A Note from Pastor Rick: Safe or Strong?
I ran across a thought provoking question in a book I have been reading. Question for parents: do you want to keep your children safe or strong?* What makes that question especially arresting is that it is not a book on parenting. Nor is it a Christian book. It is a book of simple but profound principles of living wisely and well. (*12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson)
When our children were young and living under our roof I know that I definitely would have voted for keeping my kids safe. Every parent’s desire is to keep their children from pain and difficulties. What parent hasn’t seen their child suffer and said, “I would gladly take that pain myself if my child could be spared.”
Now that my children are grown I have a different perspective. Each one of them has had to face difficulties and challenges now that they are on their own. It has been rewarding to see them navigate these challenges with a strong, internal compass and a reservoir of courage, resilience and intentional fortitude. I am proud of each one of them. And I am gratified to see that they have learned how to be strong people.
Although the desire that our children be kept from trouble, loss, and pain is understandable, it is not realistic. And because of that, it is not really a wise desire. Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble . . .” That doesn’t mean that trouble is the Lord’s will, but rather that the world is fallen and broken. The world is full of troubles. So if I raise my child with a goal that they may be kept safe from ever experiencing hurt, loss or pain I leave them unequipped to live as an overcomer in this troubled world.
One of the wisest parents I have ever encountered said that one of his goals for his children had been that they experience a significant loss, hurt or failure before they left home. The first time I heard him say this I recoiled. But then he went on to explain, “I want to be there to help them learn how to handle these kind of experiences and come through them.” He wanted his children to learn how to be strong because he knows that the world is not safe.
Safe or strong? I still pray for protection and safety for my children and grandchildren. But I also pray that they have grace from the Lord to stand strong in the face of struggles, trials, and troubles. In this world we do have trouble—just as Jesus tells us. That is not his promise. It is rather his truthful and realistic assessment of our fallen and broken world. The Lord follows this assessment with an encouragement, “. . . but be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world.” Ultimately helping our children to become strong means to teach them and model before them how to rely upon the Lord during difficulties and challenges.
This is also a truth that is significant for every follower of Jesus. If we expect a life without trouble we will inevitably be disappointed. If we can learn not to be daunted by difficulties and troubles because we have learned how to take encouragement from Jesus having overcome the world then we, too, can become overcomers.