Proverbs 17: 21,22
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Please let me be clear right upfront. I am not calling my children fools, any more than I might say of anyone. We are all fools at times and in certain areas of our lives. However, I wanted to make an connection between the fool and the struggling or wayward child. It doesn’t matter exactly what the details are, but a child whose life looks different from a parent’s dream for their child, can result in a parent who struggles with sorrow, grief, and a lack of joy. This could be physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. It could be illness. It could be a prodigal child who has rejected the faith their parents have so prayerfully tried to instill in him or her. It might be a child who is simply making foolish or risky decisions regarding academics, alcohol, dating, or a host of other areas.
Parents, if this is you, please listen up. You are hurting, fearful, broken, grieving, disappointed, angry, sad, anxious, or any combination of these and many other emotions. You had an image of what your family would be, and it hasn’t turned out that way. You were sure you’d be a good parent, and you promised yourself you wouldn’t make the same mistakes your parents made. Maybe you didn’t; maybe you made different mistakes. I can only promise you that you most definitely made mistakes. It would be impossible for you not to have. We all do. Don’t try to evaluate your mistakes by comparing them to others. You can’t take them back. Personally, I know I can’t seem to let mine go. If you are anything like me, you can’t let yours go either. Please believe me that hanging on to them is only hurting your child and yourself more. Do what I say and not what I do.
Perhaps the mistakes you made directly resulted in the exact negative choices you desperately wanted to avoid in your child. Maybe you held on too tight, or maybe you were too lenient. Maybe you are wracked with guilt and “what ifs”. Maybe you are grieving the happy home you though you’d have or the parent you thought you’d be. Maybe the issues your child has have absolutely nothing to do with you and you know it. Maybe it was the results of genetics, accidents, or someone else’s sin. Maybe you’re angry with God or someone else. I really can’t say for sure. If you’re like me, then you deal with stress and anxiety about the long term future of your child(ren) and how their life will turn out. Maybe you fear for your safety or the safety of your loved ones wether because of depression, violence, or physical ailments. I’ve talked with so many parents who have walked various challenging roads with their kids. Some need to establish care plans for their children in their wills, some worry about access to weapons. Many are on their knees in broken hearted prayers every single day.
Life is hard, and you have become skilled in borrowing trouble from tomorrow. You are even more skilled at borrowing trouble from yesterday.
God has this. I know it’s easy to say this, and it’s near impossible to do this. I don’t mean to suggest that you stop worrying forever; I mean for right now. Stop.
This is robbing your joy and destroying your health. I don’t think it was a mistake that Solomon put the next verse where he did. The stress and worry that is marking you life is shortening your life and making you unhealthy. So for just this minute- stop. The worry and anxiety will come back soon enough, so for now count your blessings and embrace something wonderful or beautiful or good that also marks your life. Maybe start with all that is right and good with your difficult child, all that you love and deeply want to see flourish. And when the worry or fear or guilt returns, stop again. It’s going to be a constant battle. Don’t set up some unattainable goal like “never worry again,” that when you fail to achieve will leave you defeated. Stop for just a moment, for as many moments as you can, as often as you can. Start making a new normal.
Your life isn’t what you dreamed of or hoped for, but that doesn’t mean it is without it’s joys. Find those joys. Live in those joys. You need your health to care for those kids (big and small) who are struggling through life. Your kids need the best you, and your best medicine is joy.