We’re All Struggling Children


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I am gaining new appreciation for how painful it is to be my heavenly parent.

The vast majority of the time, it is truly not that difficult to make righteous choices. Yet, so often I choose my own vortex of fears, needs, obsessions, shames, distractions, and irritations over the peace, love, comfort, and challenge my heavenly parent offers and promises.

Mine is not an utterly hopeless case.

I often manage to act in accord with that peace and love. I do. But the chaos of my vortex is always spinning, beckoning me. I’m always fighting the pull. With varying degrees of success.

I’m appreciating how difficult this is for my heavenly parent to watch because I’m an earthly parent who is watching one of her children struggling. Making the same mistakes. Over and over. Getting it together in fits and starts, only to lose the thread again. It hurts. Physically and emotionally. Partially because I sense my child’s frustration, lostness, confusion. Partially because I can’t snap my fingers and make it all better. Partially because it isn’t all that hard to do what needs to be done. I am doing everything I can to point in the right direction. In every way I know how, I’m letting the child know I will give whatever support and encouragement necessary. But I can’t make change happen. As hard as I try, and as many systems as I might set up, and as loving and accepting as I may be, it’s not up to me: it’s up to my child.

Do I cause this much anguish in my heavenly parent?

Oh, how deaf and blind you are to me! Why won’t you listen? Why do you refuse to see? Who in all the world is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the Lord? You see and understand what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear, but you don’t really listen….Will not even one of you apply these lessons from the past and see the ruin that awaits you?    (Isaiah 42:18-20, 23)

The prophets are full of God’s frustration with his people: he’s given them everything, yet they still cheat their neighbors and break their vows. They do not give justice to the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the debtor, let alone give them mercy. All this while they continue with their feasts and sacrifices as if that’s all that was required.  Which are all symptoms of the real problem: their hearts are hard. They are stiff-necked, refusing to turn their head to see that they’re on the wrong path.

Even so, and in almost the same breath (Is. 43:1-2):

But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

They are God’s beloved, his special treasure who he delights to show mercy to.

We are hard-hearted, stiff-necked people, God’s beloved, his special treasure who he delights to show mercy to.

We are God’s children.

They say, “Who does the Lord think we are? Why does he speak to us like this? Are we little children, barely old enough to talk? He tells us everything over and over again, a line at a time, in very simple words!” … God’s people could have rest in their own land if they would only obey him, but they will not listen. So the Lord will spell out his message for them again, repeating it over and over, a line at a time, in very simple words. Yet they will stumble over this simple, straightforward message. (Isaiah 23: 9-10, 12-13)

Yes. I’d say God gets the anguish of watching a child struggle with the same things over and over.

Speaking of which, did I somehow think that my own fabulous/dubious parenting of my children would somehow exempt them from having a set of issues (based on personality and brain chemistry) they’d struggle against repeatedly, possibly their whole lives?

You know, like I do.

Not even God gets that deal, and he offers perfect love and redemption.

So what do I do with this reminder that God is my anguished parent?

  • Apologize more often and more easily, to God and to others.
  • Take the long view. My job is not necessarily to help my children overcome their various tendencies once and for all. It’s to work with them to find tools that will help them identify and deal with their personality and brain chemistry issues, to hold them accountable for their choices, to embrace them through both failure and success, to let them know how deeply loved they are. As is.
  • Waste less time and emotional energy on “we have to deal with this … again!?!” Of course we do.
  • Have more compassion — for myself, my children, the others in my sphere. I am not the Expert on Overcoming. I am not the Maker of Pronouncements of What Must Be Done. We are strugglers together, helping each other, figuring this out as we go, loving each other through it all.

At least that’s my hope. After all, thinking I know What Must Be Done is one of my perennial issues.


  1. you did it again, Natalie. You wrote out what I have been only working out in my heart/mind.
    I have a child that is going through some major stuff – and it is shining light on my childishness toward my heavenly parent. Keep writing like this. It helps me see better.

  2. Thank you. It is amazing how much I’ve learned about myself as a childish adult through parenting, how much more sympathy I have for God, which seems like an odd thing to say, but there it is. I will pray for you and your child.

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