Promise and provision in the desert

Written by Jen Forsthoff
Published on November 04, 2022

As we care for our children with special needs we can experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. We can have moments of triumph and victory as doctors give us a clean bill of health for our children. Some of my favorite conversations with doctors have begun with, “I don’t think I need to see Charlie again…” 

Or when we look at that IEP (individualized education plan) and sit in that meeting among teachers and school staff and hear the words, “They met their goals! It’s time to write new ones.” 

Or even when a simple transition during the day, like getting dressed and out the door, moving from dinner time to bath time, or the basic bedtime routine, finally occurs with ease and peace. 

These are moments we celebrate as we see our kids thriving in spite of their diagnosis. But along with the mountain top moments, we are sure to experience the desert moments. 

When God meets us

The moments we look around and we ask ourselves, “How did we get here? And how on earth do we get out?” 

We look at the situation our child is facing, and even with a foundation of faith and hope in God, we find it difficult to look past the desert and hold onto the promise. The promise God has given to all of our families—that his plans for us are good and to prosper us, not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). 

There was a mother in the Bible who faced a desert with her child, and God met her in a profound way. Hagar, maidservant to Sarah who was the wife of Abraham, was sent into the desert with her son. 

Before leaving she was given an allotment of resources of food and water, but over time her resources ran out and her situation was becoming dire. 

Do you ever feel like you run out of resources? As a parent, have you run out of energy, run out of wisdom, run out of time to invest and help your child overcome? It’s in these moments we can easily do what Hagar did. 

She wanted to give up. She looked at her desert, looked at her son, and felt like she didn’t have what it took to keep going. It’s in these moments God meets us. 

Promises for our children

If you don’t know the story of Hagar, this desert moment becomes a divine appointment. An angel appears to her and tells her to do two things. Go to your son and pick him up.  

This simple act of getting her eyes off of the desert, off of her lack of resources, off of the pain, and onto the person, the precious gift that God gave her. 

She is redirected and walks into a miracle moment.  After she goes to her son and picks him up, God does two things. He gives her a promise (I will make him into a great nation, Genesis 21:18) and gives them provision (She opened her eyes and saw a well of water, Genesis 21:19). 

Did you know that God has promises for our children? He promises to never leave them or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:8). He will finish the work he started in them (Philippians 1:6), and he will always love them and never abandon them (Psalm 138:8). 

The more you read the word of God, the more promises you will discover and hold onto for your children. 

Did you know that God can provide what you need in the desert? God can provide for all of our needs according to his riches and glory (Philippians 4:19). 

I have had plenty of desert moments with my daughter. I get overwhelmed, and my emotions get the best of me. I get so focused on the behavior problem or diagnosis or academic lack that all I can see are the issues. 

In these moments, God invites me to quiet my heart and go to Charlie. I sit on her bed with her. I tell her I love her. I tell her that she is precious to me—that she is beautiful, strong, that God loves her. I lift her up with my words.  

And just like Hagar, God meets me and Charlie there. 

God’s goodness

As I pick her up, he picks us up. He renews my mind and gives me fresh grace to move forward. 

Whether it’s wisdom I need, a new strategy to support her, or new-found favor with a doctor or teacher. God meets us in the desert and gives us a miracle moment to move us forward.  

Maybe you are on a mountain top with your child. You are getting good reports and seeing great progress. Or maybe you are in a desert, feeling depleted and desperate for help. 

My friend, you are not alone. God wants to meet you in your desert. He wants you to go to your child. Wrap them up in your arms. Look them in the eye and tell them you love them. 

Remind yourself of the gift and the goodness of God that chose you to be the parent of your son or daughter. And allow God to give you a promise and look for the provision he has to lead you through your desert.   

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Jen Forsthoff

Jen Forsthoff is the author of Chosen for Charlie: When God Gifts You With a Special- Needs Child and Champion For Charlie: Rise Up and Advocate For Your Child. Jen and her pastor-husband, Lucas, live in Michigan with their three children. Their oldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 at birth and has opened their eyes to the needs of families just like theirs. Raising Charlie, along with her experience as a classroom teacher and in ministry, has fueled Jen’s passion to positively impact families who face the challenge of parenting a child with special needs.  She writes, speaks, and advocates for families who need a message of hope and biblical truth to shape the everyday perspective of their role as the parent and champion for their child. In both ministry and educational platforms, Jen is a voice for parents raising a special-needs child. As God has opened doors through radio, television, community events/organizations, and ministry partnerships, she continues to bring a message of hope to families. You can connect with Jen at and on Instagram @jforsthoff.

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