Hello friends. Yes, I realize that I was AWOL last week. I confess that the reason was an emotionally and spiritually crippling case of fear and self-doubt related to the impending birth of our son. Of course, all first time parents wonder if they are ready, if they’ll do well raising their children, etc. etc. I, on the other hand, was suddenly sure that I couldn’t do it, that I was doomed to be an awful mother and that my child(ren) would come to resent and despise me. I wondered what on earth I had done in conceiving this child; not that I didn’t want to have my son, but that I was pretty sure he wouldn’t want to have me for a mother. My sweet husband let me sob out all my fears and uncertainties without interrupting me to tell me how irrational I was. I spent a good hour or two with my journal. Through those two things (as is usually the case) God opened my eyes up to the truth of the matter, and renewed my spirit.
Here’s the truth that I found. In a way, I was right all along. I can’t do this. I can’t be a great mother. I could quite possibly be a really bad one, there’s a small chance that I could be an okay one, but on my own, there is no chance of me being a really good mother. I am far too impatient, selfish, lazy, and critical to provide the loving and nurturing environment that my son needs and deserves. I don’t stand up well to extreme stress and sleep deprivation. All of that just adds to the fact that I’ve never been a parent before. You can see why I was indulging in some serious self-doubt last week!
But the truth is bigger than my absolute inability. The second, and much better, part of the truth is that I don’t have to do it on my own. I have an amazing support in all this. Now, I’m not talking about my husband, even though he is unbelievably helpful and supportive, and will be a fantastic dad. No, I’m referring to the fact that God is my support and strength in this calling just as much as He is with someone He calls to be a missionary, a writer, a doctor, or a preacher. Just because my mission is contained within the walls of my house doesn’t make me any less called or divinely equipped for the task set before me. I have the unlimited power and wisdom of the Creator of the universe backing me up as I take on this new challenge.
Here’s the thing. There’s this saying that goes around Christian and pseudo-Christian circles that always raises the hair on my neck just a little bit: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” It sounds so reassuring, doesn’t it? Well, the bad news is that it is 100% pop-religion positive malarkey. (There’s another term for it that my own mother would be horrified if I used, but you get the idea). What we should be saying to each other is, “God will never give you more than He can handle.” If God didn’t give us more than we could handle, then we wouldn’t have much of a need for God, would we? What’s more, history, both in the Bible and beyond, is full of examples that prove my point.
Let’s name a few of them, just for fun.
- Noah couldn’t have handled building the first boat in recorded history and proclaiming a coming flood amidst widespread mockery if God hadn’t given him the plans and the power.
- Job was not naturally immune to loss, disease, or disaster. He simply trusted his God.
- Moses was unqualified to speak before Pharaoh, to lead the Israelites, or to be the first and most revered prophet of Judaism and Christianity.
- Gideon was not prepared, inclined, or qualified to lead an army against the Midianites.
- David was not qualified, nor was he inherently capable of killing Goliath, or of later ruling the nation of Israel.
- Mary was not naturally equipped to withstand the scandal and scrutiny of her unusual pregnancy, to raise the child-Messiah, or to endure the crucifixion of her son.
- None of the Apostles had any pertinent skills or training for becoming religious leaders, with the exception of Paul. And he was in no way likely to be a first choice for leading Christianity into the wider world.
- Martin Luther had no special background or qualifications that would have prepared him to be a leader of one of the biggest changes in organized religion since the break between Judaism and Christianity.
- William Wilberforce had no particular talents or qualifications to spearhead the movement to end slavery in Great Britain.
- Mother Theresa was not naturally equipped to run outreaches to millions, nor to become a global spokesperson for justice, compassion, and Jesus.
I could go on with even more personal examples of people who had been given far more than they were capable of handling on their own. The fact is, God doesn’t choose us for difficult tasks because He knows that we can handle them, but because He knows that we will trust Him and turn to Him to get us through. This is our reassurance: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Here’s what I know: parenting is going to be hard. Not just learning how to bathe and feed and calm my newborn, although that will be enough on its own for several weeks. There will also be the discipline issues, the teenage troubles, the first heartbreaks, the sibling conflicts, the spiritual guidance. I can read all the parenting books in the world, and still not be completely prepared for what is coming as I raise this little boy and any other children we may have. If I try to tackle it on my own, I may have an occasional success, but I am guaranteed a high number of failures. If I turn to God as my strength and wisdom, though, I am guaranteed a high number of successes. The failures will come, but only because I will fail to rely on or listen to God, not because He fails me.
If you’re facing parenting struggles right now, whether they be with an infant or an adult child, you can join me in taking comfort in the fact that you can’t handle the situation on your own, but that you have access to the God who can handle it all. Maybe parenting isn’t your struggle right now. The same rules still apply. You’re going to get more than you can handle. But you also get the One who can handle it. If you trust that God cares about you and your situation, if you believe that He is able, and if you will surrender yourself to His will, He will do amazing things for you. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)