“Loving, Hoping, and Believing,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 52–53
One of the hardest challenges our family has faced is seeing a beloved, handsome, intelligent son become a drug addict. I have often wondered, “How could this happen in our home—to one of our children?”
Heavenly Father had given us the chance to raise this fine son, yet we could not seem to teach him all we have to give. As Job, “my roarings are poured out like the waters. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. … Neither had I rest, neither was I quiet” (Job 3:24–26).
Motherhood and fatherhood bring out the nobility in each of us: we dare to try to raise up a royal and righteous seed. Our success or our seeming failure—either one is felt deeply, and guilt for seeming failure can be consuming. Did we bend the twig in the wrong direction? Our intent was pure. We had raised our child by the method we thought best. We wanted only to make everything right for him.
We got him into a treatment program. Joy filled us when he responded well. But the reprieve was short. Old buddies and addictions lured him back.
At stake conference I felt comfort when a leader spoke reassuring words about God’s great love and deep commitment to agency that allows even those who strive in righteousness, like Job, to be tested. The test is not a punishment, he said. It brings growth. So much of motherhood had brought growth already. Was this test yet another lesson?
No progress. I felt the test too much. Guilt for being a part of unsuccessful parenting blocked out hope. Then, in Chicago, another speaker opened my eyes. He explained we do not cause another person to disobey the laws of God. We influence; we do not cause. Parenting, I realized, was indeed left in the hands of imperfect beings like you and me. Yet my son is held accountable for choosing wrong, and my heart cries, He chooses in ignorance!
A gentle hand seemed to touch my heart. Dear sister, God has exempted no one from trial, not even His Firstborn. Suffering and consequences can be enlightening as can no other means.
It came to me that God was the master teacher and that He was guiding my son to new growth. I would continue to do all I could, but the choice to change was ultimately my son’s.
Solace crept into my heart. I recalled that I too had choices. So I chose to live my life the best I could to help him when it was possible, but meanwhile to believe that somewhere, sometime, in this life or in the spirit world, the gospel would light his life once again. I chose to put away fear, to pray for him, and to wait out gracefully his time of learning. I chose to hope and to find again a place for cheerfulness.
Time has passed. I am beginning to see, at long last, some bad habits dropped as the consequences take hold, and some good principles practiced as he builds a business—something I’d never thought possible. And there’s a glimmer of light in my son’s eyes once again. The road may be long, but I believe.