15 December 2017

Preparing our Kids for Disappointment

At a recent ‘Care for the Family’ conference addressed by Rob Parsons, he spoke very powerfully on the subject of, “Getting your Kids through Church without them Ending up Hating God.” During this talk he spoke of the reality of pain and disappointment that is an inevitable part of life and the importance of preparing our kids for such experiences in their future lives highlighting three major disappointments they all will encounter:

Get Them Ready For Disappointment With Others.

When we are young, we believe. We listen to preachers and we believe. We sing along with worship leaders and we believe. We rub shoulders with strong Christians from our church and we believe. And why would we not believe? The preachers are famous (at least in our world), the worship leaders practically visit heaven when they sing, and the strong Christians from our church have been, well – strong – as long as we have known them.

In fact, when we are young our belief goes even deeper than that. Our heroes of the faith, both local and worldwide, come to epitomise God. It’s not surprising. These men and women tell us what God thinks, what hurts Him, what pleases Him, and the way to live a life that will honour Him. We aspire to be like them. In someways they are almost Jesus to us.

But they are not Jesus. And if we are to help our children get through to a mature faith, we are going to have to get them ready for a devastating day. It’s the day when they will have to hold on to faith in God despite being disappointed with others. They are going to have to still trust God when His followers let them down.

Get Them Ready For Disappointment With Themselves.

What is the great longing of our heart? I have no doubt it is the endeavour to prove we are worth loving. For many of us, this compulsion is all-consuming. Life screams at us: “You must be clever to be loved”;

“You must be beautiful to be loved”;

“You must be sexy to be loved”;

“You must be wealthy to be loved”.

But life can have no idea how cruel it is to scream such things. Does it not know that already our heart doubts that we are worthy of love? Can it not tell that, let alone the need for more brilliance, attractiveness, and money, we are already scrabbling together our meagre store of offerings and whisperings in our souls, “No I’m not worth loving.” Our worthlessness wraps itself around us like a chain. It seems we can not be free of it: we are imprisoned.

And then we come to Christ and discover the truth of unconditional love. But, although for a while the freedom is wonderful, the old insecurities come flooding back. Soon we find ourselves struggling, and again we feel the need to prove ourselves. But this time it’s not to other people but to God Himself that we feel the need to prove we are worth loving. We strive to show our devotion, or piety, or our commitment to His service. But there is little peace here, for it is a wearisome business being good or busy enough to earn God’s love.

The enemy of our souls is called the Accuser, and we can be haunted all our life by the dreadful condemnation that we are nothing more than an ongoing disappointment to God.

So often the insecurity combines with the propensity of human beings to devise rules and regulations by which we may judge others and ourselves, and we are soon carrying out a daily checklist of whether we are or are not good followers of Jesus.

One of the ways we can help in this as parents is to let our children see how we deal with situations in which we feel we could have done better. It could be in little things – letting them see we’re annoyed with ourselves over the way we yelled at the other driver who cuts us up, or it could be in matters of huge importance – such as the way we handled the breakdown of our marriage. I have often told my children of occasions when I felt I let God down and how it made me feel. I told them of those times even when they were young enough to think their father was probably perfect.

Did I want to be a good example to them? Yes. Did I want my life to be an encouragement for them to press on with following Jesus? Yes. Did I want to present to them a picture of somebody who seemed to have it all together? No. A thousand times no. I wanted them to see how I ran to God and in spirit knelt before the cross and asked for forgiveness. And I wanted them to learn that, although we may feel that we are often a disappointment to God, we are never a surprise to Him.

I wanted them to be able to be disappointed with themselves and be convicted of their wrong. I wanted them to be disappointed with themselves and have a desire to change. I wanted them to be disappointed with themselves and for that to lead to a longing for holiness. But, as well as that, I wanted them to be able to go through times in life when they were disappointed with themselves…..and still survive.

Get Them Ready For Disappointment With God.

One of the most powerful phrases in the whole Bible is tucked away at the heart of the book of Daniel. Three young men are threatened by King Nebuchadnezzar that if they do not bow down to an idol they will be thrown into a furnace. They refuse to obey and say, “If we’re thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it….But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods…” (Daniel 3:17-18) Their faith in God was not based on always getting what they wanted; they had learned to trust – “if not”.

Rob Parsons

When my kids were small they had a Bible story book that contained a pop-up version of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. We read it often. It was a chance to tell them of God’s ability to rescue those He loves from danger. But as they grew older I found the need to remind both them and myself of those parts in the bible that it’s hard to cover in pop-up versions. When examinations were failed, young hearts broken and dreams sometimes didn’t come true, I wanted my kids not to feel so disappointed with God that they lost their love for Him. I wanted them to hold on to the certainty of His love. If my illness is healed, I am loved – and if it is not healed, I am loved. If I pass the examinations, I am loved – and if I fail them all, I am loved.

I am loved: nothing in earth or heaven can change that. I wanted my children never to lose the understanding that we can cry out to God in any circumstance of life and ask for what we want. But I also wanted them to know that, if we really love Him, then sometimes we also have to whisper: “But if not…”

This is an extract from Rob Parsons’ book, ‘Getting your Kids through Church without them Ending up Hating God’ published by Monarch Books.