shingles her freshman and sophomore years, consecutively. Well-intentioned friends suggested perhaps she needed to change majors, and though I never voiced this to her, I wondered the same. Yet, she’d felt called into engineering since a missions trip to El Salvador in middle school and was determined to persevere, pushing herself deeper and deeper into exhaustion.

Luckily, an insightful professor noticed some concerns with her writing and suggested she get tested for dyslexia. She did in December of her sophomore year, and as I read the results a week later, I cried as so many of her childhood struggles and behaviors suddenly made sense.

How could I not have known? Why hadn’t God told me? I’d prayed, almost daily, that He would grant me wisdom and help me parent to her heart. He’d done that in so many areas; why not in this one? Had we known, we could’ve gotten her help and resources that would’ve helped her succeed and avoid so much pain.

But as I was praying, struggling with my guilt and frustration at God for what felt like His lack of direction, I sensed Him whispering to my spirit, “She needed to struggle.”

I thought about that statement for some time after and have come to realize how true that was. Had I known about her dyslexia and other challenges, likely in empathy, I would’ve limited her. I might have encouraged her to take easier classes. But more than that, she wouldn’t have developed the grit that has enabled her to press through and view difficulties as challenges to overcome rather than dead ends.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read today’s post? When has someone else’s pain sent you into “fix it” mode, and how might pointing them to Jesus and growth in Him help them more instead?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

And speaking on the courage to surrender–whether ourselves or someone we love–make to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the end of this month by Salem Web Communications. We’ll be talking about, among other things, finding the courage to surrender.

I’ll also be  releasing, through the YouVersion app, and will launch a Faith Over Fear challenge on social media on February 6th. Find out more HERE. And make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s next Bible study, Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy, releasing in 2020, with relationship building resources and more!

 

When Our Loved Ones Self-destruct

Sad woman sitting in the darkI’ve been on both sides of today’s topic. I’ve self-destructed myself to the streets of Tacoma, and I’ve also grieved the self-destruction of those I care for. Having experienced the pain and utter hopelessness rebellion causes and the freedom found in surrender deeply impacts how I pray, speak, and act. I want to do something, and yet, though there are countless ways to reveal Christ each day, in this spiritual battle over hearts and lives, I often feel powerless and ineffective.

But Scripture promises the opposite. As my guest today reminds us, there’s something we can always do, whether near or far, that has the capacity to change lives for all eternity. (James 5:16)

When Our Loved Ones Self-Destruct by Linda Samaritoni

Have you ever known someone who walked away from God? Maybe a colossal disappointment shattered their world, and they assumed if God allowed such a thing to happen, then He didn’t really care about them. Maybe temptation overcame them, and they blamed God for not preventing their headlong charge into sin. Maybe… Well, there are millions of possible maybes.

What happens to those individuals who remain separated from Christ?

For many, stepping away from faith feels like a relief—at first. Even in their misery, they welcome the release of pressure, similar to ratcheting down a steam valve before the pipes blow.

Such pressure is self-induced. In a performance-driven society, people often fall into the trap that Graphic using a quote pulled from the postGod is expecting them to succeed at an A+ level. They don’t understand His grace. They don’t trust this grim deity who takes note of every mistake. Once they withdraw, the burdens of their own making ease off. No more straining to “be good.” No further obligations to “do good.” Since they’d already proven themselves way short in every category of life, why not abandon efforts to please God?

Before those individuals decided to turn away, they chose to keep a death grip on their lives, not allowing God to control the pressure valve. They added more weight to God’s expectations. They kept spinning the wheel harder and harder to the right, edging into the red zone until the pounds per square inch became unbearable.

I’ve agonized over a dear friend for years. He felt betrayed because God didn’t say “yes” to his one big prayer. He had worked for a positive answer. He had tithed, taught Sunday school, attended church every week, and led a Bible study.

Instead of seeking his Father in the midst of disappointment, he marched in the opposite direction, jerking that wheel farther to the right. He would never ask God for a thing ever again. A wrench of the wheel. He would do as he wished since no amount of work met with God’s approval. Wrench.

At first, he enjoyed the release from assumed church pressures and any obligations to join us in prayer or Bible study. He turned his back on the guilt resulting from his sin against God and others.

His relief was short-lived. Since he’s not on speaking terms with God, life is terrifying, yet he remains tied to performance-based objectives as a way of life. He knows every one of his character flaws, and nothing he does will ever be adequate.

These days, shame drums endlessly like a nagging headache, and he has no resources to assuage it. He won’t call on God for help. He refuses to take his hands off the controls as the needle on the gauge trembles further into the red zone.

Ultimately, the freedom to please self turns sour. God’s beckoning hand either draws the person to eternal refuge or the individual resists Him and spirals downward into hopelessness and poverty of soul.

Words from the latter part of James 5:16 and image of two women prayingWhat can we do for our loved ones head toward self-destruction? We model Jesus. We pray. And we pray, and we pray. If only they would turn that wheel in the opposite direction—toward the Lord!

God doesn’t give up on His children, and we shouldn’t either.

Jesus knows the perfect time to intervene and lift the crushing constraints, sending the dial below the red zone. Only He can release the pressure and bring our friends and loved ones to freedom.

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Let’s talk about this! Is someone you care about self-destructing? Have you felt powerless as you’ve watched them head toward a spiritual or emotional train wreck? Did anything in Linda’s post give you hope? Or maybe you have a miracle story regarding someone you’ve prayed for over the years. Share your stories, examples, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because in this area, I’m pretty sure we could all use the encouragement!

Before you go, make sure you sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great, inspirational, and entertaining content sent directly to your inbox. The next edition releases at the end of this month. You can subscribe HERE.

You may also enjoy my latest article on Crosswalk, 10 Things We Can Learn From the Adulterous Woman.

Get to Know Linda

Linda Sammaritan assumed she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five, but God cut those plans short by a couple of decades when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. After blowing goodbye kisses to her students, she now dedicates her work hours to learning the craft. Every once in a while, though, she finds her way back to school so she can teach creative writing workshops. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda often travels across the country to visit her grandchildren, regaling them with “Nona stories,” life lessons from her childhood. Visit her online at her personal website and group website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.