Wrestling with God is not unusual for me.
I often feel the need to pound on God’s chest and ask why he seems so slow with his answers. Especially when I’m praying for something good for his children. Hearing “yes” from God seems so essential. And urgent.
But the burden of a parent praying for a child in crisis—physical, emotional, or spiritual—is like no other type of wrestling with God.
And adult children have no fewer scary situations to pray about than young children. The trip home after the week of visiting our recovering daughter and tiny NICU grandson, born not breathing, was a clear example of that.
Heavy-hearted, we boarded the plane to return home. Our week with our daughter’s family following her complicated C-section and resultant repair surgery had ended. But her painful journey continued.
At our first airport, her text had just alerted us that she might need to return to the hospital for IV treatment of a stubborn incision infection. What about her tiny baby, recently released from NICU?!!
Arrow prayers for new mama, for baby, for new daddy, for healing, for stability, and for their peace in their Heavenly Father’s arms. Furiously I sent texts and messages to as many people as I could think of to ask for their prayers before I boarded that plane.
Then my real struggle began: “Lord, why? They have trusted you through so much already. Isn’t it enough? You are a good God. Remember your love for your children! Have mercy on them.”
I cried and prayed through the whole flight home.
And God reminded me that his mercy for my children is endless. In my pounding at his door for answers, he reminded me of his so-much-greater pain in Jesus’ death.
I realized that I often thank Jesus for his suffering for our salvation, while neglecting to thank the Father for the agony he suffered in causing his Son to go through such pain for me and for all who love Him.
His pain was exponentially greater than mine. I am in awe.
Father, thank you for your sacrifice as a parent. Jesus, thank you for your life of sacrifice and death of sacrifice. Holy Spirit, thank you for being with us and offering us your peace through it all.
My daughter’s text had requested prayer that quick healing—after so many failed antibiotics—would prevent her forced return to the hospital. If not, she requested prayer that she would be able to glorify God through her return to the hospital.
That request showed me an example of miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people. The Lord reminded me that he brings healing of all kinds.
He said to me, “Peace, my child. Be still, and know that I am God.”
Before God healed my daughter’s body, he healed my heart of a different ailment: the perceived need to be able to take care of my daughter myself. I needed to trust him to do that.
What do you do when you have been praying regularly with your children and suddenly they won’t pray?
It happened to us a number of times. For multiple reasons. As adults, sometimes we are too angry to pray. We want time to think about what we are feeling without bringing God into it. Or we may feel that the person asking us to pray is trying to manipulate us to be on her or his side. We could even be right. It happens.The same thing happens with children.
As we know for ourselves, being prodded into praying when we are not there emotionally DOES NOT WORK.
Our children may mouth the words we want them to say, but they are still angry. They are not praying. They are simply performing under pressure. Talking to them about how God understands our anger and wants to hear from us anyway is worthless. True, but usually worthless in that moment.
We can see in the many angry psalms in the Bible that God wants to hear from us in our anger and despair, but that can be hard for our children to understand.
We need to model it. And we need to cry out to God in front of our children. They need to see that we cry to God about daily frustrations. That he is not just there to be thanked and to be prayed to for our important needs. But he is there for us for everything.
I wish I had done more of this with my children when they were young.
By the time they were adolescents, I had grown to be able to talk to him out loud in snatches at various times when they were with me. It had become my habit. Hearing me pray to God out of frustration over their situations gave them a deeper sense of who God is and what our relationship is. Just think how great it would have been if I could have started that with them as infants and toddlers. They would have known that God is there to be talked to even when we are not stopping our activity to pray and even when we are upset.
I’m quite sure I would not have vented to God about my daughters in their hearing.
My guess is that my modeling of verbal prayers for my daughters would have sounded much more positive than frustrated, because I would have been turning to God in that moment. I’ll bet I would have prayed something like, “Lord, help me and _______ in this difficult situation. Help us to figure out how to do what you want us to do.” How much better that would have been!
When I pray, I know God works in my heart.
He also works in my heart when others pray for me. The same is true for our children, especially when they hear the prayers. When children won’t pray, we need to pray for them. Even in their hearing.
Bullying gave my dad an opportunity to change my life for the better.
I’m so glad I never had to deal with cyber bullying. I don’t know how I would have handled that. Compared to that, what I went through was not a big deal.
Yet any time a child is shunned, mocked, or picked on by peers is traumatic. Especially when it goes on for months.
My parents assumed I would not be harmed for life by these experiences if they allowed me to learn to trust God.
Fortunately for me, they were right.
But their responses could have harmed me.
They could have said it was no big deal to be called names repeatedly. Over-reacting could have been just as bad. I would have been mortified if they had immediately gone to the teacher with my complaints. I needed to vent, but I didn’t need to be babied.
Finally, though, girls flushed my underwear down the toilet and pummeled me on the way from the shower to my locker. That day my dad went to the principal and the gym teacher. I’m glad he did.
But I’m even more glad that he first used my situation to teach me about standing my ground in persecution.
“Persecution” sounds like an over-statement for being picked on for doing the right thing. But I have been permanently blessed by the fact that my dad took my bullying experience seriously enough to encourage me with verses from James 1. He read me verses 2-5 in many different versions:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV)
Day after day.
I remember complaining that I had those verses memorized in different versions because of how many times Dad read them to me.
And I was not being thrown to the lions for proclaiming Christ. I was simply being bullied for obeying the teacher and taking a shower after gym. Stupid, right?
We all hated to shower in front of others but were forced to tell the teacher we had done it in order to get daily points. I chose not to lie about it. My Christian classmates must have felt guilty for lying, so they took it out on me.
How my dad responded to my troubles dignified my experience.
He showed me that living my life for Christ in little situations was important, even in bullying. He showed me that God would bless me through my obedience. And he always prayed with me about it. Every day.
The amazing thing is that now I look back on seventh grade as a time of huge spiritual growth. Thanks, Dad.
When Bible reading’s a chore.
I used to rush through my Bible reading like a chore. When I remembered it.
It took many years for it to become enough of a true habit to bring me joy—consistently. The good news is that after many years of reading my Bible—even when I sometimes didn’t feel like it—this became a time I now really look forward to. It also became a habit I could pass on to my kids.
Joe Stowell writes in “Sweeter than Honey” that he reads his Bible until he finds something the Lord is telling him for that day. That seemed like a great idea but a little impractical with the many things in my life. Until I tried it.
When I first read of Stowell’s practice, I was reading Leviticus. The next morning I skeptically said to God as I began, “Good luck, Lord. I’m in Leviticus.”
God amazed me. The text I was reading detailed all of God’s requirements for the regalia of Aaron as God’s new high priest. It suddenly hit me that Aaron was between 85 and 90 years old when he began the career that defined his life.
That realization was extremely relevant to me. I was beginning a new phase of life, after forced early retirement from a job I loved.
I have been a teacher my whole life. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching. Being forced to leave my college during a downsizing caused me great grief. And the state of the academic market made me realize my full-time teaching days are over.
I knew I should not think of the past years as the best years of my life. But it was tempting.
God encouraged me through this text to see the enormous possibilities of how he will bless me and use me in the years ahead. If I am looking to him. Reading my Bible regularly is a huge part of this. This blessing came through my reading of Leviticus. Go figure.
What do you do when Bible reading’s a chore?
Try asking God to speak a meaningful word to you for the day through your Bible reading.
Think of the times God has given you delight through his Word. Were they times in a Bible study, in a worship service, with friends, or alone during a time of deep struggle of trying to find God’s will? Or sharing Bible stories with your kids?
Sometimes it’s tempting to think that we only need the Bible during special times or that he only speaks to us through it occasionally. But what if every day we honestly ask him to speak a word to us that day? What could happen if we listen for that?
My experiences are not usually as dramatic as on that jolting day in Leviticus. But I have found much more consistent daily encouragement since I started looking for it.
When Bible reading’s a chore, maybe we need to ask God how to change that for us.