Helping Our Kids In Suffering

My sweet little daughter poured her heart out to God about a sadness in her life.  There were tears and there was pleading.  After she prayed she said, “Mommy, I know that God can do anything and that He is using this hard thing in my life, but since He can do anything, why couldn’t he have chosen to work in my life in a different way?”  My heart cried out with hers – I was asking the same question! I wanted to take the suffering away and change our circumstances.  Yes, I long for Jesus to conform her into His image, and I recognize that usually happens most during times of trial as we learn to cling to His promises and put our trust in Him, but I wouldn’t choose for it to be so hard.

I have reflected on her question many times over the past several years. Why did God choose to accomplish His purposes in THAT way? Each time I ponder this I am reminded that God OFTEN chooses to accomplish His good and perfect will in a way that is not what we would expect or imagine.  The birth of Jesus is a perfect example of this. Not only were the circumstances of Christ’s birth “unexpected” in some ways, but so is the Gospel itself! The WAY our Deliverer came, but even THAT he came! God chose to send His only beloved Son into a broken world to live a perfect life, suffer unjustly, and bear God’s wrath and punishment; then die on the cross to redeem His people for Himself.  The weary world rejoices!

Paul Tripp, in his book Forever, puts it well:

“When we look from the vantage point of eternity at what God is zealous about and committed to, what we have experienced from the hand of God begins to make sense. He is not committed to making our days comfortable, easy, orderly, and predictable, because He is more committed to our eternal good than He is to our present ease. So in careful wisdom and faithful love, God leads us in places we wouldn’t have chosen to go. He will write for us a story we wouldn’t have written for ourselves. He will require us to deal with things we would have wanted to avoid. He does this not because He has turned his back on us, but because He has turned his face toward us. He has invaded our lives with patient, transforming grace, and He will use the difficulties of life in this broken world as tools of grace until His grace has finished its work and forever is our final home.”

Forever by: Paul Tripp

How can we help our children suffer well?  How many of us have felt that the suffering was too much for our little ones or for our teenagers? We can be assured that God is faithful and He will equip us for the hard things He calls us to. We can gather these precious eternal souls entrusted to our care and peek into the manger and look on the fulfillment of our Heavenly Father’s promises to us. We are striving together to point our children to the Hope of the world!

The time to prepare the hearts and minds of our children for suffering is BEFORE the suffering comes! This enables them to draw on truths they already know and hold dear (and will be learning to hold dearer still).  When your family or your child is suffering, here are some thoughts that may be helpful:

  • Build a foundation of truth with your children, reading and praying through much Scripture together – memorize the portions that are most encouraging to you. Pray with and for your children in the specifics of their suffering. Lay hold of God’s promises in Scripture. In doing so you are building up storehouses of truth from which they will draw their entire lives.
  • Teach your child that Jesus suffered too, and that suffering helps us be more like Jesus and is used by God to build our faith in Him.
  • Remind your child that “you are not alone;” others suffer in similar ways, but also God is WITH you (Psalm 23:4).
  • Help your child keep an eternal perspective. Suffering brings us to long for heaven, our true home. This book has helped us to think and talk about heaven together.
  • Keep in mind your child’s developmental level as they ask questions and provide them with truthful answers that address their hearts.  
  • Teach your child to suffer before the face of God – teach your child to be honest and humble and to share the contents of their heart with their Heavenly Father.  This article has helped me most in this way.
  • Together recall the many evidences of God’s faithfulness and lovingkindness to your own family as well as throughout history.  

I’m truly grateful for the way the Lord has used suffering in our lives.  I’m grateful that my daughter loves Jeremiah 29:11 and that my son knows, “the name of the Lord is a strong tower – the righteous run to it and are safe!” – and that they deeply hold these truths and many others in their hearts – but it was hard won.  They learned to trust these promises in the midst of great and terrifying battles. But it’s worth it.

I am including below some truths that I have come to hold dear. Each one of the following has sustained me in the valleys and shaped my prayers.  These are what I call to mind in the middle of the night or the winters of the soul. How I love the Baby in the manger who now intercedes in heaven for me and will one day return to take me there with Him.  

“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”

Jeremiah 32:38-41

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:1

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,

    and made me cower in ashes;

17 my soul is bereft of peace;

    I have forgotten what happiness[a] is;

18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;

    so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,

    the wormwood and the gall!

20 My soul continually remembers it

    and is bowed down within me.

21 But this I call to mind,

    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]

    his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

    to the soul who seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

    for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:16-26

“For the eyes of the Lᴏʀᴅ run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”

2 Chronicles 16:9

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 

Psalm 18:30

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! 

Psalm 31:19

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

– Elisabeth Elliot

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses. There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, his heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

Charles Spurgeon – Child of Suffering

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death? 

A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Heidelberg Catechism