As the oldest son of eleven children (with seven boys), I felt more responsibility to help with family needs.
When I was nine years old, my mother almost died due to complications at the birth of one of my brothers. All of the children had to be “farmed out” to relatives until mom got well enough to take care of us. This was a very difficult trial, yet it increased my sense of responsibility.
When I was eleven, my parents became Christians and our home changed from a non-religious enviornment to a Christ-focused one. Shortly after this change, my father came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. This devastated our finances and placed a great deal of stress on family life. We even lost the home my Dad built for us and we continued to struggle through years of setbacks and limited finances.
Despite these difficult times, my parents’ faith in Christ deepened. As for me, I felt an even greater need to help dad with family needs.
At a very young age, I struggled with why God allowed these things to happen to my mom and dad. As the oldest son, I was more aware of our difficulties but I didn’t have the maturity to handle it.
Throughout our years of trials, I often prayed for God to intervene with a “BIG” solution.
My approach to God was something like those who play the lottery –– looking for a “BIG” solution to life. Prayer became like a divine lottery. “If only God would intervene and take our trials away.” I thought.
So I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. But the BIG solution never seemed to arrive.
Through this experience, I learned how I could get so focused on BIG solutions that I missed the hand of God through many smaller interventions. And we witnessed many of these during our seasons of trial in a large family.
I find that I am sometimes still affected by my experience as a youth. At times, I tend to look at all the challenges, trials and setbacks of life and ask God for BIG solutions. Although I am typically optimistic in my outlook, my childhood mechanism occasionally pushes me into a place where I lose perspective.
The way out of this feeling of despair is to trace the hand of God in the smaller blessings of life. Although I felt badly about failing to notice God’s many smaller blessings, God was so kind and merciful when I turned to Him with a grateful heart.
Although there were hard times growing up in a big family, I learned invaluable lessons about life and God — lessons I draw on many times as a spiritual leader.
- Have you ever been in the dark tunnel of doubt and discouragement?
- Do you tend to focus too much on BIG solutions?
I encourage you to trace God’s many acts of kindness in the smaller blessings of life. God will be honored and your joy will increase when you do this. The small blessings will also 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).
Ask God to help you live by these words: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
May you be blessed in the New Year!