3 Lessons I Learned About Facing Struggles and Trials
I don't know about you, but I don't like to struggle myself, and I hate watching my kids struggle. I don't think I'm alone. Yet none of us will be free from experiencing trials and difficulties at some point in our lives. What will we do in the dark times? Who will we become as a result of them? Will we resist the pain and refuse to grow? Or will we lean into those hard time and embrace the lessons God is hoping to teach us?
When we suffer, our relationships with the people we love can take a toll. Here are a couple of questions I ask myself during the tough patches... How will the choices I make now affect my faith? How will the way I handle my struggles or their struggles affect my relationship with my kids?
Several moms shared their perspective about maintaining a close relationship with God and with their adult kids in the midst of pain and suffering. Here are three valuable lessons they shared with me...
"No matter what happens, I refuse to become a bitter woman. Unless a tragedy happens, my kids will outlive me, and even when I die, the battle for them will not be over, and the Spirit will still be working. I want them to remember my faith until the day they die."
No matter what happens. What images well up in your mind in response to that comment? What is the unthinkable "whatever" that you wrestle with? We all have them. This mom's stated decision has been food for my own soul countless times in the past year. Who will I become when I face trials?
It doesn't matter the details of the hardship she lives with. I can assure you that this mom wishes a lot of things were different. She chooses to be hopeful and faithful. She chooses to be present and available and nonjudgmental during long conversations with her child. She is honest and open. She loves unconditionally. And the result of her decisions, of her unconditional love, is that she shares a close, deep friendship with her adult child.
At the same time, she enjoys a deep and growing personal relationship with God. She is honest about her own struggles and doesn't sugar coat anything she faces. She chooses to have a faithful and eternal perspective. She faces the future with questions, but a sense of humor. Each of us will face our own set of challenges throughout life. No two lives will look the same. No matter what happens in my life, I want to imitate the faith and perspective of this mom.
"Parents have to remember that Jesus is Lord, not their children. (Our) children cannot be our idols."
Ok. That one struck me hard. As I sat listening during our interview, my initial thought was, "Wow, that's a bit harsh, cold and judgmental." I had to make a determined effort not to discount anything and hear her out. Maybe you agree with her, or maybe you're ready to close your computer or turn off your phone right now. I hope you will choose to stay. I think her perspective will help us all. The more I listened, the more it made sense to me.
What is an idol but something that pulls our hearts away from serving God wholeheartedly?
I hate to admit it, but this is personal for me. There have been times when my kids have gone through hard things, and I was so focused on them and their circumstances that I didn't have the emotional or spiritual room to be busy with the Lord's purpose for my own life. I didn't have much left over to give to my husband or to my friends...and I certainly didn't have room to make any new friends. Maybe you can relate...
This mom is anything but hard and cold or judgmental. She is intimately supportive and empathetic about the challenges that have resulted from some of her kids' life choices. I wish you could have seen the soft look on her face as she talked about her hopes for her children and shared some of the fears she faces at the same time. There is very little that she won't do for her children, but she holds to the firm conviction that God will be first in her life, no matter the decisions her children might make.
In healthy and positive ways she makes a big deal of her faith and her life to her kids, hoping, in her own words, "to make them want what I have." She told me her children often comment "we want a marriage like you and dad have." "So," she said, "I always ask them if that means they want a faith like ours too?" Not yet, but this mom never gives up. My circumstances may be different, but I want to trust God and never let the decisions my kids make stop me from living a faithful and full life.
"No matter how you are treated, model Christianity for your kids."
That sentiment was shared several times, and each person had a specific example. I admire the honest observations of one mom in particular. She told me that while unfortunately there is a lot she doesn't enjoy regarding her relationship with her parents, she is determined to model unconditional love and respect toward them. She wants to imitate Jesus but is also motivated by thoughts of the future with her own children. She realizes that eventually, her children might treat her the same way they watch her treat her own parents. For their sake (and yes, her own) she wants to model a healthy and spiritual example. I loved the forethought she expressed, wanting to preserve and protect the great friendship she enjoys now with her own adult kids.
I said there were three lessons, but I just found one more thing in my notes that I want to share today...
"My child has the God-given right to choose the path of his/her life."
This is true whether our children want to be disciples right now or not.
This is true whether we like their chosen career path or not.
This is true whether we really like any life choice they make.
It is just true.
Some of us just plain have too many opinions about everything our adult kids chose...
The mom who shared this with me was refreshingly honest about her own struggles to accept this. She told me she had to learn "not to be so opinionated. I don't have to have a preference." Actually, she added "I need to zip it. I need to let God work and not try to accomplish so much with (my) words."
Don't you love honesty like that? I sure do! This mom also told me she and her child grew so much closer when she learned to communicate respect - whether she agreed with them or not. What a great lesson for us all to learn! I want to imitate this mom in so many ways, don't you?
These lessons made me pause and ponder at the time of the interviews and have given me food for thought many times since then. I hope you find them as helpful as I have and that you continue to enjoy this friendship journey with your adult children!
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