After nearly 24 years of parenting, I can confirm what I suspected as a 2-day-old Mommy watching her newborn get that infamous heel prick : the hardest part of parenting is seeing your child hurt. The source might be physical - immunizations or scrapes from not quite mastering the two-wheeler. Or it might be emotional - being left out of a group....again, or disloyalty from a friend. And even more devestating from a consequential standpoint - bone marrow transplants or betrayal by a spouse. Parenting doesn't stop when they graduate from high school. When they hurt, we hurt. Whether they are 4 or 40.
And I don't like it. I don't want them to hurt and I don't want to hurt while they hurt. I want to fix it. Fast. Having to stand by, helplessly is torturous. I want to spare my children the suffering from stresses, from poor decisions, and especially from mean-spirited people. (Although I am certainly not unstirred by physical pain, it's their emotional discomfort that sends me to poke the voodoo dolls under my bed. )
Don't chide me. I know the truth - growth and change and good come from the painful experiences of life. The sting of the vaccination needle is necessary to protect from fatal diseases. The scrapes on the knees are the stones with which the road to proficiency is paved. The stresses from the demands of life can serve to strengthen and mature. And the heartbreaks.....well, hmmmmmm. I'd really rather poke those dolls but I'll concede that even heartbreaks can be used to bring growth and insure tenderness in one's own heart.
I can embrace the truth of what the Apostle James says in chapter 1, that exhortation to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials. I can embrace vs. 2 because I believe verses 3 and 4 with all my heart, that God uses pain and suffering to produce endurance and that endurance brings about maturity, completing His work in me. Yes, I cling to that truth desperately.....for my own life. But it's harder to do when I am observing God's chisel in the lives of my children. It's then that I turn to a truth supplied by Timothy (1 Timothy 2:15). Although this verse is often misunderstood, I believe it is telling us that, if we are parents, then childbearingis what God uses to sanctify us. Relying on His grace for strength and mercy and patience. Choosing to trust Him when they hurt, knowing that He is completing the work He began in them...and me. To "work out our salvation" is one way Paul puts it in Philippians - His saving grace working its way through my soul, my mind, my will, my emotions. So while I need to rejoice over the trials in my own life, I must also do so when those same maturing agents of suffering are present in the lives of my children. Not only for their sake, but also for mine. Watching them grow through pain is God's sanctification process for me, too.
Originally published on October 12,2012