How to Replace a Mother

Dear Christian Counselor,

Why is it that a woman who is already a grandmother still has such an overwhelming desire to know how it would feel to be loved, cared for and be given attention by a mom that wanted me? It makes me have a deep pain in my soul, and sometimes I cry myself to sleep. I can even remember being a teenager and doing stupid things to try and get attention from older mother figures in the church. I DEPISE that part of me!!!

How do you get a hug from God when you just are feeling like you can’t make it ?? (a sweet mom could if I had one). How can you look in God’s eyes and see that everything will be okay? (a sweet mom could if I had one).

alone, scared and silent


Dear Alone,

God doesn’t despise the unloved child inside you, and neither do I. Perhaps you could try having some compassion for her, too – that would be a good start toward helping her feel better.

It has taken you a lifetime to accumulate the pain you feel, and it will probably take some time to reduce it. But the good news is that you can begin any time, and you really can get better. If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be the complete, confident, joyful self you would like to be when you see Him face to face. But every minute between now and then is an opportunity for God’s grace to start that work right now. I say this because you should expect this to take some effort on your part, and you need to be confident (not in yourself, but in God) that it can be done.

  1. Start by reading A Father’s Love Letter as your devotional every morning. This simple document combines multiple Scriptures describing God’s love for you. 
  2. A second step to repairing a damaged childhood is to surround yourself with a strong and compassionate community. No one can fully take the place of your mother, but a lot of caring friends can help fill in the cracks. If you don’t have a church home, take the next month to visit several and then make a commitment to attend. After that, you need to find a small group within the church, a study, a ministry or a social group, where you can go deeper with others. 
  3. Finally, begin interacting with God in a mutual relationship. He speaks to you through Scripture, spiritual friends and His Holy Spirit in your heart. Listen! And then talk to Him about everything, even your anger. Write Him notes, comment on the Scriptures you are reading, sing Christian music around the house as your worship, thank Him for blessings large and small. I once set myself the goal of telling God I loved Him every hour. I won’t say I ever did it perfectly, but I do find myself more aware of His presence than I was before.

I’m so sorry you had such a painful childhood. I wish I could undo it. Fortunately, God is in the business of healing wounds and redeeming the broken things in our lives. I hope you will embark on that journey with determination and optimism. God really wants to give you the love you need, but you do have to come to Him in faith in order to begin to receive it. May God grant you that trust and courage.


Related Material:

The Mother Love of God

Mother-Shaped Holes

Are You Lonely?

 

Ironically, loneliness is something which binds us all together. Introvert or extrovert, nomad wanderer or family man, no matter who or where you are, we all feel alone sometimes. I’ve been told there’s no loneliness like a life of being single, and I believe it. I’ve also been told there’s no loneliness like being married and yet on your own. I believe that, too. Loneliness is a hallmark of the human condition.

 

When Adam and Eve fell, they became separated in all their relationships – from each other, from Creation itself and from God. And their descendants inherited their misery. All our associations have become a daily struggle. We misunderstand our friends and malign our enemies instead of ministering to those around us. We fight with the weeds in our yard rather than cooperating with the soil to bring life and color into the world. And we are prone to forget God within moments of knowing His gracious presence with us. You are not experiencing anything strange or unexpected when you feel alone, but loneliness IS a painful form of suffering.

 

So what can you do about it?

 

  • Accept it. You will never cure all your loneliness in this life. Like a clap of thunder on a sunny day, it can strike you at any time, out of the blue. Loneliness sometimes triggers sorrow, frustration, confusion, desperation, anxiety and the feeling that we must be doing something wrong. While you cannot cure all your loneliness, you can refuse to give in to the temptations that come with it, temptations to believe and to do things to fight it, to explain it and to end it. Instead, accept it. It comes with being human. There is something better ahead. If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world (CS Lewis). You are just going to be lonely for a little while here, and that’s OK. Everyone else is, too.
  • Connect with others. The walk of faith was never meant to be a solo journey. Even before the Fall God said it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Jesus Himself had friends, and He sent his disciples out two by two. God placed us in families, in neighborhoods and nations so we could reach toward the hands and hearts of those around us. The church needs you, and you need the church. Even if it scares you, you were made for relationship. I always tell people that it takes between three and five attempts to make a new friend. Devise a prayerful plan, and be ready to persevere. It’s worth it.
  • Connect with creation. Even if you have a terminally brown thumb like me, you can find ways to enjoy nature. I find that spending five minutes outside (even in the Florida heat) brings me a peace I cannot find indoors. One of my favorite activities is snorkeling where I experience a beautiful world normally witnessed by God alone. He made us for garden life, so get out there. Take a walk. Get a plant or a pet. Arrange some flowers. Paint a landscape.
  • Connect with God. Read Romans 8. Even when you don’t feel it, you are NEVER ALONE, NEVER UNLOVED, NEVER HOPELESS. God knows intimately all your circumstances, your blessings and the heart groanings even you don’t understand. If He loved you enough to send His only Son to die for you, why would He abandon you now?  Stay in God’s word. Study it with others. Pray at every opportunity and in every state of mind. Keep a gratefulness journal.

You cannot finally cure your loneliness by doing these things, but sometimes you will get a taste of the future which waits for us in which we will never be lonely again.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, a book review

Why do bad things happen to faithful people? It’s a question which drove me to despair as a young Christian struggling with the devastating effects of stage 4 cancer. It’s a question which has caused my friends and clients great dismay over the course of my counseling ministry. When I needed answers, I was able to find books dealing with either the theological tangles (most notably for me, The Sovereignty of God by AW Pink) or the emotional process of suffering (e.g., A Grief Observed by CS Lewis or Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie). Now there is a book which attempts to include both the intellectual questions and the practical strategies in one volume, Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Random House, 2013).

 

The book is divided into three parts. Simply put, the first part defines the questions inherent in suffering, the second part wrestles with those questions and the third part offers some Scriptural strategies for coping with suffering. That means two thirds of the book is intellectual in nature, a preponderance concealed by the title. And yet, that was the crux of the matter for me. When I was able to discern a little logic, a little purpose in the universe which included suffering, it eased some of the exhaustion, anger and depression I carried with me like a dead weight. Keller also deals with the heavy intellectual emphasis by including personal stories at the end of each chapter in the first two sections, a practice I wish he had continued into the third part, as well.

 

I liked this book – but I like Keller, and I like theology. Before recommending it to someone else, I would want to know whether they are ready for a gentle exercise in philosophy. Part of the reason I enjoyed the book was that it confirmed some of my own beliefs, for example, that God is in control, that the world is a broken place and that suffering is and will be redemptive. Everyone must come to their own conclusions about the meaning of life and the purpose of suffering – I don’t think being handed a mantra on a silver platter solves anything – and this book allows room for that kind of wrestling. It also attempts to provide some practical strategies for dealing with pain, largely from the Psalms, but there is something about those final chapters which falls short, remaining too academic for me. Coping with suffering, like everything else we do, can be worship – should be worship – and at its best, worship is a passionate undertaking. For that you will have to read something else.