The Pain of Parenting a Suffering Child
I have had to walk through some tough, horrible days (years) as a parent.
I mean, really tough! Life altering tough! Gut wrenching tough!
And I am not alone. Many of my friends have their own almost unimaginable hardships and trials in parenting their older “children” – navigating uncharted waters of terrible things that they could not have conceived of in earlier years of parenting – things that make a mockery of every complaint ever lodged about “terrible toddler” years. I won’t even dare to name these because they are the kind of things that are only shared within close trusted circles because it is too hard to speak the words out loud.
Every one of these parents are loving Christian parents who raised their children to love the Lord. One might wonder, “Where is the fruit of God’s promises to me and to my children?” “Why do some families appear to have great blessing and no trials?”
What went wrong?
What did I do wrong?
Scars of Love
But time goes on and some of those children have already come through “to the other side” – but not all without the smell of smoke still clinging.
Sometimes I remember the heartache of the worst of those days – the days when I thought that my heart was irreparably broken – when Satan’s lies and rejection crushed me – when hopelessness consumed me – when I cried so hard that my eyes were swollen shut. How would it be possible to forgive the ugly words and ugly deeds?
Although the years have healed and brought joy and thankfulness as we have discovered that God’s arms are indeed big enough to hold and comfort, strengthen and act on our behalf; we will always carry the scars of love. There will likely be more.
The other Sunday when I was worshiping, I was suddenly overwhelmed with deep pain – but it was not my pain I felt – it was the pain of my child’s suffering. In that moment, love for my child just about broke my heart in two and how I wished that I could have carried their suffering for them so that they would never have had to be afraid or feel alone. Waves of love washed over me and if there was any bitterness left, it was surely drowned in the rushing waters of Love.
It was at that moment, the Lord whispered into my heart.
“This is what Love feels like.”
Love feels the suffering of others and carries it to the cross.
The love of a parent, and indeed the love of our Heavenly Father, is not all tummy tickles and bedtime stories. I wish that I could tell you that if you try to do everything right, it will all work out perfectly.
You might never have to press into God with every fiber of your being, or lay your broken hopes and dreams at the altar, make almost impossible decisions, or face your deepest fears.
But if you do, it isn’t because you have failed at being a parent, any more than God has failed when we, his children, suffer because sin has stolen and destroyed something of us.
Where the enemy would come to accuse, or mock, or shame – God comes instead to meet us in our suffering and tells us that we have the one thing that we need…
Faith, Hope, and Love…And the Greatest of these is Love
…never gives up…always perseveres in hope (Romans 5:5)
…never loses faith – praying with groans too deep for words – and God hears, tenderly collecting every tear (Psalm 56:8)
…endures through every circumstance – pushing through the fear and doubt…
…forgives, the wounded and wounding words and ugly acts, keeping no record of wrongs suffered, so that eventual joy will be unmarred by bitterness.
And so I willingly bear my scars of love, just like my Savior does.