For the parent who feels like they can’t help their hurting child

I’m part of a text string with several moms who are also in the trenches with kids of various ages. We mostly use this string as an opportunity to share our personal insecurities and fears, knowing that we will all pray, cheer, and share similar stories of struggle with each other. This isn’t “misery loves company” as much as it is “moms love company”—emotional company. Someone to say, “I get it. God’s got us. I’m here for you, friend.”

We need to remind each other that we’re not alone.  As my pal Heather MacFadyen says “Don’t mom alone.”  We need each other to remember that we aren’t the only ones who feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of influence we carry, and we feel terribly inadequate to help our children navigate the hardships they face. We know we’ve got only one shot at this, and we desperately want to get it right for them.

But while we’re doing the very best we can to raise overcomers and world changers, and to help our kids navigate this life with confidence and humility, we often feel like we’re drowning. There is so much we can’t prevent or fix. It hurts to see our kids hurt.

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We hurt when our kids battle eating disorders, substance abuse, or severe depression. Or when they get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or face brutal bullying or peer rejection. We hurt when their hearts get broken, or they don’t make the team. Our hearts ache when they insist on making decisions that lead to destruction, or when they simply look in the mirror and feel unworthy of love and belonging.

We desperately want to know what to do and what to say to make it all okay. But there isn’t always an easy answer, and life isn’t always okay.

That’s why I love the assurance we have in Romans 8:28.

Here, the apostle Paul makes the simple—but complex— affirmation:

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT).

This verse can relieve a lot of pressure we carry as parents, but it also unearths a lot of questions, which is why entire books have been written and entire sermon series have been preached on it. In “Mom Set Free” I humbly spend an entire chapter exploring the hope this passage offers us as parents.  But here I will simply provide some “guiding principles” that help us understand what it means for our kids that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God.”

Guiding Principle #1: We all have free will

Guiding Principle #2: Not everything “happens for a reason”

Guiding Principle #3: God is not the author of evil

Guiding Principle #4: God is present in our pain

Our child’s struggles are not lost on God. And their struggles do not signify the loss of His love. When circumstances seem hopeless, we must remember that our God—who doesn’t always make sense to our finite human understanding—is, Himself, well acquainted with parental agony. He knows the torment of watching His child suffer, and yet, as Romans 8:32 goes on to remind us, He “did not keep His own Son for Himself but gave Him for us all. Then with His Son, will He not give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NLT).

Everything is filtered through the love—the love—of the Father.

And then we have to ask: So what is the good toward which God is working? We find the answer in the following verse: His purpose is that we “be conformed to the image of His son” (Romans 8:29 NIV). He is working all things together to draw our hearts closer to His and transform us more into the likeness of Christ.

And of all the things we want for our kids, isn’t this what we want most?  Through every trial and every struggle, we can be confident that God will not waste whatever our kids walk through.  He will work it together for their good by conforming them in the likeness of His Son.

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This post is a brief excerpt from Jeanie Cunnion’s book, Mom Set Free

Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child and Mom Set Free, and a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Her passion is encouraging women to live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free – a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. Jeannie and her husband Mike have four boys who range from teenager to toddler.


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