|I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My loving eye on you. — Psalm 32:8
I can’t tell you how many parents, when they heard I was working on this book, let me know they had a story to share. I was excited to interview them, but I had to laugh when I realized that at least two-thirds of the stories were variations on the same theme: praying for your child to get a job. Everyone who has ever had an adult child has, apparently, been down this sometimes long and winding road.
One mom told me how frustrated she had become after her son batted away one job lead after another, since they just didn’t seem to fit his “work/life balance.” (I thought she was kidding, but then I found out it’s a real thing, that today’s graduates really are looking for jobs that come complete with a gym membership, Friday happy hours, and even — since I guess they are waiting longer to have children — things like health insurance for their pets. Seriously.)
Another said her daughter didn’t want to work “in a cubicle, like Dad.”
And a third shared her son’s Goldilocks-style journey through everything from starting a business to playing in a rock band, until (and I think this is a brilliant idea) her husband invited a group of older men to serve as an advisory board in the young man’s life — a move that ultimately opened the door to a “just right” career in television.
I’d go on, but you get the idea. Plenty of kids need to figure out what to do with their lives, and plenty of parents are praying. And I’ll admit it. I didn’t expect to have to pray so hard about my own kids’ jobs — and I said as much to author Paula Rinehart when the two of us had lunch together one day. I’d just finished reading her Strong Women, Soft Hearts, and I’d loved what she’d said about trust. “Trust,” Paula had written, “hangs somewhere between knowing what your heart longs for and trying to dictate the shape or timing or outcome of your heart’s desire. It lies in the willingness to accept the particulars of how and when and where God chooses to intervene. It waits in the cool shade of surrender.”1
The cool shade of surrender. I liked that image, but I was nowhere near to experiencing it. Instead, I was working up a sweat over things like timing and outcomes in Hillary’s life.
“Hillary doesn’t have a job,” I confided over lunch. “She is back home and living in her bedroom — she’s one of those boomerang kids — and she seems content.”
“She only graduated three months ago,” Paula countered. “Trust me; she is probably not content. She’s an engineer — they think in linear terms. She is pursuing a job; she’s just not doing it the way you would.”
Well, she had that one right. Hillary was definitely not looking for a job the way I would have. I would have loaded my résumé into the barrel of a shotgun and pulled the trigger, splattering my education and experience all over any company that was hiring. But Hillary was a little more particular. She graduated with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and she wanted to be an astronaut. It was a dream she had since the fifth grade, and if she couldn’t actually wear a space suit, she at least wanted to do something with rockets.
At first, I shared Hillary’s enthusiasm. “Provide the job you have ordained for her,” I wrote in my prayer journal. “Fill her life so full of blessing that she will not be able to contain it! Let her joy be complete.”2
That’s a good, biblically based prayer for any new graduate. And I wish I could say that my positive attitude continued, and that I had the faith to believe that God puts desires in our hearts that He wants to fulfill. (He does. Psalm 37:4. I’m just saying I wish I would have had the faith to truly believe that.)
I wish I could say I had taken Paula’s words to heart and waited in “the cool shade of surrender.”
And I wish I could tell you I stood by my daughter, loving her and supporting her and letting her live at home with us, rent-free, as spring rolled into summer, and summer turned to fall, never once resenting the fact that she had polished off the last of the Starbucks K-Cups.
But I didn’t. I didn’t do any of the good-mother things I should have.
If we want to pray with faith, we must anchor our requests in God’s promises.
Instead, I spent the better part of a year grappling with fear, frustration, and even anger. And if that’s where you are in your own child’s job-hunting season, can I just say this one thing? Don’t beat yourself up. Give your worries to God, and remember that His grace is sufficient to cover all your mistakes, and His power is made perfect in your weakness.3 Hold on to that promise — and to others — because when discouragement and fear try to creep in and cripple our confidence, the Bible is the anchor for our hope. I like how author and prayer expert R. A. Torrey put it: “If I am to have faith when I pray, I must find some promise in the Word of God on which to rest my faith.”4
I hesitate to tell this story (it does not make me look good), but since we’re all in this parenting thing together, I’ll go ahead. Maybe you’ll find some helpful prayer prompts. Or maybe you’ll just read it and be glad you’re not me. Either way, here goes!
I was really proud of Hillary for academic accomplishments (she had gotten an A+ in Spacecraft Design), and I looked forward to seeing how God would use her education in the real world. But then, as one after another of her peers landed jobs with important-sounding companies, I felt the first crack in my confidence. Had she missed the hiring window? Were there no space-ish jobs to be had? Or maybe it was the reverse. Hillary would be the first to admit that decision making is not her strong suit, and I began to fear that she hadn’t gotten a job because maybe there were just too many interesting choices. The ink on her diploma was still wet, and I was already starting to panic. “Don’t You realize how late it is?” I cried out to God. “Don’t You think it’s time to step in and do something?”
I knew I was being a little dramatic, but I was also conscious of a nagging fear that I had somehow failed as a mother. Had I done something to create a lack of urgency in Hillary? Had I made her tentative or insecure? Or at the other extreme, was I being too pushy? Would it all backfire?
In the midst of my emotional hurricane, I sensed God’s rebuke. “Quiet!” He said. “Be still!”5 It was the same thing He said to the disciples in the boat one stormy night, and I felt my own winds of fear subside. I began to pray that Hillary would also be attentive to His voice.
“Be Hillary’s shepherd,” I asked, borrowing from John 10:2–4. “May she hear Your voice as You call her by name. Lead her into the grown-up world, and may she follow You.”
A month went by, during which friends offered suggestions about jobs that Hillary might want to do or cities where she might want to live. “May Hillary be willing to listen to advice and be humble, so that You will guide her and teach her,” I prayed.6 And even though I knew this was a promise given to the Israelites (and that contemporary Christians who claimed it did so knowing that it pertained more to spiritual and eternal blessings than to things like good health, good wealth, and good jobs), I pulled out Jeremiah 29:11. “I know You have plans to prosper Hillary, to give her hope and a future,” I prayed, “and I am so grateful for that. But I would also love it if part of Your long-term plans for blessing my girl could include a here-and-now job.”
July rolled around. Hillary kept researching space companies and looking at job postings, but it didn’t seem (to me, anyway) like she was making much progress. I searched the Scriptures for something — anything — that would help me cope with the chasm between my plan (“Just get a job!”) and Hillary’s (“I want to be an astronaut!”), and I came upon Proverbs 16:9 (NLT):
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
I realized that it didn’t matter whose plan we were following; the outcome was up to the Lord. My job was to get out of His way.
We can make all the plans we want — and so can our kids — but God is the one who directs our path.
That acknowledgment was my first step toward the cool shade of surrender. And the next thing I knew, Hillary had taken a job.
As a surf instructor.
…to read the rest of today’s devotion, visit our blog.
Excerpted with permission from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children by Jodie Berndt, copyright Jodie Berndt.
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If you’re in a season of launching your child into adult life maybe you’re experiencing the frustration of waiting for your child to find a job, too. Why not spend that time in prayer, specific prayer and surrender? We would love to hear who you’re praying for and what you’re praying. Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily