Recently, my wife and I went flew down to Florida with our energetic 2 year old and our 5 month old. Real smart, right? As you may expect, the flight was trying – we sat on the tarmac for an extra 45 minutes, our 2 year old wanted nothing to do with his seat, his safety, or the sanity of his neighbors, and our 5 month old was beyond overtired. As we saw our situation devolve our mantra became, “If we can just tough it out, then we will survive.” This mantra brings out a good question for parents to consider: What, or who, do you rely on during tough situations? The answer to this question is often your trusted source of hope, and thus God cares deeply about your answer.
Parents may think, “If I can just wait out the terrible twos… If I can teach through the puberty stage… If I can legislate the driver’s permit stage… then I will be at ease.” In each plan there is a theme of self-reliance; if I can persevere… if I can plan… if I can discipline or legislate… then I will survive. What we rely on to get through difficult situations reveals a deep tension in the parental heart – Am I relying on myself to get through hardship or am I relying on God?
In the case of our flight, my wife and I believed that we could control the situation and mandate a desirable outcome through preparation, communication, and a steely resolve. Clearly this plan was based in our wisdom and power, that we could save ourselves from frustration, mishap, and/or the shame stares of onlookers. Ultimately this was an effort in self-reliance. God calls parents (everyone for that matter) to steadfastly rely on Him. To this end, God brings and uses trying situations to produce steadfastness in you and I.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, gives personal example of how affliction brought by God was used by God to increase his faith in God.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
The affliction Paul and the others experienced in Asia burdened them beyond their limits and to the point of despair. (Have you ever in despair over a family situation?) Yet Paul succinctly states God’s goal of this affliction – God meant to increase their reliance on Him and decrease their reliance on themselves by delivering them from hardship.
Paul’s testament to God’s goal of bringing and using hardship to strengthen his faith and perseverance gives us two applications: First, God is control of all situations, there is nothing out of His good control. His good control has a good goal, James 1:2-4 tells us God uses all situations, even the ones that seem to be a sentence of death, as a test to complete our steadfastness of faith in Him. So whether you are gearing up for a tough situation or one was just sprung on you, you ought to believe God is in control and His plan for this situation is the growth of your (and your children’s) reliance on Him. Second, we have an invincible hope in God. Your only hope for making out of these situations is God, because our only hope of deliverance from selfish pride and death is God. So, whether you are gearing up for a touch situation or one was just sprung on you, you ought to place your hope in God as deliverer.
God calls you and I to steadfast perseverance founded on who God is and His plans for those faithful to Him. Trying the latest parenting techniques to get through a situation, relying on the adage that today will end and tomorrow is a new day, or hoping that your next break from reality will sustain you reveal a heart that believes in its own power to grit out, plan out, or out-think a situation. God calls us to a much more hopeful, complete, and gratifying solution – trust Him steadfastly for He alone is in control, able to give life, and give true hope.