I was strolling through Central Park on a crisp fall morning, beautiful toddler in tow. She scootered along ahead of me, while I held a warm latte and a full heart. That morning we had gotten dressed with good attitudes. The birds were chirping. We bought a mini pumpkin outside our neighborhood deli. The sun was shining. The streets were bustling, and the sky was wide and blue. It was perfectly lovely.
But then it happened.
My curly headed 4-year-old flew face first over her handlebars into the concrete. She rose, screaming and bloody. I was horrified to look down at her dangling tooth. In one short moment I had gone from satisfied, fun, joyful Mom—to—scared, irresponsible, guilt-ridden Mom. Everything I was feeling changed in one literal fell swoop.
Being a mom or dad is an incredible, God-given role, but there’s something I’ve noticed in both good and bad moments of parenting. I tend to attach adjectives to this roll.
Happy Mom. Sad Mom. Tired Mom. Distracted Mom. Fun Mom. Cool Mom. Creative Mom. Loser Mom. Careful Mom. Strict Mom. Busy Mom. Loving Mom.
The Roller-Coaster of Self-Appointed Adjectives
At any given moment, I’m incredibly aware of what kind of mom I’m being. It’s very fickle. I tend not to focus on the role so much as I focus on the adjective. The choice adjective always derives from my feelings. And my feelings are typically born out of my perceived circumstances.
The danger here is that we rise and fall as parents depending on our success or failures instead of having a foundational stability in Christ.
The Bible warns us there’s great risk in this way of living. James gives a vivid picture of confidence based on circumstances or human ability. It’s folly. But, if my hope is in Christ instead of flimsy circumstances, it means I can be a steadfast parent no matter what. Here’s what James says,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:1-6
Parenting is full of various trials. Big ones, small ones, light ones, tragic ones. Paul’s point is that any and every hardship is for the purpose of being transformed into the image of Jesus, from cancer to a busted tooth.
Prayers of Faith for Transformation
Of course, we can’t super-naturally transform on our own. We need God’s wisdom and power. James says we must ask for God’s wisdom, in faith. Our prayers are faithful when we remember God’s character and promises. A doubter vacillates between trusting God and trusting in the world or themselves. This person is like a wave of the sea, a picture of instability and uncertainty. We can pray without doubting when we’re certain of who God is.
He’s a good Father (Ps 23). He’s kind friend (Jn 15:13). He’s perfect Savior (1 Jn 4:10). He’s steadfast in love and slow to anger (Ps 103). He knows all things (Is 46:9-10). He’ll never leave or forsake you (Deut 31:6). He’s always out for your good (Rom 8:28). This is the kind of God who can’t wait to give you the wisdom needed to glorify him (Ps 85:12).
Every Trial is God’s Help for Transformation
For every trial we meet—slow car pool lines, 8-year-olds learning about bullies, babies throwing food on the floor, arguments with spouses, unruly teenagers, bad diagnoses, grown sons making life choices we disagree with—each one of these moments as a parent is God-ordained and God-given. They are God-issued opportunities to be changed for our benefit.
According to James, if I have the Spirit of God living within me, these trials can help me be a transformed, complete-in-Christ mom.
The Spirit helps us discipline our minds and hearts to remember God’s character, dwell on Jesus’ gospel, and recall his promises to the suffering. Hardships, from the mundane to the tragic, then become opportunities to love more like Jesus, be more patient like Jesus, forgive more like Jesus, and to serve more like Jesus. God uses children to get our attention, to reveal our sin, and to save us for our good and his glory. Our children are gifts partly because God is faithful to use them in order to get us ready for heaven. If God has given you the role of parent, the point isn’t for you to nail it.
The role of parent isn’t so much for you to produce a holy child as it is for God to produce a holy you.
The pains of raising children, and also the flip-side of not bearing and raising children, are both points of suffering God specifically intends to use for redemption. Are you the kind of mom whose world comes crashing because of a dangly tooth? Or are you a mom who knows your trials are God-ordained moments for you to trust him alone? James encourages each of us to use our Faithful Resource in trials. God will help us, we only need to ask.
Questions for Reflections:
1. What adjectives would you use to describe yourself as a parent?
2. Are these adjectives based on your circumstances or on God’s truth?
3. What circumstances do you typically control your feelings rather than God’s truth?
4. What instances do you carry the most “parent-guilt?”
5. Are you leveraging your hardships to help you grow and change?
6. Are you actively believing that God gives you everything you need for life and godliness and therefore spending time in his Word?