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When Your Child Disappoints You

Five ways to find comfort in your pain

Alex grew up in a strong Christian family and had heard many talks on sexual purity. His parents had clear "house rules" such as No members of the opposite sex allowed in the house if a parent isn't home.

But one day, during Alex's junior year of high school, his mother came home from work in the middle of the day. Seeing a girl's purse on a chair, she marched up to Alex's bedroom and knocked on his locked door. To her surprise, Alex answered. She asked, "Why are you home from school? And is someone in there with you?" "No," he replied. Not willing to be misled, his mom marched straight into the room where she found his girlfriend struggling to get her clothes on.

Alex's mom was devastated. Her son had lied; he'd gotten himself involved in a wrong relationship. How could I have prevented this? she wondered. I never thought something like this would happen to our family.

Whether a painful situation is the result of sin, poor choices, or circumstances beyond your control, hard times happen. While God doesn't promise we'll avoid pain or trouble in this life, he does promise he'll be with us in its midst: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (). What should you do when your child disappoints you?

1. Acknowledge Your Anger

When things don't turn out, it's easy to be angry at others—your child, your spouse, yourself, even God.

King David often got angry with God, too. He asked, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" ()

Don't pretend your anger isn't there. Tell God how you feel and ask him to protect you from bitterness. Ask God to forgive you for anger toward others, and to enable you to forgive the other person. This may be the hardest thing you ever do. It won't automatically "make everything feel better," but healing can't come without forgiveness.

2. Let Go of Guilt

Every parent makes mistakes. But you also may be taking on guilt that's not yours to bear. It's not your fault your teen chose to drink. Yes, things you did or didn't do may have enabled her to walk this path, but in the end it was her choice. Don't assume all the blame. Let it go. Confess it and receive God's forgiveness (, ). There's nothing God can't forgive.

3. Run to God

When a crisis occurs, it's easy to think, My child's ruined his life. You may feel as though it's too late to turn the situation around. But it's never too late for God. What keeps us from despair is remembering there's nothing God can't redeem ("For nothing is impossible with God," ). God also promises he'll use anything—even tragedy—for good, if you seek him ().

So pour out your feelings and emotions to God: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe" ().

4. Protect Your Marriage

When our friends Jim and Sally discovered their son, Mac, was doing drugs, they were heartbroken. But they decided they wouldn't allow their marriage to become a casualty, too.

In the months to follow, as Jim and Sally grieved differently, they were tempted to blame each other and often were discouraged. Yet they clung to their decision, hung in there, went through family counseling, and supported Mac through rehabilitation. Recently we were with Mac and his family to celebrate his nine years of sobriety and rejoice in what God has done in all their lives.

5. Get Friends to Pray and Play

After Mac's arrest, Sally received a call from her friend Jenny Lou. "Linda and I want to meet with you every week to pray for Mac," she said. Both these women knew Mac and loved him. When they met with Sally, they didn't offer advice; they just prayed for Mac. The love of these women was a great comfort to Sally.

When you're going through a hard time, it's easy to become consumed with your problem. You need a friend to take you out to lunch, someone to go to a department store with and get a makeover. Spend time with girlfriends who make you laugh. Focusing on something other than "your child's issue" will help you restore some perspective.

It's easy to let your problem become bigger than our mighty God. Whatever the difficulty you're experiencing, remember God's character. He's a good God; he knows everything. He has a plan, even if you can't see it right now. And nothing can separate you from his love—a love so powerful, he willingly parted with his only beloved Son for your sake.

Susan Alexander Yates is the author of numerous books, including And Then I Had Teenagers (Baker Book House).

Moms Speak Out

What you had to say about teaching your child to handle disappointments:

Our son was terribly disappointed when we told him he wasn't old enough to attend an activity an older sibling was allowed to attend. First, we let our son express his feelings to us. Then we decided to offer him an alternative he'd consider a worthwhile replacement. While he still didn't agree or even like our original decision, he learned to accept his disappointment and to appreciate what was given him.

Beckie, Illinois

I'm a single mom, and my daughter's father promised he'd fly her out to where he lives for a visit. Every day she checks the mailbox for her plane ticket. Recently a piece of mail arrived from him—but no ticket. To help her deal with her disappointment, I hugged her, told her how special she is, and listed all the people I could think of who love her and whose lives she's touched. I reassured her of how special she is to God, and that he'll always be with her.

Name withheld

Our eldest son, whom we adopted, was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. People with FAS have a difficult time with social skills. While he was treated as an outcast by peers, we always told him not to treat others that way. Today, at 18, he says he knows what counts is what's inside a person, not what's on the outside. So when your child's heart's breaking, tell him how Jesus wants him to respond, and pray God shows him the blessings of his faithfulness.

Julie, Minnesota

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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