There are many things I learned from my mother and by watching God work in and through her. Her life epitomized the definition of what it means to really believe in God, adhere to, trust in and fully rely upon Him.1 She did this by owning her weakness. It’s the best thing I ever learned from her.
In my life, I’ve learned no one really knows who God is or what belief is until they have faced and overcome great difficulty with God’s help.
There are many similarities between my life and my mother’s. We both overcame great difficulties by admitting our weaknesses and relying on God’s strength.
I was in elementary school when I remember my mother’s emotional issues really start becoming apparent.
These emotional difficulties built through her life. I can remember her push and pull with wanting to do certain things, like be an active part of church, but being afraid.
As my brother, sister and I grew up, she became more of a recluse, waiting to stay home all the time and having wide mood swings of hyper-elation followed by deep depression. She saw many different psychiatrists, some who caused her more damage than good. She was in and out of inpatient care as I was growing up.
As the oldest, much responsibility fell to me. I was glad to do whatever I could to help my mother. However, I was a kid. There were times I was just plain confused. I know now my mother was battling her own “demons” of insecurity, manic depression, schizophrenia and agoraphobia.
She would stay home from church because she was too “nervous” to attend. When we left she’d have her Bible open in her lap. She was a Christian hanging on to every ounce of encouragement she could get from God’s word. Her emotional state, however, clouded her comprehension.
One of her favorite scriptures, though, was Psalm 34:4, “I sought (inquired of) the Lord and required Him [of necessity and on the authority of His Word], and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”2 She knew only God could do that and she clung to that promise.
It was with trepidation I left for my first semester of college 400 miles away. I knew my mother had said things like she just wished she could die and go to heaven. It bothered me to think what my siblings might come home to one day. My dad assured me everything would be fine.
“You can’t live at home forever,” he said, “I want you to go to college. The most important thing any of us can do for her is pray. You can pray at college.”
I thought about her often and prayed for my family. They were prayers of desperation, not faith. It’s a good thing others were praying, too.
I first heard about my mother’s healing from my dad. Then, he put her on the phone, which back then was unusual.
This woman was a totally different mother. She excitedly told me a friend she hadn’t seen in a long time invited her to a Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship Meeting. Mom, who hadn’t been out of the house in two years, went with her.
The man spoke on emotional healing. At the end he said God was going to touch three people and for those three to stand. My shy, anxious mother stood in a room full of strangers to claim her healing. Two others also stood.
He told them that God was going to touch them that night, but it would not be an instant healing. They would have to every day fit their lives into what the Word of God says.
For the next 20 years, I saw a transformation unfold in my mother’s life. She became a loving wife, caring mother, special grandmother and dedicated friend to several women who needed her. She was known as sweet Sister Shields in the churches where my dad pastored.
However, as an adult I remembered all the ways she was weak and I still did not want to be like her.
I told myself I needed to be strong, not weak. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I got a degree. I got a good job. I got married. I had two kids. And I got super, morbidly obese.
Food kept my emotions at an even keel on a straight and even horizontal line. Above the line was hyper-excited, angry and screaming. Below the line was depressed, sad and crying. Whenever I felt my emotions getting out of whack, I would self-medicate with high carbohydrate-laden food.
As with most addictions, it worked only for a short while until another emotion came and I would go to the thing I knew worked. Problem is, we have feelings and we can’t turn them off. There is always another emotion, which necessitated more food.
This is a much longer story than I can tell here (read my book Sweet Grace for the whole story). Suffice it to say, I realized I am a processed sugar and bread addict. Giving that up was something I had fought forever, always trying to fix it with some solution.
That’s when I understood what my mother did. Like Paul,3 she admitted her weakness. She said, “I have a problem. I’ve been trying to fix it myself. I need God’s truth to flood me with the solution.”
The solution for difficulty is never in our strength. It is always to admit our weakness and surrender to God’s perfect care.
It wasn’t until recently I realized the gift my mother gave me. By admitting her weakness and submitting to God’s authority, she gave me a road map to do the same.
When I admitted my weakness and took my hands off the solution, God became strong through me. Until then, I had tied His hands by essentially saying, “Let me just try this one more way of fixing things, then I’ll do it Your way.”
He won’t be our strength until we stop trying to fix it our way and surrender to His way.
“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.That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”3
He needs us to be active, but doing things His way and not ours. He gives us strength do it His way. He stands back and watches when we do it our way.
Whatever God has told you or shown you to do in regard to your situation is the thing He will support or show you another way.
Don’t wait for a lightning bolt to strike you. You know what it is. It is that thing you think you can’t do, but you know you must do. Do that.
1 John 1:12 AMP
2Psalm 34:4 AMP
32 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.