How to Love


Our 32-year-old son, Chris, doesn’t want to be treated like a child. He no longer wants me to meet his needs when he’s hurting. His desires are perfectly normal. Since he lives with us, I observe hints of difficulties. And sense his internal turmoil.

On his good days, it’s easy to get clues he’s feeling fine. He might join me on errands. Or stop to chat with me while passing through the kitchen.

For so many years, that ability to discern his emotional or mental needs served us well. Now, he doesn’t reach out. I only detect clues he’s in need.

He comes and goes and I watch how he walks.

He seems slumped over. Is that just my imagination?

I catch a glimpse of his face, careful to look without him noticing.

He looks sad. Or is that just fatigue from working out at the gym?

As long as he remains somewhat active, I know he’s not isolating. That’s a good thing. When he conceals himself in his room, I’m left to wonder.

How do I stop being a mom? Is it possible to extinguish the impulses to ease a child’s pain? How do others keep from worrying?

When a young child is hurting and vulnerable, our sole priority is to help. A mother’s instinct is to nurture, protect, and comfort. We’re drawn to minister to needs. It’s as natural as breathing. Impossible to stop for any length of time.

So how does a mom love a mature son who has serious mental illness (MI)?  Differently.

A ruler in the Bible shows us how we can love our adult son or daughter differently. Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. What did do?

Mark 4:22-24 tells us Jairus humbled himself and went to Jesus. Seeking help from the Great Physician. One who could heal his daughter.

Jesus agreed to go to his daughter. But then Christ stopped to heal another woman with a blood flow (Mark 5:25-34).

Can you imagine what Jairus must have felt? Surely, he was thinking: No, no, no…don’t stop now. There’s no time…my daughter is dying. PLEASE, Lord, come with me NOW! You can heal that woman later.

We can all relate to delays. Waiting in traffic is one thing. Waiting for God’s answer to our prayers is another thing. Especially when we’re praying for God to provide His peace and clarity of thought for our child with MI. That kind of waiting could lead to depression if we don’t hold onto our faith and keep our eyes fixed on Him. With our head buried deep in His Word.

Finally, Jesus healed the woman. But then the grateful woman had to tell Christ her “whole” story (Mark 5:33). Was Jairus feeling panicked? Surely, it didn’t help when others came spreading their fear. Informing him that “your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:35).

But, Christ calmed his fears.

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’” (Mark 5:36).

Then Jesus raised up the girl (Mark 5:41-42).

What’s the message for us? When Christ delays, He’s still working. When fears bombard us, He’ll provide comfort. And remind us to keep believing and not waver in our faith.

When we don’t know what’s going on, we can trust in what we DO know. We do know God is still in control. He hears our prayers. He’s promised to comfort us. He’ll provide all we need.

Do you have an adult child with MI? In what ways do you show your love?

Casting Crowns’ song reminds us “TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS.”

4 thoughts on “How to Love

  1. Dear Vicki,
    I commented yesterday but it never went thru! Talk about frustrated!

    Anyways, just wanted to thank you for your words. I am now getting letters from Keith and they are such a blessing, as is our only way to communicate. So, I can discern some of his feelings, but he finds it very hard to write his emotions down and doesn’t like to write anyways. He prints like a little boy would. It often breaks my heart when I read them and I usually read them more than once as its the only way I can feel just a little bit closer to him.

    If he was living with us like Chris, I would find it extremely difficult with his emotions, behaviors, depression, etc. as you are describing what you go through every day. Of course, he will never live with us, as entirely different situation.

    So, like you, I pray, I cry , I call,out to God for peace and serenity in the midst of chaos. It’s a very rough road with these adult children, who really can’t take careof themselves but so badly just want to be normal , whatever that is, like everyone else!

    Keith has often said to me, why me, Mom, why am I an alcoholic, why is my brain so screwed up? I have no answers for him. I just say, honey, I don’t know, I have asked the same questions as a parent, why, why! I tell him only God knows , we will never understand till we get to heaven and till then, we must trust and obey in Him. He is not there yet by a long shot, but I pray this last mess, is getting him closer. I don’t know. Only God does. I just have to trust and obey. That song has gotten me thru a lot.



    • Hi Patty,
      I’m so glad to hear you’re now getting letters from Keith. Considering it’s so hard for him to write and express his emotions, those letters are truly a labor of love. What a blessing! I can completely understand how grateful you must be to communicate with him…any communication I have with Chris is like an oasis in a desert. My mommy heart is sometimes parched… seeking refreshing “normal” communication with Chris.
      There were times when Chris asked those why questions (during his break from reality). Like you, I had no answers. How can we? We travel through this world in its sinful state, on our way to a far better home in heaven. Where everything WILL make sense. Sometimes my response to Chris’s why questions have been, “It helps instead to ask, ‘Who’…Who can help me, comfort me, heal me, guide me…?” It all boils down to what you said so simply: we “just have to trust and obey.” Easy to say…hard to do.
      My heart joins yours in praying that Keith’s “last mess” will get him closer to God.
      Surely we travel a “very rough road” with our adult children. I’m grateful for the bond we share as we journey together. You’re great example to me and reminder to others to continually pray and call out to God for peace and serenity in the midst of our chaos.
      In His strength,

  2. Dear Vicki,

    Just wanted to ask a favor of you. I could use some prayer regarding my husband and Keith’s brother. They both have such hard hearts for Keith and I was again made keenly aware of this in the last week. My husband says he is done, too much pain and hurt. I already know that, but it hurts like a fresh wound everytime i again hear it! I usually try to avoid these conversations, if you can call them that, at all costs, but they do happen, as I do not consider Keith out of my life, my heart, my soul, my being. But they do.

    I just told my son and my husband that they will be judged for this and will have to answer to our Father as we all will. And my husband says, today, I guess I will just have to be judged!

    Really, I am holding back the tears today as do not want to cry around my husband. I know you can’t know the pain of the kind of incarceration for your son as I do. But, I feel, you know the pain of imprisionment with the fallout of Chris’s MI. One does not have to be behind bars to be imprisoned as I feel imprisoned in my life, at various times, with what my life is and I’m pretty sure you understand these feelings for yourself, Chris and your family. But I know The Lord will set me (us) free; I just have to ask and believe. Life is gettting so much harder as I get older. I am in despair today in knowing my husband will not take me to see Keith when he comes out and I am too ill to make the trip by myself. (I know he is in pain too, he does love Keith but will or cannot deal with the pain anymore) . This is let alone what this will do to Keith( his father rejecting him) But I digress, God will make a way, even when there seems to be no way!! That is also one of my most favorite hymns.

    Your name came to my mind just now as in so much emotional pain and so angry with my husband and the tears are soso hard to hold back. I must give it all to Him; I do not want to hold the anger and unforgiveness in my spirit, I know what I must do, pray pray, pray. Help me ,Lord, take these burdens and give me peace.

    I do not want to burden you but just needed to vent and God knew and told me you would understand.

    Your sister in Christ,


  3. Dear Patty,
    I’m so sorry to hear about the current details of your situation. I can’t fully know how you feel, but I have some idea of your struggles. I certainly understand the sorrow over a son with MI in the context of my own illness. I also know the challenges of trying to forgive a husband. There was a time in my marriage when there seemed to be no way for me to forgive again. But as your favorite hymn (and mine) says, “God will make a way when there seems to be no way.” God resurrected our marriage by helping me to forgive. It was only after I stopped trying to forgive in my own strength that the Lord helped me forgive. I needed divine intervention to heal the hurts and build trust.
    Yes, prayer…prayer…prayer…prayer is the answer. I’ll add ‘specific’ to that sentence. The Lord might lift your despair by providing someone else to drive you to Keith when he’s released. That will be my prayer.
    By the way, I’m an expert crier…never one to hold back the tears. My pastor once said God must collect my tears in a pool! Allow God to collect yours in His bottle.
    Thanks for sharing. Don’t ever think it’s a burden. We can comfort one another in the Lord in unique ways (by how He’s helped us).
    Together in His grip,

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