As the oldest son of eleven children (seven boys), growing up in a large family came with a deeper sense of responsibility to help with the needs of our home. Two major crisis increased the intensity of my sense of responsibility.
When I was nine years old, my mother almost died from complications at the birth of one of my brothers. All of the other children had to be farmed out to relatives until mom got well enough to take care of us. This was a very difficult trial for me as a young boy but it only increased my sense of responsibility.
When I was eleven years old, the second major crisis came. Shortly after my parents became followers of Christ, my father was inflicted with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. This all but devastated our finances. We lost the home my Dad had built for us and then struggled through years of limited finances.
Through these difficulties, my parents grew in their faith and I felt an even greater need to help my dad with the family. Yet I faced my own challenges with learning disabilities and adjustments to moving nine different times. I also struggled with why God allowed these things to happen to my mom and dad. As the oldest son, I was much more aware of the difficulties but I didn’t have the maturity to process it.
Throughout those years, I often prayed for God to intervene with a “BIG” solution to our problems.
My approach to God was something like those who play the lottery –– looking for a “BIG” solution to life. Prayer becomes like a divine lottery. “If only God would intervene and take our trials away.” I thought. I prayed and prayed and prayed. But the BIG solution never seem to come.
Sometimes I would get so focused on BIG solutions that I missed the hand of God through many smaller graces He brought to us. And we witnessed many of these during the difficulties of life in a big family.
Sometimes I am still affected by my childhood experiences. This happens when I look at all the challenges and problems of life and ask God for BIG solutions. Although I am typically very optimistic, my childhood mechanism occasionally pushes me into a loss of perspective. The only way out of this feeling of despair is to remind myself of God’s ultimate undeserved goodness in becoming my Savior and to trace the hand of God in the many smaller blessings of life.
When I go through this process, I sometimes feel badly for failing to notice God’s many blessings in my life. But God is kind and merciful when we turn to Him with grateful hearts.
Although times were hard in a big family, I learned invaluable lessons about life and God—lessons I draw upon many times as a spiritual leader. While I believe God sometimes chooses to bring big solutions, fixation on such interventions can be harmful. As I matured, I learned to thank God for the process of my trials because it keeps me dependant upon Him (see: Deuteronomy 8:1-5).
- Have you ever been in a dark tunnel of doubt and discouragement?
- Do you tend to focus too much on BIG solutions?
Lean into the father of mercies and the God of all comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-4) and remind yourself of God’s goodness in His gift of salvation (Romans 5:8; 8:28-38; Titus 3:1-7).
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Trace God’s many displays of kindness in the smaller blessings of life. In doing this, God will be honored and your joy renewed. The smaller blessings will take on much greater significance and these words of Scripture will become more deeply meaningful: “the Lord’s compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).