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I sat in Bible study with a group of women who appeared to have control over their lives. What would they say if they knew the turmoil mine was in? Consumed by pain and hopelessness, in my heart I prayed, "Lord, please give me something to hang on to." Our son's involvement in drugs had stripped me of any self-worth or confidence. I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I needed help, but wasn't sure exactly what kind, or how to get it.
Diana's gifted teaching compelled me to attend her weekly study. She had a passion for living and was a wellspring of spiritual insight. Time spent with her brought peace to my otherwise chaotic life.
Faced with a rebellious teenager at home who was making dangerous choices, I felt lost and alone. My identity was wrapped-up in and defined by his behavior. When he was up, so was I, but when he was down, which was most of the time, I sank even lower. Heavy with grief, I dragged myself through the responsibilities of work and family.
One morning in Bible study, Diana told us her son had rejected the faith she and her husband had raised him with. In disbelief, I listened. How could this be? I thought. Diana was the most spiritually inspiring woman I knew. She and her husband had a great marriage, cared about people, and were active in ministry. And most important, she had a deep commitment to live what she believed and taught.
When the study ended, I asked, "Diana, has your son returned to the faith and values you taught him?"
"No, but I continue to pray for him and we have a good relationship," she told me.
From my own brokenness, I asked, "How do you even get up in the morning and breathe?"
Filled with compassion she said, "How can you not? You have to keep going." On the way home, I thought about Diana's answer. Once again I prayed, "Lord, help. Show me how to get through this." I didn't realize then, Diana was God's lifeline to pull me through this stormy season.
Gasping for Air
As circumstances in my life worsened, I grew desperate. After plenty of prayer, I bolstered my courage and invited Diana to lunch. Filled with fear, I shared with her what was happening to our family. Through uncontrolled sobs, I said, "I'm drowning in this situation. I feel like a fish jerked from the water, lying in the hot sun, gasping for air."
Diana met my honesty with tender compassion. I asked if she would meet with me regularly to pray and whatever else she thought I needed. She agreed, and suggested we meet every other week.
A New View
The first thing Diana told me was, "You need to stop identifying yourself through your son's poor choices and start seeing yourself as the Lord sees you, through His eyes." Then she had me read Colossians and underline all the passages that show what God has given to me through Christ. When we met again we discussed what I'd learned. Diana wanted me to see through Scripture who Christ is and who I am in relationship to Him.
In the beginning I shed many tears. Diana listened, and provided encouragement and counsel. We prayed together, looked for answers in Scripture, and read the classic, The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. Through our studies I learned to have a more balanced view of God, and grew in my knowledge of God's Word.
Diana also shared about the difficulties she faced as a mother, and how she maintained her own identity. Her example helped me stop defining myself by my children. Instead, I saw myself through the eyes of a loving Savior. As a result I gained confidence.
We continued to meet over the next eighteen months. And because Diana invested time in cheering me on, I gained courage in my ability to face life as it came. I realized God, as a devoted Father, used these struggles to strengthen me and accomplish His purpose in my life. It was an adventure of discovery that left me changed and with a new perspective and a more positive view for my future.
More than a Cheerleader
In a number of books written in recent years people tell the stories of those who have influenced them and helped shape who they are today. A reader poll taken by Today's Christian Woman magazine two years ago asked women about the importance of having a mentor. Sixty percent of the respondents said they wished they had a mentor, but didn't know how to establish that relationship. Life can be grueling. And like athletes who face extreme tests of endurance, with excited crowds watching to see them win, we all need people who cheer us forward toward a winning life.
You may not be dealing with a rebellious teen. Maybe your struggle is a tired marriage, a difficult work situation, finances, or perhaps the daily pressures of being a parent. Whatever the circumstance, each of us needs someone who can influence us toward a positive future. When life comes crashing in, and trials bear down and threaten to crush you, wouldn't it be nice to have your own personal cheerleader?
Some may be desperate before they discover that person, and some, like me, may have to reach out and ask for help. If this describes you, look for a mature person who's had success in the area where you're struggling. If your finances have you in knots, you need someone who lives on what he or she makes, keeps a balanced checkbook, and makes financial decisions based on biblical principles.
If your marriage lacks heart, find a couple who have been married a number of years, enjoys good communication with their partner, and not only love and respect their spouse, but also has fun with that person.
When considering someone to be your mentor, you will want to verify they are a trustworthy person to confide in. You can do this by observing their behavior with other people. There's little worse than to tell someone your pain, and later find, everyone knows your story. A mentor should encourage and help you gain the confidence to grow beyond your circumstances.
Most of all, pray, and then reach out.
If I hadn't gone through such a terrible situation, I wouldn't have sought help from someone more experienced. What a privilege it was to have personal guidance at such a desperate time. Those turbulent years brought heartache and pain, but also the richest of blessings, that of a life-long friendship.
© 2010 Kathleen Kohler