Reframing your season of struggle
Encouragement when parenting is hard
By Jason Johnson
Jesus’ struggle on our behalf was not the result of His weakness, but the outcome of His faithfulness. It was Him willingly choosing the cost of our joy over the price of His pain. His suffering brings meaning to ours.
His struggle brings purpose to ours. They remind us that our toil is not in vain – it is not pointless; that the gospel is nothing if not the ability of Jesus to bring great beauty out of broken things. This gospel frees us from the burden to carry the weight of redemption. It reminds us that only Jesus can save and restore. Our job is simply to be faithful . . . expectantly, hopefully, anxiously faithful.
In your Garden of Gethsemane moments, when the weight of brokenness brings you to your knees before God and your heart cries out for a different path to redemption, you can trust that Jesus has been there before you and that Jesus is there with you now – sympathizing, holding, understanding and encouraging you to drink from the cup again, and again, and again. The road to redemption is paved with stones of suffering, and only the strongest allow themselves to be weakened by the weight of the cross they must carry along the way. That's you, counted among the strongest, not in spite of the weakness you now feel, but because of and through it.
Jesus is worth it
Thank you for your faithfulness even in the midst of this season you are going through. Thank you for choosing to count the joy of these kids as worth the cost of your pain. No one sees your struggle as weakness. No one dare question your resolve. They see it as brave, they see it as inspiring and God no doubt sees it as beautiful – because He sees Jesus all over it, in it and through it.
God is using you, a mere human, to solve a seemingly insurmountable human problem. Confusion, frustration and exhaustion are inevitable and unavoidable – but He is faithful and good and right there with you. The gospel doesn't guarantee that everything will be easy, but it does give us hope that no matter what, Jesus is worth it and so is what you're doing for these kids.
Reframing the struggle
So your brokenness isn't a sign of failure; it's an outcome of faithfulness. Jesus knows exactly how that feels. Your struggle isn't a sign of weakness; it's an expression of faithfulness. It shows you care, even when it’s hard. And your exhaustion isn't a sign of defeat; it's the overflow of faithfulness. It means you're giving all so a child can gain much – and that is remarkable. There's always another side to our struggle – a hopeful one, if we're willing to reframe it and see it that way.
Through what appears to be your weakness Christ is making His strength abundantly known. Paul understood this when, in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, he wrote: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
He flips the script on how we understand our weakness. The world says hide your weakness, avoid it, and don’t talk about it. It’s shameful. Paul says he boasts in it. He’s not embarrassed by it. He’s proud of it. Why? Because it’s no longer a source of shame, but now a platform upon which the power of God can be most clearly put on display. We can boast in our weakness and struggle for that fact. It is not a road to avoid but the pathway through which God has chosen to bring great beauty out of tragic brokenness.
Sometimes it’s not one big thing but simply a series of small things collected over time that eventually start to feel too heavy to bear – like not being able to be at three appointments at one time, an unexpected meltdown from a child in the grocery store that turned what should have been a quick trip into something much more, a no-show from the case worker, frustrations at the WIC office. It’s the daily, consistent, habitual inconveniences and interruptions that eventually cause us all to step back and ask if there’s another way to redemption, can we keep going at this pace, is it really making a difference and will it ultimately be worth it in the end.
Sometimes it’s more – “I feel like my soul is dying” kind of struggles. Exhaustion has made its home in the innermost parts of who we are and there seems to be no way out. While this is what we signed up for, in so many ways it’s not. We didn’t ask for the life to be sucked out of us like this.
In the midst of your weakness and the wake of your struggle, "success" as a foster or adoptive parent is not measured by your capacity to keep everything in order; it's determined by your ability to trust that even in the chaos Jesus is beautiful – and even in the mess, so is what you are doing for these kids.
Okay to not be okay
Kids from hard places don't need perfect and polished parents – they need parents who are strong enough to be weak. They need ones who are honest and real. Maybe today you don't need to pretend like you've got it all together. Maybe today is your day to finally be okay with the fact that it's okay to not be okay. If there's room in the gospel for their redemption then there must also be room in the gospel for yours. Perhaps you simply need to give yourself that room today.
Maybe the best thing you can do for your kids right now is spend more time pressing into Jesus for yourself right now. It's okay to not be okay, keep telling yourself that. It's okay to not be okay, it’s just not okay to stay there forever. This is where the gospel thrives, where true strength is found and where Jesus patiently waits to remind us that, in the end, it's not about us, but about Him.
Thank you for doing what you do. You may not be okay right now, but you are brave, and that's okay. You may not be okay right now, but you are inspiring, and that's okay. You may not be okay right now, but what you are doing is beautiful, not because you always have to be but because Jesus always is, and if that's all you have to cling to right now, then that is certainly okay too.
Jason Johnson and his wife Emily became foster parents in 2012 and live in Texas with their four daughters. Jason is the director of church ministry initiatives with The Christian Alliance for Orphans. He is also the author of Reframing Foster Care and blogs regularly at jasonjohnsonblog.com.