A lot of parents are extremely concerned about their child’s comfort these days. They want to try to save them from life’s harsh edges. They want to help them avoid as many hurts as possible.
This has led many parents to be very involved in their child’s lives. They advocate for them in their schools fighting for better grades. They complain to the coach if their child isn’t getting enough playing time. One father whose son was not accepted to MIT wrote the Dean of Admissions and declared that his son was devastated and that they would be seeing them in court.
Some parents have been so concerned about their child’s self-esteem that they have fought to outlaw dodge ball from their school activities because “in that game there are clear winners and losers.” In one school in Santa Monica, CA, they banned unsupervised tag for the same reasons. Sportswriter Rick Reilly joked that perhaps the way to save that game is to change the rules so that instead of hollering “you’re it” the children could say, “You’re special!”
Now trying to protect our children from suffering is not all bad. And being involved in our children’s life is our calling, but when it is overdone, or when it is done without careful thought, the results can be devastating.
Marriage and family therapist, Dr. Melody Rhode has said that from her experience, “children raised under a coddled philosophy that avoids adversity and pain at all costs are likely to be addicted, obese, dependent, suicidal, incapable, and frequently overwhelmed by life.”
Christian author Gary Thomas suggests, “If we protect our children from all risk, challenge and possible rejection, they likely will become developmentally stunted and will therefore remain immature.”
The Bible clearly indicates that suffering is part of God’s way for His children in Hebrews 12:10b-11. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Even Jesus Himself, according to Hebrews 5:8, learned obedience through what He had to suffer.
In Romans 5:3-5, it says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.”
I love the words written by Abigail Adams, mother of John Quincy Adams, just prior to her son’s departure with her husband on a diplomatic mission that would take this 9-year old away, not for days or weeks, but for years. When her son had second thoughts about leaving his mother for such a long time – an action that would have many mothers drawing their sons in – Abigail penned these words to her son: “It is not in the still calm of life…that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesmen.”
You see that Abigail had a vision for her son that superseded her own maternal instincts. She knew that character is forged not in the sauna, but rather in the crucible of life. Her role was not to deliver her son from difficulty, but to guide him through it.
Parents, let’s remember, that in our efforts to protect our children, we should prepare them to walk in the steps of Jesus who had to suffer before entering into His glory. For as 1 Peter 2:21 reminds us, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
Written by Ron Elwardt - Website
Ron Elwardt moved to Phoenix from Wisconsin (Go Packers! Go Badgers!) with his wife Ruth and daughters Megan and Becca in 1989. Recently celebrating his 25th year of ministry at Camelback Bible Church, Pastor Ron currently serves as Pastor of Families and Children. “That I may know Him [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death.” – Philippians 3:10