Letter to a Discouraged Parent

To the discouraged Mom in the third row,

As I share a story from my own parenting journey, our eyes meet and I sense a sadness inside of you. You are here alone. Are you a single parent? Are you married but struggling to get on the same page with your spouse? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason for your solitude, you seem to be bearing a lot of weight on those shoulders.

Perhaps you feel like a sponge, soaking up all the tension in your family. And there’s plenty of tension! There’s a burdensome sense of responsibility to keep everyone happy, and it’s not working.

Perhaps you grieve as you long for connection with your older kids, only to see their favorite screen rob you of any opportunity and label you as an annoying intruder. The virtual peer group that technology invites into your home has replaced you. It’s a lonely place.

Perhaps the last time you felt someone sincerely cared about your needs is a distant memory.

Perhaps you feel as though the core of who you are is being eroded as you seem to have less and less life within, from which to give anything of value to your kids. If God is watching, you think, then he’s probably disappointed and wonders why in the world I can’t just be more loving, encouraging, positive, Spirit-filled….

You feel stuck. You feel alone. You might even feel hopeless. But there is hope. There is a way out.

The starting point on the journey out of this lonely discouragement, little sponge, is to squeeze out the lies you’ve been believing about yourself and soak up what is true about you instead. Soak up Truth till it fills your soul.

The degree to which you feel discouraged is the measure of your longing to walk in the light of God’s truth. And here it is: You are a beloved child of God. You have been removed from the treadmill of performance and “get-it-right-faith” and set on your Father’s lap. It’s a place of rest and peace (Psalm 131) where you are NOT graded for your children’s behavior. You are graded only by Jesus’ gift of righteousness. And he got an A+.

Some simple phrases to help you remember this are – “My kid’s performance is not my report card. Jesus is my report card. I get my value from him. I can be okay, even if my kids are not.” Write down whichever of these connect with you, or other “truth tapes” that you may think of. Pull them out when you are tempted to soak up the tension and discouragement.

Then, from a place of truth, care well for yourself:

  • Care for your spirit: Where do you go or what do you do, to feel close to God? One very discouraged mom facing deep family tensions shared recently how God “met her in her garden.” As she was planting, weeding, and caring for her garden, she sensed God’s tender care for her. Isaiah 58:11 has come alive for her and refreshed her in a profound way: “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” She returned to this image regularly when she felt like she was in that sun-scorched land.
  • Care for your soul: What is your best way to refresh your soul? What creative outlet, friendships, or activities feed your soul? What class or group piques your interest? What did you like to do before you had kids? When was the last time you had fun and totally didn’t think about your family? How could you do some of these things more often?
  • Connect with “courageous” friends: What friend truly encourages you (“fills you with courage”)? Who sees your love for your family, and instead of joining you in a gripe session about kids, calls out the best in you, the presence of Christ in you?

This is vitally important. You are vitally important. As you value and enjoy yourself, it releases your children from the burden of taking care of your emotional well-being. And it makes it easier for your kids to respect you. Then you can look for little ways that you have connected with your kids in the past, and build on those. If your kids respond – enjoy! If you feel rebuffed – it’s okay, because you can peacefully look for a different opportunity at another time. You know who you are.

You are God’s precious child, and no one — not your spouse, not your kids, not even you — can separate you from Christ’s amazing love for you.

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