Parenting Through Brokenness

This post is written by Kelly Owen. It is a subject that has been years in the making for our family as we followed God into Church Planting and Foster Care. Our kids have had front-row seats to the hurt and trauma we've experienced and undertaken. They've also had an incredible view as God has provided for us, been near to us, and is redeeming all things in Jesus Christ. We've begun to understand parenting as far more than preparing our kids for the world; it is preparing them for eternity. It may seem foolish from the outside, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.

In the first chapter of Nehemiah, we looked at how Nehemiah prayerfully responded to brokenness.  As parents, we’re often tempted to shield our children from brokenness. We hide in gated neighborhoods.  We steer clear of messy people and messy places. We just want our children to be happy, and we certainly don’t want them to witness suffering!

A gardener who plants a young tree will take action to ensure its healthy survival - a fence to keep the deer from eating it, perhaps some cords to keep the wind from breaking it - but if the tree remains “sheltered” too long, it will not be safe but stunted. It will be too weak to survive the storms of life, much less bear fruit! With that in mind, what would happen if instead of sheltering our children from brokenness, we prayerfully shepherded them through brokenness?

Freedom from Fear

Parents, Christ has called us to freedom and we are no longer enslaved to fear (Romans 8:15)! We don’t have to panic when our children witness brokenness and experience pain. Rather, we can recognize suffering as part of God’s beautiful, redemptive plan for our good and the good of our children.  We need not fear all the “what if” worst-case scenarios when raising our children.  We trust in the perfect Father who loves our children “even if” the worst happens! As parents, when we trade “what if” for “even if,” we’ll stop worrying so much about our kids; we’ll live in the freedom that Christ came to give us (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom to Follow Christ

Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).  Take up our cross - the painful wooden cross on Calvary, not the decorative metal one hanging on our wall.  Following Jesus means following Him into suffering and hardship. When our goal is no longer to keep our children “happy,” we are freed up to follow Jesus where He leads, trusting that His plans for our children are far better than our plans for our children.

Fortified Faith in Christ

Ultimately, when we as Christian parents stop sheltering our children from brokenness, we’ll give them the greatest gift of all: a fortified faith in Christ!  Brokenness is in fact an opportunity to disciple our children. When suffering comes their way, it’s our chance to share promises from Scripture and pray with our children through the pain.  It’s our chance to show them that our hope is not in this fleeting world, but in the eternal world to come. It’s our chance to show them we trust Christ with not only our own lives, but with their lives as well.  

When our children are scared, can we say with confidence that God is with them always? When our children are hurting and crying, do we genuinely believe that God will one day wipe away every tear?  Does He really know our children and their needs better than we do? Will He indeed work this fiery trial for their good?  Is God really making all things new, even this broken world?

We can’t fool the people living under our own roof!  Our children have a front-row seat to our hearts. When they’re confronted with brokenness, we can press into Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  No suffering is worth comparing to the glory that is to come!  As Christians, we’re not parenting for things that are seen, things that are transient (2 Corinthians 4:18).  We’re parenting for things that are unseen, things that are eternal - like a fortified faith.

Marj Saint understood this well.  Her husband, Nate, was speared by the Waodani tribe in 1956. And yet, Marj didn’t shrink back in fear. She allowed their young son Steve to live among the Waodani tribe, and the very man that killed Steve’s father later baptized him and became like a father to him.  Marj trusted Christ with not only her own life, but also the life of her son. And with that, Marj gave Steve a fortified faith that would carry him through a lifetime of following Jesus!

Marj likely knew that brokenness is the very place we display true faith in Jesus.  It’s the very place that God works miracles and does things we can’t foresee - things that can only be credited to Him!  We cannot prevent our children from experiencing the pain and brokenness that comes from living in a fallen world. We can, however, show them how to trust God to heal the pain and restore the brokenness as we lean into Him! So parents, let’s stop operating out of fear as we shelter our children from brokenness. Let’s commit to prayerfully shepherd them through it, and then watch God work in unimaginable ways!