When incomprehensible, life-altering and formidable challenges enter our children’s lives, it’s all we parents can do not to feel our children’s pain and struggle.
Am I right?
The taste of such moments is bitter and loathsome to us. We wonder.
What could we have done – especially in terms of our child-raising and instruction – to have spared our children this hardship?
What guidance and counsel could we have offered?
What experiences could we have provided?
What word of inspiration could we have embedded in our children’s conscience?
What could we have said that would have made a difference?
What food and dietary measures could we have taken?
What prayers of protection should have been uttered?
Is there ever anything more we could have done – that was within our power – to prevent our children from experiencing the harmful, devastatingly awful aspects of this fallen world?
Honestly, I believe if there was something – we would do it.
Because when something horrible, hard, or unfair occurs in the lives of our children, we feel it. When our kids hurt, we hurt more. In fact, for many of us mothers, we’re gutted.
We can’t eat.
We can’t sleep.
We can’t function.
Our day-time thoughts and our night-time reflections fill with worries for our kids.
For me, the words of Job resonate:
“If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.
The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God’s terrors are marshaled against me.
Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the white of an egg?
I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.”
New International Version, Job 6: 1 – 7
For Job, no one in my estimation, had it worse.
Although we understand that it was the evil one’s resolve and purpose that Job’s life be shaken to its core, satan sent emissaries of man and nature to ruin Job’s life. Arabs from the south descended upon Job’s land to loot and pillage. Lightning from heaven struck Job’s many flocks of sheep. Elsewhere, robbers attacked Job’s caravan of camels and carried away Job’s wealth and merchandise. And the very worst calamity of all? A merciless desert storm swallowed up Job’s family home and caused the shocking deaths of every single one of Job’s children.
For Job, his drink was his tears.
For Job, his food was his sorrow.
It offered no taste, no nourishment, and no relief. He took no pleasure in this awful, awful, awful affliction of the heart and soul. Job compared the taste of his food to spittle – the tasteless, frothy, white of an egg. It’s important to note that in Job’s eastern culture, eggs were rarely eaten. His diet was primarily one of vegetables and legumes. Salt was the chief staple to making the diet palpable and wholesome. Thus, Job compared his life to unsavory spit.
It doesn’t help that the friends who came to sit with Job, offered him even more spittle. Their tasteless, foolish, and insipid counsel condemned Job for not doing enough, being enough, caring enough, and providing enough for his children, his family, and ultimately, his God. Instead of offering the salt of prudence, grace, goodness and love to Job’s tender, wounded heart in his time of need, they poured buckets of salt. As Job suffered, their ill-advised advice only compelled Job to defend himself against the foolish smears against his character, against his family, and against his faith.
There was nothing that Job could have done to have prevented the different tragedies that occurred in his life.
He couldn’t stop the looting and pillaging.
He couldn’t extinguish the lightning.
He couldn’t counter the raiders.
He couldn’t redirect the storm.
He couldn’t control, nor prevent any of the life-altering circumstances that had caused his heart to rupture.
And his friends didn’t help. Their answers and explanations for why Job’s life had exploded into bits and pieces of misery and despair were presumptuous and arrogant.
This insensitivity and lack of care happens in today’s world, too.
When families are going through difficult times, ill-advised counsel and unwanted advice is often quite harmful. We may listen politely to what is said, but inside, we feel the brunt of the injurious words and we buckle in distaste.
Like Job, we need our friends and family to be silent, to listen, and to show compassion far more than we need to be offered answers, or to be told what to do and when. Sometimes in an effort to be ‘right’ or in an effort to offer the ‘right’ word, we may get ahead of ourselves and miss the mark of encouragement and care completely.
What do I mean? Here’s a sample:
Parents don’t need to hear that their daughter who suffers anxiety and depression just needs to pray for freedom and healing for things to come right in her mind. Believe me. These parents are praying for their child all the time.
Parents don’t need to be told that if they had just spent more time together as a family when their son was younger, then their son wouldn’t have run away. Believe me. These parents are already questioning themselves for what they could have done differently.
Parents don’t necessarily need to read another book on parenting. Believe me. Many parents have read every parenting book and parenting advice blog possible to address their family issues.
Parents with special needs children don’t need to be told that their genetic make-up is responsible for their child’s condition. Believe me. Parents like me, already know that.
Parents with an alcoholic child don’t need to be asked if the parents blame themselves for their child’s addiction. Believe me. They’ve already addressed that question. Many times.
Parents who have suffered the death of one of their children do not need to hear that their child is in a better place. Believe me. These parents miss their children terribly and are suffering a grief beyond description. What better place is it – than to be back together again?
Parents who have a child who is making unwise decisions do not need to hear that that they should take more control of their child. Believe me. These parents have done and are doing what they can.
Parents who have had an adult child leave the faith don’t need to be asked if they regret forcing their child to attend church. Believe me. These parents are wondering what they could have done differently to impact their child’s spiritual life in a positive way.
Parents who have a child with significant health issue do not need to hear that eating a particular diet will solve their child’s medical problem. Believe me. These parents are researching everything possible to help their child be healthy – including dietary matters.
I could go on.
Friends, fellow parents, life is beyond hard. And when our kids are in trouble – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually – are hearts are wrecked. We want to do something. We search for answers. We offer support. We want to save our children from the hurts, challenges, failures, and even embarrassment of their life situations. But just like Job, we cannot control or influence man, nature, or the elements to make things any different for them. Life is just plain hard.
All we can do for our kids is to be present.
And the same is true for our friends and family who walk with us in life as well. We need their trust. We need their love. We need their support. And we need their silent, affirming presence, too.
Job needed this kind of support from his friends. He didn’t exactly get that, unfortunately.
But, we can do better – for our kids, for our family, for our friends, and for those in our sphere of influence who need to see love in action on this crazy, hurting, billions-of-people planet.
When our kids hurt, we hurt. Of course, we do. But we can choose to love our kids through their tough times. And we can choose to hang with friends who will love us through these hard situations, too. We can only do this crazy life together.
We don’t want to eat tasteless, unsavory spit, after all.
We don’t want to be spit in the lives of our kids, either.
We want to be seasoned salt – the good kind:
We want our conversation to be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer our children with words of affirmation, prudence and love.
New International Version, Colossians 4:6
Let’s give it a try….