Author: Anne Wilson, Lead Youth Pastor

As a young mom, I would often have conversations with myself in the middle of the night that went like this:

I wonder if my son is getting enough nutrition. He didn’t eat fruit yesterday and declared war on vegetables. Maybe he won’t grow this year. What if he doesn’t grow!? He didn’t sleep well last night, I wonder if he’s teething. What if his teeth come in crooked? What if he doesn’t have teeth?

When I was a little kid, there was one book for parents to glean wisdom from, and Dr. Sprock wrote it. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was the resource for every newborn parent to turn to when a kid spiked a fever, or when a toddler threw a tantrum. Scan any bookstore or Amazon’s parenting section today, and you can find a book for just about anything. And yet, while we are perhaps more resourced than ever, parenting right now feels overwhelming.

If you’re a parent right now, I can confidently say that almost none of us showed up to a parenting journey thinking that one day we would parent kids and teens at the height of a mental health crisis. Add navigating mental health on top of all the other things we stay up late thinking about, and it’s easy to go into fight, flight, or freeze pretty quickly.

Here’s the freeing truth: as much as we want perfect plans and perfect, step-by-step solutions for how to parent in every scenario, there isn’t one. The Bible doesn’t offer “How to Parent in a Mental Health Crisis,” but God’s Word does lead us to know how-to walk-through crisis, and how to follow the way of Jesus amid hardship and suffering.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul himself was struggling—he had written a difficult letter to the Corinthians the first time around (see 1 Corinthians; it’s no joke), and they didn’t like what he had to say. So they took shots at him, and tried to discredit his character. The overall tone of Paul, when we come to 2 Corinthians, is that he’s hurting. He’s bruised. And in chapter 4, he starts talking about the trials and opposition we’re going to experience, and he puts this question in front of us: how are we supposed to endure in the face of opposition and hardship? And here’s what he says:  

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be seen in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Here’s the very best news: God is not asking you to be a perfect parent. He’s asking you to be a dependent one.  

If your children or teens are struggling with their mental health right now, we see you. God sees you. And best of all, God loves your kids even more than you do, and it’s because of our mistakes and weaknesses—not despite them—that our families can reveal his glory. While you might feel ill-equipped, your weakness as a parent is where God can show his strength. So breathe deeply, and then lead your family in dependence on him. Lead your family in grace—for yourself, and for your kids. Lead your family in prayer. Lead your family in asking for help—from professionals and from friends.

Paul later says, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

This is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce in us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. The things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.