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One of the purposes of Advent is to nurture the habit of waiting, the spiritual fruit of patience as we wait for something better.

When Paul says that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4), he acknowledges that waiting may be painful but it also produces good fruit. It makes us better people, the kind of people God created us to be.

It’s often difficult to know how to apply this truth when it comes to helping our adult children and grandchildren, especially when so many of us as parents have so much. Some of us wonder, when are we financially helping our kids too much? And when too little? There was a time that I resented my parents for not helping us financially when we really needed help as a young family. But now, have my wife and I maybe gone too far the other way in not allowing our children to struggle and wait a bit more?

I was helped by a long phone conversation I had recently with a Jim, a friend of mine since college days. Jim lives in Florida and was explaining that Shelley, their daughter, is doing pretty well now. Rebuilding her life after years of drug addiction and imprisonment has not been easy. But she now works at Taco Bell as a manager, has her own modest travel trailer, and has an ebike to get back and forth to work.

I was elated to hear about the turnaround in Shelley’s life. I also told Jim that I was curious to understand why he doesn’t help her more financially. He can afford it. Wouldn’t her life be easier if she had a car? Or a little bigger trailer? I mostly admired his restraint and wanted to understand it better.

Jim explained that Shelley likes her simple life right now. She actually turned down a promotion at Taco Bell that would have required her to buy a car. She spends a lot of time at the Salvation Army helping others in their addiction recovery. She doesn’t have to worry about car insurance, crippling car repairs or carbon footprint. She has a community at the trailer park. Life is simple.

When I wondered out loud whether I’ve maybe been too quick to swoop in and fix things for my kids, especially when it involves writing out a check, Jim told me about the day Shelley was released from prison. I will never forget it.

He had already reminded me of how bad things had gotten with Shelley before prison, how he and his now deceased wife had been forced to move into a gated condominium community in Florida to keep Shelley from breaking in and stealing from them. He explained how Shelley dropped out of their life for years. Jim knew she was in prison but they had no contact. “And get this, Duane. The day Shelley was released from prison, the state of Florida gave her $100 in cash and a bus ticket to the Florida city of her choice. hat’s it. She had no place to go and no one to turn to for help.”

Shelley survived. And eventually Shelley initiated contact with her dad. Their relationship has become more than either of them could have asked for or imagined. “And of course,” Jim says, “I have helped her with some things. I bought the ebike and she made payments back to me so she didn’t have to keep renting one. I helped her with a plane ticket and motel when she wanted to see her son in Baltimore for a special occasion. But Duane, I am so proud of Shelley, and she is so proud of herself, for how far she has come. Why would I want to get in the way of such a beautiful work of God in her life? I honestly don’t believe swooping in to relieve Shelley of the misery that goes with having little would have made her a better, more beautiful person than she is today.” I was humbled. And in awe of the way God works.

Today Shelley and Jim are soul mates. Though Shelley doesn’t use the words of faith, she knows the music of faith; She has experienced death and resurrection, forgiveness and love, patience and trust. She lives to help others. Her life has purpose. Her life is anything but easy. But what more could one want for her, especially if “more” subtracted from the beautiful things in her life right now?

It is confusing to live in a world of abundance. Especially in this Advent season, I need to be reminded and to really believe that indeed “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Duane Kelderman

Duane Kelderman has been a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church for 45 years and served for ten of those years as the Vice-President for Administration and Associate Professor of Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Alicia Mannes says:

    Thanks you, what a beautiful story!

  • RZ says:

    ” I am so proud of Shelley, and she is SO PROUD OF HERSELF……. why would I want to get in the way of such a beautiful work of God in her life”? Wow!
    ” Though Shelley doesn’t use the words of faith, she knows the music of faith.” Another wow! A profound statement of hope!
    It is a tricky balance, but natural consequences are perhaps less likely to deprive than hastily conceived charitable acts. God’s interventions
    seem to be slower-paced and less miraculous than ours, but then his motivations are undoubtedly purer.
    This story reads like a parable. Thank You!

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Such a beautiful story of redemptive love that only God can produce. Thank you for acknowledging the struggles that we, as parents, face in thinking we have to make life easier for those we love. Easy does not always help to build resilience, character, and faith, which is needed to face this world.

  • Don T says:

    We have a similar story with our daughter who is finally doing well living with two of her children in Permanent Supportive Housing in San Diego. Thanks

  • Kathryn Vilela says:

    I just love the sentence, “Though Shelley doesn’t use the words of faith, she knows the music of faith; She has experienced death and resurrection, forgiveness and love, patience and trust.”
    This will reverberate in my heart for a long time – thank you for the gift of it!

  • Phyllis Roelofs says:

    Thank you Duane, We have been there as parents. There is a very difficult fine line between helping and enabling. It is nearly 34 years ago that I wrote “Drugs, Not Our Son”, for The Banner. The last paragraph was, “For our son’s future, we continue to claim the promise of God given to him and us at his baptism—that God will be God to us and to our children. We take one day at a time.” The closing line was, “As long as there is life there is hope”. Our son has now been sober and in recovery for 5 1/2 years by his own choice. He has shared that last line during open talks at AA. Many prayers have resulted in healing and gratitude, one day at a time.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    What I like about your story, Duane, is that the Kingdom of God is not about denominations, or church membership, or redeeming institution for Christ, but about God and personas, that being a lavishly loving God who loves persons.

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    Thanks to all of you who wrote these kind and insightful comments. Decades ago Jim Kok (Pine Rest/Crystal Cathedral Jim Kok) talked about the 50% rule. If a story moves you, it will move at least 50% of the people to whom you tell the story, assuming you get them “inside” the story. Who was it who said, “We are all one at the wellspring of joy and pain.” Your comments confirm that beautifully.
    I sent the blog and your comments to Jim, the dad, today. He was gratified by your comments and said, “Wow, you have some thoughtful readers there.” Bless you all.

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