I don’t like to brag, but I throw a pretty awesome pity party. When things aren’t going my way, I can feel sorry for myself with the best of them. Frankly, I am an awesome martyr except for the minor detail of never actually having been martyred. Maybe you can identify?
Life can be really tough sometimes. Christian life brings its own set of challenges. We are called to behave better when bad things happen to us and at the same time are sometimes mocked and scorned for our beliefs. Often it seems like we are the only person on earth still trying to please God and we aren’t so sure how great we are doing.
It would be really easy to pull an Elijah and let God know how tired we are of being the only good guy left. Evidently, Elijah had about had it with Ahab and the Israelites. Remember his words? “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts…I alone am left, and they’re looking for me to take my life.” (HCSB I Kings 19:14-18) Elijah was having a very, very bad day.
The funny thing was, Elijah must have been looking for God to come through in a loud way. God showed Elijah, however, that He works in many ways. For God wasn’t in the mighty wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in a whisper. That whisper though, gave Elijah what he needed to continue his service to God.
So how do we teach our children to listen and hear God’s whisper? There are probably hundreds of things you can do, but here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Remind your child God has a plan for her life. There are a lot of scriptures where God makes it clear he knows us intimately and has work prepared for us to do. That means each of us has some very special decisions to make and opportunities to take. Will we choose to follow God all the days of our lives, accept His plan for our lives and serve Him where He needs us? Or will we live our lives for us alone? Your child will have to make the same choices at some point in her life. Knowing your life was given purpose before you were even born, allows a special type of resiliency. You can push through the pain a little easier because you understand you are valued and needed as an active participant in God’s Kingdom.
2. Help your child establish his own personal relationship with God. As soon as possible, teach your child to have his own private prayer time with God. A prayer time where he is encouraged to talk to God in a conversational way about his hopes, dreams, problems and fears. Train him to take everything in his life to God in prayer. Teach him to find the answers to life’s questions in the scriptures and help him place them on his heart in memorization. Focus especially on God’s promises to His people. When hard times arise, the comfort of prayer and the words of God’s promises can give us that extra bit of strength we need to survive just a little bit longer. They can restore hope when it seems all hope is lost.
3. Help your child form meaningful spiritual relationships with godly, Christian people. Spiritual mentors, church friends, church family and Bible class teachers are all sources of strength when we are sometimes unable to be strong for ourselves. God uses His body, the Church, to be His arms, hands and feet for those on earth who need it. One of the most dangerous things a person can do when they are in pain is to isolate themselves from others. The results of isolation are seldom positive. Train your child to not be afraid or embarrassed to ask others for help, especially if those people are godly.
4. Some children are born with a more optimistic bent than others. Even the happy-go-lucky child though, can be brought down by a string of painful events. Teach your children to count their blessings in good times and bad. Help them develop a sense of humor when times are tough. Show them how to hear God’s whisper above the noise of their pain. God never leaves our side, although we sometimes try to leave His. Allow them to have a little time to wallow in their self-pity, but then teach them to take a time out. After a specific amount of time, train them to stop, look around and either find something to be grateful for or see how God is working in the situation to support them. Often, this is where a sense of humor can come in handy. It’s okay if the blessings are a little self-pitying (“I am thankful I didn’t roll down the hill and break my arm after I fell and broke my leg.”). Sometimes the exercise itself can shake the blinders to the side a little and let rays of God’s love start to fill the painful places.
5. I find when I am fearful of potential future pain or wallowing in my current situation, it helps me to help someone else. They say no matter what is happening, you can always find someone better off than you and worse off than you. I am not sure the person worse off than you would agree, but the general attitude is right. Teach your child not to compare his current circumstances to someone else’s or even to his own yesterday. Just look around and find someone else in pain who needs help. I always thought if you were sick, you got a free pass on this one, until I walked the Breast Cancer 3-Day. I had trained for months to be able to walk 60 miles in three days to raise funds for research. As I struck up conversation after conversation, I was often walking next to women who were actively going through or just finishing chemotherapy. I have never been as humbled as I was those three days. Any thought of complaining about tired feet or sore legs, was banished as I watched women who were so thankful just to be alive to walk, that a smile never left their face. Often helping someone else and hearing their story, puts your own story into perspective. If nothing else, being busy and productive can distract you for a time from your problems.
6. Perhaps the most difficult and maybe the most important is teaching your child how to release the pain once the incident is over. Have you ever met people who are so stuck in the past, they are not really even living any more? The pain, hurt and anger have totally immobilized them. For the little hurts, teach your child to forgive, be thankful God saw her through the pain to the other side and count all the lessons learned and blessings experienced even during the painful times. If the incident is severe or chronic, your child and family may need professional help to move on with your lives. Do whatever needs to be done to help your child move on in a healthy way from the pain. God cannot use your child very well if she is so busy looking back at past pain she cannot see what God wants for her life now.
Don’t wait to start teaching your children these Christian resiliency skills until they are in the middle of a major crisis. Start using them now with scraped knees and childhood spats. If you help them develop healthy coping habits now, they will be natural behaviors when your children face a major crisis.I would love to hear what else you have done to develop Christian resiliency in your children. Post a comment below so we can help each other on this journey.