How am I and my family supposed to respond to suffering? Join AMBrewster as he provides Christian parents super valuable and extremely practical advice for responding well to hardship.
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Welcome to Part 4 of our Parenting Suffering Children series. I pray the previous three episodes have encouraged you.
True, the first one about the nature of suffering may not have been comfortable, but when we studied the God of suffering and then looked at His purposes for suffering, I hope your heart was lifted. I hope you were able to appreciate the plan God has for our maturity.
Today, we want to take all of that information and discuss some practical steps we can implement to help our families have the right response to suffering.
But before we do that, I am so excited to announce that as we go through all the legal requirements to transform Truth.Love.Parent. into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, TeamTLP and I are hard at work transforming the ministry.
We’re constantly adding to and revamping the website. We’re planning and creating a ton of resources. I’m literally working full-time to make Truth.Love.Parent. the most valuable source for biblical parenting on the internet.
But in order to continuing creating all the parenting resources, we need financial resources to pay our bills. And since the vast majority of the content we create is given away for free, we need those who are benefiting from the parenting resources to support us in our mission. Your faithful giving allows me — in particular — to focus all my efforts in unpacking God’s Truth for hurting families, for searching families, and for growing families.
At this stage of our development, if we received only $3,000 in giving per month, we could cover all of TLP’s operating expenses — which includes all of the overhead needed to run the ministry as well as the Brewster’s living expenses.
And I’m sure with our audience we could easily achieve that. The math is simple. That’s 300 people giving only $10 a month. That’s it.
Would you give $10 a month for the growth of this ministry?
And — obviously— there are those out there whom God has blessed in such a way that they could easily give more.
Will you please prayerfully consider how you can partner with TeamTLP as we serve God by serving families?
And then click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description of this episode.
And speaking of parenting resources, don’t forget that you can download all of our free episode notes and read all of our transcripts at TakingBackTheFamily.com.
Okay, let’s discover some practical ways our family can respond correctly in the midst of trials.
I’m going to start by reading John 9:1-5: “As [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.’”
The disciples didn’t understand the purpose of suffering because they didn’t understand the God of suffering. This caused them to see life the wrong way.
In their minds, suffering was the negative consequence of sin, and — like nearly every error — there was an element of truth. It’s true that we can suffer because of our sins; we’ve already looked at that.
However, in many cases, the sole purpose of suffering is our maturity into righteousness. That’s what we should want for us and our families. We should want the world to see our good works — especially the ones that occur during times of suffering — and glorify our Father Who’s in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Story after story has been told how a suffering saint, lying joyfully in her hospital bed has been used by God to lead her nurses and doctors to Christ.
Think of it this way — light shines the brightest when it’s completely dark. A flashlight during the day isn’t helpful, but that same small light can save your life in the pitch black of night.
Where I live, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can enjoy the gorgeous mountain tops from just about anywhere. But when night falls, something cool happens. All of a sudden the mountains are covered with pinpoints of light — like a sparkling Christmas tree.
The light we see emanates from the homes on top of the mountain — my mother calls them North Carolina sky scrapers.
During the day you can’t see the houses among the trees and the bright sky; the mountain is all that’s there, but when the night falls, the silhouette of the mountain fades against the dark sky and each tiny house stands out against the vacuum of space.
My friends, God commands us to shine as lights in this world, and we can’t argue with the fact that darkness does the best job of revealing our lights.
Dr. Jim Berg puts it this way — he compares us to tea bags and says that you cannot appreciate what’s inside a tea bag until it’s dropped into hot water. The takeaway is that you don’t really know what’s inside a person until they’re dropped into a hot water situation. Then their true selves come out.
When it comes to suffering — a very real hot water situation, a desperately dark night — what our family believes about God will be exhibited in their behavior.
So, in the past few episodes we’ve outlined the beliefs we need to have in order to suffer well. Let’s now discuss the wisdom, the active living-out of those beliefs in suffering.
1. Prepare for suffering now.
As I’ve mentioned many times, don’t wait until you’re in the middle of an issue to prepare your kids for the issue. Pour into them now. Get them ready for it.
Here are three practical ways to do that:
A. Study God. Be ever faithful to teach your children who their Creator is. Take every opportunity to help them see how He is the kind of God Who is can trusted to do what’s right and take care of us.
B. Study suffering. In addition to learning from the Scriptures Who God is, teach your kids what God says about suffering. You can even listen to this series with them.
Use the scraped knees and frozen games and daily let downs of life segue into a deeper discussion about the reality of pain. It really will be a very logical and easy bridge to cross.
Your daughter scrapes her knee, and after she’s bandaged and the tears are dried and she’s sitting on your lap sniffing her last sniffs, you can ask her if she knows why God allows us to get hurt.
And then you have everything you need to show her a glimpse of the glory we’ve been discussing.
And, as you teach your family about suffering, it’s extremely helpful to . . .
C. Learn about those who have suffered well. This may be in the form of a biography. Jews and Christians from nearly every generation have learned much and found great hope studying the lives of those who have gone before us — seeing how God rescued His people and worked in His people.
How many times through the Scriptures will the author point us back to the struggle and difficulty of the Children of Israel as they lived in and eventually left Egypt? Time and again the story is retold so that we would appreciate what God was doing.
Another great way to learn about suffering is to talk with people in your church and family who have experienced suffering and suffered well by the grace of God. It may be an elderly man who lost his wife and son. It may be someone who’s experienced sickness. It may be someone like our next Special Guest who’s family has experienced more suffering than some of us can imagine.
Take the time to listen to them point to the power and purpose of God.
So, that’s the first step — prepare your kids for suffering now.
The rest of my points are for when you find yourself experiencing distress and hardship.
2. Run to the Scriptures.
Like a knee that jerks when it’s tapped with a hammer, the Christian should run to Scripture when his life is tapped by struggle.
Psalm 119 is a beautiful chapter all about the glory of the Scripture. There are so many portions we could tie to this point, but I want to read verses 25-32. Listen carefully for illustrations of David’s anguish coupled with descriptions of his love for the Word of God: “My soul cleaves to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word. 26 I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes. 27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders. 28 My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law. 30 I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. 31 I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! 32 I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.”
In those moments that David was lying face down in the proverbial dust, when grief caused him to weep in his very soul . . . David longed for the Truth of the Bible.
You and your children may not feel the same way David did, but when tragedy strikes, you need to run to Scripture anyway. I believe David could write those words because he had already built a habit of searching for God when he experienced difficulty.
Making a habit of turning to the Bible when little pains occur (like the scraped knee from before) makes it so much easier to long for the Truth when larger anguish comes knocking.
And this post goes hand in hand with the more specific admonition to . . .
3. Rehearse the Truth about God and our suffering.
The next few passages are Truths we should rehearse in difficulty and trial.
This first one is helpful when our kids are picked on for loving God.
I Peter 3:14a, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.”
Now, this next passage is much longer, but really listen well and appreciate the glorious Truth of our suffering.
Romans 8:16-30, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
And the whole of Psalm 77 is so helpful because David starts the chapter recounting how he doubted God, but by the end he explains how he was comforted by recalling God’s mighty deeds.
And this leads us to . . .
4. Trust God.
God is trustworthy because God knows exactly what we need and is wise enough and powerful enough to accomplish it.
Psalm 103:13-14 comforts us with this glorious truth: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
God knows exactly who we are and what we can accomplish in His strength. Therefore, we need never fear that God will give us “too much” or “do the wrong thing.”
I Peter 4:19, “Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
In Revelation 2:10 Jesus tells the believers in Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Earlier we looked at II Corinthians 1:8, but we need to also read verse 9. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.”
That was the extent of the suffering. But what was the purpose?
“9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
Here’s an example I love to use: I’ve never spoken to anyone who said, “Tomorrow my doctor is going to do something really bad to me.” No! We allow doctors to cut into us because we trust that the pain they’re going to cause is necessary to save our lives and make us better!
But I’ve met many people who get mad at God for their suffering. I believe this happens for a number of reasons. Allow me to explain a few continuing the doctor analogy.
Some people suggest that if God had told us exactly why He was doing what He was doing (like a good doctor does), He would be easier to trust.
This reaction shows that we don’t know the Scriptures like we should, or that we’re not interpreting them correctly. My friends, the Doctor has spoken. He’s laid out every piece of information we need for life and godliness. If we don’t understand why this trial is good for us, that’s our fault for not listening . . . not God’s for not communicating well.
So, the “operation” starts and we freak out because we don’t understand why it’s happening. We didn’t realize there was a problem. We didn’t know we needed to be cured. We thought we were as patient and holy and mature as we needed to be, why would we possibly need more suffering?!
Sometimes we misinterpret what God says, and that’s why we don’t understand the pain. We read passages like Romans 8:28 and interpret “good” to mean “comfortable.” In those cases, any pain seems to contradict the Scripture.
This is very tied to our last incorrect response.
Sometimes we only listen to the comfortable parts of the Bible which makes the pain seem like a lie. We spend time in the portions of Scripture that speak to blessing and happiness, but we don’t like the messages that confront us with sin and its consequences. Our faith is a rosy delusion, so we are incapable of understanding our hardship.
This is why we need to . . .
5. Pray for wisdom.
Wisdom is taking what we know and understand and applying it to life. God gives us what we need to know in the Bible. He helps us to understand that knowledge through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and a multitude of wise counselors, and then He helps us live wisely in light of the Truth.
I Peter 5:7 tells us cast “all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Take your struggle to Him and trust Him to help you walk through it.
James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Later in James 5:13 we read, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.”
And Philippians 4:6-7 gives us a command and a glorious promise, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When you do things God’s way, and seek His face, He comes to our aid with all the knowledge, understanding, wisdom, peace, and comfort that we need.
And this gives us reason to . . .
6. Praise God.
James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Philippians 4:4 and 6, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”
We can praise Him when our suffering is the result of our own sin because we understand that He’s drawing us back to Him.
We can praise Him if our suffering is the result of someone else’s sin because He’s using it to continue the purification process.
And we can praise Him when our suffering is the result of the fact that we live in a cursed world because He’s giving us exactly what we need. He’s giving us the best for which we could hope.
When we find ourselves in the midst of pain and agony, we need to run to the Bible, rehearse the Truth we find there, trust God, pray for wisdom, and praise Him for His sustenance.
Aaron and Jennifer Smith from the “Marriage after God” podcast recently talked about how a really bad sickness spread through their whole home. It was ugly, but Aaron led his family is prayer . . . thanking God for the sickness.
Now, that’s a mature response.
Can you thank God for your rebelling child? Your cancer? Your totaled car? If you can’t I’d suggest you need to get back into the Word.
And if we’re struggling to do that, the Lord has another plan to help us . . .
7. Ask for help.
James 5:14-16, “Is anyone among you [spiritually weak]? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
When we find it easier to trust our feelings and experiences and the failure philosophies of this world, we are spiritually emaciated and weak. James uses the figurative language of someone who’s spiritually sick.
It’s in those times that we need help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need them to surround us with Truth and love, to pray for us, and to lead us to confession of our sins. And when we embrace the Truth about God and suffering and repent of our lack of faith, we can be healed of our spiritual impotence.
And lastly, when you and your family are struggling through a crisis, it may be the perfect time to . . .
8. Find ways to serve others.
We looked at I Corinthians 12:24-26 earlier: “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Just because we’re suffering doesn’t mean that no one else is suffering. That means that we can be a blessing to others who are suffering at the exact same time that we are struggling.
Galatians 6:1-2 tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” It doesn’t say to do that only when you’re in good health and your life is a bed of roses.
And listen carefully to II Corinthians 1:3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”
It was via the distresses of Paul and company that other believers were provided comfort.
What a sweet testimony it is to pray for someone who has come to your bedside to pray for you. How kind it is to make the nurses’s job as easy as possible.
Are you in financial distress? Consider inviting someone over for dinner because you know God will take care of you and you know He wants you to care for others.
I know this episode went a little longer than usual, but there was so much practical advice we all need.
We need to prep our families for suffering. We need to build a habit that when pain comes, we thirst for God’s Word. Then we can rehearse His Truth and love, trust His mercy and grace, ask Him for wisdom, and praise Him for the work He’s doing in our family.
And if that’s easier said than done, we can invite our friends and family to help us orient our minds to the Truth for which we should be praising God. And then we can find ways to use our suffering as a way to serve others.
I really hope you’ll join us for our next two episodes. My special guest, Jay Holland from “Let’s Parent on Purpose” will be with us to talk about the suffering that’s hit his family, how the Lord worked and is working through it, and how he parented his kids through it.
Please share this series on your favorite social media outlets. Other families need to learn about how they can parent suffering children.
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If you’re saying, Aaron, my family and I need help. We’re spiritually weak, we’re sick, and we know we’re not suffering well, please contact Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. We’d love to help in any way we can.
And remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we talk with Jay Holland from “Let’s Parent on Purpose.”
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