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When Your Child Suffers

  • Julie Coleman Contributor
  • Updated Nov 19, 2010
When Your Child Suffers

The year we switched schools was agonizing for my son.  In place of the small, sheltered environment he had left behind, Adam entered a school of larger classes and total strangers.  Seventh grade boys can be thoughtless, and the boys in Adam's class were no exception.  As the new kid, he found it hard to fit in.  His classmates were even crueler to another boy, "Jimmy," doing anything that would intimidate him and in turn boost their own sense of importance.  One night, Adam approached me.  He was not a complainer.  But that night he had tears in his eyes and a heavy heart.  "Mom, why do you think people are so mean to Jimmy?"

We talked into the night.  Adam shared for the first time with me the difficulties he was having with the harsh words and actions of his classmates. We prayed together, and though I was sick at heart, I encouraged him as best I could.  When the conversation ended, I went out on the front porch, sat alone on the swing, and sobbed.

The next morning I went into action.  I marched straight to the middle school principal's office and told her what I knew.  My emotions were in turmoil. I was grieved I had moved my children to this different school.  Guilt overwhelmed me that my husband and I could have possibly made the wrong choice.  Anger at the unjust treatment my son was experiencing consumed me.  I wanted heads to roll. I didn't know what I could do, but I was going to do something.

Any parent knows that seeing your child in that kind of pain is excruciating.  We would gladly take the pain and suffering on ourselves rather than see our precious children hurt in any way.  A parent's first instinctive response is to protect at all costs.

After hearing my emotional plea for help, the principal promised to look into the matter.  Then she gave me advice that would flavor my parenting for the rest of my life.  She gently said, "Pain in a child's life is not bad, just hard.  You don't want a child who has never experienced pain in his life.  He would be insensitive, self-centered, and useless. God uses pain to develop us into mature, godly people."

Even though it went against every protective instinct in me as a mother, I knew she was right.  James writes about this process in James 1: 2-4.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 

There are several ways that pain and suffering are used by God in our children's lives.

1. Pain develops perseverance.

We must never lose sight of the fact that God is at work in our children.  He purposefully and lovingly brings difficulty along at times in their lives.  As they struggle though that circumstance, God develops perseverance in our child.  Without that perseverance, our child would never be mature or complete.  He would lack an essential character trait which is a mark of a mature Christian.

2. God uses pain to draw your child closer to him.

As your child wrestles with a difficult circumstance, he will be driven to cry out to God in prayer.  When we need, we look to the Lord.  A deeper relationship with God as well as a stronger dependence on him develops as he learns to trust God with his heart-felt pleas. Paul wrote about this in II Corinthians 1:9. ". . . But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God . . ."

3. Pain gives insight.

I Peter 4: 1 tells us, ". . . he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."  When we are in pain, suddenly the frivolous parts of our existence fade away, and the important things become crystal clear.  Suffering gives our child insight and understanding he did not have before the pain.  God also uses this in us to open a child's eyes to the fellow sufferers around him; ". . . so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (II Corinthians 1: 4)

As Adam strove to survive that very difficult year, my husband and I did all we could to support him.  He needed hope. We let him know he was not alone, that we were behind him 100%, and that the Lord had not abandoned him.  And we prayed, every day, with him and for him. 

Two long years passed before things started to look up.  The start of high school gave Adam a place to shine and a chance to make new friends.  He began to regain his confidence and optimistic spirit.  He emerged from those difficult years a young man who loved the Lord deeply.  Sensitive to the needs of others, his Christian character was widely recognized by his classmates and teachers. He became a leader among his peers. God faithfully used adversity in Adam's life to mold him into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are extreme situations that require adult intervention and help.  However, much of the pain our children experience does not fall into that category.  Our children will face hardships such as an unfair teacher, an adversarial peer, or academic struggles. Our first instinct as parents is to rush in and solve the problem.  Rather than immediately doing this, pray instead that God would give your child endurance.  Then find ways to support your child so he will not be alone in the struggle.  Give support through a listening ear, prayer, and godly advice. 

God is faithful. Have confidence that the Lord is carrying out a work in your child that is important to his development of mature, godly character; "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in [him] will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1: 6)  

Nov. 1, 2010

Julie Coleman loves to teach the Word of God! With contagious enthusiasm, she brings hope and encouragement to her audience through rich biblical teaching. Julie uses humor and personal stories to make her teaching entertaining as well as meaningful. Her warm and insightful messages make her an effective and well-received speaker.

During her 20 year teaching career, Julie received professional recognition including being named Anne Arundel County Teacher of the Year. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Capital Bible Seminary. Julie and her husband, Steve, have four grown children and make their home in the Annapolis, Maryland area.