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:
- Allow them to feel the sting of an insult and not retaliate.
- Encourage them to work through minor physical pain on their own.
- Allow them to feel hunger.
- Allow them to learn to deal with unfulfilled wants (not getting a toy they desire).
- Let them feel the discomfort of people watching them as they pray out loud in public before a meal.
- Do not shield them from death (no that bird on the ground is not sleeping).
- Teach them to pray for their enemies or someone who recently hurt them.
- Teach them to forgive someone who is not sorry.
- Educate them on Christian persecution around the world (see www.persecution.com).
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