Over the past two weeks I’ve done a series for young moms. I started by saying I wish I could do a beach retreat with each of you to share some things I wish someone had told me when I had several small children under foot. The response has been encouraging; thanks to each of you who have commented on Facebook, through email or here on the blog. Your humbling encouragement to continue the series was heard…
On Friday I told you my son, Joey, would do a guest post today. Due to a really full weekend we postponed his post till tomorrow. You won’t want to miss it!
I have a new friend whose recent struggles as a mom reminded me of the next lesson I want to pass on to those of you with young children: you can’t protect your kids from suffering.
Diane (not her real name) was sharing with our church’s small group the sadness and tinges of guilt she feels about how their children have been affected by their recent move to Orlando. While they have moved around quite a bit over the years, they left a comfortable home and church family hundreds of miles away. Extended family was within a few hours drive and the kids each had friends with whom they enjoyed close relationships. A job change for John required the move late last spring. The change and upheaval, including temporary housing before they found a rental home, is taking its toll. Additionally, schooling arrangements that had been a wonderful fit for their family weren’t workable in Orlando, so on top of all of her own adjustments and homesickness, Diane is back to homeschooling five children under age 12.
As our group gently asked Diane questions it became clear that this loving and devoted mom is carrying a weight of anxiety about her children. She tearfully communicated how badly she feels when one after another mention friends they miss.
It was easy for me to empathize with her struggles.
As mothers, we find joy in fulfilling our nurturing role. We are wired by God to protect our children and sometimes this protective instinct seems to conflict with providential things that happen in our lives — like moving. This conflict is disorienting because good moms don’t let sad, hurtful things happen to her kids, right? And when parental choice is involved, it seems all the more wrong!
I was able to commend Diane for her loving heart toward her sons and daughters. Her tears were an evidence of a strong desire to protect and care for them. But I was also able to gently share that it’s impossible for her to protect them from suffering. We live in a fallen world. Dads get new jobs that require moving. Friends reject, tease and say mean things. Teachers don’t always grade fairly and coaches put other kids in the game more. Sickness happens. Moms sin. Siblings taunt, hit, belittle and don’t share. There will always be someone smarter or more popular; better looking or more talented; thinner or more muscular to whom they will be tempted to compare themselves. And the enemy within — their own sinful hearts — along with their limitations, flaws and weaknesses will all combine to result in hard stuff happening.
The last thing we want to see happen to our children is suffering. Every instinct in every cell of our body urges us to protect our kids from pain. Even when the pain is the result of their own doing, we sometimes want to shield them from the consequences because…honestly…we’re protecting ourselves, too. Their tears, disappointment, rejection, inferiority and pain become our own and the way to protect our hearts is to shield theirs.
Please hear these words from an older mother who has watched her children go through many things I would have never chosen for them: the trials and hardships from which we would most want to protect our kids often end up being agents of their greatest good.
I felt badly for my son when acne made his teen years tougher than normal. I hated seeing the disappointment in my daughter’s eyes when she was excluded from yet another outing with friends. Like Diane, I watched two of our children struggle after our own move to Orlando when they were young teens, which made my sadness and homesickness all the more keen. And watching a couple of my young adults endure the consequences of sinful choices I did everything to teach them to avoid has wrenched my mother’s heart to pieces at times.
I’m here to tell you that God really does “cause all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28) in our children’s lives. And while it’s the hardest thing ever to watch happen, they will suffer. They’ll suffer because of their sins or the sins of others (including Mom’s!) — and they’ll suffer because life in a fallen world just happens.
When they aren’t picked for the team; don’t get invited to the birthday party; feel unattractive; are the only ones they know not allowed to go to a certain movie or listen to a questionable band; get corrected for hitting back; or can’t go somewhere because they didn’t finish their schoolwork, there are two things you can do that will help them. First, empathize…and, second, move on. Even as an adult you know how it feels to be overlooked, jealous, inferior and sad. Your compassion will mean a lot to your child.
But don’t stop there. Teach your little ones that God is always with them. He is in control even when bad things happen. Their example and ours is Jesus, who had a lot of bad things happen, including having to die on the cross because of our sins against Him. Did he sin back? No. And the worst thing that happened to Him was all for good. His suffering produced our salvation, demonstrating once and for all that every wrong, hurtful, hard, painful, disappointing thing that comes into their lives is no match for God’s promise of good.
The cross proves to us and our children that God brings good out of the worst things that happen.
When I look at my young adult children today I see Romans 8:28 all over them. Please help your little ones to see the good even in the bad. It takes faith in a good, wise, sovereign and loving God to impart this to your little ones.
A mom who has faith in God during her own seasons of suffering is able to come alongside her children when they are hurting. Rather than join her children in angry resentment toward a coach, teacher, relative or friend that is mistreating them the wise mother reaches for God’s faithfulness to bring good out her own disappointments and conflicts to compassionately point her child to a Savior who is there to help them.
Yes, the maternal urge to protect our kids is there. But time and again they will suffer and experience pain — and it will all be used for their good.