After recording our podcast episode on gentle parenting with depression/anxiety, I wanted to offer encouragement for those who feel like they are failing their children, especially spiritually. God hears our prayers and is not surprised or caught off guard by our weaknesses; His will cannot be thwarted by our difficulties, and He is merciful in providing the Spirit, the Word, and the Church.
Catechism and various biblical children’s resources have helped me in this area, when I feel that with my fog (depression or illness related) renders me useless. God can and does work through us; depression cannot steal our faith or our sanctification, nor can it keep our children from knowing the Lord if that is His will.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”John 10:27-30
I would also like to throw out some practical tips that have been helpful during my own seasons of battling depression, anxiety, fatigue, etc. Katie and I discussed a few big steps to take, so take a listen to the corresponding episode to hear more on coping.
-It is way better to a) avoid over committing to activities and events in the first place or b) step away from things when it becomes too much than to push through at the expense of myself, my marriage, and my children. People are generally much more understanding than we anticipate when we need to cancel plans.
-You can say no! You really can just say no or set boundaries. While it can be fine to explain your reasoning, you also don’t have to.
-Notecards. Our pastor’s wife mentioned that she used to keep notecards with Scripture in her pocket and that sometimes in the hard days of parenting littles it was all she had (the truth of the Word) and all that kept her focused on the Lord. There are a number of ways this could be put into practice, but I intend on laminating some passages on small cards and putting them on a keyring to keep on my person.
-‘Trim the fat.’ This sounds weird, but in response to me sharing how difficult of a time we are going through these days a fellow believer advised doing this: spend your limited energy on things that revolve around God’s word and truth, prayer, reading the bible, fellowship with other believers who can share in the burden and help carry you through.
-This was in relation to processing a specific relationship in my life in therapy, but I find it to be generally useful. Recognize and acknowledge what about your circumstances (big or little) that you CAN change and what you CANNOT change. This is an excellent step to take towards moving forward from being stuck and overwhelmed.
-Always remember that pain/depression/etc has a ‘shelf life.’ It does truly feel like a forever thing, but it is fleeting. This is especially true of anxiety–which certainly feels like it will never stop. There will be seasons of reprieve…or perhaps weeks, or days, or moments. And then there will be a day when there are no more sorrows at all, and we will have new bodies and enjoy our days freely worshipping the Lord together forever. Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Home was an encouragement to me on the topic of longing for relief and peace, longing to be with our Father, and the hope of our future with Him.
There will be a day when there are no more sorrows at all, and we will have new bodies and enjoy our days freely worshipping the Lord together forever.
-It is 100% the best choice to acknowledge my limitations for the day and to go from there. This is not a defeat! It is a step forward.
-It helps me to keep lists–very, very basic lists where I can mark off very, very basic tasks (ex. make coffee, get shower, get clothes, brush kid hair, brush kid teeth, pack diaper bag, etc.) Each step is a step taken, and checking off items is helpful, whereas if they are big or very general things it can be discouraging. You can include kids in making the lists lists, or they can make their own! They enjoy checking things off.
-Trim your schedule in general, make time for what is healthy and what is important in this season.
-If it feels too overwhelming, bump a task to the next day. It is highly unlikely that this will result in any kind of emergency, even if it feels that way.
-Just be with the kids. Let go of the pressure to perform or do or succeed in any sort of way and just sit with them. They will appreciate your presence in any case, on a bad day or a good day. It is in these moments of just sitting on the floor focusing on being present that I personally find small, genuine moments of pure joy with my children. These are moments I get to savor and treasure.
-If you’re having anxiety, DON’T KEEP DRINKING THE COFFEE 😂 DON’T DO IT. PUT DOWN THE MUG RIGHT NOW, FAM. GET YOSELF SOME CHAMOMILE.
-Bring kids into grounding exercises with you! The options are limitless, from stretches, sitting quietly with eyes closed focusing on what you hear, breathing techniques, etc. It can be great to do it alone, but if you don’t have the option, include the kids rather than trying to fight them off.
-Anxiety is very often fear driven or will manifest in fear. Name the fear, acknowledge the fear, and correct to reality. This is an excellent practice for adults AND children in learning to identify feelings and then to work through them.
-In a similar way, acknowledge failure/disappointment and put it to rest. We are inadequate, but Christ is not. We serve a compassionate and gracious God who offers us new mercies every moment of every day. Nothing in this life can keep us from His grace.
We are inadequate, but Christ is not.
-Repent when it is necessary. Being depressed or struggling with anxiety is not a sin! Sometimes we do sin in response to what we are feeling (I mean, I know I do often.) Go to the Lord seeking forgiveness, and reconcile with your family. How beautiful it is that when we are in Christ, His blood covers our sins and His righteousness is imputed to us! We are free to repent, free to receive forgiveness, and free to rest in His loving sacrifice.
-Ask for help before things get bad if you can recognize where the tipping point may be. Having a support system in place is vital even outside of depression, but having backup/aid in place regularly, if you can, makes reaching out far less daunting when things get very hard. People battling depression tend to cope by isolating ourselves further.
-Do not feel like a burden for needing help or support. God created us to love and serve one another, and being the recipient of care is nothing to feel guilty for, ever. One day you may have the opportunity to serve in a bigger capacity, but today may be a day to rest in the support of others, and doing so may be the very best way to care for and serve your family.
-Get professional help. It is not excessive or selfish. It is worth it. If you need help figuring out where to seek help, please reach out to the Tending Lambs admin team.
According to research, sensitive caregiving has been shown to provide the best chance for children forming secure attachments, something we know leads to better health all around. As I am working through my own upbringing, the state of my mental health, healing, ways to cope, etc, I often worry about being a ‘bad mom.’ But I find there to be hope in the philosophy of gentle parenting and gentle people-ing; they are philosophies characterized by empathy, patience, and grace–gifts that God the Father gives to us abundantly. It is vital that we keep our focus on the finished work of Christ on the cross for our own sake; our struggles and failings pale in comparison to the hope and glory that we can point our children to in Christ, even on the darkest days in this life.
Depression is very real, but it cannot steal the truth of the gospel from us or from our children.
How long, O Lord ? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord , Because He has dealt bountifully with me.Psalms 13:1-6
This article was written by Sam Matherly, co-host of the Tending Lambs podcast, and member of the Tending Lambs admin team on Facebook.