As parents, we all want to give good things to our children and see them growing up strong in the Lord–particularly in areas where we ourselves have been weak. But of course, there are inevitably those negative character traits, harmful appetites, and so on that we unintentionally transmit. Then there are genetics and environmental influences that often don’t work in our favor. And I don’t even want to open the Pandora’s box of “generational curses.” Some days I ponder this reality and I can only be tremendously grateful for God’s grace.
This morning we got to laughing over which of the kids had “Dad’s feet” (really cute Flinstone feet) versus “Mom’s feet” (umm, not-so-cute). Which turned into a discussion of who among them had “Dad’s nose” versus what we call a “Starkey nose” (a “larger” nose, of course from my side of the family). And then there were even a few comments about teeth, in which I also came out quite the loser by comparison. Thankfully, I can call a spade a spade and my physical flaws no longer bother me so much.
What did bother me was a conversation I had later in the day with one of my children, who often has problems with school assignments and sometimes struggles to have a good attitude and remain diligent. This particular child has made a lot of progress in this area, but today the lesson (being something new), combined with the self-induced pressure of feeling “behind” and the frustration of contemplating not having any free time because school work would take so long, brought on some bouts of tears which said child tried very hard to control, but which (upon further contemplation of the facts at hand) sprang up again within a short time.
I told this child about a Scripture that I often meditate upon when I am discouraged. It comes from 1 Samuel 30, where we read about a very challenging situation that King David is facing; and the text sums it up this way:
“And David was greatly distressed…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. ” (1 Samuel 30:6)
With that, I recommended that this child remain encouraged in God’s presence and in His ability to comfort, strengthen, and enable us for the task at hand. I almost left it at that. I like to keep things simple, knowing that God will continue to speak to my children’s hearts in the absence of my many words. Instead, I decided to share a little bit about my history of depression, and how I have (with God’s help) experienced victory in that area of my life. I thought it would be helpful to share a couple of strategies for dealing with discouragement, and a little bit of personal testimony often helps a message hit its mark.
I began quite simply with a question: “Do you know what depression is?” And after the “I think so” response I explained it, just for clarification: “Depression is when you feel discouraged or very sad, and sometimes it’s hard to stop feeling that way, even though a lot of times you can think of lots of reasons why you should be able to be happy.” And then I was going to move on to simply offer a couple of tips on how to cope with negative emotions, which I was sure would be helpful. But there I was interrupted, with a comment that made my heart sink: “Yeah, I get like that, too.”
Really, I thought so. I saw that this child had a personality like mine, a predisposition to those negative emotions that “run in the family.” Still, I hoped against hope that this sweet soul wouldn’t have the same struggles that I have had. But, I am thankful that I am in a position to truly disciple this child through difficult moments, with understanding, with love, and…with hope of victory. Because there is victory!
Several years ago now, when I was going through a season of struggling with depression, I deeply appreciated the message of this song (“Keep Singing,” by Mercy Me):
Though I’ve not had any bouts with depression in quite a long time, there has been some “warfare” in that area lately. I’ve had to be on my guard and in prayer. And I keep asking God, as the lyrics to this song ask, “Can I climb up in your lap? I don’t want to leave…” Discouragement doesn’t stay around long when you envision yourself climbing into the lap of the Father who loves you and keeps your soul (Psalm 121). By His grace, we truly can “encourage [ourselves] in the Lord,” as David did, and experience victory even when things are overwhelmingly discouraging. I am so thankful for His compassion, and also grateful that I can share the hope of this journey with my child.