Helping you grow closer to God
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About this series
This Christmas, how do you give your children what money can't buy? We all desire to give gifts of significant value, but what does that really look like? What “Priceless” gifts can we give? In this series, Chip unpacks 5 key areas that tend to make or break our children and gives solid biblical insight and practical steps for managing those 5 important life skills. As a parent, or grandparent, you want to give your child every advantage in life. A “Priceless” Christmas gives you the tools to help your child develop godly character and important life-skills. Your life, their lives, and the lives of generations to come will never be the same.More from this series
The priceless gift that you can give those you love this Christmas, is this: Help them to learn to grow through their suffering.
You can’t put a price tag on that. It’ll be worth whatever gift, you could fill that box with fresh one hundred dollar bills and stack it tightly and I’ll guarantee that at the end of the day that will have far less impact, long-term, on the people you love the most, than if you could give them the gift of teaching them to suffer well.
And so, with that, number one, here’s how to do it. Teach them to identify what they’re concerned about. When we suffer, some of us, we just, I mean, denial, avoidance, repression, those defense mechanisms, it’s the number one way we all respond to suffering and difficulty. It’s hard to face it.
So, you want to help them learn to think about it, you want to help them learn to talk about it, you want to get them literally to write it down. I never kept a journal and early in my Christian life, I was probably two years in as a Christian and my dad and mom were going through horrendous times. My dad’s alcoholism came to a point in time that, you know, I still remember my mother saying, “It’s this bottle or me and the kids.”
Now, my spiritual leader who was a real important person in my life, he moved. We had a basketball coaching change, I had a scholarship with the old coach and the new coach came in and said, “I’m going to do tryouts.”
I mean, everything in my life went to, “What’s going on?” The girlfriend that I thought that I would marry, I mean, all four of these things. Boom, boom, boom, boom, they’re gone.
And what I realized is I was angry and I was bitter and I was resentful and I was mad at God, I was mad at the coach, I was mad at my parents. And I couldn’t get it clear. I remember getting one of those little spiral notebooks and I’m just going to start writing down at least how I feel. And that started about a thirty-some-year journey.
If you write it down, you have to get clear. And if you can’t identify what bothers you, you can’t deal with it. You can’t respond to it. And so, with your kids or with people in your small group, the way to help them identify is ask good questions.
And for some of you, don’t try and fix it so quickly. Don’t try and avoid the pain for them. Don’t step in front and make sure that this never happens to them again.
Ask them questions like, “What are you feeling right now? What do you wish you could change?” Or if it’s relational and you can just tell something is wrong, “Who is your best friend? What do you like about them?”
Because all you want to do is you want to start them thinking and talking about relationships. “Who hurt you?” You begin to ask questions and then you listen. You want to help them identify what’s going on because here’s what I can tell you happens in your homes. I mean, Theresa and I, I think we went to a year of counseling to start to get this.
When there was a problem with me, I would shove it down, she would shove it down. And so many of you, in your homes, it goes like this. One of you is kind of funky. You know, you withdraw a little bit. You’re sitting on the chair watching a little TV, paper goes up. Or you’re cold with your affection.
And your mate says something like this, “Honey, what’s wrong?” And the response that they get is, “Hrmph. Nothing.” “No, no, no, tell me, honey, I can tell. Well, what’s wrong?” “Nothing.” And then you go to bed and one rolls this way and the other rolls this way.
And then this journey starts, you know why? Because when you were a kid, no one taught you to suffer well! And to suffer well, you have to identify what’s going on and because it’s so painful and because you blame people and we bolt to anger – it’s a secondary emotion.
And so, we bolt to anger, we bolt to blame, we bolt to resentment and it causes all kind of stuff inside of you, addictions get born out of that. And so, you want to help people early on to just identify, “I feel hurt, I feel betrayed, I feel used, I feel like God isn’t fair, I feel sad.” That’s where you start. And when you do, it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll give.
The second thing is to pray honestly about it together. I would encourage you to read the book of Job or read through the Psalms. See, here’s what happens. Our kids go through something and someone makes fun of them at school or something bad happens like they didn’t make the team, or they have a big breakup or especially when they’re small we tell them really crazy things like, “Oh, that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter. It’ll be okay. Everything is going to be okay.” Says who? Maybe everything is not going to be okay.
See, what you want to do is you want to help them identify, “I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m hurt, they said this about me, I was betrayed. Daddy, he said that he loved me, and I found out he went out with this other girl and then I found out he slept with her. He said he was a Christian. You know, I can’t understand it.” “You know, I got laid off and there’s three people there that came after me and I had seniority but…”
That needs to get on the table and then you need to take that to God. And you need to have honest prayers. Honest prayers go something like this. Job: “What in the heck is going on? I’m righteous, I’ve walked with You, it doesn’t make sense, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I was faithful. Now, my kids have been killed, my riches are gone, my house caved in, my friends are turning against me, what is going on?”
Your kids need to learn to pray. God can take that. You read some of those lament Psalms and, I mean, David just lays it out there. Jot down this: Psalm 145:18. “The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.”
See, you need to have times with your little boys and your little girls and your young adults where you get it on the table, “This is what is going on,” and then you say, “Let’s talk to God about this.” And then don’t pray one of those little Sunday school prayers, “O dear Jesus, we thank Thee that Thou is in control of all that goeth and all that cometh. Help us to feeleth better about all these things and make it better soon. Amen.”
It’s interesting how many times in Scripture that when God sees tears, and hearts that are broken, He’s near to the brokenhearted and those that are crushed in spirit.
And your kid needs to hear you say, “God, I don’t get this and my heart is broken and I couldn’t be more angry and I know You’re in control but I don’t see it right now and we need You to show up.” Because what you want is you want the Spirit of God and the living God to come take up residence in the midst of the pain and the difficulty and the hurt and He wants to move into that and He wants you to know that there really wasn’t any person or anything that could ever satisfy. He’ll be there with you.
Jesus’ promise was not to the disciples, “It’s going to be great.” His promise is, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” We have so skewed our theology in this day. Jesus is not the self-help genie to make your life or your kids’ lives work.
He is the solemn, sovereign Creator of the universe that has a purpose, who has invited us to join Him, who is all-wise, absolutely holy, absolutely just, holy and pure. And He says, “I will be with you. And in the midst of your difficulty and pain in a fallen world, I will take these things and I’ll mold these things and I’ll shape these things in such a way that you know Me like never before and that you’re transformed from the inside out.”
And like a grain of wheat falling to the earth, it dies and then it brings forth much fruit. He modeled that for us. He was rejected. He was spit upon. And yet that’s why, when you come, Jesus understands.
Third, help them share where they are suffering with someone they trust. Sometimes as a parent or maybe sometimes it’s in a small group, it’s an older man, an older woman, someone who has been around the block.
There is no substitute for talking with someone that’s been where you have been through, and they have suffered well through it. And other times it’s a peer. You know, it’s just, you know, you need to help them get with people or you need to get with people that they’re just on a same page and they can share honestly what’s going on and process it.
And then there are other times where, you know what? It’s a professional counselor or a pastor because you’re stuck.
I sat with a good friend that I was going to meet with and my goal of our meeting was to share some things with him that, he always gives me really great perspective.
And I just asked him sort of in passing as I got my coffee and sat down, “So, hey, tell me a little bit about: how’s it going?” And the next seventy percent of our time, I got to enter into a very special, painful journey as he just marked the anniversary of the death of his son that’s been just a year.
And I just sat with tears flowing down my face and thought: you know, I don’t think about the loss that people experience during the holidays. I don’t, I’m not attuned to what it’s like that it was this time last year that your mom or your dad or your brother or your sister got cancer or you lost your job or you lost your company and that this holiday season, yeah it’s the bright, we hear all the nice songs and there’s a whole group of people that this is the most difficult time of the year.
And he said, “You know, I’ve read a lot about grief,” and we go way back so we can be absolutely honest. You talk about raw. And he goes, “I remember one quote that was so helpful,” he says, “I read recently that a grief shared is divided in half.”
And all I want you to hear is an awful lot of teaching people to suffer well is to do life with them and listen and be there or get them to someone they feel comfortable to really talk to that’s mature.
The final way, and maybe the most important after the first three, are help them align specific Scripture with their specific situation. And here I want to press you just a little bit because we’re living in a day where the Bible, even in Bible churches, has become sort of like, “Oh, yeah, this is kind of good and there are notes here and there’s power point on the screen and I go to a Bible study here and I get a booklet and then in the booklet a lot of the passages are there.”
There is a need for you to be able to sit with your child or someone in your small group when they are suffering, what you need to do is you need to be able to open this book and take them to, “This is the issue you’re facing. This is the truth,” because truth sets them free.
It’s not just listening and counseling and identifying and sharing. They need the truth. It’s the power. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and He makes it living and He does something in them when they can base it on truth.
So, to suffer well you need to understand, these are the reasons that people suffer. And here’s the promise that you need to take them to. The first one, I gave these to you, and I did this not to overwhelm you, but your kids are going to go through these. And these are passages that you need to know well.
The first one is when they suffer because of external, negative circumstances: James 1:2 to 4. I mean, when tough stuff happens, they say, “What am I going to do? I mean, it was a brand-new car! The tree fell! It ruined my car! I don’t have transportation!” And you’re going to open the Bible, after you have listened and gone through it all and say, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect,” or, “maturing result, that you might be perfect, lacking in nothing.”
And you can say, “You know, this stuff is going to happen, but our attitude, our choice, we consider it, God is in control and if you need wisdom, He’s going to show you what to do in this. He’s going to show you, honey, how you can make it through this.”
And they’re going to have to learn at some point in time or they’ll blame someone or go into denial.
The second is persecution: 2 Timothy 3:12. You know, some of your kids, they’re bold, they don’t know better and they’re going to identify with Jesus in third or fourth grade and they’re going to get ridiculed! And what you don’t want to do is put your arms, “Oh, they’re all wrong, honey.” Or, “You know what? I’m going to go talk to the principal, I’m going to talk to the teacher. ‘What are you doing to my son?’”
How about this? “What if you open the Bible and you said to them, “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That’s that passage. And then maybe go back to the Sermon on the Mount and you say, “You know, sweetheart? I know that’s really hard when people do that to you but here’s what Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you when you’re persecuted for My sake.’”
And you begin to teach them that it’s not about being protected, that there’s a cost and there’s a price, and He’ll be with you. You’re teaching them to suffer well.
The third is bad choices. There are times where our kids, like us, they do sinful things. Galatians chapter 6 verses 7 and 8. It says, “God will not be mocked. We’re going to reap what we sow. When we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption, when we sow to the Spirit, life and peace.”
You know, there’s times where you say, “Well, here’s the deal, you got in that car with those people, and one of them was drinking, and you got in the wreck, and you knew you weren’t supposed to, and here’s the implications, and that’s what happened.”
And you take them to that passage and you say, “You know, we’re always going to reap what we sow,” and you read it and you let them own it. And you don’t yell and you don’t scream, and, “Why were you doing that?” Has that worked for you before?
And then you take them to 1 John 1:9 and you say, “You know what? We can get back on the right track right now. God promises if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He’s just. He’ll forgive and He’ll cleanse. Right now.”
Do you understand? If you are going to teach your kids to suffer well, they need to begin to see His truth and His Word as the bedrock in a fallen world where life is unfair and disappointing, and betrayal happens.
Because the Jesus who walked on the earth was treated very unfairly and was betrayed at every turn and it’s the Father and the Spirit and Him living as fully human and yet fully divine, blazing a trail saying, “Follow Me. And as you do, I’ll do things in you and through you.” But it’s rooted in truth.
The fourth is spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10 to 12. You know, there are times where your kids or someone in your small group, they are just, I mean, they are taking great steps and, literally, all hell breaks loose.
And immediately, “What have I done wrong?” Or, “What’s with God?” And you need to let them know, “You’re in a battle. I mean, you started a Bible study at school. I mean, you’ve gone public with your faith. You’ve decided to get in God’s Word on a regular basis. You’ve taken a step of real faith with your resources and your finances.
Guess what? When you begin to break out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, there’s a battle going on! This is normal.” And so, you teach them about and how to do spiritual warfare.
The last one here is character development. There are times where, just like good, earthly fathers, your heavenly Father sees things in your life and my life and the heart of your kids, right? Envy; arrogance; selfishness; little narcissistic, consumerism mindset. Well, in God’s kindness and love, He actually is bringing some circumstances like the velvet vise of love to build their character to make them like His Son.
And so, Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; but afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
You know what the life message here is? I mean, here’s the gift. You say, “Okay, Chip, you know, you’ve said a lot of different things and a theology of suffering and you said we need to help them identify it and then we need to pray honestly and, you know, okay, I’m kind of getting that and…”
If I could say learning to suffer well, here’s the gift. Your kids, the people in your small group, they grow up with this: Suffering is normal. That is the absolute antithesis of what most of your children or young Christians and often not-so-young Christians believe.
We are absolutely shocked when things go wrong! “What did I do? God, what’s the deal?” If you don’t think suffering is normal, you set your child up or you set yourself up to be devastated. How many people have you heard say something like this, “Well, if God loves me, why did He let this happen?”
Anybody heard that? “If God really loves me, why did He let this happen? And if He let this happen, what kind of God is that?” Or, “How could God let this happen? I mean, isn’t He all-powerful? How could He let this happen to me?”
Or, “How can I ever trust a God that I prayed and I asked Him and I didn’t get in that school. I didn’t make the team. I didn’t get the girl. I didn’t get the job. He didn’t heal the cancer.”
I want you to know there are masses of young people out of our homes and often many of their parents and those that are new in the faith that because they don’t know suffering is normal, they believe that God didn’t come through, God doesn’t love them, God isn’t in control. And because what they’ve really learned and picked up is that if you’re a nice little boy or girl, Jesus is your self-help genie. And if you just do the formula right on the big vending machine of life – A2, B4, C7 – that your life is just up, up, up, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And the fact of the matter is, nothing could be farther from the truth. Teach your children to suffer well.
Can I put one verse as the bow on this? You can just jot it down, I’ll quote it for you. It’s Hebrews chapter 5, verse 7 and 8. It says, “In the days of His flesh,” this isn’t the cross, “In the days of His flesh,” Jesus walking upon the earth, “He made loud cries with tears and supplication to His heavenly Father.” Did you think of that side of Jesus?
The side of Jesus that, you know, He had feelings. He was fully human. He went to His hometown, He’s rejected. How do you think He felt? People didn’t believe, how do you think He felt? He did a miracle and they don’t respond. How do you think He felt? They’re trying to kill Him, how do you think He felt? He pours out His life to Judas and he sells him out. How do you think He felt? Jesus went alone, many times, and in tears, cried out to His heavenly Father, as He suffered. His great suffering wasn’t just on the cross. And then verse 8, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through the things that He suffered.”
Your kids need to learn to obey and trust God and this is an undesired gift. But the undesired gift of learning to suffer well may be one of the five most precious things you ever give your kids.