Parenting Is Hard for a Reason

It had been a long and trying day where nothing went the way it should. I must have corrected the kids every five minutes. After refereeing fights and cleaning up messes all day, I was exhausted, irritated, and impatient.

Sitting at the dinner table that evening, it was my oldest son’s turn to give thanks. When I heard him say, “And God, could you please help mommy to be patient with us?” I realized I wasn’t the only one affected by our difficult day. I was part of the problem.

Before I had children, I considered myself a patient person. Having worked with children professionally, I felt confident in my ability to interact with them. I assumed that working with troubled children would automatically qualify me for parenting. It was soon after I had my first child that I realized just how wrong I was.

When my kids were small, I couldn’t understand why things weren’t going as they should. I read all the books. I followed each method and step listed on the pages. I did everything I was told to do. But my children didn’t always sleep the way the experts said they would. They didn’t potty train in a day. I’m not convinced they’ve learned their manners. And they didn’t (and still don’t) do what I say the first time.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it all. When parents seek to raise their children in a godly way, how can parenting still be so hard? But If I believe that God is sovereign, then I must believe he is sovereign even over all the challenges I have with my children. If they have a rough day, whine, complain, and don’t get along, it is not outside his control.

Refine and Transform

While I used to despair over my children’s imperfect sleep patterns, rambunctious behavior, and failure to say please and thank you, I now realize there is a greater purpose—my refinement. Each struggle, each exhausting day, each behavioral problem, is an opportunity for me to grow in my faith. God uses my children as mirrors to reflect to me the sin I didn’t realize resides in my heart. He is in fact using my own kids to refine and transform me.

Parenthood is tilling the soil in my heart, weeding out the sins that keep me from growing in faith. Some of the roots run deep and have entangled themselves around my heart. Before having children, I didn’t realize how deeply rooted sins like impatience, selfishness, and irritability grew in the sin-fertilized soil of my heart. It took the challenges of raising children to reveal them to me.

This weeding is sometimes a painful process. Like the tough layers of leathery dragon skin that Aslan pulled from Eustice to restore him back to a boy, the process of seeing my sin and having it rooted out of my heart is painful. Yet it is so necessary.

But even as God reveals my sins of impatience, irritability, and selfishness, he also reveals his grace. When my children are easily distracted and I respond with impatience, not only does the Spirit reveal that sin to me, he also points out to me all the ways God is patient with my own distracted heart. When struggles in parenting reveal my sin of irritability, it also shows me God’s endless forbearance. When the weeds of selfishness become apparent in my heart, I also see how selfless Christ was for me at the cross.

Time and again, the gospel of grace covers my sin, bringing me back to the cross of Christ. Jesus knew I could never be a perfect mom. He knew I couldn’t respond to my children with love and grace at every moment. He knew I’d have days where I would fail. And that’s why he came. At the cross he suffered for every time I am impatient, for every time I fail to teach and train my children, and for every time I don’t love them as he loves them.

Hard for a Reason

Parenting is hard. But as I’ve learned, it is hard for a reason. God is in the process of making all things new, including our hearts. He is pruning, weeding, and tilling the soil in our hearts to make us increasingly like Christ. One day, his work will be complete, and we’ll see the breathtaking result of his refining work in us. The weeds will be gone, and our sin will be no more.

That day when I came face to face with my sins at the dinner table, I count it as grace. For it is God’s gracious love that desires to rid me of the sins that keep me from him. And after my son prayed, I asked him for grace and forgiveness for my impatience that day. Reminding him that I am sinner just as he is, I used the opportunity to point him to the grace of Christ who bore all our sins on the cross.

May we all embrace the challenges of parenting, knowing that each frustrating moment is an opportunity for growth—one pulled weed at a time.

  • Steve Cornell

    Thank you for this transparent encouragement! May many parents be lifted through these hope-filled words. There’s a reason why Proverbs emphasizes diligence in parenting. As one looking back on raising four energetic, competitive children, I echoe your words and encourage daily, gospel-postured faithfulness.

    Parents can resonate with the prayer of John Newton:

    “I asked the Lord, that I might grow
 In faith, and love, and every grace;
 Might more of His salvation know,
 And seek more earnestly His face.

    I hoped that in some favored hour
 At once He’d answer my request,
 and by His love’s constraining power
 Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

    Instead of this, He made me feel
 the hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry powers of hell 
Assault my soul in every part. Yea more, with His own hand He seemed 
Intent to aggravate my woe;
 Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
 Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

    ‘Lord, why is this?’ I trembling cried,
`Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?’
 `This in this way,’ the Lord replied,
`I answer prayer for grace and faith. These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
 And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
 That thou mayst seek thy all in Me.’” (These Inward Trials, by John Newton)

    • Christina

      I love this quote from John Newton! Thanks so much for sharing it and for your encouraging comment.

  • Seth Fuller

    Christina, thanks for sharing. I echo so many of the same sentiments. So much of what you said resonates with me as well. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    I also wrote a similar post in the context of teaching my children. I’ll share it with you here:

    For His glory,

    Seth Fuller

    • Christina

      Thanks! I appreciate it. Parenting is a journey, one in which we can encourage one another. Blessings!

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  • Melissa Deming

    Wow, I really needed that today! To be reminded of God’s beautiful purpose and larger picture of his lovely grace behind parenting is food for the soul. Thank you for the reminder!

    • Christina

      Thanks, Melissa! It’s something I have to remind myself of everyday. I am quick to forget! I appreciate you visiting!

  • Nancy Franson

    Christina! How great, finding your words over here.

    Lately I’ve found myself telling young mothers that if there were a perfect book or method for raising children, then they and we wouldn’t really need Jesus, would we?

    • Christina

      Oh so true! An important truth to remember. I loved meeting you here. Nancy!

  • Traci Michele

    This was so good! I was nodding and tearing up all the way through! Oh how parenting refines us, one way or another! God is so gracious to refine us along this journey isn’t He?

    Oh, and it is SO SO important to confess our sins and as for forgiveness when necessary to our children! What an example of humility and grace!

    Love, Traci Michele @Ordinary Inspirations

    • Christina

      Yes, He is so gracious! Thanks, Traci!

  • Nikki

    Oh yes. I was THE best, model parent…before I had kids. Then God showed me He is the only one who can say that!

    And my, how I need to lean in on Him. Constantly.

    one pulled weed at a time…you described my everyday.
    I’ve never loved grace more! Thank You, Father, for teaching me these lessons through parenting! What a gift…

    • Christina

      It is a gift, Nikki. I’m not sure that I even understood grace before I had children. And weeds, yes, that is what it’s like:) Thank you, sweet friend!

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  • Lisa Tarplee

    Hard truth. Amazing the way that parenting and its struggles point to our need for a Savior. So thankful for His unending grace and mercy as well as His loving arms that catch us and hold us as He refines and molds us.

    • Christina

      Parenting has forced me to admit that I can’t do it by myself. It has humbled and stripped me in so many ways. And it continues to do so. I need His grace everyday!

  • Brian Richards

    Thank you very much for this article. As a pastor, seminary student, husband, and father of a two year old and a nine month old, this was very encouraging to hear.

    • Christina

      I appreciate it! Some days, parenting is a hard road to travel. I’m so thankful for His grace that carries me. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Emily

    I totally agree! Parenting has been humbling for me too! My children have brought to the surface my sins of impatience and irritability. Thankfully I have been driven to the cross many times for forgiveness. As Christians we have the blessing of starting over when we fail our children, and the promise that Christ will help us and make up for our weaknesses. My prayer is for a new attitude, a Christlike love.

    • Christina

      Yes, so true! Each day brings fresh mercy and grace. And I need it! I realize more and more how much I need a Savior. Thanks for your kind words:)

  • Eric Shin

    Ms. Christina Fox,

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    Although I’m not a parent, God used this article to speak to me.
    It was refreshing to be reminded once again that “…God is sovereign over all the challenges I have…,” “Each struggle, each exhausting day, each behavior problem, is an opportunity for me to grow in faith,” “The process of seeing my sin and having it rooted out of my heart is painful. Yet it is so necessary,” and “God is in the process of making all things new, including our hearts.”
    Thank you so much for the reminder.

    Have a nice weekend and blessings to you and your family.

    – Eric

    • Christina

      Thank you! Parenting is just one area God uses to refine us. And the truth of His sovereignty at work is true in all situations, not just parenting. The person who cuts me off in traffic provides an opportunity for me to confront my sin of anger, for example. I appreciate your kind comment, many blessings to you!

  • Jessalyn Hutto

    Thank you for the honest and biblical encouragement. It has been a long day here with my little ones and it can be so easy to miss God as he works through the difficult days. <3

    • Christina

      Thanks, Jessalyn. I know just what you mean!

  • Tim Wright


    I enjoyed this article but I was confused by a comment in the article which to how I read scriptures is not accurate.

    It is when this person says:

    God uses my children as mirrors to reflect to me the sin I didn’t realize resides in my heart.

    I thought when I came to Christ Ezekiel 36 took place. I believe that I have a good heart now that Christ dwells in me. Do I sin, I still do, but from my limited understanding it is my flesh/soul aspect not my heart. Even Jesus acknowledges that good comes out of a good heart. I wonder what you think about what I think. Thanks Tim

    I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

    “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:45

    • Christina

      Thank you for your comment. I guess I am using the word heart in a broad sense. Unfortunately, I am not a theologian, just a mom:) My intention for the article was just to share how God uses the challenges of parenting to refine me. The work God is doing to refine me is part of the process of me becoming who I already am in Christ. Because of Christ, God looks at me and sees the righteousness of Christ, His perfect life lived for me. But sin still lingers and the Holy Spirit helps to convict and point out that sin. I can relate to Paul’s description in Romans of his battle with sin. The good I want to do, I don’t do and I do the things I don’t want to do. I’m so thankful for the gospel of grace that I can return to each day and apply what Christ has done for me. I appreciate you reading the article. Have a blessed day!

  • Kim

    I think many moms have had moments like that at the dinner table. It gets even harder when one’s children are young adults and they articulate your wrongs in an adult matter. It introduces one to a whole new understanding of “ouch.”

    • Christina

      I can only imagine! I am not too far away from that stage:) Thanks for visiting!

  • Barbara

    Brilliant. Agreed. Amen.

    • Christina

      Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate you stopping by to read my stumbling words of how God is at work in me. Blessings to you!

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  • Andrew

    Wow. So good of you to share this painful moment. I think we’ve all been there.

  • Rob

    I don’t have any experience raisin children, but am preparing for the future. Articles like this are so helpful!! Thank you for your insights and wisdom. May God bless you and your family. Thank you for being honest and sharing your thoughts.

  • Tom

    Genesis 5:22 says,

    And Enoch walked with God after he had begotten Methuselah three hundred years, and he begot more sons and daughters.

    The Bible doesn’t mention his walking with God UNTIL he had children. Children do have a way of exposing what’s in us faster than most things that God would otherwise use. We are normally disappointed and sometimes scared of our reaction towards our children. This causes us to walk with God and raise our children together with Him.

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  • Misha

    What a valuable reminder this is to me Christina. Thank you!! God is sanctifying me through every situation and circumstance no matter how small it seams.

  • Karrie

    This is a priceless blogpost. Thank you!!

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