(This post was written and shared anonymously by of a mother of 5 children seeking to honor the Lord in this journey called parenting.)
Every once in a while, life surprises us by converting a seemingly mundane moment into a watershed. The rather mundane task of finding a book at the library to help my 15-year-old with a research paper led me to a book that breathed new hope into my parched soul. The title jumped out in bold letters, You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids. Instinctively, my hand reached out and picked it up. I flipped it over to read: “You would go to the ends of the earth for your child. So, if your teenager or young adult is in the midst of crisis due to self-injury, mental illness, depression, bullying, or destructive choices, you probably feel broken, powerless, and isolated.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Did this author know me? I had been in a hard battle for the past six months with two of my adult children. I had been reading, discussing, praying, clashing, and pleading with God for answers. There are answers here? In this book? From the public library? If you say so. . .
I was quite surprised to find this book for a number of reasons. Primarily, I was surprised that I had never heard of this title or its author, Dena Yohe, given my own personal connections to the biblical counseling world and Christian authorship in general. Secondly, it surprised me that it was being so predominately displayed in a public library. Though I checked it out, I actually put it aside for a few weeks thinking that it was probably not going to be very biblically sound since it was being endorsed in the public square. But God has a sense of humor and loves to challenge our faulty thinking!
I started the book with a cynical eye, convinced that it was going to be a weak offering of self-help platitudes and feel good warm fuzzies with little gospel power. I was wrong.
Dena has personally gone through parenting hell. She pulls no punches; she makes no excuses; she gives no empty promises. She is self-revealing, compassionate, and full of gospel hope.
After reading, You Are Not Alone, I was impacted most significantly by the reality that there is no perfect parent. You may be thinking, well, duh, I know that already. But hear me: we all start out wanting to be that perfect parent. We vowed to not make the mistakes we saw other parents make; we dedicated ourselves to do whatever it took to bring our kids up in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. We believed that if I do this, this will be the result. I used to look at troubled kids and say, “I wonder what mistakes their parent made?” And foolishly concluded, “Well, that won’t happen to me!” What brought the message home loud and clear was the example of God, Himself. God is the perfect Parent. And look how we turned out. How does knowing this help me? God having troubled kids is part of a perfect plan. He is my children’s ultimate parent. I fail. He does not. Yet, even in my failure, His plan will prevail for His glory, my good, and my children’s good.
I was challenged to understand that we need to let our children fail—even miserably. They need to learn to turn to God in their failure. We need to stop trying to fix them, their situation, or outcome. We can still love them as they struggle, but it will look vastly different than what we may have envisioned. It will take God’s grace for us to accomplish this. One of the most encouraging things we can do for our child is to work on the issues in our own life that God reveals along the path of parenting, instead of concentrating on our rescue plan for the struggling child.
Dena offers practical suggestions, passages of scripture to cling to, and a plethora of other resources to help us, parents of troubled kids, navigate these uncharted waters. Equally helpful were reflections scattered throughout the book by her daughter, Renee, giving her unique perspective on being the troubled child. Even if you aren’t a parent of a child grappling with the difficulties of life, you can benefit from this book. Parents of troubled kids are some of the most misunderstood, marginalized, and isolated subgroups in our churches today. Could God be calling you to minister to them?
I am grateful that God, in His providence, had me find this hidden gem in the most unlikely of places for this, my most unexpected of journeys. I look forward to reading it again in the weeks to come. Will you join me?