Hope in Hard Times

Hope in Tough TimesElana’s dad was a recovering alcoholic.  He had been sober for nearly a year and was diligently going to AA meetings, however he was also suffering from a bout of deep depression.  Tired of fighting the inner darkness and afraid he would slip up and go back to the bottle, Elana’s father decided to give up the struggle and took his own life.

When Elana came to the Heartlight campus, she was struggling with the pain of losing her father and felt anger at his selfish decision to commit suicide.  When I asked her how she felt when she first got the news, she told me “I didn’t feel anything, really. It felt like a movie.  I put a smile on at the funeral, but it felt like I was sleepwalking.  It wasn’t until a few weeks after my dad’s death that it finally hit me.  But I still didn’t want anyone to see how much I was hurting.”

Trying to cope with grief by herself, and seeking a reprieve from the pain, Elana turned to alcohol.  Yet getting drunk only numbed the hurt for a little while and Elana quickly realized that a dependence on alcohol was not the solution to her pain.  And so this precious young lady came to Heartlight seeking help putting her life back together and finding a healthy way to deal with her pain.

All families will go through hard times.  It could be a suicide.  It could be a rebellious teenager, a bitter divorce, or a devastating health issue.  In difficult times like these, we may try to distract ourselves from the agonizing feelings we have by seeking comfort in unhealthy avenues.  But what we really need is the compassion only God can offer.  And what I told Elana is what I will share with you.


Whether it’s through death, divorce, or rebellion, people in our lives can leave us.  The pain of their abandonment is a wound that will ache for a long time.  But as you seek comfort for your child, or for yourself, remember this; God promises never to desert us.  In John 14, when Jesus told his disciples that He would be returning to heaven, He promised that the Father would give us the Holy Spirit to help us and be with us forever (John 14:16-17).  Where is God when we feel that loss in our lives?  He is right there, filling the void and comforting us.  Though sometimes it may seem like He is far away, God assures us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 NIV).


In the midst of grief, parents often feel under qualified to deal with what has been handed to them.  The job of raising a child who is processing heartache is too big.  But may I lovingly remind every mom and dad that God has chosen you to be a parent to that specific son or daughter.  Your kids are no coincidence or product of happenstance.  God placed them with you because He knew you could successfully accomplish the task.  When it feels like we don’t have what it takes to even get up in the morning, God is there to whisper, “You have more strength and faith than you think!”  Philippians 1:6 says we can be confident in knowing that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  You have a God-given purpose in the life of your family.  And God will supply you with everything you need to fulfill that role.


Emotions are a natural part of being human.  But some of us tend to push feelings to the side, hoping that they’ll just go away.  Part of experiencing God’s comfort means letting go of the grief that may be bottled up.  Maybe that means times of weeping, yelling, or writing thoughts down in a notebook.  It’s even okay to be mad.  God can take anything you throw at Him.  If you’re angry, tell Him about it.  If you’re disappointed with God, let Him know.  Read through the book of Psalms, and you’ll discover David chronicling his joy, sorrow, anger, and frustration towards the God who is ready to listen.  In all those songs, never once did God say, “Don’t say that!  I don’t want to hear it!”  The Lord encourages us to tell Him what is on our mind.  So go ahead and release your emotions to God.  As you learn to trust Him with your whole self, He’ll give you His perfect peace.


We were never meant to walk the journey of faith alone.  When grief is overwhelming you or your child, take comfort in the support of others.  Find a group of people who are going through the same things you are and start talking.  Or open up to people in your church and ask them for prayer or advice.  God often brings us comfort though the actions of others.  Don’t suffer alone.  Lean on the support system God has placed in your life.


My friend Gerard recently shared with me the story of how his family dealt with the suicide of his youngest son.  Burying your child is something no parent should have to go though.  When his son Alex died, Gerard, his wife and their remaining children struggled to make sense of a senseless tragedy.  Though there are never clear answers, Gerard came to realize that although we live in a broken world, God came to bring healing.  And the Lord can turn our pain into something with purpose.

At the funeral for Alex, Gerard watched as a hundred people heard the gospel message and stood to receive Christ.  Though it could never bring back their son, knowing that God could turn their pain into something beautiful brought immense comfort to Gerard and his family.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, but I do know this: The end of the story has already been written, and God will make all things right.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The situation you find yourself in today may seem unbearable.  But don’t give up.  Remember that God loves you and will never let you fall.  It’s in Him we find lasting comfort to get us through the toughest trials.


Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.

Training Teens to Struggle Well


Most parents strive to teach their children how to be successful.  But according to Mark Gregston, we also need to teach our teens how to struggle!  Listen to Parenting Today’s Teens as we look at the benefit of persevering in the face of challenges.  Teaching kids to struggle well … with Mark Gregston on Parenting Today’s Teens!

Special Guest:  Melody Rhode

When Our Dreams Shatter

Broken dreams are like broken plates: we hang on to them way too long because one day we’ll get around to gluing them back together, but even when you do they don’t look quite right and eventually end up in the trash anyway.”  – Anonymous

Every parent has lofty dreams for their children.  As a newborn infant cradled in your arms, you probably envisioned your son or daughter as a healthy, intelligent and mature adult with a great job and beautiful family of their own.  Maybe you even imagined your kid in the White House!

But as they grow, many of the hopeful dreams we cherished will be dashed to pieces.  It could happen as a result of some bad decisions on their part.  Or it may happen as a result of something beyond anyone’s control.  The fact of the matter is that no child can live up to every silent or spoken expectation.  So how do we prepare to deal with the heartbreak of our broken dreams?  There are a few basic action steps we need to take.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #1: Identify the Issue in Your Child

Expectations can be dashed in an instant.  Imagine your star athlete son calls you from county jail to bail him out, or your beautiful daughter confesses to a debilitating eating disorder.  Realizations like these can take the wind right out of our sails.

When we’re overcome with disappointment, the first step we need to take is identifying the reasons for our child’s behavior.  Have they moved to a new school?  Are there issues with a divorce or a re-marriage in the family?  Has there been a loss in your teen’s life?  Examining why your son or daughter is not living up to certain rules and expectations can help you identify the problem and move on a lot easier.  Now, looking for a reason for the behavior is not the same as finding an excuse for your child.  The goal is not to let them off the hook or brush the problem under the rug.  Rather, we want to dig deeper into the hearts of our kids to understand why they’re struggling.  Once we pinpoint the problem, we can work on getting past the disappointment.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #2: Move Towards Your Child

Even when you understand the reason behind your child’s behavior, it can be tough to maintain a relationship when they have crushed your expectations.  It can feel like they are rejecting you and everything good you desire for them!  However, dealing properly with broken dreams and getting back on track with your child requires a conscious movement towards the relationship instead of away from it.

This commitment to move toward your child looks different for men than for women.  For dads, dreams are often unspoken and assumed.  Men generally express their expectations through actions like cheering at their kid’s football and soccer games or pushing teens towards academic or personal achievements.  When those unspoken dreams are broken, dads tend to retreat back, withdraw and move away from the offending child.  They might even become angry or severely critical of their kids.  So for dads, moving towards your teen means articulating disappointment and responding in love instead of anger.

For moms, speaking up usually comes a little easier.  Teens probably know right up front what mom expects from them.  But when the best-laid plans are cast aside, it’s common for moms to respond by laying on guilt or becoming overly protective and demanding.  So for moms, moving towards your teen could mean resisting the urge to guilt kids into making the right decision and scaling back the control.

Even when they’re at their worst, kids need their parents.  They need our support.  Don’t let your broken hopes for your teen prevent you from maintaining a positive relationship with your child.  Move towards him or her in love, grace and comfort even when it’s the most difficult thing to do.

Dealing with Broken Dreams #3: Release Your Kids to God

As parents, the roles we play in our kid’s lives are temporary.  What will last forever is their relationship with the Lord.  But releasing our children to the mercies of God can be one of the hardest, most excruciating things in the world.  Letting a wayward son walk out the door can seem unbearable.  Watching your daughter suffer health issues or the repercussions of a painful accident is agonizing.  But as we let go of our children and give their lives over to God, we can be sure they are in the very best of hands.

If we trust our kids to God, we will never be disappointed.  The story of Hannah is a good reminder of that fact.  Burdened with infertility, Hannah prayed to God for a child every single day.  And one day, God answered her prayers and Hannah and her husband conceived a child.  Now, you would think that Hannah would hold tight to this miracle baby of hers.  I mean, she waited years to get pregnant!  But Hannah knew that she had to release her boy to the Lord.  In First Samuel 1:27-28 she said, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”  Hannah’s son went on to become the one of the greatest prophets and judges in all Israel.

Do you think Hannah struggled with broken dreams?  I’m sure she did!  But she placed her son and her expectations into the hands of God, and He did not disappoint.  Maybe it’s time to turn that prodigal son over to God.  Perhaps you need to stop grasping for control and release things to your Heavenly Father.  Because, let me tell you, God can work miracles in your child’s life!

Dreams are powerful.  They provide drive and encouragement.  I say, dream big dreams for your kids!  But remember not to hold on too tightly to those wishes.  Broken hopes and expectations are a natural part of parenthood.  So when your dream for your child does shatter, sweep up the pieces, move towards your teen and turn the keys over to God.  Only He can change our dreams into something much greater.



Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas.  For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website.  It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent.  Go to www.heartlightministries.org.  Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.  Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.