Finding Joy in the Face of Sorrow and Disappointment

I admit it. Hearing about the accomplishments of friends and their children sometimes can make me feel sad. Especially at this time of year, whether the information comes from holiday letters, Facebook, or from personal conversation, it seems that a lot of talk centers around what people are doing with their time and life. For mothers of children with special needs, it can be difficult not to make comparisons among children and to feel disappointment. I usually feel sad in such situations, but some parents can feel pretty angry when parents talk too much about how well their children are doing. Evidence of this is the book and website called, “Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid!”.

While the “shut up” approach sometimes sounds appealing, over the long-term it will just make us bitter people so I try not to go there. Also, I understand that everyone wants to talk about the things in life that make them feel proud and happy, so I cannot really be upset at parents who brag a bit on their kids.  We all do it from time to time.  So how do we push forth to feel better? I could spend some time in this blog analyzing and giving reasons to overcome the thinking that tends to make us feel sad– our tendency to compare, to feel like life is unfair, our focus on societal values, and that we temporarily forget the gifts our child has given to us. This might be helpful, but analyzing these thoughts alone does not bring an end to the sadness, and overcoming the thoughts by our own strength and willpower can be almost impossible.

There is an effective antidote to this particular sadness, however–that is to focus our minds on something joyful that transcends the realities of our sadness.  Very few things transcend maternal angst since human mothers tend to feel happy when their children are thriving and happy, and sad when their children are sad or struggling.  Somebody once made the statement that “a mother is only as happy as her least happy child.”  This tends to be true if we base our happiness on earthly events.  The problem is that, as parents of children with social, emotional or behavioral challenges, there are simply going to be times when our children are not happy or thriving. Period.  Putting our happiness in the hands of our circumstances leaves us open to serious threat of disappointment. I don’t want to live that way.

Thankfully, we do not have to depend on circumstances to gain joy.  It really is a decision we can choose. Mother Teresa said this, “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.”  Need I say much else?  We can so easily forget the joy of our risen Christ and what that means to our lives and our children’s lives.  What does it mean?  It means that this world (and its happiness or sadness) is just a small fraction of the eternal happiness we are promised in heaven, and that we can experience much of the joy of heaven right here on earth if we are seeking God (John 17:13). We need to remember that lasting joy comes from knowing and understanding God and His word (Nehemiah 8:10-12), and that God (through Jesus) has overcome the world and will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:5-7; Hebrews 13:5; John 16:33).

These concepts can be difficult to incorporate into our daily thinking if we are new in our relationship with Christ or in our study of the Bible. They are tough concepts to fully explore in a 700 word blog.  I’m sure I’ll come around to writing about it again as it is key to my maintenance of happiness and sanity.  I desperately need to know that there is meaning and purpose to my disappointments. I need to be reminded that happiness on earth is fleeting and fickle– subject to change at any time– and for this reason my fortunate friends and their fortunate children need the promise of the risen Christ just as much as I do.

So, for this moment I am choosing to take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)–to be thankful for the hope I am given and to rejoice in this gift that God gave us.  I can be thankful for what I love about my children in this moment–and purposefully stop any thoughts leading me to compare God’s plan or purpose for them on this earth.  Joy found! End of thoughts–end of blog.


3 thoughts on “Finding Joy in the Face of Sorrow and Disappointment

  1. Oh my…I needed this post today! I am a worrier. I’ve LIVED the mantra that a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. I worry about my 18 year old daughter who moved 2 hours away from home to attend college…is she really happy? How do I parent her? Do I parent her? Why does she seem to despise me at times when I truly only want the best for her. Starting today, after reading this post, I’ve decided that
    I don’t want to live this way. I need to “Let go and Let God”. I will be thankful for what I love about my 2 children.. in this moment! I need this reminder daily…I have the power to stop any thoughts leading me to compare God’s plan or purpose for them on this earth. Thank you dear Karen for helping me open my eyes! End of thoughts! Marcy

  2. I think that I am very likely to point to God for my successes (Question 3), but maybe not quite so likely to depend on Him enough to “run quickly and boldly” when I feel unprepared. (Question 1)

    Perhaps this is because I have spent a lifetime preparing myself in some areas? In any case, I do depend on the power of God’s spirit in my life.

  3. Hello Marcy,
    I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, and I too have lived “the mantra”. It really is a moment by moment decision to trust God and step back to let our children learn some things when they are ready. College age kids do need and want to work out some things for themselves– it can be hard to watch–but I try to take hope in the fact that pushing mom’s advice away really is normal development for kids of that age, even if it seems counterproductive. Good for you for focusing on the beauty of your kids! Karen

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