Teach Your Kids To Identify With Those Who Suffer
- Monday, July 11, 2005
For several months I prayed I would enter more deeply into God's heart. In the months that followed much of what He showed me related to suffering. I'd never wanted to think about God's pain, but He revealed His heart of grief. Then, ever so gently He exposed my selfish attitude. I wanted to enjoy the gifts of relationship with Him, but I didn't want to share in His pain. Since that time God has gently led our family to discover and respond to the suffering of the world.
Part of intimacy with Christ includes this aspect of suffering. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, once said, "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."
No one enjoys having her heart broken, yet Scripture often reminds us to take care of those who hurt-to visit those in prison, care for the widows and orphans, and give food to the hungry. I'm learning that it is important to choose to expose our family to the suffering of others if we are to experience the fullness of intimacy with Christ. Our baby steps in this area have included reading about the plight of the hurting and praying together for specific needs. We've volunteered at food banks, helped with Operation Christmas Child projects, and sponsored children in third world countries.
Still, I know our family is only beginning to understand this part of our journey toward Christ. I recently met Janey DeMeo, one of the people on the front lines of this ministry of suffering, who founded Orphans First (http://www.orphansfirst.org). She helped me explore the concept of entering into Christ's suffering.
Janey says the place to start is always prayer. "When you pray, the first person to change is yourself," she said. Janey's ministry to suffering children began when she started praying "around the globe", for them. As she entered God's heart of pain, she found He gave her the ability to make a difference. It wasn't long before she opened her first orphanage. Now she is involved with ministries to orphans in many different countries. "Prayer for the suffering increases your capacity to take on more of God's burden.
"Find out about the needs of the hurting and pray for them." Said Janey. "Choose to willfully and deliberately expose yourself to suffering. Determine not to turn away."
Janey believes it is important to take our children with us on this path into the heart of God. "God wants us to teach our children to get their eye off themselves onto the needs around them," said Janey. "American youth need to realize how much they have. Just visit a mall and observe. Teens swarm, flaunting themselves, buying the latest fads. They live far from reality, trying to fill their life and self-image with material things. We need to help them learn to be generous, to see all they've been given, and to share it. Teaching them about the needs of children around the world gives them perspective."
According to Janey, our culture feeds a perpetual indulgence of being entertained. "There's nothing wrong with entertainment, but too often seeking entertainment becomes the constant goal for kids. It assumes a place of importance that isn't healthy. We need to help our children see reality."
Janey suggests using small pain to help children understand the larger suffering in the world. "We can use our imagination to better understand God's heart and the pain of others. Next time your child falls or experiences some type of hurt, ask them to imagine for a moment what it might be like to be in pain and have no one to comfort you. Many children around the world have no one to hold them or dry their tears. Talking about these things will help your child develop compassion.
"All of us will suffer in life," continued Janey. "Part of the purpose of suffering is learning to comfort others. Instead of running from pain, we sometimes need to allow ourselves, and our children, to let our minds park there."
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