My youngest son, Troy, has been blessed with the gift of helping. He is always eager to be of assistance to anyone in need. One of the most common phrases out of his mouth is, “Can I help?” He purposefully runs ahead to open doors for family and strangers too. He loves to help me in the kitchen and if grocery bag carrying was a sport he would already be a pro at age 9.
I witnessed the extent of his servant heart again recently when our family attended a church work day to install a new floor in our sanctuary. Troy was a great help. He hauled heavy boxes of flooring, distributed the pieces, picked up old boxes, set up chairs and even handed out water bottles. He was never far away and always ready to assist.
At one point, as I was working on the floor along with others, I heard some sniffling behind me. I looked back to see Troy kneeling by a heavy box of flooring and doing his best to hold back tears; it was a fight he was losing. I could see that he had smashed his fingers when he lowered the box to the floor and he was in pain. He was struggling to still open the cardboard box up so that he could provide the pieces for the workers and not slow things down. But he was hurting and as much as he was trying to hold it back the little sobs kept escaping.
Troy was far enough away from me that he did not see that I noticed what he was going through. As his mom who loves him very much, I wanted to jump up, run to him and hold him and let him cry. I would check out his finger, find some ice to put on it and let him sit out for a while. But that is not what I did…I did the opposite. I let him hurt, I let him cry, I left him on his own and just watched.
The words that came into my mind at that moment were “suffer for doing good.” The full verse is found in 1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Now I am not silly enough to compare Troy’s hurt fingers to serious Christian persecution, but I think it can still be a good lesson and a valuable experience.
As mothers (or anyone who has influence on a child’s life) we are in the serious and God-assigned business of raising-up the next generation of Christ followers (God wiling). We need to teach them how to suffer and how to suffer well. We need to allow specific types of pain in their lives so they can experience it and practice dealing with it. We need to not save them from all hurts. Examples:
All of this needs to be done in careful and loving ways, never intending harm, but always out of concern for their eternal souls and future standing before God.
Do not do a disservice to your children by preparing them for a cushy lifestyle where everything is fair and all participants get a trophy. Our desire should be to train up sold-out, world-changing, counter-cultural, Bible-wise Disciples of Christ. Persecution is a guarantee for those who love Christ (2 Tim. 3:12). Teach them this and prepare them so they will stand firm when the trials come.
Troy did work through his pain on his own and finished his job of opening the box and continued serving those around him. Instead of running off to hide, he loved on others with red tear-worn eyes and a smile. What a lesson for me to witness in my own son. God’s words ring ever true:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
I admit it, sometimes I feel as if my prayers are falling flat. Like I’m trying to do a graceful, awe-inspiring double pike off the high dive and all I manage is a belly flop in the kiddie pool. Sometimes my words just come out all wrong and I can’t seem to communicate what I need. Instead of entering the deep end in aquatic elegance, I’m floundering like a toddler in a few inches of water (yes, I have been to the pool a lot this summer, why do you ask?).
Its days like this that I can get caught up in the lies that the Enemy eagerly offers up:
Does this sound familiar? Ladies, we need to tell that devil to shove off. Is our Christian life so centered on us that we put the weight of answered prayer on our shoulders? Don’t allow it. Re-center your heart on Christ and banish those thoughts.
Take comfort in God’s Word: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
These are glorious words for us to hear! Here is what you (and I) need to understand about prayer:
We need to be intentional in prayer and to honor God in how we talk to him. But never think for a moment that fancy “Christianese” words or how we feel during prayer indicates whether or not God hears our prayers and certainly not how he responds to them. Don’t take God’s place in the orderly gift of prayer.
Our words have no mountain-moving power. Prayer is powerful only because of the Hearer who receives it. He is the one who can move mountains in your life and in those you are praying for. And he does hear your prayers, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29. If you are a believer, God is listening to you (what a crazy-awesome promise).
After having my share of belly-flop moments in prayer (private and even embarrassing public ones), I truly rejoice knowing that the results do not depend on my tongue. God has ordained that prayer be a means by which his great purposes be accomplished in human lives. His grace is not dependent on my verbal prowess or lack thereof. I speak to my Father because he is in charge and he is forever faithful. I encourage you to do the same.