Fear: When Our Children Make Choices

Teens connecting over chess

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I recently learned about another young person who took his own life.

Somehow this news never ceases to shock this mama’s heart. If I’m completely honest, I sometimes worry about my own boys. Will they one day feel so hopeless that ending their lives feels like the very best option?

My heart weeps with mamas whose children have taken control of their pain to a devastating end. I get pain. I’ve had times when I—briefly—considered suicide as the best option for ending the pain. 

Dry grasses leaning from wind

But my boys? In a culture where suicide seems to grow in popularity, will they ever feel so hopeless—so unloved—as to believe the only way to deal with it is to end it all?

The truth is, it’s very possible they’ve already contemplated this option.

Young football players

How I yearn to make them see that ending their lives is never the way to solve a problem. We’ve talked about this, and at their early-teen/pre-teen ages, they agree with me.

But what about when the emotions overwhelm them? When they get picked on, bullied, one too many times at school? What about when the hormones are raging, and that one evil voice persuades them that suicide the only way to end the pain?

Growth amid the burnscar

We—all of us—walk in and out of pain through our lives. Most of us decide to persevere through it. Many of us bear the scars, but we also hold to hope tightly enough to walk with a limp on some days.

But what if my boys, or some of their friends, decide walking through the pain isn’t worth it?

What then?

This is where I struggle.

scars and hope copy

This is where God gently reminds me that these children He gave me? They aren’t really mine. They are His gift to Hubby and me. We do our best to raise them well, to teach them about Jesus, to encourage them to fall in love with Him, and to believe that He loves them like crazy.

But they aren’t really  ours. We have the privilege of parenting them. Our boys belong to God. They are His possession, His delight, His treasures.

Leaf with hole

He knows them better than I ever will. God knows the struggles they don’t share with us. He knows the hurts they bear. Children don’t always know how to grapple with the reality that sometimes love releases a child because it has to.

What’s a mama to do with the fear of the What If? 

All I can do is this:

  1. Remember that our boys belong to God first and foremost. They are a gift to Hubby and me. We get to love them, to raise them and to guide them into adulthood, but we don’t get to determine every choice they make.
  2. Love them with all that I am. I learn so much from each of them, and I seek to love them well. In the end they must choose to embrace the truth that they are loved.     Tender grasses
  3. Pray fervently for them. I can’t control the choices they make. But I can pray for them. God knows how to move in their hearts and their lives in ways I can’t even imagine. And, He is the peace-giver for worried mamas.
  4. Trust God to guide them, to be what I cannot be for them. He loves our boys even more than I do. I must believe this and trust God to work in those unseen places in their hearts. I must choose to trust that God knows their hearts and works in them.

Does this mean He will keep them from making devastating choices?

No.

Ultimately our guys are going to choose their own paths.

Red leaves amid brown

The best things I can do are to make sure they know they are loved and that they know God loves them. I can give them my wisdom, as they accept it. Then I have to come to a place of releasing them. And trusting God to hold us all in the palm of His hand.

What about you? How do you handle the deepest fears of your heart? How do you deal with the fears that leave you feeling helpless?

Today, I’m linking up with Holly Barrett and the #RaRaLinkup at A Purposeful Faith blog.

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19 thoughts on “Fear: When Our Children Make Choices

  1. What a powerful essay, Jeanne. Raw, transparent, and true.

    Interestingly, I’ve learned that while even if I did have medical insurance, the current protocols would prevent me from having the surgery that might save me, because of age. I would be offered all-expenses-paid for assisted suicide.

    You may find it amusing to imagine my reaction.

    There is fear. I don’t know how much worse it’s going to hurt, and that’s scary, because it’s daily going past where I thought it might stop. Suicide, however, is not an option. I would not make my wife watch while I died at my own hand. That, to me, is unspeakably cruel, and I damn Brittany Maynard and her ‘death with dignity’ nonsense that was used to push the assisted suicide agenda.

    Before she killed herself, she took a 90-minute hike in the woods. I haven’t been able to do something like that for a long time.

    I used to be less judgemental; but since these cretins decided to make it something of a political point, the gloves come off.

    And honestly, you may have read between the lines to find out how I deal with fear…aggression, intransigence, and pure, unadulterated hatred. I was taught by the best, and the lessons come back to keep me going now.

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    • Andrew, I so appreciate your passionate convictions. And yes, I’ve picked up on your ways of dealing with fear. You handle it, rather than allowing it to handle you. The fact that you choose to live each day you’re given on earth—and to live it as fully as you’re able—inspires many. Myself included. Thank you for being a godly example of living well.

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  2. Jeanne, this suicide epidemic does terrify me. Especially in those so young. HOW can one so young, become some hopeless? When life is not valued, “assisted-suicide” abortion, and suicide are much more acceptable. When we are not allowed to tell people that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, by a Creator that loves them and died so they don’t have to, life can seem hopeless. I know words are cheap, but I fear that world is gonna get much harder before the end comes. It pains me to watch a world without hope waste away. That said, I’m certain that at times, everyone has had the thought,”it’d be easier…” Satan wants us to take the easy way out…but the devastation left behind is not easy for anyone. Trusting that God loves my kids (and the world) more than I do, praying. Making sure we’re communicating with our kids, AND they’re communicating with us, not just about this topic, but a good relationship is critical. Taking opportunities, as God presents, to tell people about the God that created them is another thing we can do, although I admit, I’m not always good at that.

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    • Christy, I think you’re right. When a culture devalues life, so does its citizens. We need to remind the young people in our lives that they are cherished, that their lives hold inestimable value. We need to pray they can see hope, even when the way ahead looks desperate. And we need to pray for them that the enemy will not gain the foothold of influence in their minds. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your passion today.

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  3. Thank you for digging into an ever growing trend right now with our young people. My heart sinks in fear with yours at the thought that anyone would feel so much despair that ending their life is all that is left. It really hits home when we consider that one of our own children could consider something so devastating. You bring us back to where we need to be with the reminder that we all belong to God. He has the plan and has our books already written. We are here to live out the words on the page the best we can. Beautiful words from a beautiful heart.

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    • Mary, this trend troubles me deeply. Knowing of two families close to my sphere of influence that have lost a child to suicide in the past two months frightens me. But God. We need to come back to the place of remembering God is God, of trusting He holds our children in the palm of His hands and that He loves them so, so much. You’re right. He already has the plans and the books written on each life. I’m hoping our kids see Jesus lived out in Hubby’s and my everyday living, and that they will find their hope in Him. Thank you for your kind words, my friend!

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  4. So sweet, Jeanne … sweet honesty, too. We all feel it. I like to think I am somewhat able to rest those fears on God. I sleep so good at night … so, I know there must be some peace within me, regarding the difficulties of my life. Every now and then, I’ll have a sleepless night, and I know I’m really struggling. But not often. Things seem to be getting tougher though … I pray I can hold on to peace through the things to come.

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    • Shelli, I seem to go through seasons where releasing those fears to God is easy or difficult, depending on the season. Sleeping well at night is a good sign you’re trusting and your heart is at peace. 🙂 I’m praying for you in the things to come, my friend.

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  5. This post touched me a lot. One of my close friends attempted suicide four times a couple of years ago and I relate to the fear and helplessness and being haunted by the “what ifs”, though it must be even worse as a parent.
    The points you make about loving and praying and ultimately releasing our loved ones and the situation to God are great. It took me a while to reach that point, and to realise that I couldn’t control the outcome, but I agree it’s the best thing we can do.

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    • Carly, I’m so, so sorry you’ve walked through this with a friend. What a hard, hard thing. Sometimes it’s a moment-by-moment choice to trust God with my boys (and their friends). He keeps reminding me they aren’t “mine.” They’re His. And He holds them close. Though we can’t control the outcome, we can come alongside those we love when they struggle, right? Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your story here.

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    • Debbie, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond . . . life, well you know. 🙂 It’s crazy right now. There is reassurance when we can embrace the truth that God DOES love our children and grandchildren even more than we do. As my oldest enters the age where popularity has become important, my heart breaks a little for him, as he figure s out this new season in life.

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  6. This is such a delicate topic. There are many factors that can lead a person to the point of taking their own life. When it comes to our children, the best thing we can do for them is to stay connected.
    Last night in class I listened to young pastors talking about how they schedule family time each week to insure they spend quality time with their spouses and children. Some of them had business like plans to insure they stayed on task. When they finished talking I said this,”Its kind of sad sitting here listening to how you struggle to find time for your families. What I’ve come to learn is that after losing a child I don’t need a calendar to schedule family time, I always have time for them, I just do it. Everyday is family day, every moment is important, everything they have to say is worth listening to. Family time becomes automatic after losing a child because the regret of having not taken the time in the past will haunt you for the rest of your life.” They sat quietly after I finished speaking.
    Being available to our children and spouses and listening to them won’t guarantee that they will be free from struggles, but it’s reassuring for them to know that when they reach out, they’ll find a hand waiting to take hold of them.

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    • Gene, I’m certain you added a depth of perspective those younger pastors haven’t had to consider yet. I hope they listened to your wise words. Being available, yes. When we are, we can be that safe place for our children, no matter their ages. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here.

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  7. Jeanne, you can’t be a parent and not go though internal agonies on behalf of your children sometimes. It comes with the territory. And I agree the incidence of suicide among the young is a painful, harsh reality here in the UK as well. I can relate to feeling such despair at times during my life but choosing to hold on somehow to love, hope and faith. Your words describe it so well: “Many of us bear the scars, but we also hold to hope tightly enough to walk with a limp on some days.”
    There are no pat answers here. Only an unshakeable belief that God loves our children far more than we ever could. All we can do is to be the best (good enough) parents and grandparents we can be within the bounds of our own wounded, fallen humanity. To live by God’s truth as we share our faith, make sure they know they are loved so very much and that God loves them infinitely too. And then to trust God for the rest. Having already built up a relationship of listening, sharing trust with our children should hopefully make it easier for them to open up as troubled teens.

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    • Yes, Joy. There are no easy, pat answers. Every child is unique. Each family has their own issues to work through. And we are so utterly human, aren’t we? I’m thankful God fills in our gaps, that He is available to our children. And when we show them God is trustworthy, my prayer is that our kids will have eyes to see Him in the midst of their realities, that they will see they can cling to hope because of Him. Thank you for adding your wisdom.

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  8. jeanne, this is a great article. ultimately, it is a truth that i’m not sure many parents want to deal with. it is at the heart of our deepest fears. is GOD good enough to care for my child. is He strong enough. does He love them as much as I do? we somehow think He can’t possibly even love our child as much a we do…despite the fact that he died for them. at the heart of all of it is, does He love me and is He good?

    our children do make choices…some can’t be recovered from. whatever the choices, GOD give the grace and courage for us to lean into Him and walk through the difficult ones with or without them. so not easy. maybe that is why He talks so much about living one day at a time and not borrowing from tomorrow.

    i’ll be passing this one on:)

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    • Martha, you’re so right. This is a choice that is one of my deepest fears. I guess because I’m seeing/hearing these stories and families closer to me are walking through this tragedy, it’s hitting me hard. Knowing God loves my kids way more than I do does help me release them to His care. And for those choices our kids will make that can’t be recovered from? I’ll have to lean even more into God; He’s the only one who can bring us through those times with redemption and hope.

      I like what you said about living one day at a time and not borrowing from tomorrow. Wise words there.

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