Prior to becoming a parent, I never could have understood just how it was possible for one’s heart to expand to love anyone any more than I already did.
I thought I already had a pretty good grasp on love, experienced others’ love, and in turn, felt love for others. Yet nothing prepared me for how much more my heart would expand to experience an even greater infilling of love when I gave birth to my two children.
Likewise, nothing prepared me for the grief and loss I would feel as I would tenderly nudge my oldest from the nest as we took him off to college. I knew he would do fine—he was a well-adjusted young man who had shown his adaptability in every situation to date.
And in my heart of hearts, I knew he was not going alone. He, his father, and I, all knew that he was going with God, on the path God had ordained for him. And as much as his father and I love him, we know that God loves him infinitely more.
Perhaps that is why my grief response came as such a surprise. Wasn’t this what we had spent his entire life preparing him for? Wasn’t this what we had prayed and trusted God for?
I was truly happy for him—I know the plans God has for him are good, and are to prosper him and not to harm him, and include a future and a hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). I’m excited to watch as his biggest cheerleader from the sidelines as those plans and dreams unfold, and he faces even bigger horizons.
My twinge of sadness is not for him. Selfishly, it’s for me. I’ve been so blessed to be his mother. So blessed by the joy and laughter he brings to the family. So blessed by the intelligent conversation he offers. So blessed by his spontaneity and good will. My sadness is grief, knowing that those times will be fewer and further between, and yet even more treasured when they do happen again.
After church (our last pre-college church service together as a family and during which he resorted to his humorous stunts to keep my tears from falling), the tears were plentiful as I helped finalize the packing endeavors. As I took a break to sit next to my husband, my voice cracked as I tried to speak, when yet again for several moments only tears would come. I finally mustered a weak whisper, “Is this normal?”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought I was stronger than this…I thought I was ready…I thought I had raised him with the mindset that I was giving him wings to fly. What’s wrong with me?” I leaned in closer as the tears fell harder, having unburdened my concerns in a safe place.
“I know. I’m feeling the same way. And yes, I think it’s normal. Nothing is wrong with you. We not only love him, we love having him as part of the family.”
I glanced up to see the pain reflected in his eyes as well, before he offered, “Would you like to take a walk? Or a drive?”
At that moment I didn’t want to be distracted from my thoughts or my pain. I knew I needed to take it to the One who understood.
Just as each of my pregnancies increased my capacity to appreciate God’s love for us, His children, so too has my preparation for sending my son off into the world. While I am not losing my son to death, and I am already planning to see him within a couple months, I can’t help but reflect on how much harder it had to have been for God. He willingly let His son leave Heaven to minister on earth, all the while knowing that Jesus would have to die the most painful death, so that we could live.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
It’s hard to fathom a love so great that God would sacrifice His own son’s life for me, knowing the pain and agony it had to have caused Him. Yet He loved us that much.
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
Today I’m counting my blessings, and am thanking God for loaning me my son. My children belong to God ~ I just get the joy of being their mother and raising them.
I still have mother questions and doubts: Did I do enough? Did I teach him all that he will need to survive on his own and make wise decisions? Did I give him a strong enough foundation in his faith so that when his own storms come, he won’t waver but will stand on the rock?
This is where trust comes in. I know God loves my children even more than I do. So I trust Him to be true to His word:
“Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
We have to trust God to keep them safe: “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life” (Psalm 121:7).
Trust God to guide them and direct them: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
Trust God to provide for them: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Trust God to teach them what they need to know: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).
Trust God to protect them: “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).
In what area do you need to trust God regarding your children, or a family member? Or to heal a wounded or grieving heart? Will you share with us in the comments below? A joy shared is a joy doubled, but a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
I am the mother of three adult sons. The two oldest are on their own and living happy and successful lives. The oldest is married to my wonderful daughter in law and my middle son has a terrific partner. But my youngest son, Cameron, has struggled with mental illness and drug addiction. He currently is incarcerated in the state of Maine. I know God has a plan for Cameron too, but some days I struggle with fear and doubt. I pray that God will show Cameron how to use the many gifts He has bestowed upon him in the way God wants Cameron to use them. Please pray for my son. I love him with all my heart.
God loves our children even more than we do…which is an amazingly comforting thought. He loves them and protects them. He welcomed my oldest daughter, Kimberly Joy, into her eternal home with Him almost 8 years ago. And knowing she was safe and whole, helped the grief. I delight in watching my youngest daughter, Erin, now 38, use her gifts and strengths in her world, and especially in the raising of my oldest grandchildren, now 16 and 14. So, I add, even in the unimaginable scenario of the death of a child, God’s love and care shines through. #Hopeprevails.
You inspire me, Debbie! Even in the tragedies, #HopePrevails
Beautiful post Dr. B, I still have trouble giving a Son, a perfect son, for people,especially, some who won’t listen.
When they are babies, it sometimes feels like they will be forever. Then they aren’t. I think every parent struggles letting go and you are right. You have to feel it and take it to God.
My girls are 4th and 6th grades, and my biggest prayer right now is for them to make good friends!
I have had few opportunities to be away from my young daughter, but I know that someday soon, these verses will be helpful!
My struggle is to see my brother turn to Jesus, after a lifetime of seemingly contentment and lack of hunger for God (we’re now in our 60’s). He’s prosperous, hard working, fulfilling career and wonderful wife, a wonderful guy in so many ways, and caring and generous to family. Likewise our kids, raised in church and Christian school, and blessed with spouses, children, jobs, well provided for by God and work ethics and family devotion, but rejecting church (not rejecting God or Jesus, but not pursuing Him or putting Him first). Entrusting them all to God to turn them to Him and the years are ticking by-after 40ish years of not seeing my brother change, and watching our kids not change in their adult lives. This is my deepest heart cry for them which brings the tears similar to yours mentioned in sending your son off to college. We all know we have ways we failed our children as concerning their faith, and there are so many people who really didn’t raise their children in a Christian home as well. I know God absolutely loves each person He’s created and nothing is too big for His grace. He doesn’t have condemnation for our ways we did parenting wrong and He always has hope. What further scriptures do you point people to where our family members were raised in faith but not pursuing , or for those whose family were raised without Christ and parents have turned to you after their children’s upbringing?
Our seasons mirror each other, Michelle. I get you, mama! Releasing our offspring is certainly a trust issue – and boy, is it hard! But not impossible. The Lord has been assuring me He’s faithful, urging those steps forward, one at a time. I pray God’s absolute best for you and your son. His foundation appears solid from what I read in your words and see on social media. It’ll be exciting to see how the Lord uses him – and you through this. If you have opportunity, check out my post and the linking article. They’re all about this mirrored season. 😉 May God be our comfort and strength. #livefreeThursday
Oh Michelle, I’m right there with ya. My oldest did his first two years of college while living at home, then moved out and took some time off to work and live, now at 22 he’s moving 3 hours away to start his junior year of college. I so understand your feelings of enjoying him being a part of your family. It’s strange to not have them nearby, isn’t it? So, so thankful for a God who they can’t separate from. No matter how far they are from us, He’s always going before them and behind them and beside them. Praise God. — Thanks for sharing and prayers for y’all. ((hug))
This is one of my comforts to KNOW that God is taking care of my kids. I can’t always be there to watch over them…especially now as they’re beginning adults 🙂
Praying you have a blessed weekend with time to rest, restore and refresh!
There’s nothing like a mother’s love, right? Saying a prayer for your son right now. I’m glad you turned to trust in God. He is the One who brings the touch of comfort we need.
It’s been an interesting season – first to be worried they will run out in front of a car; then run with the wrong crowd; then run off and go to college (Penn State? That IS your study abroad…) then run to Spain and Turkey and Guatemala. That particular runner is currently upstairs applying to jobs. So in and out they go – our hearts, our homes, our lives. A sweet and blessed and sometimes pain filled time and God gives courage and rest and peace when I remember to lean on Him.
I feel all your feels, Michelle! I moped around the house feeling sorry for myself. May God be with everyone in your family as your son adjusts to life outside the nest and you adjust to one less fledgling!