I Shoulda, Coulda. Woulda
A Word of Comfort from Elizabeth Rice Handford

My baby girl announced, after being in first grade for one week, “I’m not going to bother to learn to read. It’s too hard.”

My first thought was. “Oh, dear! She’s only six, and I’ve already failed as a mother! I shoulda done better!”

That was one “failure” of motherhood not too difficult to correct. Later that day, when she asked, “Mother, can I make some cherry Kool-Aid?” I answered, “Sure, but you’ll have to read the directions on the package. Do you want me to help you read them?” (It turned out she was dyslexic; no wonder she was having trouble learning to read.)

Not so easy to handle was the guilt that oozed into my heart when our 19-year-old said, “Mother, I’m not going to go back to college. I’m going to go to Florida.”
I felt I had failed the one job I most wanted to succeed at! This child was about to throw his life away, and it was all my fault. I shoulda- what? Prayed more? I coulda-what? Spent more time with him? Instilled in him a passion for doing his best for God? I woulda-what? Loved him more? Tried harder? My dear husband reminded me,

– that we really had tried earnestly to parent him right,
– that he was accountable to God for the decisions he himself made, and
– that we could trust the God who had given him to us to keep working in his heart.

You’ll be glad to know that 40 years later, both of those dear children are happy, productive, beloved members of our family!

I’m thinking about the destructive impact those words coulda, woulda, shoulda have. There are many things I haven’t done as well as I should have, as a mother, a wife, a Sunday school teacher, an employee. But it’s time to hold tight to the truth God promised us in Romans 7:24-5:2:

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law,
but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus.

No condemnation? No condemnation! When I trusted Christ as my Savior, He forgave every sin, every inadequacy, every handicap. He promised to work on my behalf. I can live with joy because God is in control. He will help me handle the responsibilities I face.

This truth spills over into every area of life, where, when we’ve tried our best, it hasn’t been good enough. But it is also true when we haven’t been faithful, when we haven’t done our best. Let this promise from God comfort you:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

Psalm 37:23,24