It can be truly difficult to watch our children navigate trials in life. It might be the loss of a dream, hope, health, or ability. But no matter what it is, we are painfully aware of how it affects our child and causes them heartache, fear, pain, or discouragement. These are the times when we can feel most helpless and ineffective as parents. After all, we like to think that we can help or fix things for them, right?! Sometimes though, the trials they face are part of making them who God wants them to be. So how can we as parents help our kids navigate times of trial to get to triumph? Let’s consider a few things we can help do!
1. Help them learn the truth about trials
- We can expect that we will have them.
Sometimes, it is easy to think that we as Christians should have an easy life. But the truth is, the Bible talks about “WHEN you face trials of many kinds…”(James 1:2). Notice it doesn’t say IF! So, trials are to be an expected part of life. And because Satan would love to discourage or distract us, we may face even more trials as Christians who work to set our hearts and eyes on God.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2
- We can face them whether young or old or anywhere in between.
No one is immune from facing trials. There are little ones that battle with life circumstances or special needs, teens who struggle through injuries or health concerns, and adults that may feel the crushing blow of loss or grief.
- We can grow and learn from them.
Thankfully, we can be assured that God will not allow us to go through trials for nothing. He has promised in His Word. “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. So, when we hang on and trust God, we can have assurance that He will work things out.
- We will always have God’s care through them.
God doesn’t ever tell us that life will be without trials, instead the opposite. But what He does promise is that “…Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!” Hebrews 13:5
He also tells us numerous times in scripture about his care for us during time of trials.
“Cast all your worries and cares on Him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“My grace is sufficient for you. for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13
2. Help them talk through or process their trials.
- Play with them
- Ask open-ended questions
- Listen, listen, listen
- Be present (and sometimes quiet)
For those who are little, our talking may be playing and pretending those things they can’t quite articulate. I saw this in my four-year-old as we journeyed through his skull surgery. He would play out the surgery and his fears with his stuffed animals but wouldn’t ever just want to talk about it.
With our nine-year-old, we often spend one-on-one time together where we talk about his feelings and ADHD. Asking open-ended questions help him to begin sharing his thoughts and struggles.
With the teens in our home, I work hard to listen, listen, and listen some more, especially when it deals with all those junior high girl relationships. And with our boys, sometimes just being present and quiet will help them say a thing or two. They may not say much, but you won’t want to miss the chance they do decide to share what’s on their heart.
3. Help them understand that you’ve experienced trials and learned from them.
As challenging as it was to navigate the surprise of our seventh child as we were sending our firstborn off to college, it became a good example of God’s provision and care. So, when our firstborn and his wife then experienced a surprise pregnancy in their first year of marriage, we could not only identify and empathize, but we could share examples of ways God encouraged us and taught us things along the way.
Sometimes the trials we share are big, other times, these are times we felt discouraged or despairing. We may have prayed for God to answer our prayers. And regardless of whether those prayers received a yes, no, or wait, we may have learned things that stick with us. These times teach us things no matter the outcome. They are the reason for our growth and sharing them with our children allows them to grow as well.
4. Help them look for God in the small things.
Even in the midst of times of trial, we can encourage our children to look for the small ways God makes His presence known. During our baby’s surgery, I was greatly encouraged when I came across a scripture that had a simple little orange footprint on it. This simple little image was a great reminder of how God hears our littlest concerns and knows what we might need without us even asking. For the full story, you can read the blog post that tells the whole story!
When we gear our eyes and our hearts to see things that are a blessing or small answer to prayer, it keeps our hearts focused on things that are good and true and right…things that can’t steer us wrong.
5. Help them remember how God has been faithful before. (Blessing Box)
Our family has made a special tradition to do this. We have a treasure box that is approximately 18” x10” where we keep physical reminders of how God has blessed us or answered prayer before. In this box, you can find many things, such as a picture of the tractor that rolled on top of and trapped my dad but didn’t break a bone in his body. The car that was crushed in a near-fatal car accident with my mom and grandfather, but they both miraculously survived. A baby blanket from the night our two month old Grayson, had an interrupted SIDS-like event, a picture of the fire that nearly surrounded our house but never touched our home, the picture of the footprint and picture of Bennett sleeping prior his surgery (as described in a prior blog post ), and the skull form from his most recent surgery that shows how God protected, provided, and was present in the toughest of times.
Our blessing box was described in greater detail in another blog post that you might enjoy here.
6. Help them keep focused on God’s purpose for them and that this might be part of preparing them for that bigger plan.
It is often easier to trust God’s plan when it all comes together and makes sense. Sometimes we are able to see all the pieces line up and sometimes we aren’t. I remember back to our oldest Taylor’s senior year of football. He had to step up and quarterback, since the usual quarterback was injured. He had not played that position since his freshman year. He lead his team through an undefeated season. It was incredible. Then, the first game of the playoffs (which they were projected to be the top-seeded team), there were many injuries and tough plays in the game. They experienced a crushing loss. It was not what he had imagined, or expected. He had hopes of big accomplishments (state championship, all-state, etc), but it didn’t happen that way.
As I prepared to write this blog, I was struck with some of the similarities in him experiencing a pregnancy earlier than they had planned. It is not what they imagined, nor have they accomplished all of what they had set ahead of them financially, or otherwise. But they are now on the course of what was unexpected. Obviously, they are excited and have shifted gears! But in the greater scope of life, dealing with the unexpected takes some practice. Maybe part of handling this curveball was made easier by having experienced some of that before. Who knows?! But what if, just what if…part of that plan was preparing him for the greater picture that God could see in His life?
Maybe it could be helpful to ask, how is God going to use this for His purpose? And as I heard in a sermon the other day, “God may want to do something IN them before He does something FOR them!!” Isn’t that a great way to refocus that feeling of wanting things to be quickly fixed?
I think back to that night of utter defeat. This wonderful class of seniors had done so much right…so much well! They truly deserved this by so many standards. But as all of us parents stood field-side and waited to hug our boys and take them home, something else happened. These boys knelt in the end zone and prayed. Yes, despite the crushing blow and devastating loss, they bowed their heads as a team and prayed. Weeks later we heard what a testimony that had been to some in the community and some of those very kids on the team, who expressed this team was their “family.” Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so impactful following a loss?! One might never know.
7. Help them “memorialize” or mark how this trial turned into a triumph or something they could survive or thrive.
Maybe this step would help you, your child, or your family, find a special way to mark those times when God comes through in ways you wouldn’t expect, blesses, or answers prayer. How might you mark those times for easy recall in the future. In this way, we give thanks, celebrate, and remember His goodness even in the trials of life.
While listening to a few sermons on hope and trials lately, I heard some great quotes you might enjoy as well. I know when I pray for my kids, I sometimes wish God would just hear my prayer and answer as I might expect. This pastor pointed out, however, that we might rob them of seeing God exceed our expectations.
“If God always met your expectations, He’d never have the opportunity to exceed them!!”Craig Groeschel
He also said, “We can love God easily on the mountaintops, but we get to know Him intimately in the valleys!”
So, perhaps if we truly want our child to know and experience God in deep and real ways, we need to understand that those valleys might be their best times of learning and growing in their walk with God!
You might find this resource helpful as you try to Find Truth in the Tough Times. It details some specific scripture you might find helpful in your journey. Be sure to subscribe to get this and access to a library full of other free parenting resources.
How might you refocus your efforts on helping your child through times of trial? How can you help them feel a sense of triumph even when the situation may not turn out as they expected or hoped?
Have you ever watched your child face rejection or setback? Maybe a debilitating injury or illness? How do we lead our kids through these disappointments, discouragements and even despair? What to Say When Your Child is Discouraged… How To Find Positive in Those Difficult Negatives… When Your Child Feels Like Giving Up…
Click here to listen on Podbean, or here to listen on ITunes.
Hugs to you and your child on this journey!
Let’s do this!!
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