My mom had many moments of desperation parenting! As I have.
In my mom’s desperation parenting of me, she completely changed her focus in ways that I did not understand at the time. I only knew that Mom started telling me daily what she was talking to Jesus about and how he was answering those prayers.
My mom’s telling me of her first-person encounters with Jesus nourished my faith.
And it grew!
No one-time moment of conversion followed, but I became a believer by seeing her relationship with Jesus and following in her footsteps.
Many years later, a similarly panicky scenario unfolded for me. Though my daughter had publicly professed her faith in Jesus at a young age, preadolescence brought a crisis of faith.
In childhood she had experienced God’s nearness in profoundly personal ways, which she was no longer experiencing. Because of this change in her experience, she began to seriously doubt the existence of God.
My own panicky-mom time followed. For about six months I agonized and prayed. My husband and I prayed together for her faith continually. I also prayed with her regularly before bed, after asking her how she was doing. These conversations involved her telling me her frustrations with not hearing God’s voice and not being sure he was real. After that, I told her stories of my own and others’ experiences of the seesaws of spiritual journeys. I even told her the story of St. John of the Cross and his “dark night of the soul” experience.
In my desperation parenting nothing seemed to help.
Feeling like a total failure as a mother, I just kept trying. Night after night I prayed with her. She did not pray, but she did not object to my praying with her. But she was used to it, having grown up with nightly family prayer time.
Somewhere during our struggle, I began crying out to God, “Please, Lord! Show her who you are. Don’t leave her in the dark! Show her how real you are. Allow her to see you for you are, as she used to do! This is your beloved child. Do not allow her to wander away from you in her pain. PLEASE show yourself to her!”
At some point, she started telling me she was “doing better,” so we stopped having these conversations. But I kept praying for her.
A year or so later she said to me, “Mom, do you know how I finally knew God was real?”
I was stymied. But I had always wondered.
She explained, “Because when I don’t know what to do, I go to you. And when you don’t know what to do, you go to God.”
A wave of relief and amazement washed over me. God had used me—his broken vessel—to show his power through.
Is God using your experiences of doubting as a child? Or of having a child who doubts? Is there a way you can make that more likely?
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.
When God is silent.
What happens when God doesn’t answer our prayers? The Bible tells us that God always hears us, but sometimes we get absolutely no response to our prayers. God is silent. My friends and family have often heard me complain that I wish God would send a banner down from heaven to tell me what to do. I always feel certain that I want to do God’s will. I always believe I just need to know for sure what it is. But God has never worked that way for me.
However, I have had a few crazy stories of God answering my prayers instantly in the way I wanted him to.
Like the time early in our marriage when our washing machine sometimes worked for the spin cycle and just as often did not. Two mechanics could find nothing wrong and suggested we buy a new machine. We did not have extra money to spend on a washing machine, especially one we might not even need. But I was sick of having to wring clothes out by hand and have them in the dryer for what felt like forever.
So out of exasperation I prayed that God would please make the machine either never work properly again or never malfunction again until we needed to buy a new one. Ten minutes later the machine worked perfectly, as it did consistently for six more years. Wow. Sweet! If only I could always get God to answer my prayers like that.
Unfortunately, too often it feels uncertain whether God is answering or not.
When a friend is struggling in a marriage or a loved one is gravely ill, God can even seem to answer with positive signs and then follow with negative results. Or sometimes nothing changes at all. The waiting can drain me and make me feel angry at God.
Too often I identify with C. S. Lewis’s description of pounding at the door of God and feeling that God heartlessly hears and ignores the pounding.
What these experiences show is that often God wants me to listen to him in a new way.
Usually my waiting and listening produce growth–when I actually keep looking to God during my waiting. When God is silent, I need to keep looking at him, knowing he is working. I just can’t see his work yet then. Then, during my waiting, he usually produces a much better answer than what I had originally requested.
For instance, I didn’t know that my daughter’s struggles in her school would lead us to switch her to a far better school for her. We never would have considered doing that if God had answered our prayers by simply fixing the bad situations.
Years later, we prayed that God would end the continuing crises in my family. He didn’t, but I saw huge personal growth. My growth came through my stronger dependence on God and my sense of peace about his plans for my life.
Often when God is silent in my life, he is actually saying to me, “Be still, my child, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).