One of the hardest things about being a parent is watching our children struggle or suffer in some way.
When my oldest was four, he had to have sinus surgery. It was not only difficult to watch him go through it but also difficult knowing he didn’t quite understand all that was happening. Even my attempts to explain that the pain he experienced was for a good reason—it would ultimately make him better—was difficult.
We live in a fallen world, and at some point in their lives, our children will endure hardship and suffering. It’s one thing to acknowledge the truth of suffering in our own lives, but harder to face it in our children’s lives. If it were possible, we’d bear their suffering for them. We love them and want to keep them from hardship.
Certainly, we have a responsibility to keep our children from harm. We teach them to look both ways before they cross the street. We train them how to respond to suspicious people who offer them candy or ask for help to find a missing pet. We show them how to dial 911 in case of emergency and make them wear a helmet when they ride a bike. These are good and right things to do. There is wisdom in that.
But life in a fallen world means we can’t protect our children from everything. They may wear a helmet and still fall off their bike and break an arm. Accidents happen. We can’t protect them from failure either. No matter how much we invest in tutoring or training, they may still fail at something. They will also experience disappointment, heartache, and grief in their life. They may not reach the goals they pursue. They may even experience deep suffering. This is all hard to think about, but it’s true.
The question is, what does the gospel have to say to this? How is Jesus our help and hope when our children suffer?
Look to Christ
As we witness the hardships in our children’s lives, it is important that we look to Christ and that we help our children to look to him as well. We need to look to the gospel and remember who Christ is and what he did for us in the gospel. We need to place our hope in his work of redemption, for he alone can save. Only he can redeem the hardships our children endure.
We must remember his preeminence over all things, including our children’s hearts. When we worry or fear about our children because of the struggles they are going through, we must trust that the God who ordered the planets is the same God who orders the events in their lives. He is the Author of their story; his name is on the cover. Only he knows the ending. When our hearts weep over the hard things our children face, we have to remember our Savior weeps too. He grieves the sin and sorrow of this fallen world, so much so, he came to do something about it. He gave of his own life to seek and save the lost.
Our children need to hear the gospel as well. When they face difficulties and challenges in their life, we need to point them to Jesus and what he has done for them in his perfect life and sacrificial death. If they have not already embraced the gospel by faith, we need to use their hardships as opportunities to share the gospel with them, showing them their need for what Christ has done. If our children have already proclaimed faith, we need to help them see how their trial is an opportunity for them to learn and grow in their faith and in their love for their Savior.
May all our children’s struggles bring them (and us) to the feet of Jesus.
A Gospel Prayer When Our Children Are Hurting
Dear Father, I come before you with a broken heart. I weep over my child’s suffering and pain. I want to cry out, “Why, Lord? Why my child?” I want to take it away or make it mine instead. But then I remember that you understand what it is like to see your own Son suffer. Before time began, you planned a way to rescue us from sin, by having your own Son suffer for us. You saw him tortured, beaten, and bruised. You heard him weep in the garden as he considered the weight of his suffering to come. And then you laid out your wrath on him that we deserved.
Forgive me when I forget the hope I have in the gospel. Forgive me when I don’t look at my children’s sufferings through the lens of what Jesus did, but instead look for someone or something to blame. Or attempt to wrap them up in protective bubble wrap in the hopes that nothing bad will happen. Or live in despair.
Father, please redeem this hardship in my child’s life. If it be your will, remove it. If it is not your will to remove it, please use it for your glory and their good. Use it to draw them to yourself and the gospel. Use it to change and sanctify them. Use it to shape their heart for eternity. And use it in my own heart to draw me nearer to you.
Suffering loosens my grip on this world and makes me long for my eternal home. Please come quickly Lord! Come and make our home with you. Give us new bodies and new hearts. I long to sing your praises before the throne of God. Until that day comes, help me and my children to live for you, even in the hardships and trials of life. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Note: This post is inspired by Christina’s new book, Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms.