Learning From Life’s Struggles

by Rey Cooke

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“The story is told of a little boy anxiously watching a newly formed butterfly struggling to get out of his cocoon. Filled with compassion for the tiny creature, he used his pocketknife to enlarge the hole.

Exhausted, the butterfly tumbled out and lay there, but the boy didn’t realize the struggle to escape was designed to strengthen the butterfly’s muscles and prepare it for flight. With an act of compassion, the boy had inadvertently crippled and ultimately doomed the butterfly.”

In life, obstacles are inevitable! God intentionally placed the little caterpillar in the cocoon to develop into a butterfly; there is no shortcut of breaking free. Obstacles are allowed by God to grow us.  It’s much easier to watch your children work through difficulties when you understand there is a purpose in the struggle. Far too many times I am tempted to “help” my children reach their destination, but that isn’t always God’s entire goal for them. They need to exercise their muscles so they will grow to be dependent on their Heavenly Father! We as mothers must be careful not to make their lives too comfortable. 

I was the kind of mom who followed my girls around with a hairbrush in case a hair got out of place and heaven forbid if food was left on their faces. I distinctly remember when my oldest daughter was wearing a beautiful new outfit when suddenly she was summoned to the creek behind our house. Against my warnings not to get dirty, she went assuring me she was only going for a minute. Well, you know the rest of the story. She fell in the creek and hurt herself.  The message she received from me was, “I told you not to get dirty, now we’re going to be late.” She did not hear compassion when she deeply needed to be comforted for the poor decision she made.

I could tell many stories about things I wish I could do over!  I wish I could have relaxed and enjoyed the mess and letting them make mistakes—like falling into the creek without giving them a lecture. I was so afraid they would get hurt and then I would have to watch them go through something hard.

Being a grandmother is the greatest! Watching my daughters parent their children brings me great joy. Recently I had all five of my grandsons over for some fun. I was watching my husband push the boys on a tire swing and I could hardly stand it! He was pushing them so high I felt for sure one of them would fall or crack their head open on the tree. I literally turned my back and began praying for safety. My nerves were standing on end. The safety girl came out of me! If I had my preference I would remove every obstacle in their lives so they would never be hurt—which would mean there would be no trees to bonk heads on or swings to swing high on. How silly to think that would be a fun life! It’s like inadvertently clipping their wings so they couldn’t fly. Fear can bring such bondage to our lives.

The hard part of parenting isn’t taking care of your kids; the hard part is letting go of them.

When the first day of school comes you know they will be hurt sometimes. They are going to be tempted, lonely, left out, and fail, but you have to let them go. There will be kids they don’t get along with, terrible teachers who need to retire, and most likely their hearts will be broken, but you have to let them go.  The first time they get in a car alone will drive you to your knees, but you have to let them go and trust God. Trusting God isn’t being passive or inactive. God doesn’t erase fear from the blackboard of our lives, but he grows our souls by uncomfortable experiences of trusting him in the “hard.”

Once in a great while I seek the hard place so I can experience the thrill of fully living. That doesn’t mean I’m signing up to jump out of a plane anytime soon, but I did just jump into a new job at age 55. If God has you in the palm of His hand your life is secure; you can venture forth safely.

God is painting on a big canvas and the picture is going to be beautiful beyond the telling.  What we see are the hurts, the struggles, and the obstacles. When we are walking with the Lord and the road gets hard, lean in. Trust the Creator of the big picture!

Rey Cooke*Please leave your comments below!

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