Joy In Despair

Sundays are meant to be peaceful.

Joy In Despair

That was my fleeting thought as I mounted the stairs yet again one Sunday morning.

Being a mum of four boys I am no stranger to noise, but this particular Sunday things were getting out of control at an alarming rate. Hurtful words, someone left out, tears and shouting. Doors banging. Emotions boiling over.

I had already refereed several disputes that morning and as I waded into the melee I was met with a barrage of accusations and defences. What left me slightly bemused and extremely frustrated was that this scenario was sounding identical to the previous dispute just ten minutes earlier. Only this time the players had changed position!

One who had been upset moments earlier by his older brother’s hurtful comments and exclusions, was now treating his younger brother in exactly the same way. Yet somehow he was unable to see (or admit) that he was doing anything wrong. This was completely different, apparently!

It is in moments like this that you just want to roll your eyes, grind your teeth, and walk away - fast! And I have responded in one or all of these ways at different times.

But this time I knew I needed to see it through.

I was determined to see it through.

Surely I can make an eight-year-old see sense!

I could convince him that he was not being kind.

I could make him see his actions from his brother’s point of view.

I could make him admit he was wrong.

I could handle it.

And so the debate raged on, moving from the bedroom to the kitchen and still he stubbornly clung to his position that he had not done anything wrong and he was completely innocent.

I was trying every angle with no success, until the moment came that I realised something.

I am completely helpless to change his heart.

I cannot make my child compassionate.

I cannot make my child humble himself.

I cannot make my child have a kind and caring heart toward others.

Despair seeped in, tinged with fear.

Fear for the future. What sort of man would he grow up to be? My imagination ran wild.

"I can't do this!" was the cry from my heart as I sat down at my kitchen table, feeling at a complete loss. I can't make him into the man I so want him to become.

But in that moment of complete helplessness and deep despair I felt the Lord whisper in my heart.

"This is good."


"This is a good place to be. This is exactly where I want you to be."

Realisation dawned on me and, with that, a deep joy flooded in.

This is where the Lord wants me!

He wants me to know I can't do this on my own.

He is reminding me, "You can't change their hearts, but I can.

I've got this."

I can rest in Him.

It is not my job to make and mould my children into what they should be.

Ultimately, they belong to God.

He can do the heart-transforming work. I can't do that.

It is not my job to try and conform them to His image.

I can give that burden to God. I can give my child to God and trust Him to change them from the inside out.

He will make each one into the person He wants them to be in His time.

It is very humbling to admit our inability. We want others to look at us and our children and applaud our efforts. We love to hear compliments on what lovely children we have, how well behaved they are, etc. Of course we want our children to behave, but often I find it is my pride that is at work.

I start to feel pretty good about myself, as though their good behaviour is a credit to my parenting skills, or when they misbehave my first thought is, "what will people think of me?"

We forget God and become our own god, thinking we are in control of our family. We will ensure everyone behaves so as not to embarrass ourselves rather than because it is sin against God.

While it is humbling to be faced with our own inability, it is also very freeing - to know that, although we have a God-given responsibility to instruct our children in His ways, it is God alone who can make them into something for Him.

“When we acknowledge our inability to mother our children apart from the Lord's provision and strength, we honour God. Of course we are not able to do this work of raising children and training them in the instruction of the Lord. That's why we desperately need the Lord." (G. Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, 2014, italics hers)

We should know this. All through scripture this theme is repeated. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8).

We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Not our own strength, remembering that "the Lord is the strength of my life"(Psalm 27:1).

And yet so often we fall back to thinking we can do it on our own. That we should be able to do it on our own.  What freedom in knowing we don't need to 'have it all together'. God is not finished with us yet. He is not finished with our children yet. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:10).

He is still at work.

We can trust Him.

Release the reins to God.