A feeling of inadequacy is a common feeling when you are a parent living with chronic pain or illness. You never feel like you are “enough,” because you always feel like you are failing at some aspect of parenting. There is never enough energy, patience, or strength for the task at hand. This can result in guilt that can smother and discourage us. It is easy to just want to give up. When you are feeling this way, try some of the following things to help you cope:
1. Have the right perspective. You are human. You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be. In her book, “Jesus Calling,” Sarah Young shares a good perspective to have when you feel like you are not enough:
“When some basic need is lacking–time, energy, money–consider yourself blessed. Your very lack is an opportunity to latch onto [God] in unashamed dependence…. Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on [God]. The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” (Philippians 4:13)
2. Embrace your weaknesses. It is hard to accept and especially embrace our weaknesses. Society teaches us to be strong, independent, and not to need anybody. Embracing our weaknesses goes against our natural tendencies, especially as parents trying to teach our kids to be strong and independent. We must realize that accepting our weaknesses does not make us weak. It simply makes us human and realistic.
The above verse in Philippians is written by one of God’s followers from the Bible named Paul. Paul had a physical ailment he called a “thorn in the flesh.” He asked God to take it away three times, but God told him instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul embraced this perspective in his life, and writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10…”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Embracing our weaknesses teaches us to look outside of ourselves, and that helps us realize that we need God. Realizing our need for God prepares our hearts to accept His love and help, and that is not a bad thing.
3. Choose to rely on God for help. As parents, we recognize the need to teach our kids to ask for help when they need it instead of just getting frustrated and throwing a tantrum. It is the same for us. Accepting help is a part of life, and recognizing our need to ask for God’s help and teach our children to do the same is important. Just like our kids have only to ask us for our help, which we will gladly give, we have only to ask God simply, “Help please, dear God.” That is all it takes to receive the grace and help God wants to give us. If you are having trouble feeling that grace and help, ask Him today to make it abundantly clear that He is there to give you help, strength, and guidance. Ask Him to help you realize and experience the help He is giving. This help may come through actual physical strength to get through the rest of the day or through a friend bringing a meal. God is a big God, and He will come through for you in one way or another. You can trust that He does care about you. God tells us that we can “cast all [our] anxieties on Him, because He cares for [us].” (1 Peter 5:7)
4. Ask others for help when you need it. There is no shame in asking for help. Everyone needs help at some point or another, whether or not chronic pain or illness is a factor. Pain and illness may actually make it easier to ask for help, and others may be more willing to give it when they understand the pain and illness you live with. Unfortunately, though, this is not alway the case, and sometimes the ones that should be offering and giving the help are not there to give it. This is an especially hard situation to deal with and requires forgiveness on our part to move past it. We must forgive those that should be there for us but are not. We may then need to look outside of our immediate circle for the help we need. Reaching out to others is important, and it teaches our kids the valuable lesson of being willing to ask for help when they need it as well.
5. Focus on the moment and task at hand. Take just one day at a time, one hour at a time, and one minute at a time. “When you begin a day with inadequate resources, you must concentrate your efforts on the present moment. This is where you are meant to live–in the present; it is the place where [God] always awaits you.” (Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young)
If the task at hand is folding laundry, then focus on that. If the task at hand is taking the kids to dance lessons, just do that, and try not to focus on anything else in that moment. Refuse to let your thoughts roam ahead and create worry in your mind. Worry robs us of the energy we need for the moment. You may have to practice living in the moment and not worrying. It is a learned skill to just take one day at a time, but it can be learned. This does not mean, of course, that you don’t plan. It just simply means that you refuse to let tomorrow steal from today.
6. Accept your limitations and do what you can. If you don’t have the energy to take the kids to the park one day, then curl up with books or a movie and popcorn instead. If you don’t have the strength to ride bikes with the family, then put a blanket on the ground and watch the kids play outside instead. Be creative and find ways to still make life good despite your limitations. Resist the natural tendency to condemn yourself for the things you cannot do. These kinds of thoughts steal from you and hold you captive to feelings of worthlessness. Instead, replace these thoughts with truthful ones. For example, instead of condemning yourself for not being able to make home-baked cookies with the kids, choose to feel good about the fact that you really care about your kids and want to spend time with them. Choose to focus on the things you can do, not what you cannot do.
7. Try not to fight the pain/illness all the time by pushing through. Pushing through is a form of denying your limitations and almost a way of punishing yourself for not having the ability to do what you think you should be able to do. Pace yourself by limiting your time doing things that require a lot of energy. For example, instead of powering through and cleaning the house in one day, divide the tasks up into daily increments. Stop yourself in the middle of your work, rest for a few minutes, and then get up and work some more, but only for a limited amount of time. Only allow yourself to work in time increments that you know are possible, and don’t work yourself to the point of exhaustion. If you do work yourself too much, you will end up wasting more time with lengthy flare-ups.
8. Give yourself grace. Sometimes you just need to quiet down and rest when you need it. This is when you learn to give yourself the grace that God wants you to have in the midst of your weakness. You may think that God is the source of the condemnation and guilt you feel. You may have a perception of God as a mean, unforgiving father with unrealistic expectations. Perhaps one of your parents was this way with you. In reality, God tells us in Romans 8:1 that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” God sent Jesus to show us a new and different way–one in which we are set free from the guilt of our inadequacy. It is when you rest and come to Him with your feelings of guilt and inadequacy that you will find His grace to carry you through. “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Grace is a actually a gift from God to us, and He wants us to give it to ourselves, too.
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Hi! My Name is Laurie, and I am a wife, mom, nurse, and patient living with fibromyalgia. I understand first-hand what life is like with chronic pain and illness. My passion is to help provide others with the spiritual encouragement and resources that I so desperately needed when I was first diagnosed. Please join us on the blog and Facebook page for regular encouragement and hope. Welcome!