Parenting is not easy. There is no handbook. The moment you feel comfortable and have everything figured out, your next child will throw a whole new set of complexities into the equation, causing you to stagger back a few steps. Our children are susceptible to all types of challenges, including cuts and broken bones, sickness, anxiety, learning challenges, bullying, loneliness, and broken hearts, and our job as parents is to protect them from those hurts as best we can. Our young people are faced with hundreds of small and large decisions every day from what to wear, to what to eat, to who to spend time with, to what to do with that time, and they look to their parents for guidance and example in making those decisions.
As Mike and I are working our way through raising five children and running a tutoring company for over 10 years, we have commiserated with many parents who were in the midst of a struggle with one or more of their children. In sitting with these parents and walking with them through their heartbreak, and then sharing similar experiences we may have had with our own children, we realized that there is generally not a one-size-fits-all solution to these challenges.
Every family unit is so unique, personalities are so diverse, and individual struggles are so complex, that in many cases we could only listen and assure the parents of our prayers and support through those challenges.
In dealing with these challenges, parents are often desperate and look to all sort of remedies. Some parents look to self-help parenting books, some choose therapy for their children, others choose medications, some take a hands-off approach, and some take a helicopter-parent approach. What most of these parents have in common, regardless of their approach, is that they live with constant doubt and are regularly second-guessing themselves; they often switch from one remedy to the next, as new suggestions or quick-fixes come their way.
As our children dealt with those same struggles over the years, and as they deal with struggles yet to come, we have and will continue to depend on God to walk with us and to guide us through those challenges. To be clear, God is not a vending machine, where you can pay with prayer or tithing and then receive the answer or the result you are looking for. God is far too wonderful and in love with us to make our relationship purely transactional. Our experience with God has been a friendship crafted in heaven; it is a friendship with Truth and Love Himself.
As God loves our children even more than we do, we know that His direction and guidance will ultimately result in what’s best for them, even if that direction is difficult or requires patience.
So how does one develop that relationship with God? Unfortunately, there is no 5-step program or pill to take. The good news is that you can begin today, simply by having a conversation with God. Share your fears and your frustrations and do not be afraid to ask God for what you want. Share your joys and your blessings, your triumphs, and your failures. Then be still. Be quiet. Listen. God is there, God is here, and he will answer your prayers. Pray for the grace to be open to God’s guidance and the strength to do what he asks. He has not failed us. This does not mean that our lives and the lives of our children are perfect; however, in those challenges we are full of peace and confidence that we are guiding our children as God would.
Allow your children to see you praying. Share with them why you are praying and what your relationship with God means to you. Encourage them to create their own relationship with God and to walk with Him during the good times and the struggles. Find other parents and a church community who will support you as you walk with God and will witness to you how He has impacted their lives. In a world that is full of uncertainty and chaos, give your children the constancy and the sure mooring that only God can provide. Your children will still have their challenges and they will still suffer, but they will have the assurance that God is a friend that is bigger than all the world. After all is said and done, your job is to get your children to heaven.