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“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering . . . ” (Phil. 3:10)

This morning I received a “Care Page” update from a friend whose young daughter is ill with cancer. I appreciate getting the Care Page updates so that I know how people are doing and how best to pray for them.

This morning my 16-year-old son had a serious rage. He was aggressive toward me and toward our dog; he caused damage to our home. Each time he melts down and has a rage, my husband and I wonder, “Is this the time he goes to the hospital?” Our son has bipolar disorder and has been very unstable the past few weeks, but we don’t post Care Page updates on him.

Mental illness still carries a stigma. Too often we feel judged for our poor parenting. We’ve been told that we allow our son to call all the shots and to manipulate us. Although my husband and I are open with family and friends about our son and the struggles we face daily, we want to protect our son. We don’t publicly post the details of his illness (or publicly ask for prayer in church).

It’s easy to feel isolated in this struggle. By the time you figure out that your child is not just a “bad kid,” you’ve already begun to pull back from many social events. It’s hard when your child is always the one causing the problems at family and social gatherings. It’s easier to just stay home.

When our child’s illness flares up, life centers around appointments with our family therapist, psychiatrist, the schoolteachers, and counselor. We spend a lot of time and energy just trying to keep it all together. The psychiatry road is a difficult road to maneuver. Who can possibly understand the challenges we’re faced with?

I know this all sounds bleak. To be honest, there are many times I’ve asked God to "take this cup from us." But God has been so faithful through it all. He’s actively taught us about his love. He’s opened our hearts to the marginalized in our society. God has also taught us much about suffering. The way we suffer for our young son is nothing compared to how God suffers for his children.

Through our son’s illness we have a taste of what Paul was talking about when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering…” (Phil. 3:10). God knows exactly what our suffering feels like. He is feeling it, too. My husband and I share a special bond because of what we experience with our son. No one else walks this road with us minute by minute. In this same way, we also share a special bond with our Father. He’s holding our hands as he walks this road with us, and we trust him for our next step. 

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