WE AVOID SUFFERING
You’ve probably heard of the term “helicopter-parent” before.
These are the parents that always have to be hovering over their children…making sure they’re safe.
It’s been a common descriptor of parents for 10 or 15 years now.
More and more though, I’m beginning to hear a new term for today’s parents.
These are parents, that not only hover over their children, but they mow down obstacles in front of their children, so their kids won’t have to encounter them.
So for example, if their child is having difficulties with a coach… the parent will talk to the coach for them.
If a college freshmen can’t seem to get their college schedule right, the parent will talk to the schedulers for them
I’ve started reading more and more articles about this in the past 12 months, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
But nothing piqued my interest in this subject more than an off-handed comment my friend Ben Riechers (from our church) said to me about a year ago.
He said, “You ever notice how we don’t let kids develop their suffering muscle anymore?”
And honestly, I bet I’ve thought about his comment once a week for the past 52 weeks
It’s an incredibly astute observation, and quite Biblical as well.
Think about this with me.
We don’t want kids to suffer anymore…
And I’m not just talking about suffering from polio or measles, I’m talking about ANY type of suffering.
We’re not just trying to get suffering out of their lives, but we’re on a crusade to eradicate even minor discomfort from their lives
Many Americans don’t want their kids to be bored in the car…that would be…just too much…
So we install TV’s in our seatbacks and hand them tablets
What about going to the dentist?
Way too scary. We can’t expect them to handle that.
So we put TV’s on the ceiling so they don’t have to think about the pain or discomfort
Getting a haircut?
It would be too much to ask them to sit still…
So we hand them an iPad
What about if you lose in a basketball tournament?
Won’t they feel sadness and pain from losing?
No worries, everyone gets a trophy!
What about handing out birthday invites in schools?
Won’t kids feel sad if they don’t get one?
In many schools now, you can’t hand out a birthday invite to your 3 friends in your class, because the other kids could feel sad that they weren’t invited.
So you either have to mail them, or hand them out to all 25 kids so no one gets their feelings hurt.
And, let me say (cuz many of you were just going “but, but but!”)…
…this all comes from a good heart…Who wants to see their kids suffering or having a difficult time?
But all of this mowing down of obstacles (and avoiding of any suffering) is having adverse effects on our kids.
As my friend Ben said to me, “Their suffering muscle doesn’t develop”
And by the time they hit high school…that “suffering muscle” is too weak to be able to handle any REAL adversity.
It’s okay for your kids to sit in a car ride for an hour without something in their hands.
If you don’t expect them to talk to you now when they’re 7, they definitely won’t they’re 17
If they don’t learn how to wait and be patient through discomfort when they’re 6, how will they ever be patient with the trials of life when they’re 36?
It’s okay to not get invited to the birthday party…and even to be aware that you didn’t get invited.
Rejection is part of life…is it not?
Your kid isn’t going to grow up and get into every school, get every date, get every job.
There are some serious negative consequences if we keep mowing down obstacles for our kids.
We have SO insulated our kids from things like rejection that when they turn 16, and they’ve been dreaming for a whole year about asking out their crush…
And they finally get up the courage…and they ask them to their face…
And the person says, “I’m sorry, I don’t like you in that way…”
At 16, for so many of these kids today, their suffering muscle is so WEAK…because we’ve made sure they’ve never had to feel rejection…
That they can’t handle it!
And they fall into a deep state of anxiety, or depression, or worse yet, nowadays, they take their own life.
In 2015, 60 percent of college students admitted that they were “emotionally unprepared” for college life
Oh they’re academically ready…
But not emotionally ready…
The article on the study states that they “weren’t equipped to deal with loneliness, conflict, boredom, or anxiety on their own because they’d never been given an opportunity to practice dealing with those emotions before”
Those things had all been MOWED DOWN by their parents, who at all costs, wanted them to avoid suffering.
And you’ll see here in a moment…that adults aren’t exempt from this same problem in their own lives.
But before we go there…let’s open up the Word of God together.
Because there is wisdom in here that our culture needs GREATLY on this subject.
It starts first in the good news of the Gospel, and then gets to our subject at hand
(Romans 5:1-2) – NIV
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
This is key…don’t forget this as we keep reading.
We have so much joy (you can boast in it!)…because God has declared us righteous…not guilty…we’re going to life everlasting…because of our faith in Jesus!
Let’s keep reading.
(Romans 5:3-4) – NIV
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
How many of you in here want to grow in your perseverance? (raise your hand)
Want to grow in your character?
Want to grow in your hope?
How many of you would like to obtain all of those things by suffering?J
This is not the teaching of the world.
It’s why we are where we are, and so many of us have become lawnmower parents.
We don’t even remotely understand this teaching from God’s Word
But we need to!
SUFFERING PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE
And because we don’t understand this, I think adults try to avoiding suffering just as much in their OWN lives…
Now, I’m not saying that anyone needs to run headlong into suffering.
But there are plenty of times we need to get better at enduring suffering, not escaping from it.
In older translations, sometimes this word for perseverance in Scripture is translated as “steadfast”…to stand firm.
Picture someone in a hard situation…life is throwing all it can at them…and they are standing firm. They are steadfast. They’re not running. They’re enduring.
And too often, when hard times come…we run.
When our relationships get hard…to avoid suffering, we run.
When our job situation gets uncomfortable…to avoid suffering, we immediately look for a new one
When people sin against us in our churches…to avoid the suffering of working through the conflict, we run to a different church.
When life gets stressful, we just escape.
We run to alcohol or social media or anything else.
We don’t try and endure it…to see what God’s up to in the midst of it.
And when we try to avoid suffering, (just like our kids), our own suffering muscle doesn’t get developed.
And for many of us in this room, we’ve become so adept at avoiding or evading suffering, that our suffering muscle has completely atrophied.
“Which means not only are we not putting ourselves in a position to handle suffering well when it comes back even worse, but we also aren’t putting ourselves in a position for God to use us for anything great.
We wouldn’t be able to endure the difficulty that always comes with greatness
For example, it’s no secret that a lot of Americans admire Abraham Lincoln…and for good reason.
We admire how he persevered through the Civil War…and as a leader, reunited our nation
We admire how he persevered through constant insults, threats on his life, and intense suffering as he attempted to get legislation passed that would free the slaves.
But how did one man have such mettle to endure so much and stand so strong…in the midst of such fierce opposition?
So many weaker leaders would have absolutely crumbled under those pressures.
Well, God shaped Lincoln for that moment…but not in the way Lincoln would have probably liked.
When Abraham Lincoln was 9, his mother died.
That shapes a person
When he was 26, his first serious girlfriend contracted Typhoid Fever…and died.
Throughout his twenties, he failed in business multiple times
Throughout his time in politics…he lost elections…or didn’t get appointed…several times.
When he was 41…his 4 year old son Edward died of Tuberculosis
When Lincoln was 53, during his presidency and during Civil war (on top of everything else that was happening) his 11 year old son Willie died of a fever.
That is a difficult life.
Most of us haven’t even experienced 5% of that kind of hardship.
And yet, suffering, when handled right, produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope.
3 Things that are essential if anybody is going to lead through a crisis like he did
Everybody admires Lincoln’s fortitude and courage …but nobody wants to take the route he took to obtain it.
We’d prefer to just read 3 blogs on how to have courage…and be in done in 15 minutes.
But the ability to persevere through enormous difficulty…usually comes from learning how to persevere and trust God through medium difficulties…
Which can be learned by preserving and trusting God…in minor difficulties.
So let me give you an example of this as a parent…
This past Monday, which is my day off, I picked up my kids after school and we went to a park.
While there, my twins said to each other, let’s race across the park and see who wins.
Now, if you’re a parent, you know how this is going to end.
If you’re a parent of twins, you really know it will end with one kid in tears.
I knew what would happen if they raced each other
But I let it happen anyway.
I even did the honorary “Ready, set, go”
Well, because if I mow down every obstacle in front of them, they’ll never learn how to trust God through their sadness later on.
And so when the child who lost began to cry after the race…
I sat down with them, and helped them think through their emotions and process.
I want to help my children learn how to do that now…that way they’re not doing that for the first time on their own, when they’re 18.
These principles are true for us as adults too.
If we’re going to survive the more difficult things that are still coming in our lives…
We need to endure the hard things with God…now.
GOD GROWS YOU IN YOUR SUFFERING
I’m not sure if we recognize this or not, but in many ways, in our quest to avoid suffering, we end up avoiding God.
I mentioned to you last week, that nowadays that I meet with a lot of prospective church planters.
People who are thinking about starting a church…or sometimes I meet with youth pastors I’ve identified that have the giftings to plant a church
And every once in a while…I’ll meet with a guy…who has incredible giftings.
They’re a dynamic preacher
With a magnetic personality
And a smart leader
And I’ll say, “Friend, you need to leave where you are…and start a church…you could reach hundreds, perhaps even thousands for Christ”
And my heart breaks when they tell me, “I’m not gonna do it. I like my job now. I know I’ll get a paycheck…and health insurance. There’s no risk. And I know it’ll be incredibly difficult to plant…and hardship will come”
What are they doing?
They’re avoiding suffering!
But do you know what else they’re avoiding?
The movement of God in their life!
Think about what they’re missing out on seeing!
And they’ll never see it because they think it would be better for them to avoid suffering.
But when you avoid suffering, you also inadvertently, end up missing the building up of perseverance in your life, the building of character, the building of hope.
You’re left with a weak suffering muscle, not much perseverance, less character, and the inability to hope even through moderate difficulty.
Don’t run from risk.
What is God calling you to do, but you keep telling Him “no” because you know you might have to suffer if you say “yes”??
My friend, if you keep avoiding it because it could be painful…
Realize that you’re not just missing out on what God wants to do THROUGH you…you’re also missing out on what God wants to do IN you…
Because it’s in your suffering that He often grows you the most.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve unfortunately enmeshed so much of our Christianity with American values, but I think a lot of us think that God is only good, and thus only is doing good work, when times are good.
But listen, God usually does His best work in us when times are hard
Even though he’s been dead for over 100 years, I follow Charles Spurgeon on Facebook…well, his quotes anyway (and you should follow too)
And a couple of weeks ago, one of his quotes stopped me in my tracks.
You might not know this about Spurgeon, but he suffered mightily at times from depression and ill health
He once wrote this:
“I would venture to say that the greatest blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has.” – Charles Spurgeon
Because it’s suffering (not health), that produces perseverance, which produces character and character, hope.
In Spurgeon’s suffering…in the days and weeks on end that he would have to lay on his bed in ill health, Spurgeon learned what it was like to really trust in God.
And that grew his character…his Spiritual maturity.
And consequently, that grew his hope…
He learned, that if God is still good to me, even after 10 days of not being able to get out of bed
Then I can believe in HOPE that my God will be good…no matter what comes my way!
Or Corrie Ten Boom, who’s famous for her book the Hiding Place, which details how she hid Jews in WWII and was subsequently sent to a concentration camp…once said this:
“I never really knew that God was all I needed until he was literally all I had.”
On the mountaintop, when things are good, I suppose you could praise God for the view, but for most of us, it’s just too easy to give ourselves credit for getting to the mountaintop
But in the valley, there’s no credit around to even give to yourself.
So sometimes, God has to walk us into the valley before we humble ourselves enough to get on the Master Surgeon’s table, and let Him shape our character.
Years ago, pastor James H. Brookes told a story of once visiting a friend’s house and hearing the music of a bird singing.
It wasn’t just chirping, but singing.
As he glanced around the room, he saw a beautiful bullfinch in a birdcage…singing an actual tune…as well as you could ever imagine a bird doing.
Seeing the lock of shock on the pastor’s face, his friend explained that he had taught his bird to sing by repeating the same notes over and over again.
When the pastor asked how that was even remotely possible…
His friend said, “Well, actually, I had to teach him how to do it at night…in the dark…”
Otherwise, he was too distracted to listen.
But in the dark, he listened.
I wish it wasn’t so, but so often that’s how God teaches us.
He teaches us, shapes us, in the valley, in the dark, because everywhere else…we’re just too distracted to listen
In the good times, on the mountain, you intellectually KNOW that God loves you, but it’s not often until He walks you through the valley of the shadow of death, that you FEEL that He loves you.
And so when sickness comes upon you…
Or there’s major trouble with your children, or grandchildren.
Or anxiety and stress are taking over your life…
Don’t let your first reaction be to question God…or to drown out the pain…or to run away from it all…
Endure in your suffering and take your problems to your God.
And say, “Lord, what are you doing here? Surely your purposes are grand, and go way beyond me…
“But I trust, that you want to do something in me…in this.”
“What are you saying to me God?”
Are you seeking Him in your suffering?
If you always run from your suffering, or try and drown it out, you will miss out on what God wants to grow in you through this.
So the Word of God is teaching us that, while you don’t need to seek out trials and tribulation, you don’t need to try so hard to avoid them either.
You don’t need to fear risk or difficulty
When the hard times come, you don’t need despise them or lose hope
Trust that in your suffering, that God is molding you, and shaping you, for what may come.
And remember Jesus
God the Father was not a lawnmower parent.
He did not spare his Son from suffering on the cross.
Because He knew that the suffering of His Son on the cross would lead to the greatest good the world has ever known.
The book of Hebrews in the NT is really helpful here:
(Hebrews 12:1-2) – NIV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
When we suffer, as Christians, we are to remind ourselves that what we are suffering is NOTHING compared to what Jesus suffered for us.
This verse says that Jesus ENDURED the cross.
He persevered through the suffering of the cross.
It makes me think of that passage in Matthew where Jesus is getting arrested and Peter gets out a sword to fight.
And Jesus says, put your sword away…do you not realize I could call down thousands of angels right now and stop all this??
And he could have done that all the way through that dreadful Thursday evening and Friday morning.
And yet, he never did.
He endured the suffering.
He stood fast.
Because He knew that saving you was worth it.
His love for you…is what kept Him on that cross…enduring through suffering.
And so today, Jesus looks to you, and says, my friends, endure.
He’s saying, “Because I’ve already, in my suffering, proved how much I love you…endure.
He’s saying, “I have a plan…I have a purpose.
“In all things, I’m growing you
Giving you perseverance.
Growing you in character.
And giving you hope.
Teaching you of my love, so that you’ll know, even in the dark of night, that day is coming….
And one day, we will be together for eternity.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
OCTOBER 13, 2019