“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:11-13
“You’re fired!” are two words we never expect to hear. That kind of feedback conveys a message to the ears of the one receiving it that says; “You’re no longer worthy. You’re a failure. We don’t need you anymore. You didn’t do well. You didn’t make “the mark.” You are a loser. You are wrong. You can’t do anything right. We’re better off without you.”
The impact of those two little words can be overwhelming: “Your dreams are gone. Things won’t turn out the way you thought after all. How could I have been so stupid? What a waste of time this was… what’s wrong with me? I must not be good. I must be a failure.” Being fired from a job can pull the rug from underneath you, making you feel lost, alone, betrayed, and even, helpless to know what to do.
Oddly enough, these are exactly the same feelings parents tell me they experience when dealing with their struggling teen. The feelings of being fired are much like those of a parent coming to the realization that what they thought parenting was going to be, and what it has become are actually two distant realities. And when their parenting skills aren’t working or the outcome isn’t what they expected, the same messages of being fired, and the feelings of losing their heart’s desire are devastating.
In 1988, Jan and I were living in Branson, Missouri, where I worked for a ministry I loved. The people, the outreach, and the setting were just great. I thought I was doing really well, and that all my efforts were producing worthwhile results. I thought that my relationships were fine. Then “out of nowhere” twenty-one years ago today, came those two words – and they changed my life…”You’re Fired!”
The first people to console me were dear friends from Kanakuk Camps, Joe and Debbie White. When they visited, neither said much, but I do remember when Joe said, “Mark, this is going to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you.” I thought at the time that he was crazy, and that he had misunderstood what had just happened to me, or that he was trying to be overly optimistic. Later, his words echoed in me as I fought my hurt and disappointment. Truthfully, I wondered if God had abandoned us.
As the sting of being fired grew less painful, words from Proverbs 19 captured my attention: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” And, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
A light began to dawn in me – God’s plans were not my plans. His plans weren’t what I expected, but one day I would be able to thank him for all he had done to accomplish his purposes in my life, just as my friend Joe has predicted. I still wasn’t having the “great time” Joe had forecast for my life, but I began to understand that being fired was part of God’s plan. The loss had already begun to move me to a better place personally, and spiritually. I learned to ask better questions, listen to the answers, and move in the directions God showed me.
Ultimately, had I not been fired, Heartlight would not exist today. When I was fired, we relocated from Missouri to Texas where we purchased some land and opened our doors to struggling teens and their families. What I first saw as devastation and trouble, God used for good, not just in my life, but in the lives of thousands of others. Today, I look at my life, my work, and my happiness about fulfilling God’s purposes and I get excited. I never imagined that one day I would have opportunities to help others like I have these days. Never! It all started from that point in time when I felt hopeless, lost, and without any direction.
For parents struggling through issues with their teens, the feelings of being fired by your teen are similar to those I experienced when I was fired. It is a devastating loss. Like me, you may wonder if God has left you to deal with these problems all on your own. Let me encourage you, you may not know it, feel it, understand it, or welcome it, but I can assure you that the struggle with your teen is part of God’s plan, and it may even turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened in your life.
Hard to believe isn’t it? God is in control, and one day you will thank both Him and your child for the struggle. So let me forecast God’s great promises over your life – He promises to use everything you experience for your good, your teen’s good, and good in the lives of others – it may not happen the way you planned it, but it may, indeed, be part of God’s plans for your hope and your future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.
His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.
Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.