Monday, December 22, 2014

Suffering Produces ... Hope

This afternoon, Sam went to the potty.  When he was done, he demanded that Patrick pull up his underpants for him.  Patrick said no, that he would definitely help Sam, but he wouldn't do it all for him.

Enter WWIII.

"Pull them up NOW!" Sam demanded, "One ... two ... three ..."

It was kind of hard not to laugh.  Sam standing in the livingroom with his underwear around his ankles, insisting like a small tyrant that his papa pull up his pants.

The funny thing is, he's very capable of pulling up his pants.  It's not like we were asking him to try something new, a scary new skill that he wasn't sure he could handle.  We were expecting him to do something he does regularly, and he just decided he didn't want to do it.  

He's learning new skills all the time.  Testing his boundaries, trying to find where he fits and what his role is, what ours are.  His tantrum, I think, came from suddenly wanting to be a baby.  Wanting to have everything done for him, to cry and have his parents do everything they could to comfort him.  So he drew a line.

But as parents, we had a line too.  We had the heart-tugging line of wanting to comfort him, to assure him we care.  But we have a bigger goal, the goal of helping him become a capable, independent young man.  So we had to gently assure him we would help, but refuse his demands that we do everything for him.  We coached him through the steps, cheered him on at each success (over the knees! over the bum!), and saw his face light up with big-boy-joy when yes, he finally pulled up his own underpants.

It would have been so much easier to cave.  The screaming, demanding, sobbing little boy would have been quieted quickly ... but he would have learned that he gets his way when he yells orders at his papa.  He might have formed an expectation that he has the right to insist others do things for him simply because he doesn't want to do them.  He wouldn't be growing in maturity.

You know that saying "don't try to make a better world for the children; make better children for the world"?  It's a whole lot of hard work.

God did it that way.  

He could have sent Jesus the easy way - straight down on a bed of angel-wings, incarnate as a fully-grown man, his head glowing in a halo from a renaissance painting.

But He picked the hard road.  He picked the road with the most to teach us.  He picked the road that was hard on Mary, on Joseph, on Jesus.  The Bethlehem road, and the Calvary road.

Because He is building better children for the world.

Children who choose gentleness instead of harshness, like Joseph chose to love Mary.
Children who choose faithfulness instead of doubt, like Mary trusting God.
Children who choose to love others, instead of themselves ... like Jesus.

If you're going through a hard road, friend, and you just want someone else to pick you up and take care of everything for you, you're not alone.  We all crave easy.

But trust this: He didn't spare His Son, because He had His eyes on a bigger goal than Jesus' comfort.  

Cling to this good truth.  He won't spare us this necessary suffering - even when we throw tantrums, even when we demand to be relieved - because He has his eyes on a bigger goal: our blessing and His glory.

The ache and longing of Christmas reminds us that suffering brings hope.  The good news of Christmas is the truth that hope in Him does not disappoint.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame ... (Romans 5).

Whatever you're hoping for, look to our Saviour.  The deep aches and heart cries and soul longings all find solace in Him.  He won't spare us the suffering, but He will use it to build us and give us His sure hope.  And He will help us, every step of the way.

Merry Christmas, friends.

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