by Jenny Manley
My son recently started kindergarten at a local school. On the morning of his first day I navigated us down the hallway through a sea of abayas and hijabs, kandooras, and gutras. I have never felt more awkward as I looked down at my jeans and ran my hand down the back of my ponytail. Once inside his classroom I tried to start meeting my son’s classmates, and it did not take long for me to realize that very few of the children spoke English. Nervous, my son looked to me seeking assurance, and I tried my best to give him a comforting and confident smile as I left.
I walked quickly to my car so as to avoid anyone seeing my imminent meltdown. I sat in my car collecting my thoughts about how different my children’s experiences will be from my own idyllic Americana childhood. There would be no excitement building up to 4th of July fireworks, Christmas parades, and no Friday night high school football games. I cried out to God, “Why does my son have to bear the consequences of our decision? God, I love my children too much to see them suffer!”
This was a pretty ironic thought, was it not? Because my love for my children is so great, I demanded that God would prevent my children from experiencing any pain or suffering. I also preferred my own dreams for their childhood rather than God’s perfect plans. I also forgot that my theology includes the idea that following Christ means we will encounter unwanted suffering. Before my husband and I moved overseas to plant a church we accounted for this biblical concept, mentally preparing a cost-benefit analysis. We decided that proclaiming Christ in a church-less region was worth the potential cost to us of any temporary worldly suffering. It was a conscious decision my husband and I made. What I did not calculate, however, was how our children would also experience the effects of our decisions. They didn’t have a choice in the matter– we sold all their toys and put them on a seat between us on the plane.
In my forgetfulness of God’s love for me and my children, I imagined that God was uncaring and aloof. But he is neither distant nor uninvolved in our lives! God knows what it is like to love a son, and he knows what it is to see his Son suffer. God willfully sent his Son into a world filled with hostile sinners like me whom he knew would crucify him. God counted the costs too, and he did not hesitate to do the unthinkable. Jesus willingly suffered on my behalf as God the Father directed all the punishment I deserved for my sin onto his innocent Son. In light of that truth, my son’s momentary “suffering” did not seem so great. And precisely because of the suffering of God’s Son, we can rejoice that any temporary suffering we experience on this side of eternity for Christ’s sake is really a privilege.
Of course, it is never fun to watch our children face difficult situations. But we joyfully walk through these situations knowing that our God truly understands and he hears our cries. God loves us, and he loves our children. God used the suffering of his own Son to accomplish good on our behalf. Our heavenly Father does not intend to waste the temporary suffering of our children for anything less than his glory and our good. It is a cost-benefit analysis that needs no calculation.
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