“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” James 1:2-4 (NIV).
How do we, as believers, face trials with pure joy? It seems totally inconceivable! At first glimpse, these verses make no sense to the average person. We naturally react with denial, shock, fear, worry, despair, and heartache…for starters…when a huge hurdle comes across our path. As we move through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, we also experience anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Pure joy doesn’t even get an honorable mention!
My husband and I raised five children, three with extra challenges. One with ADHD and a mood disorder; one with epilepsy, a reading disability, depression and oppositional defiance; and one with autism. We did not consider these diagnoses joyful news. The symptoms each child was displaying were confusing to us at the least, but a diagnosis from each professional instilled fear for the prolonged lack of peace in our home to apprehension for their future as adults.
How did we progress from that initial stage of grief to a pure, joyful acceptance? Simply. One day at a time, walking with Jesus.
We can’t ride on the coattails of Sunday’s 20-minute sermon to get us through the six agonizing days of the rest of the week if we have a child that is waking up, screaming, three times a night, every night. We can’t pick up our bible only when we are dusting the table it rests on if we have a child who is failing multiple classes because he can’t focus and is socially isolating. We can’t get up on Sunday morning and decide if we’re going to church based on our feelings if we find ourselves in a deep, proverbial parenting foxhole, at war with an enemy that does not want our children to succeed. A persistent, deliberate focus on Christ, His word and His ways, is the bolstering strength weary parents need for the many challenges they face.
As a parent, one of our many jobs is to tap into every available resource for our children. It only becomes more pronounced when we have a child that is diagnosed with a disability, mild or severe, considered hindrances by child development experts to growth, development, and ultimate achievement. God is an unfathomable resource for us. He calms the storms and is the God of all comfort.
Christian maturity changes our focus from ourselves, in what we want and what will make us most comfortable, to pleasing God and obeying him.
It isn’t wrong to want your child to sleep through the night so you can finally get some long-awaited rest. It isn’t wrong to want your child to overcome a difficulty so they can move on to the next level of achievement. But we do learn perseverance as we struggle through these life hurdles. As we change our focus from “get it done” to “thy will be done” our hearts become softer, our life choices wiser, and our influence on others who may be struggling more pronounced grows.
It took a while, but I whispered a prayer of thanks one day because our family has changed for the better due to the many struggles we faced. We still have plenty of room to mature spiritually, but I, personally, have gotten to the place where I can say: “Thank you, Lord!” for the trials. Hold on to him; one day you will be able to as well.