Remember when you were little, and you had this picture of how you thought life was going to turn out? Maybe you pictured the big house and the happy life as a stay-at-home mom, and the hard-working husband who lives to come home to you. Maybe you pictured your life in the mission field, loving on poor kids with the love of Jesus. Maybe you pictured the high-powered job and the comfortable salary, with no kids and the freedom of doing what you want. Maybe you had a combination of these pictures. However you thought your life would turn out, there’s one underlying expectation, a common thread, that I think we all had: comfortability.
What do I mean by “comfortability?” I mean a general, overall contentedness; satisfaction in love, friendships, finances, occupation, purpose, self-awareness, etc.
Marriage was promised as a “fairly-tale” ending; just find a spouse and he’ll make you happy.
Parenthood was promised as a way of fulfilling your life’s purpose; just have children, then you’ll see how “your heart can walk outside your body.”
Adulthood was supposed to be comfortable, easy, and full of satisfaction.
“To life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In both Christian and non-Christian circles, this can be a pitfall. I know because I’ve experienced it and seen it. In Christian circles, Bible verses were usually quoted as the reason why comfortability was supposed to be the goal.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLT)
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)
In non-Christian circles, the goal of comfortability can come from parents’ own struggles and hope for a better life for their children. Or maybe working hard for these goals is what helped them succeed. Or a sense of “well this is what society tell us is success.”
After being taught this for so many years, it seems only natural, that when adulthood comes, and life has become–and continues to be–less than “roses and fairy-tales” we can start to blame God for all the things that have gone wrong in our life. We yell things like “you broke your promise to me! You told me you would take care of me and you haven’t! Why are you punishing me?” I Know I did.
One woman I met at work also had the same experience. She was a single mom and I offered to help watch her daughter so she could work. We became fast friends, and still are, 8 years later. Back at a time in my life where I was trying to “fix people,” I spent many long hours trying to figure this woman out and where things went wrong. She grew up in the church; both parents very involved; lots of siblings, biological and adopted. She was talented, beautiful, intelligent and self-aware. She went to college, loved her job as a real-estate agent; she had saved herself for marriage and married a man she had met in the church, who, by all accounts, was a good Christian man. Shortly into their marriage, she got pregnant, and her husband descended into a depression he never came out of. By the time their daughter was 2, they had divorced, she was working multiple waitressing jobs, living with roommates to help with the bills, and had lost all faith in the God she grew up with.
At one time, after I had known this woman for several years, she and her daughter were staying with us because she had, once again, ended up trusting the wrong people and had lost all the financial stability she had fought so hard to gain. We were sitting in my car, outside my house (literally with a white-picket fence) and all I could think was, “what happened?” She did everything right, checked all the boxes, performed life in the “right” order and she still ended up a single mom living with friends in order to survive. I, on the other hand, had done everything “wrong” and had still ended up with a seemingly picture-perfect life. For months I remember dwelling on this comparison. I needed the answer, the formula for life, to make sure I could prevent the same thing from happening to my life and that of my children. How could I prevent my children from resenting God?
My life turned out so much more wonderful than I could’ve hoped. I never had dreams of motherhood, marriage, or being so in love with the church or Jesus, for that matter. And still, an unexpected pregnancy threw me into a tail-spin of years of self-loathing and resentment towards God, and even the occasional struggle with dependency on alcohol. It’s humbling and heart-breaking to know I had it easy. For so many, I know they are disappointed with the turns their lives have taken. Relationships have been broken, people have been lost, dreams have been shattered.
Overall, I don’t think the goals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are, in and of themselves, false or negative goals. Striving for fulfillment and working hard can develop valuable characteristics like self-confidence and a strong work ethic–things we all hope our children have plenty of.
I just wish someone had prepared me for the other side of the coin.
Now that I’m an adult, and life has turned out much differently than I expected, I wonder how I can better serve my children in this way, so they don’t end up with a false, fragile future, like a snow globe with a Thomas Kinkade painting inside.
Well it’s taken years of raising my own children, fighting tooth and nail down a path I didn’t want to be on, and hours upon hours of study and dwelling on God’s word, and praying honest hard questions, and putting my hope in things that fail, and God graciously leading me through a spiritual storm that broke me to my core, till I finally got the answer to the question I had been asking in my heart for so many years.
Our hope is in Jesus. In John 16:33 he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
I remembered rejoicing in this little moment of personal worship, when it finally became a clear picture of peace in my spirit. THIS was the answer to life. THIS was the answer to parenting. THIS was the answer to expectations we set for ourselves and our children. Jesus. Again, it seemed so simple, how could I have missed it?
This revelation set me on a trajectory for the rest of my life. Jesus is my hope. Jesus is my children’s hope. Jesus is my husband’s hope. He is the only person who cannot fail. And I do a disservice to my children if I teach them to trust in something besides Him for ultimate satisfaction.
Erin enjoys encouraging other women to seek the grace and forgiveness of God, and help them remember we’re all struggling with something. Erin and her husband have two small children. You can read more from our blog here. To listen to any of our Bible studies, tune in on your favorite radio station, listen to our podcast on iTunes, or listen through TuneIn or Stitcher online radio.