A Tantrum for My Transformation
Note: This article now appears in Desiring God’s free ebook Mom Enough, available in three electronic formats, as well as paperback.
Some days I wake up and nothing seems to go right.
The alarm fails to sound. The kids are slow to get ready. The fridge is empty of milk (after I set the table with bowls of cereal). And then the route to an appointment is filled with red lights. Soon I find myself stuck for an hour in a tiny exam room, waiting for the doctor to show up while my boys bounce off the walls. After the appointment, we stop at the grocery store on the way home (for the milk) and the boys act like wild animals broke free from a zoo. My heart sighs and I wish I could just rewind time and start the day all over.
What Should I Do?
Days like this would often leave me in despair. I felt frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. I desperately tried to figure out why my life was chaotic and how I could fix it. And then I felt guilty over my inability to do so. I thought that maybe I just needed to be more organized. If I could get control over the details of my life, maybe I wouldn’t have these stressful days. I searched the blogs and read the books, hoping to find ways to make my life run smoothly, thinking the whole time that there must be something I can do — that there must be someway to grab back control over my days.
But I really needed theology. I needed what I knew about God to press down deep into my daily life. I realized that if I believe in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty I had to face the truth that God is never surprised by any frustrating event I encounter. Spurgeon once said that even a speck of dust cannot move unless God wants it to. God is in sovereign control of all he has made and of all the details of our lives. “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6).
A Greater Plan for Me
Since this is true — since nothing happens outside God’s will and plan — then my daily parenting challenges are under his sovereign control, too. He knows about the tantrums over lost toys, the kids getting sick right before an important event, and the everyday-stress of getting children to go to sleep. He is not surprised by sibling spats, markers on the walls, or potty training fiascos. All the events of our lives that feel out of our control are actually in God’s control.
Lamentations 3:37–38 says, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” Jerry Bridges comments on this passage, “God is in control of every circumstance and every event of our lives, and he uses them, often in some mysterious way, to change us more into the likeness of Christ” (Respectable Sins, Location 629). What this means for me as a parent is that every late appointment and every empty jug of milk is sovereignly decreed and used for my good. My child’s tantrum is for my transformation.
And this truth has given me great freedom. Instead of despairing over the seemingly random and chaotic events in my life, I can view them in light of his sovereign care. When my days are long and everything seems to go wrong, I know it has all happened for a reason. In fact, all of my parenting challenges are used for my spiritual good — they are to make me more like Christ (Romans 8:28–29). This is what God is about.
He is not in the business of making my life comfortable and free of any stress. He has something greater planned for me: my holiness.
There Is Hope
In the midst of the chaos, I see Jesus and how much I need the gospel each and every moment. The God of grace who saved me from sin is the God of grace who will help me have patience in the close confines of a pediatrician’s office. Every challenging situation becomes an opportunity for me to trust him — to obey, to learn, to grow, to rely more on his grace.
So when the dryer breaks and I get a flat tire, instead of despair there is hope. Life doesn’t feel out of control if we know Who is in control. We can trust and rest in God’s sovereignty, knowing that he is using our every stress for our transformation and his glory.
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