When Things Fall Apart
From the time our first child made her grand entrance into the world, we dreamed big dreams for her life. Maybe she'd grow up to become the doctor that discovers the cure for cancer, or the teacher who revolutionizes the way children learn. Or maybe she'd be Miss America. We were certain she'd grow up to be a godly woman who would someday have a fairy-tale wedding, complete with a beautiful white wedding gown—a symbol of her purity before God and others. Those dreams were easy. We had everything in front of us then: a beautiful, perfect baby. What could go wrong?
But something did go wrong. Our beautiful daughter, a good child by many standards, made some bad choices, and became pregnant at the age of 16. Needless to say, our lives were turned upside down, and relationships were tested to the limit. We grieved the loss of her innocence, her childhood, and the dreams we had for her life, and felt as if everything we'd built had fallen apart right before our eyes. We were heartbroken.
One of the most difficult things a parent can face is when your child breaks your heart. It can be an isolated incident, such as disobedience, lying, or hurtful words spoken in anger. Or it can be ongoing disappointment like intense sibling rivalry, rebellion, drugs, promiscuity, or a teenage pregnancy. When your child moves away from all that you've hoped, dreamed, and planned for him or her, and begins to make choices that contradict what you've taught and built into his or her life, you can be deeply hurt.
God understands your pain because He too is a Father, and as His children, we at times have disappointed Him and broken His heart. Anytime we disobey God it causes Him sorrow. Genesis 6:5-6 tells us that in the days of Noah, when the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, He was heartbroken. In fact, "The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (verse 6).
If you are a brokenhearted parent, what you face may seem overwhelming, or even hopeless. The circumstances may be too difficult in human terms, but in Christ there is always hope. The Bible is full of God's promises, giving you all the peace, strength, and courage you need to make it through this difficult time victoriously.
In the midst of dealing with our difficult circumstances, we discovered that God Almighty cares about every detail of our lives, and even when it seems like our lives have been shaken to the core, His love for us is never shaken. Whatever we endure, His care is certain; His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure. Here are seven promises from God's Word that we held on to as we journeyed with our daughter toward hope, healing, forgiveness, and victory.
1. He promises to be with us. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8).
When we learned that our teenage daughter was pregnant, we felt very much alone. We dreaded telling anyone, even close relatives and friends, and were convinced that we were the only Christian family in the world dealing with this situation. But as we reached out to God, He showed us that we were not alone. He comforted us with His presence, surrounded us with the love and support of family and friends, and directed us through His Word and the wise, godly counsel of others.
Whatever challenges we may face with our children, we can be confident of this: God is with us. He never loses sight of us, or our pain. Even as we ponder how to begin picking up the pieces, God is there … loving us beyond understanding, holding us up, and making a way where it seems there is no way.
2. He promises to deliver us from despair. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all (Psalm 34:18-19).
After learning of our daughter's pregnancy, we struggled with hopelessness and a strong sense of failure. We allowed ourselves to become bogged down with regrets and "if only" thinking: If only we had done this or said that … things would be different. We wondered where we went wrong. Maybe we were too strict. Maybe we weren't strict enough. If only we had the chance to do things over again.
When we wage war against our own hearts it only produces more heartache and pain. It's like jumping into a bottomless pit of darkness and despair. But even there we cannot hide from God. Psalm 139:7 says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?" Even in the pit of despair God is there and can bring us out. "Even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me" (Psalm 139:10 TLB). Thankfully we trusted God to deliver us from despair and as we surrendered our circumstances to Him—the One who is able to heal, forgive, deliver, and make new—our hearts became whole again.
3. He promises to give us peace. He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! (Isaiah 26:3, TLB).
When the storms of life come our way, it's easy to let the size of our circumstances overwhelm us. We might ask, "How did this happen? What are we going to do? How are we going to make it through this?" My husband and I did this, and the more we dwelled on our circumstances, the deeper we sank, until finally, we felt like we were drowning. It wasn't until we changed our focus to the greatness of our God, and His ability to bring us safely through the storm, that we were able to experience His peace. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27).
4. He promises to give us strength. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
It takes a great deal of strength to raise godly children in a sinful world. Trusting in ourselves, we can grow weary and lose heart, especially when our child has disappointed us and broken our hearts. But God has not called us to this awesome task in our own strength. He calls us to depend on Him because through His power, when we are weak, then we are strong.
In the midst of our circumstances, my husband and I found strength in our weakness, just as Paul did when the Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). In Him we found the strength to face our circumstances. We found the strength to reach out to others with the truth. And we found the strength to love, forgive, and encourage our daughter, and point her to Christ.
5. He promises to honor humility. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:10).
Humility is one of the most important virtues that I gained through our difficult circumstances. Initially, we were both angry, but I was full of pride. We were angry because we had equipped our daughter to make better choices, and her disobedience to God had resulted in consequences that would affect not only her life, but our entire family.
What I was really dealing with was a pride problem. I was deeply concerned about what others might think or say, and about what might happen to our reputations, and hers. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, I came to acknowledge that as Christians we are called to please God, not man, and to be humble. I learned that true humility allows others the opportunity to see God at work in our lives when we are facing a trial, which in turn frees them to be open and honest about their own circumstances. This type of humility allows the Christian community to function as God intended—loving one another, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and helping one another; which is what I experienced once I humbled myself regarding our circumstances. I was then blessed in ways that I will never forget.
6. He promises to give us wisdom. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We had to stop and ask ourselves some questions regarding the way we were relating to our daughter and handling her pregnancy. One of them was, "Have we acknowledged God in our current circumstances or are we relying on our own thoughts and ideas on how to handle things?" We wanted to do the right thing for our daughter, say all the right words, make all the right decisions, guide her in the right way, but in our human weakness and heartache, there were times when we utterly stumbled. We knew we needed to seek God's wisdom.
God promises to give us wisdom if we will just ask (see James 1:5). It was God's wisdom that enabled us to honor Him in the things that we said and did regarding our circumstances, such as demonstrating unconditional love to our child, remaining loyal to her through good times and bad, and helping her to get back on the right path spiritually, educationally, and socially. It was wisdom that helped us to move our family toward healing, wholeness, and reconciliation.
7. He promises to give us hope for a brighter future. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
When our children make wrong choices, whether it's premarital sex, drugs, running away from home, teenage rebellion, or rejecting our values and beliefs, we as parents, can lose hope and may feel like giving up. But God never gives up on us. In Him there is always hope. Think about it. As you consider your own parenting challenges, ask yourself, "Is there anything too hard for God?" (See Jeremiah 32:17.)
No matter what choices our children make, or what consequences they may be facing, God has a plan for each child's life. He thinks of each child constantly and loves him or her perfectly. Your child's path may not seem clear to you right now, but be encouraged. He can never be lost from God's spirit or hide from God's presence. God is working in the heart of your child right now. His plans for your child's life will be accomplished. But it will happen God's way and in His timing. So never give up! Continue in prayer and trust God. He is working everything out for good (Romans 8:28). Knowing this, you can quietly and confidently rest in His arms and hope in Him.
It has been almost seven years since we faced that difficult trial with our daughter. And I'm happy to report that today she continues to cultivate a growing relationship with Christ as a godly wife and nurturing mother of two! We stand in awe at what God has done and is doing in her life, and have come to realize that God's plans for her far exceeds any dreams we may have had for our sweet baby girl, because He knows best. And in all that we endured during her pregnancy in her senior year of high school, one of the most important lessons that we learned is that when things fall apart, and circumstances seem impossible, we can be confident in the fact that "Nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).