Note from Randy: I’ve long told parents that saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” may teach our children more than we would have by never failing, and far more than pretending we never fail. Likewise, sharing honestly with our children about our weaknesses and our need for God’s strength can also teach them a great deal, as our friend Vaneetha Rendall Risner so beautifully explains in this powerful article. She writes, “Parenting through weakness can bring God glory. As we rely on God and his grace, he shines through our lives.”
God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We bring the weakness; He brings the power. This is God’s grace—He can redeem our weaknesses and even use them for great good.
By Vaneetha Rendall Risner
“Would you please, please come with me? I really want you to be there. All the other moms are going.”
My daughter was pleading with me to volunteer at field day for her kindergarten class. How could I deny such an earnest request? But since I couldn’t navigate the outdoors without assistance, I had to say no once again. She nodded her head understandingly when I explained why — she was used to disappointment. She didn’t know how much I wanted to go, how I longed to connect with her at school, or how guilty I felt that she was missing out.
Before I had children, my disability primarily impacted me. I could choose what I wanted to do, and I taught myself to want only those activities that were physically possible for me. But after I had children, I was faced with more challenging responsibilities and requests, constant reminders of what I couldn’t do. I felt guilty and responsible for what my girls lacked due to my limitations.
Over the years, I’ve met other parents who also feel inadequate — financial constraints, lack of education, limited resources, one all-consuming child, their own emotional battles, familial dysfunction, or a whole litany of other struggles. Like me, they were convinced that their inabilities put their children at a disadvantage.
Yet God, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen us to be the parents of our children.
In my frailty, I rely more on God. I need his power and wisdom because I don’t have power and wisdom in myself. And I have discovered that since “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25), I have unimaginable resources at my disposal.
When I ask for wisdom, God generously gives it. When I wait on the Lord, he renews my strength. When I am weary and troubled, he gives me rest. When I turn to God, he gives me everything I need.
My dependence and limitations have become my greatest strengths because they push me to pray before I answer or act. When I could easily do what my children asked, I didn’t seek God’s wisdom or help. I just responded. I didn’t consider alternatives or potential pitfalls. I assumed I had it under control.
The Israelites were once deceived by their Gibeonite neighbors, who claimed to have come from a far-off land and presented torn sacks, dried-out provisions, and worn-out clothes as proof. The Israelites “did not ask counsel from the Lord” (Joshua 9:14) because it seemed obvious what to do. I can relate to their actions, as I look back at the impulsive decisions I made without giving them much thought. Decisions I often regretted later. But when my children asked me for things that were beyond my abilities, I had to ask God for wisdom and help. Just as Jehoshaphat did when he said to the Lord, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
In my weakness, I begged God for tangible, specific help and saw concrete answers to prayer. The more I asked, the more God answered. The more I needed, the more he provided. The more I sought God, the more easily I found him. I would have missed out on untold blessings had I not been so needy.
My physical condition involves increasing pain and weakness, so I daily crawled to Jesus weary and heavy laden, and he gave me rest. I had to let go of my desire to do things perfectly, to meet everyone else’s needs, to wear myself out to the point of exhaustion. I had once been Martha, pulled apart by much serving, but my disability forced me into the role of Mary (Luke 10:38–42). Yet it was only then that I discovered the richness of sitting at Jesus’s feet, trusting him with all that felt undone.
God used my weakness to make me a better mother, and to forge a deeper character in my children.
When faced with something I couldn’t do, I sometimes wondered if my daughters would have been better off in a different family. But God reassured me that I was handpicked by him to address their unique strengths and struggles. Christ equips and strengthens us for everything our children need (Philippians 4:13, 19), so we need not feel inadequate.
While I’d been consumed with what I couldn’t do for my children, I almost missed what God was doing in them because of my weakness. Now I see they are both creative problem-solvers. They show up for people and keep their commitments.
They are also compassionate and caring, noticing what people need and looking out for people with differing abilities. Even as small children, they never stared or asked strangers, “What’s wrong with you?” Once, when my older daughter’s first-grade teacher dropped her papers in class, Katie immediately jumped up from her seat across the room to pick them up. None of the other students even attempted to get up. When the teacher recounted the story, I realized that God was shaping my daughters through my disability in ways I hadn’t even noticed.
My younger daughter saw the blessing of crying out to God one rainy night when I was driving her to her basketball game in a neighboring town. In the stop-and-go traffic, my leg began to give out, and there was no way to get off the road. Tears rolled down my cheeks — I felt inadequate, scared, and overwhelmed yet again.
When Kristi realized what was happening, she immediately said aloud, “God, please make my mom’s leg feel stronger and the traffic clear up.” We took turns praying back and forth together. Within minutes, we stopped seeing red brake lights, and the cramping in my leg eased as we made it to the game just in time. On the way home, she commented on how God answered our prayers.
Our weaknesses could be the making of our children’s faith. They learn to rely on God for the things we cannot do. They watch us pray. They see our limitations. And they get a front-row seat to see how God provides. As they watch our weak and flawed earthen vessels up close, they see the surpassing power that belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7). In this way, our cracks help them see.
Parenting through weakness can bring God glory. As we rely on God and his grace, he shines through our lives. God’s grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). What more could we want?
This article originally appeared on Desiring God, and is used with permission of the author.