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When Our Children Suffer

I was cleaning out the texts in my phone today and ran across the one that said, “We lost him”. It’s the text I sent out last October 3, to several people letting them know that our grandson had passed away in utero. Isaac was 10 days overdue and we had unexpectedly lost his heartbeat. There was nothing anyone could do.

I couldn’t bring myself to delete that message. Even though it brings back feelings of grief and loss, it’s part of our story and as painful as it was, I don’t want to change that. The tears flowed freely during that time in our lives, but so did the amazing grace of God. There was JOY in the midst of suffering. It’s not because we were so spiritual or holy or had it all together. It was HIM. HIS grace, HIS mercy, HIS goodness.

If someone would have told me we would have to walk through something like this, I would have said, “I don’t think I could handle that.” And I would have been right. I can’t. But God does not leave us to fend for ourselves when He requires us to walk through hard things. He made the fullness of His presence so obvious and tangible that we would have been almost blind and deaf not notice it. But sometimes we have to pray for eyes to see through our tears, where God is working . We grieve, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.

But what about when our children suffer? When the trial is more theirs than ours? From the moment we find out we are pregnant, we spend our lives protecting our children from things that might hurt them. And we should. That’s our job as parents, but eventually our children will hurt and we can’t stop it. It’s a such a helpless feeling and yet God promises grace for this too.

*Romans 8:28 says, “And we know for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  God has a plan for me and it is GOOD.

*II Corin. 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  It’s not important that I am strong, but that HE is strong.

*II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and of a sound mind.” I don’t need to be afraid of ANYTHING, because of God’s great love for me.

*Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.  I say:  The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.”  God’s love never diminishes, not matter how I FEEL.  He never can or will fail me.

And these promises are true for our children as well. God’s grace will be there for them as much as it has been for us. We saw a strength in our daughter that we never knew was there. There was work He had already done to prepare her and none of us knew about it. It’s hard to wrap our heads around that when our kids are little and so dependent on us, but gradually it becomes way less about us and much more about HIM.

As we watched our daughter and son in law walk through this time, we had the privilege of seeing God work in their lives and we got to see them choose to embrace the grace that God was giving them. John says, “I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in truth”. I had always hoped that would be our experience with our kids, but I never, never thought I would see it play out in this way.

Is it easy watching our children suffer pain, grief, trials or loss?  No way.   When they suffer, we suffer and it hurts.  We would give anything to bear their burdens for them. But we cannot. We each have our own cross to bear and it is perfectly fitted for us by a God who is not only all knowing, but also more loving that we can ever imagine.  Letting go of our children and entrusting them to Him is an exercise of faith.  I believe it pleases God immensely and He will honor it.  You see, God knows, too, what it is like to watch His child suffer.

So it is important that we ultimately respond to God in obedience and faith AND that we encourage our children to do the same no matter how big or how small the trial or suffering. We won’t do this perfectly or immediately, but as we work toward this along the way, our faithful response to Him becomes a habit. In that process we embrace His sovereignty, we acknowledge His right to BE God even if we don’t like the plan.

And grief is the time when we are adjusting to the new plan…the one we didn’t or wouldn’t choose and don’t necessarily like. That can happen in death, divorce, with rebellious kids, failed relationships, job loss, even a day that doesn’t go AT. ALL. as planned.

Our kids are watching us. They see our REAL beliefs about God being walked out each day. It speaks to them more than our words, family devotions, character studies or Sunday School lessons EVER will.

We don’t have a clue what kinds of trials and grief our children will have to walk through. God loves our kids MORE than we ever could and He IS sovereign over their lives. The best thing we can do is try to walk well through our own pain in front of them. We need to be honest about our struggles, but also point out God’s faithfulness and answers to those struggles as He reveals Himself. And when our children are suffering, we let them be honest about how they feel. In the months after losing Issac, I often just listened to our daughter process her grief and prayed with her. I don’t have the answers, but I know the One who does. I am not enough, but HE is. We gently point them back to Him. We need to give our kids a tangible faith in a real, sovereign, powerful, good God. THEY need to learn to hear from Him and see Him at work because at the end of the day, they will have to grab a hold of their own walk with Him and discover for themselves how amazingly faithful and GOOD He really is.

(You can read all about the story of Isaac here: Meant for Heaven   In just a couple of weeks, our daughter will be birthing another little boy, due on the same day that Isaac was, just a year later. Our hope and trust continues to be in our very good and sovereign God!)

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