With obvious frustration in her voice and near tears in her eyes, ten-year-old Mary came to me with her math. She had missed every one of her long-division problems. It was not because she didn’t know how to do them but rather because of careless multiplying or subtracting mistakes. At first, I felt myself being impatient with her interruption to what I was doing. However, the Spirit prompted my heart that this was one of those valuable, spiritually stretching moments for Mary.
I began sharing with Mary verses such as, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I encouraged her that the Lord Jesus was the One to turn to in her need and weakness. We talked about the goal of her math and how her failures showed her where she should be more careful and work harder. We discussed how her problems were actually more valuable to her than what came easily, with no effort involved. Finally, we prayed together. I suggested that the next time she started math, she come to me, and we would pray together.
The following day, a joyful Mary, with a beaming face, burst into the dining room announcing to me that she had gotten every division problem correct! What value could I place on the spiritual lesson that Mary was learning in relying upon and trusting Jesus Christ? However, I also know how easily I could have robbed Mary of this blessing.
The first way I might have kept her from a positive, spiritual experience would have been by responding to her out of my impatience, telling her to just try harder and be more careful. After all, she did know how to work the problems. My selfish focus is sin in my life. It also doesn’t allow my children the joy of a mom who is there on a moment-by-moment basis in their young lives, encouraging them to develop a dependence on Jesus as a response to the trials and difficulties that enter their lives.
The second way I may keep my children from opportunities for growing in their reliance on Jesus Christ is by removing the struggle itself. When the math is hard, I begin thinking about looking for another curriculum—something that teaches in a different way, that is easier, that has fewer problems to work. If I take away my child’s source of need, then there is no longer a reason for him to cry out to Jesus Christ for His strength in the situation. My child is able to make it through on his own.
What is more important for my child—immediate success in getting right answers on a math problem or learning to develop the habit of crying out to Jesus Christ for help in every circumstance? Rather than viewing the daily problems with my children as trials to be avoided, I can use them positively. Throughout my hours with my children, there will be multiple chances to point them to Jesus, to use Scripture to address a situation—to help them develop spiritual disciplines of relying on Jesus and obeying Him. The more I see difficulties in this light, the more I have to gain for my children in helping them to grow within themselves these habits. The goal would be that the inclination to look to Jesus would become so engrained in their lives that it is almost instinctive rather than something that is not done at all or is forced because it is the “right” thing to do.
I want to encourage us as mothers to invest in our children’s lives by helping them grow in their faith. Rather than removing children’s struggles, see the value in what they can learn through them in spite of the fact that they are children. Spiritually help them walk through their difficulties—even ones as small as missing all the division problems in the math lesson. Let them experience the joy of victory in Jesus Christ. Even if that victory doesn’t involve success in a particular academic struggle, it will be evident in the spiritual realm of the child’s relationship with Jesus Christ and dependence on Him. May we be mothers with an eternal focus.