Parents are always communicating with their children. A touch of restraint on the arm, an encouraging word after school, or a hug before bed all convey important truths. From the casual smile across the dinner table to the tear-filled conversation before bed, every exchange with my kids is an opportunity....
Trials and suffering can be anywhere from stretching to downright devastating. But most people would agree that as painful as it is to endure suffering ourselves, it’s even more painful to watch our children suffer.
Whether it’s a bully at school, a friend who hurts their feelings, the loss of a loved one, a broken heart, or life-altering illness, the sufferings faced by our children point to the realities of a broken world.
All four of my children have endured suffering since they took their first breath. They each suffer immensely from the physical, emotional, and neurological pain of Lyme disease. They’ve watched our family go from financially comfortable to unemployed. They frequently feel left out of parties and school activities because of special diets and chronic pain. Our oldest is tormented by thoughts and behaviors that turn him into someone else. And our younger three have had to grapple with the devastating effects of growing up with an older sibling whose neurological Lyme disease causes them so much pain.
So what do we do when suffering strikes in our kids’ lives? How do we prepare our children for a world that involves disappointment, pain, and loss?
Lead by Example
As parents setting the example, it’s good to ask ourselves, “Do we view suffering as purely harmful and something to be avoided at all costs? Or do we have an accurate, biblical view of it?”
While suffering is not a good thing in and of itself, if we view it through a gospel-lens, we are more able to trust that the Lord will use what the enemy meant for our harm to create us into his likeness and bring him glory.
So when pain enters, how do you respond? Does it create a hard, bitter, fearful, controlling, grumbling spirit within you? Or does it drive you (with all of your confused emotions and sometimes-shaken faith) into the Word and to greater dependence on Christ?
Of course we won’t do this perfectly because we are still in the process of being sanctified. However, our children are watching and learning from our responses to the irritations we face, the detours that leave us frazzled and frustrated, and the devastating circumstances that leave us fighting for any sense of hope.
We are the ones who will begin to shape our children’s view of suffering and the power of the gospel in light of it.
Pray for Wisdom
When is it our job to protect and seek to rescue our kids from the pain of the world? When is it our job to support them through it, trusting God to use their trials to draw them to him?
Of course, this may not always be a black-and-white answer, and we will often have the tendency to want to rescue and protect our children. Therefore, we need to seek wisdom through the Word, prayer, and Christian counsel when faced with our children’s trials.
Entrust Them to God
If we think that we have the ability to control our children’s lives, we will increasingly become hover-parents, living in fear of what we can’t control, and running the risk of putting ourselves in the place of God.
But there is great freedom in realizing that God has entrusted us with children he created for his purposes, under his sovereign plan. We can teach our children about the Lord, but only he has the power to save them. We can help protect our children, but only the Lord is truly sovereign over what happens to them. We can love our children, but only the Lord can love them with a perfect love.
The best thing that we can give our children is parents who seek to know and love Christ above all else. After that, we pray for wisdom and guidance in raising them, and then trust their lives—including their suffering—into his hands.