How Having a Large Family Taught us to Have Joy During Trials

Ever have one of those moments when you look around and time seems to be in slow motion? You have one of those sparks of realization that your life is different than those around you? I had one of those recently, concerning trials.

I was sitting in church and Pastor W. was talking about suffering. We have had some serious health things come up in our church body and everyone is reeling from the stress of it. We did a massive prayer service a few Sundays ago which I highly recommend. The following Sunday, Pastor W. gave some super helpful tips about suffering. I looked around and realized how many people only experience suffering in blips. It’s not an everyday occurrence. Weird. Not like my life at all. My life has been a series of trials. Not on a daily basis, on an hourly one. I’m not complaining. Just a fact that my adult children and I have talked about before. We’re used to trials. They’re pretty normal to us. I’m not talking about major trials, although we have had our share of those as well, I’m talking about those “death by paper cuts” ones. The trials like storm clouds that keep rolling in.

My elder brother and I were catching up over the holidays one year, I shared about three of my seven kiddos. “Ania almost drove into the ditch and had to get help, Gregory wrecked his car and Amerey had a baby!”

“All in one month?” he asked.

“No. All in one day. Actually within a few hours.”

Raising a huge family with some kids from hard places can be chaotic. It can be organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Let’s just say, the sort of chaos I’m talking about is suffering/trials of various levels. Those are good teachers.

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.- James 1

 

Large (Adoptive/foster cause that’s my experience) families face trials of many kinds on a minute by minute basis (especially if you homeschool). This scene from Cheaper by the Dozen is real life for us. We did this whole scene minus the frog with spaghetti. Five plates of spaghetti on the floor.

 

Three Things Large (Adoptive or Not) Families know about trials/suffering.

 

  1. We take on the belief that “This too shall pass.” We get used to the waves of trials. Large families realize that milk can spill, be cleaned up and spill again. I’m sure other families do the same. We just have more trial runs (pun intended). One year we had a Christmas party at our home for friends and a toddler pulled an opened liter of sprite off the counter. I remember so distinctly because of her mother’s expression. Yes, I would be horrified if my toddler spilled something at someone else’s house, but it’s a minor trial, not a major one. If there isn’t someone hurt, it’s just a thing, a mess that can be cleaned up. People are more important than things.
  2. We learn how to be calm in the midst of the storm. This point really goes back to number one. I think of Jesus sleeping on the boat in the midst of the storm (kind of like a mom trying to get a few winks on the couch while kids are playing) and the disciples wake him up, “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?” Our kids have a similar version of this “Mom, don’t you care if _________.” Moms with multiples learn how to stay calm in the storm. Why? Because, there is always a storm. You have to have a big perspective and little actions. And also, expending energy for things that we can’t control becomes way too counter productive. WE learn how to persevere. In the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” that God has given him to keep him from becoming conceited. Paul has asked God three times to remove it…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.– 2 Corinthians 12: 9Text placeholder (3).png

 

  1. We learn to set aside our self interest for those of others. We become spiritually mature. It’s sink or swim. Trust God or remain in constant stress. You either rely on the grace of God or you fall apart. You either set aside your self or you end up frustrated and angry all the time.

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2: 3, 4

It’s an interesting dynamic. Once you get used to telling yourself “no” for the interest of other’s a few times, it gets easier. After a while, it gets downright joyful. I am not talking about letting someone walk all over you. I’m talking about sacrifice. Staying up late to make a costume, help with a project or bake cookies with your kiddos or turning off Netflix to read aloud with a child on your lap.

4. We realize our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. This is a biggie. I will be the first to admit, this is almost an hourly struggle. It’s hard to admit that God is in control when my circumstances are out of control or feel as if they are. Often we get the big call of God on our lives, to raise children, stay home, homeschool. start a blog, write a book or volunteer at the food pantry and the list goes on. Those are the big picture things. You can write them on a sticky note and put them on the calendar. But, what happens when you know you are supposed to write a book, but circumstances keep getting in the way, those circumstances might even be your children. What if you blocked off a chunk of time and a child ate up that time, literally and figuratively. My experience has been when I wallow in frustration, it effects me physically. I feel sick. My muscles ache from the tension.  When I realize that God directs my path and I accept it, things go so much smoother. If God gave you a job, He will equip you for it. He will if you trust Him.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].- Proverbs 3: 5,6

I’m sure you can learn all of these lessons without having a large family, but having one definitely offers many more trial runs. I’m speaking from my experience. I’m sure you have your own. However you get there -practicing perseverance helps us work towards maturity. Trials are opportunities. 

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