Monday, December 17, 2007

Pain-free Living? Not On This Side

My little grandson fell (not uncommon for a 15 month old). One could just tell from the sound of the landing that this was not a serious event, merely unpleasant for him. After all, he was experiencing some measure of pain.

Pain. Humanity wants to escape from pain. We go to great lengths to prevent pain. Drugs have been developed to help us bypass pain; we don't want headaches (myself included.) Wisdom would tell us to look ahead and choose paths carefully so as to prevent pain. And parents try to shield children from pain, rightfully so. At times.

But perhaps we do ourselves a bit of a disservice in that last arena. Am I suggesting that we should throw our children out in the cold every afternoon for hours on end, refuse to feed them even if they are hungry, or leave them suffering when ill rather then seeking respite from pain? No, of course not. But I am suggesting that I often see parents stepping into a role of protector that is not theirs; they are attempting to shield their children from every pain and sorrow, both physical and emotional, rather than helping them seek God for comfort from that anguish.

In an effort to protect children from pain, parents sometimes are found hiding truth from them; or a false surrounding is created to buffer them from the painful reality outside the door. We find ourselves perplexed by nagging questions: How much is too much? What must they know? Aren't they too young to experience this? Shouldn't childhood be idyllic and pain-free?

This is my question: Shouldn't my grown-up life be idyllic and pain-free, too? Isn't the sad reality of trials and tribulations one that we help young Christians come to understand and accept, even recognizing that it works good in us? When does the transition occur between an ideal world and the real one?

I suggest that it begins at a young age. The truth is, awful or not, you cannot shield them from all pain. You are not meant to. You cannot be the great protector, the provider of all comfort, the supplier of grace. You are not God and should not try to be God. Your part is to teach them to turn to Him, to understand that He alone can provide help in time of need, and that He is concerned about every pain, angst, and fear that will ever plague their body or soul. It is never too early to begin, especially if we want Psalm 144.12 children:

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style;

Here is a picture of sons walking in maturity while yet young, of daughters displaying a beautiful strength. Where does maturity and strength come from? We all would agree, tribulation causes us to seek Him and the trying of our faith builds strength. Children who have learned to look for Him in the midst of trouble have experienced His faithfulness and grow in maturity. Young ones who have learned to trust Him in time of need have found the true source of strength.

If I grow up never facing giants with my parents by my side, what will happen when I am grown up and face my first giant alone?

We don't need to shield them from all pain. We can't and shouldn't. Their rightful portion is much better than that. Their privilege is to know Him from a young age as the Holy One, the true provider, the only absolute shield, the fountain of grace and wisdom. Teach them to look up, to look to Him alone. Teach them what to do with pain and sorrow from the earliest age. Don't candy-coat every situation. Don't cover up the truth. That reflects a fear that He will not be able to meet their need. Instead, buy up the opportunity to teach them about the reality of this sin-tainted world.

In all honesty, you should start at a young age - opportunities will abound to teach this vital lesson for successful living, but you never really know how many of those opportunities you will be present for.

Don't put it off until tomorrow.


Blogger Stephen Marotta said...

I almost completely agree!
I have such a difficulty with the overprotective nature of most Christian parrants. the notion that "when you have a kid, you will understand that it is your desire to make sure that their lives are free of abuse (pain suffering etc.)" as if somehow this is a justification for behaving in a manner that is ungodly. the sollution is further ahead than you think it is, i have to say this. the realisation that "God watches little babies be raped and murdered" is the means for correcting the lies of Christian parrants. usually we say: pain happens but God isn't happy about it. why do we have to add this addendum. why not just say: pain happens. if god exists, he likes or at least tollerates pain, abuse, suffering. if instead of "dealing" with the problem of pain by saying "free will is where God's omnipotence bows" or "God isn't happy when that happens" or "seek God as your compforter in times of pain" (although this one is the closest of them all to the truth) to really find the answer maybe instead of dismissing the problem of pain, we ought to --- embrase it. lets have our own private confessionals: repeate after me: God watches little babies be raped and murdered. Either: God could stop it, but he doesn't OR God doesn't want to stop it, OR he doesnt' exist. lets not look for a means of dismissing this conscept lets embrase it. maybe by making our problems small, (event he ones that we now have towering above us---maybe this is the way we "conquer the world" as Christians. maybe when the theif turned to Christ and saw him suffering without complaint or accusation, maybe in that very moment when he realized that he to could live and die that way. maybe then he WAS in paradise. maybe this is conquering the world, and not "looking to another world" "not in this life."
God as compforter: not in this life. embrase it.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Preach it! I've seen the end results of parents who allowed their children to deal with pain starting young and the end results of those who were raised in protective, pain-free, "happy childhood" homes. The latter was disasterous! It's hard enough on the former! Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking... uhmmm, thought!

11:41 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Moulton said...

I think you should consider adding this to a parent class. I have found in the homeschool community that it's a weakness. Mothers, in particular, are so available to their children, that there is a tendency to get worn out with all their demands. Moms think they are being good mothers when in fact, they are helping to create a pain-free mentality.

The catering that goes on is incredible. I noticed this first in my art class when I became aware of children who would sit in their chair and say, "I need a glue stick"..."I need another paper". At first, I did the typical mom thing until I found myself running all around with 15 kids in my class, handing them what they needed!

So in a small way, I am helping train these young ones to start out right by getting up out of their chairs and experiencing the "pain" of resisiting the laziness!

Good post. We can't allow ourselves to get swept up with the world's view...and at the same time...we need wisdom in that we don't go too far either way.

8:40 AM  

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