Learning Through Loss
- Monday, April 23, 2007
In all honesty, this is not an article that I wanted to write, but rather, one that God laid on my heart. In fact, I avoided it, put it off, and argued with God about the fact that I am not fit to write on this subject. I have no "answers" and I'm not a theologian, counselor, or psychologist. Nonetheless, here I am, attempting to share some thoughts on teaching our children to learn, accept, and grow through the inevitable losses they will face in this journey of life.
This is my oldest son's second year of college. In the first year he was away, a girl in his college was killed in a school rafting accident. I recall my son saying, "She was just 18. Her parents were expecting her home this weekend, just like the rest of us." I think that was the first time he really understood just how fragile life is--that death isn't reserved only for the elderly. This year, shortly after returning to school, his pastor's teenage son died unexpectedly. He was shocked to find his pastor preaching the next week. How did he have the strength to do that?
The loss of a loved one is something we will all experience at some point, but death is not the only way we experience loss. We can experience the loss of a dream, the loss of a friendship, the loss of a talent or skill due to injury, and more. Loss is inevitable and arrives in a myriad of forms. Therefore, it is imperative that we help our children understand and grow through loss.
Sadly, I'm intimately familiar with the opposite response. When I was eighteen, my fourteen year old step-sister died. We were quite close, as she was the only other girl in a houseful of boys. While she was happy, full of life, and wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother, I was the exact opposite. The fact that God took her rather than me was more than I could bear. I was beyond angry. This was the final straw in my long list of grievances about how unjust and pointless life was.
While I was never quite able to convince myself that I didn't believe in God (believe me, I tried!) I chose to blatantly reject him. I became bitter and self-destructive, both to myself and those who loved me. I spent years in this state of mind, with God tugging at me the entire time. Finally, I came to the end of myself and landed at His feet, acknowledging that I didn't know more than He did after all. I am ever thankful for His patience and love for me, though I didn't see it at the time.
While I recognize that our children must experience their own struggles as they grow in their relationship with God, I would like to spare them from the type of torment I put myself through, as much as possible. There are a few things I want my children to know.
For one, our circumstances are not a reflection of how much we are loved. I think we are sometimes given the impression that if we behave a certain way, our lives will be wonderful. That was part of my anger. "I did everything I was supposed to! Why are you doing this to me?" I decided that God obviously didn't love me and that I couldn't do any better to "earn" that love so I quit trying.
It is important that we talk with our children about our own losses and struggles. They need to know that these are a normal part of life. They need to see that the great men and women of the Bible experienced pain and sorrow, yet they were much-loved and God was very much in control. Our circumstances, while they can certainly be the consequences of our own behaviors, which is a different issue entirely, cannot be the scale on which we weigh God's love for us.
I've always been a bit bothered when I hear people say, "God is good!" in response to some positive occurrence in their life. I'm left thinking, "So, is God 'bad' when things don't go right?" I do realize and appreciate the fact that by acknowledging God's goodness when we receive a blessing we are offering Him praise and magnifying the good things in our life. That's right and appropriate. I think, though, that we might consider saying, "God is good!" when bad things happen as well. What a simple way for our children to learn that we trust in God and His love regardless of the circumstances. That He is good, and is caring for us, even when our circumstance is bad.
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