Think back to the moments of your life when you grew the most. I am certain those moments included difficulty. Here's a few reasons why I know this:
- The most well known man in history struggled. The One whom Christian's adore because He struggled for us. No one can deny the fact that Jesus struggled. He was beaten beyond the recognition of a human being, He hung on a cross for 6 hours (which is an excruciating death), He endured a crown of thorns, He was betrayed, He became sin - who knew no sin, He faced the wrath of God for that sin, and He struggled more than any human in history. The Bible states quite clearly (in numerous places) that we will struggle like Him; not on the same level, but we will struggle.
- Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, struggled significantly. Jesus said he would, "... I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:16) Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, etc. etc. It was in his writing that he teaches his audience how to face those struggles.
- Some of the best authors in history, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, gave wisdom such as, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." or C.S. Lewis, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people people for an extraordinary destiny."
- Some of the most effective marketing techniques revolve around life's struggles. Nike, as one of many examples, knows this well with the following quote, "Success isn't given. It's earned. On the track, on the field, in the gym. With blood, sweat, and the occasional tear."
- Song writers best sellers often revolve around life's ups and most especially our downs. They come up with words like, "Storms make trees take deeper roots." (Dolly Parton)
- Conflict is a literary element teachers spend a significant amount of time teaching while reading literature. If a story lacks conflict, it isn't a good story. The best stories are the one's where the main character struggles, endures, perseveres, and learns.
Preparing kiddos for life is not easy, because life isn't easy. The ultimate question we should be asking ourselves as parent's is how can we prepare our children for the struggles of life? Isn't that our job as parents? To guide them through their own difficulties as they face them, or teach them using examples of hard lessons learned in our own life or in others? After all, they won't be with us forever, therefore, we are preparing them for their own home, their own job, their own life.
And the reality of life is that it's hard.
The reality is that someone is going to say or do something hurtful someday. The reality is that life is simply not fair. The reality is that they will be sick, they will cry, they will struggle. The reality is that an authority figure (boss, teacher, police officer, principal, mom, dad, etc.) is going to do something they don't like. The reality is quite simply that life has it's ups and it most definitely has it's downs. As parent's we do not have the power to take away sickness, a broken heart or bone, or fix every downer that comes their way. We do, however, have the ability to give wisdom. If we do not prepare our children for those downs we should honestly be asking if we're sufficiently preparing them for life.
In my classroom and as a coach is where I saw the effects of those kids whose parents wanted life easy for them all the time (which is one reason I was inspired this post in the first place). They were whiny when something didn't go exactly how they thought it should. If one itty bitty little "bad" thing happened - oh, the drama. Their emotions were unpredictable. They expected something without having to work for it. BUT the kids were not as bad as mommy and daddy. Mommy and daddy hovered, desperately trying to get that kid who got at their kid, or fixing a bad grade, or making "right" a "wrong" or making sure their star athlete (sigh) was starting on the A team. These parents were exhausting. Each time they entered the building teachers, administrators, and secretaries did the inner eye roll.
Don't be that parent.
I, like most parents, want what's best for my children. I want them to experience joy, happiness, play, celebrations, make traditions, learn and grow up to be productive members of society. We do not wish heartache, sickness, or conflict. Unfortunately, we cannot promise joy and happiness every second of every day. In fact, we can't even promise success according to the world's standards! It just isn't realistic and it just is not biblical. Christian or not, everyone struggles, but from this point on, that's the perspective I'm taking. In this life, in this fallen world, the Bible tells us we will be hated because we love Jesus. Time and time again the Bible teaches us how to glorify God amidst the struggles of life. So that's where I'm going to go to answer the question I know everyone is asking...
How do we prepare them for life's struggles?
There will be times they must deal with conflict, a situation where they've been wronged, loss, hardships, and because this list could be endless where do we even start? I've been asking myself that question so much lately because my 3 year old had to go through one of those heartbreaking life's struggles that I could not fix. Three.years.old. I knew that I needed to start preparing my mama-bear-heart for the struggles to come, because they will come. But. How?
- Talk about Jesus. Tell His story. He was beaten. He was hung on a cross. He became sin. He endured God's wrath for that sin. He What did He do? What did He say? Be like Him. "For to [suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:21-23
- Explain how God uses pain. He does not waste it. He is simply using life's struggles to draw us closer to Himself. There's so much to be gained with trials and tribulations! We will be sanctified. When He disciplines (Hebrews 12:7-11) we gain righteousness. When we lack, we grow patience. When we face a problem, we become wise. When we suffer, we endure. When we endure, we build character. When we struggle, we hope in the salvation offered through Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:3-5) In all life's struggles, we gain Him. There is no greater treasure.
- Focus their minds on Him. When we shift our minds from the problem to the Problem Solver, we gain a God-glorifying perspective. Teach them to worship. Teach them to pray. Teach them to praise God in the midst of hardship. Tell them stories of other's who have glorified God in the midst of tragedy (example: Horatio G. Spafford who wrote the song, It Is Well With My Soul, after losing all of his children in a shipwreck). Show them the characteristics of God by reading what God has said about Himself (example: Job 38-41). Give them reason to rejoice because we have an almighty, sovereign, holy, loving, powerful God! We can give all our problems to him, "What a friend in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!" - Joseph Scriven's hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus
These tasks seem monumental until you give credit to the Holy Spirit and how He uses the seeds planted. It is your job to plant the seeds and it is His to give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Don't minimize the effectiveness of His job by thinking these concepts are too formidable for a child's mind. They are big, yes, but we worship a big and powerful God. That reason alone should be cause enough for us not to fear the struggles our children will face!
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