Sometimes life leaves you dangling in the air.
Last winter, our family was enjoying a terrific day together on the slopes of a Colorado ski resort. My 7-year-old son, Troy, and I hustled to hop onto a moving chairlift. We got on — but Troy slipped and fell from his seat.
I reached for him and just managed to grab the collar of his jacket. The lift continued moving forward. Within seconds, Troy was suspended several feet off the ground, dangling from my grasp. I hollered for someone to stop the lift.
It finally halted, and a man ran over and rescued Troy.
Isn't that how life often feels for parents and kids alike? You're going along enjoying your day, and suddenly something happens that leaves you clinging desperately to each other and wondering if you're going to make it through. The good news is that God has a purpose for our trials, and if we can teach our kids to persevere through these challenges, they'll emerge even stronger than before.
Challenge and opportunity
It's natural to want to avoid hardship and to do our best to shield our children from it. No one enjoys pain, and no dad or mom likes watching his or her kids struggle. We often forget, however, that trials are not just an experience to endure but also an opportunity to embrace.
Like the muscles in our body that grow larger and stronger when we stress them through exercise, our character and faith are also strengthened by trial and stress. We need challenges to stretch us beyond where we are. That's especially true for our children, who are learning and developing at an amazing pace. We expect our school-aged kids, for example, to write essays and tackle math story problems because these expand their reasoning skills. We encourage them to persist and recognize the challenge as good for them.
What we so often forget, however, is that other, unexpected challenges can also be good for our children and us. I don't mean that I get excited every time the Daly family faces a new crisis — far from it. But I am learning that persevering through trials is part of the Lord's plan to help parents and their kids mature and thrive.
A day at a time
My 4-year-old nephew, Ethan, is a typical boy in many ways. He loves to play outside and draw chalk pictures on the pavement in his driveway. But Ethan has experienced much difficulty in his short life.
Ethan, you see, was born with only two chambers in his heart. He's undergone three open-heart surgeries. With each surgery, some incredible doctors are attempting to reconstruct his coronary system. As you can imagine, it's been a long, emotional and painful journey.
Ethan's parents love the Lord. Like most parents would in their situation, they are struggling to make sense of how Ethan's condition fits into God's greater plan. But they trust God for the grace to handle whatever comes next. They find comfort in Scripture, which reminds them: "In all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28).
Ethan's parents are persevering. They are cherishing each other, taking life a day at a time and thanking the Lord for each morning. It's a lesson that Ethan and his 5-year-old sister can't help but absorb. Their response to Ethan's situation is an example of perseverance rooted in love. As the apostle Paul said, "[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
I urge you to help your children persevere through the inevitable difficulties of life. Let's look at some practical and biblical ways to do just that.
The prayer road
In my experience, the path to godly perseverance begins with prayer. Scripture exhorts us to "always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1).
When we're engaged in regular conversation with the Lord, it reminds us that we don't need to tackle our troubles alone. No matter where we are or what we're facing, God is eager to hear about it, comfort us and guide us toward His will.
To encourage our boys to pray, we started a tradition a couple of years ago. When Jean or I drive the boys to school in the morning, we follow a road that cuts through a rural neighborhood. Instead of listening to the radio or music, we use that time to pray together. Sometimes the boys take turns praying aloud. Sometime I do the praying. We thank the Lord for His blessings, pray for the events of the day and seek His favor for family and friends. We also pray about various happenings at their school and around the world.
Integrating prayer into our daily routine reinforces the fact that we are dependent on God for guidance, healing and provision. It makes it that much easier for each of us to turn to Him when times are tough.
Another way for you and your children to develop godly perseverance is to regularly read biblical accounts of those who persisted in faith despite persecution or trouble. When Lazarus died, for instance, his sisters Martha and Mary revealed great faith. Martha said to Jesus, "I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask" (John 11:22).
The Bible contains many more examples of perseverance:
Joseph persevered in faith despite terrible mistreatment by his brothers (Genesis 37-41).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego defied King Nebuchadnezzar's order to worship a golden idol (Daniel 3).
Despite opposition from the Jewish and Roman authorities, Jesus continued to speak and teach about God.
I like to read Bible stories aloud to my boys after dinner. You may discover a routine that works even better for your family. What's important is that you and your kids consistently connect with the spiritual giants who overcame obstacles to persist in their faith.
God is with you and your children. He won't ever stop loving you. Trust in that, and you and your kids will be ready to persevere ... the next time life leaves one of you dangling in the air.
Listen to Jim and Jean Daly discuss how God uses our struggles to strengthen faith in Part 1 and Part 2 of the Focus on the Family broadcast 'Finding Strength in the Struggles of Life'
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Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family. He writes about godly perseverance in his book Stronger. Follow his blog.
This article first appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Hang in There." Copyright © 2010 by James Lund. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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