My wife and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with some friends of ours on Sunday. We got to sit and laugh and talk with them about all topics great and small. One of the rather interesting things we discussed was our children. They have two wonderful little boys, and we have one of our own, and of course, as parents, we all want the best for them. But the conversation turned to the idea of how to help the children to grow outside of our overprotective nature as parents.
The word that came out in the discussion was “suffering.” Not suffering in the sense of painful agony, or torment and torture, but rather, suffering as a struggle to proceed through life. We all know that type of suffering. The grind of work, the frustration of relationships with other, or the issues we have to work through with ourselves are all examples of suffering. Our friend told the story of moving in the summer before his 5th grade year, and how hard was to be in that situation with new friends and a new school. I think of the death of my grandfather, and how my son learned about the loss of a loved one. Then there are the times when it’s just tough to be a kid (or an adult), and learn about consequence and disappointment when things just don’t go the way they should.
We always want to protect our children, and to help them to understand the world. We don’t want them to experience the harshness that life has until we think they are old enough to handle it. Which is the protection that parents should give to their children. The world is not a happy and nurturing place, like Sesame Street. But it is important to temper the understand children have of suffering the pains of a sinful world with the message of the Gospel. We all do things that are wrong. We all “sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And still Christ has made atonement for our sins. He has taken away the power of the evil one and given us life and salvation. That is the message that our children should learn about suffering. It is a time to teach about faith, and to build faith in a child through the Word. “Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). And that hope is the faith we have in our Lord Jesus, who has taken away the suffering of this life by His suffering on the cross.
At the end of the conversation with our friends, we agreed that the kids would learn suffering soon enough. But we can take comfort and hope in knowing that they will have their Savior to lean on when they do suffer.