The sun hasn’t even broken the horizon. Already, you’re tired. Already you’re overwhelmed. Already, you’re at the end of your rope. Already, your face is wet with tears.
It isn’t as if you didn’t have a plan for the day, you did. And it was a great plan by the way.
It isn’t as if you don’t trust God, you do. You have prayed and prayed and prayed.
It isn’t as if you don’t love your “That” Child, you do. You have sacrificed for them. And you are grateful.
But “That” Child has the capacity to make everything harder, everything more complicated, everything more difficult, everything more exhausting. Somehow they extinguish enthusiasm, ruin rhythm, topple anticipation with their questions and comments, their meltdowns and their chaos.
When I was first asked to participate in this series of homeschooling in hard times, I wanted to know if anyone gets to homeschool in NOT hard times? I mean really, life is full of challenges and obstacles and hardships. I once heard a pastor say that we’re all either entering a hard time, in the middle of one, or on our way out. He further explained that generally, we don’t know which phase we are in until sometime down the road.
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In my own life, I’ve found that the hard times are multi-dimensional. I’m not usually facing one thing that is making life hard. I’m usually facing several things that are making life hard. My hard times have been characterized with layers of hard things like spaghetti noodles all mixed up on my plate. It’s rarely just one thing that complicates our lives, it’s usually several. And what’s worse, we think we’re the only one.
So what does it mean to have “that” child?
It means that you have a child that is particularly challenging. It can be for any reason, maybe the two of you are so much alike that you get on each other’s nerves. Or maybe you are complete opposites and you don’t understand each other. Or maybe your “that” child is strong-willed. No matter what qualifies your “that” child as a “that” child, this I know: they are a blessing from God.
But a “that” child can make homeschooling harder that it has to be. They ask questions that don’t seem to be connected to your lesson. They want to learn and engage, but their questions and answers seem to be out in left field. Were they even listening? Often the answer is “yes” even when it doesn’t appear to be the case. Again, this makes homeschooling a “that” child especially difficult.
Though I’m specifically applying these to “that” child, I believe these can apply to just about any tough time. When things are tough (so tough that you feel like you’re on a ship in a storm) disaster threatens, the wind and the waves compete for your attention. Though both are beyond your control, they make steering the ship impossible. You can’t see anything, not even your own hand in front of your face.
When the days are hard. When solutions fail. When friends are few. When exhaustion overwhelms, don’t give up—HOLD ON.
Hold on to Hope.
What hope is there on the hardest of days? What hope is there when failure overwhelms and chaos dominates? What hope is there when our best efforts fall flat, when we’re broadsided, when we feel defeated?
Often when I think I’m having the worst day ever, I’m reminded of the story of Job. He wins the prize—if it is a prize—for the worst day ever. Job lost everything in one day. Everything. His children, his possessions, his reputation, his position. But in the aftermath of these devastations, Job held on to hope saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
You and I have the same hope available to us to take hold of and hold on to. Yes, you can. On those days, in those moments we must determine to hold on to hope. As believers, we have the assurance and confidence of Christ’s sure return to take us home.
This world, this moment, this situation, this problem isn’t going to last forever. It is momentary. Though the pain and emotions can often obscure our hope, we can determine to hold on to what we cannot see. According to Hebrews 11.1, “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” (Amplified)
Hold on to Opportunity.
There is no circumstance in our lives that isn’t actually an opportunity for God’s glory and our growth. I heard Pam Tebow put it this way, “There’s nothing that comes into our lives that is not first filtered through the fingers of our faithful Father.” Indeed.
When we are blessed with a “that” child, we can know that God knows. And we can look upon it as an opportunity for God’s glory and our good. Mordechai pointed this out to Esther when he boldly said to her, “Who knows that you weren’t born for such a time as this?” And he was right. Esther was providentially placed in the position as queen in God’s perfect timing to save the Jewish people. The impending tragedy was sovereignly ordained by God, for His glory, and for His people’s good. (You can read the whole story in the book of Esther.)
More than once I have held up my hands to God and asked, “What are You up to? Show me! Teach me. Grow me. Mold me.” That has been my simple prayer of surrender on many hard days with “that” child. God is big enough for our questions. He knows we are but dust. He wants us to seek Him and to desire His glory.
You can know that God has a plan and He will make a way. And although it is difficult to remember when we slam into a tough day with “that” child, hold on to the opportunity God is extending.
Here are some questions to consider: What might God do? How might He be glorified? What might I learn? How might I grow? Who might benefit and be encouraged from my experience?
Hold on to Love.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day could not see that He was the promised Messiah. They were blinded by their own arrogance and their love of their positions. Jesus’ miracles and teachings astounded them, leaving them speechless and frustrated. On multiple occasions, they tried to trick Him by asking Him questions.
Perhaps most notably, in an effort to trick Him, a lawyer once asked Jesus which was the most important of the commandments. Jesus responded and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Hold On to Our Love of God
We must hold on to love—our love of God first and then our love of our neighbors. This might seem odd in a culture that says we should love ourselves first. But that is a twist of our enemy. If we love ourselves first instead of loving God first, then sinful behaviors flood into our lives. When we love ourselves first, we’ve already justified all manner of selfishness. The order of our love matters.
Loving God before our neighbors requires that we be selfless and humble. And Yet God’s love for us established this model in the gift of His only Son Jesus — His life, death, and resurrection. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Mom, when we love God first it means that we lay down our lives for our family every day. It means that we love our “that” child. Holding on to love means that we remember God’s love for us, that we love Him back by loving those around us, one day at a time.
Hold on to Diligence.
When one of my kids was young, his favorite book to read was Going on a Bear Hunt. Remember that one? A dad and his four kids set out on an adventure to find a bear but encounter obstacles and challenges along the way. They face grass, a river, mud, a forest, a snowstorm, and a cave. And every time they face an obstacle, they say the same thing: “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!” And they do, together.
The bear hunt turns out to be a rewarding adventure, but get this: finding the bear isn’t the highlight. The highlight is the journey together, facing the obstacles together, getting through them together. Their journey wasn’t easy. They chose to be diligent. They chose not to give up.
This simple children’s storybook serves as a great lesson. The adventure called life is hard. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it. And it takes determination and diligence. This is why Paul admonished us to do what he had done and to fight the good fight, to finish the race, to stand firm, to fear not, to be strong and courageous.
What if you and I spent less time whining about how hard our “that” child is and more time worshiping God? What if we chose to be diligent and joyful? What if we allowed God to be our strength in our weakness?
Hold on to Obedience.
I love the Bible. I love all of the stories and characters given to us as examples and for inspiration. None of their stories are perfect. None of them. All of the stories in the Bible are filled with flawed people, sometimes obeying, sometimes disobeying. Obedience is the outplay of love. God says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In other words, if you love God you will obey God.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it ought to be. I find in my own life, the question of what I should do is generally clear to me. I don’t wonder what is right and wrong. Sometimes I just don’t want to obey. I don’t want to be selfless. I don’t want to serve others. I don’t want to stop complaining. I don’t want to share.
If you have a “that” child you long for them to just obey. You want them to just do what you asked them to do. You don’t want to argue about it. You don’t want to debate. You just want them to obey.
But what if—hang with me—what if “that” child’s obedience began with my obedience? I know, right? And at the heart of the obedience that God requires is selflessness. As moms of “that” child, we need to hold on to obedience, to selfless obedience. We must resolve to obey God, to do the next right thing, to love selflessly, to sacrifice, to forgive, to be patient.
Never give up!
Here is probably the number one temptation for the “that” child mom: to give up. And it is so tempting. Having a “that” child means arriving at the end of yourself. You try everything and you only get more exhausted. You cry. And you cry some more. And then the school bus drives by your house and you want to go for a ride yourself. I know, I get it.
But don’t give up. That is what my 28-year-old “that” child son would tell you today. All these years later, with vivid memories of tough days filled with fits and meltdowns and tears and failures, he’d tell you and I’d echo his plea—don’t give up!
No one cares or loves your “that” child like you do. No one is more invested or interested. No one could be paid enough to love your “that” child. I get that it would be easier to throw in the towel, but don’t. God sent your “that” child to you. He has full confidence in you and will provide you with all you need to see this through.
From one mom of a “that” child to another, HOLD ON! God’s with you, He’s got this, holding you by His mighty right hand. He will never leave nor forsake you. He has a plan and will see it to completion.
This is day 12 of the Homeschooling in the Midst of Hard Things Blog Series!. We are so glad you are here!
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I’ve been married to my beloved, Davis, since 1986; our life has been a roller-coaster ride, with God at the controls. We have seven kids and let me tell you our family loves to laugh! I enjoy playing in the dirt, eating dark chocolate, and walking on the beach. My husband and I own Apologia Educational Ministries, I’m an author and speaker – I am passionate about helping moms not only survive motherhood, but draw near to the Father and thrive in motherhood. You can find me sharing my heart over at Rachael Carmen.