I held my limp son in my arms as he mumbled. The darkness of the early summer morning hours had no cooling effect on his burning forehead.
“I see angry penguins! They are snarling at me, Mom!” he moaned as his mind played tricks on him.
We were on week five of a nasty virus that was slowly but surely attacking each of my four sons. Unusually high fevers, coughs, lethargy, pneumonia and hallucinations landed two of them in the hospital. Of course we were committed to helping our boys and doing whatever we needed to do to get them well and tend to their needs, but disappointment started to wreak havoc in my heart.
In addition to the fears and concerns for my little boys as they struggled to heal, I battled feelings of sadness over many cancelled plans–a long awaited camping trip, my middle son’s birthday celebrations, lunch with a friend, a racing camp for our kids that was bought and paid for, a rare date night at the theater with my husband, and a mommy-son date to see a Dodger’s game, to name a few. We had packed many fun activities into the last weeks of summer before school, and none of them came to fruition. Meanwhile, I prayed over my boys with every fiber of my being, night and day. I also aimlessly scrolled on social media from time to time.
Seeing pictures of friends on fun outings to the beach and amusement parks or traveling to beautiful locales around the world on vacation wasn’t a happy escape. I found myself inching closer and closer to the threshold of a pity party. Normally, I would enjoy seeing what others are up to and it wouldn’t bother me, but at a time when I felt very much alone, weary, and emotionally drained, it was causing me to complain in my inner spirit. I began to think things like,
“This isn’t fair!” or, “Why am I always the one who can’t catch a break?”
I was in a spiritual battle, and I was losing. I knew that even though I don’t usually struggle with self-pity, I needed to take measures to protect my heart and mind.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” My thoughts were mastering me instead of me mastering my thoughts. The fact of the matter is, we are moms. Moms don’t have easy jobs. We often have to do the hard things. The thankless things. The wearisome things. If we allow our thoughts to run away with us toward victimization, we undermine the Holy Spirit and set ourselves up for defeat. I knew what I had to do.
There in those dark and troubling hours of the early morning with my sick son, I set aside my phone. I confessed my “woe is me” attitude and complaining spirit to the Lord, and I asked Him to encourage my heart. I took each wayward thought captive and turned it into a praise. And then God brought to my mind this passage:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)
I don’t believe the Lord would ask us to rejoice always if He didn’t think we could. It doesn’t mean we have to be happy about hard things, but we can be joyful knowing that God is with us, ready to help us guard our hearts and minds from thoughts and ideas that will only defeat us, and will pour out His infinite storehouses of peace in our hearts.
As I write this, we are not over the illnesses plaguing our house just yet, but I am over comparing my circumstances with others’ and wallowing in my misery. God was giving me an opportunity to be a light to my kids in those dark hours. He was helping me to develop strength of character and shaping me into a godly example for my family. It’s not what I set out to accomplish over that month, but developing a deeper walk with the Lord was far more valuable to me than all the birthday parties or exotic vacations in the world.
Joy is authenticated in the storms of life.
I do want my kids to have great memories of fun with their mom during their childhood summers, but more than that, I want them to have memories of a godly mom. A mom who didn’t let social media sabotage her peace and who didn’t just delight in parties and pool play dates, but delighted in serving them with joy.