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Helping Your Kids Deal With Suffering

  • Chip Ingram
  • 2003 8 Sep
Helping Your Kids Deal With Suffering

You might as well face it, your kids are going to suffer. What can you do? Help them to learn early that life is hard.

So that they won't be surprised when it happens, teach them to expect that they will bump their heads, skin their knees, and suffer some humiliation in the years to come. Help them to expect that kids who don't work as hard as they do will get better grades. Somewhere along the line someone will probably break their heart, and they will be betrayed in business. Teach them that bad things happen to good people; it's a fact of life. But be just as sure to teach them that God is good. God is powerful. Your kids don't have to turn anger into bitterness. They don't have to throw up their hands in despair or wallow in a victim's mentality. God is over all things, and He is in control.

Old Testament roots: Genesis 37 - 50
The theology of suffering in Scripture teaches that life is unjust, but God is sovereign. The Old Testament roots of this idea are found in the story of Joseph, who was used by God to save the very beginnings of the Israelite nation. When your kids are young, introduce them to this amazing biblical character, and make sure they are familiar with his life.

Even though Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, thrown into jail unjustly, accused unjustly and stripped of everything he knew and loved, the hand of God was upon him. Because Joseph understood that God had a purpose and a plan, God was able to use the injustice, hardship and pain in his life for good.

Later, after his father had died and Joseph had become a ruler in Egypt, his brothers thought he would probably sentence them to death. But, incredibly, Joseph could shake his head and say, "You guys still don't get it, do you? You meant this for evil, selling me into slavery. But God meant it for good to bring about this present result, the preservation of many people." He probably looked out over Goshen, at the hundreds of Israelite people, and said, "Look what God did. They all would have died. You meant it for evil; God meant it for good." Teach your kids that life is hard, life is unjust, but a good and sovereign God can be trusted.

New Testament command: I Peter 2:21
"To this [suffering] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

Help Your Kids Grow Through Suffering
Whether it's a disappointing Little League game, a difficult job, a hurtful relationship or a physical injury, your kids are going to suffer just like you do. Help them to grow through suffering. How do you do that? Let me give you some practical suggestions.

Find out what they struggle with
Ask them what they are concerned about. Even when they are little, when they're troubled and staring down at their tennies, and you ask what's wrong and they say "nothing," don't let that go. Find out what's going on inside. Don't give them cliché answers. Help them at an early age to work through the unfairness of life and their questions about God. After you've listened and empathized, make sure you take them to Scripture and show them that great people of God, Jesus primarily, suffered unjustly. Yet God was in control.

Teach them there's more to life than right now
Teach them that while they may have short-term pain, final vindication belongs to God. Perhaps in this lifetime, but certainly and completely in eternity, justice will be served.

Teach them that suffering is normal
My son Jason had a friend who died of cancer at twenty-five. While John was going through the terrible process of succumbing to this disease, Jason and I had to work through, together, a very practical theology of suffering. How do you resolve in your heart things that are so evil and so hard?

We were made for eternity and the world that we live in is not the world God designed. It is a fallen world. Until Jesus comes back and makes it right, we are called to blaze a trail and follow Him, trusting in His goodness and sovereignty in the midst of some very difficult times. Our culture is teaching our kids, "You deserve a break today." But I've got news: that's McDonald's theology. It sells hamburgers, but it's a lousy way to raise kids. We have a whole generation of people believing that when they don't get a break, something is dreadfully wrong. Nothing is wrong. Suffering is normal.

Excerpted from the booklet, Five Smooth Stones: Preparing Your Kids to Win Life's Biggest Battles, by Chip Ingram. Used with permission. Copyright 2000 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.

About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.