Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
It was my first real job. To help contribute to the cost of my tuition at my parochial high school, I worked at the school during the summer doing things like waxing floors, painting parking lot stripes, and scraping gum off lockers and the bottom of desks. It was my first real job and I despised it. It was hard, hot, and not my idea of a fun summer job. Yet, as my dad told me one day after a particularly humiliating experience involving me, a ladder, and a freshly waxed hallway, it was building character. While that sentiment was not what I wanted to hear, it was what I needed to hear. My dad was helping me build resiliency.
Now more than ever our children need to develop resiliency skills as they face the after-effects of the pandemic as well as the ongoing repercussions of social and political unrest.
Rates of child and adolescent depression have doubled since before the pandemic. Children and adolescents struggle to cope with a lack of predictability, safety, and security as they face a much different world today than even three years ago. However, as much as we would like to shield our children and adolescents from the pain and hurt that comes along with struggle, we know that struggle is part of growth.
While we can be quick to point out the amazing change from a caterpillar to a butterfly, we often gloss over the time in the cocoon as God is changing and shaping it into its fullest form. Perhaps one of the most important parts of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly is the pressure and struggle it has to endure for its wings to emerge strong enough to fly. There is darkness where there was once bright sunshine, isolation where there was once community, and emptiness where there was once a feast of foliage. Suffering is overwhelming, perseverance can be exhausting, and character-building can be uncomfortable.
But, when those things are allowed to happen, hope springs new, and resiliency because of Christ becomes the story.
So how do we help our struggling children and adolescents during difficulties? It is key to connect with them and validate their emotions – all of their emotions. Dismissing the pain, frustration, and anxiety involved in their experience to point them to the “other side of it” only serves to dismiss their feelings. We must sit with them in their hurt and remind them they are not alone. This connection then allows us to walk alongside them as they work to reframe their thoughts and feelings into ones that can lead to perseverance, character-building, and, ultimately, hope for the future in Jesus.
Notice how, in the following verses, the struggle and feelings that come with difficulties are validated and brought to light. Then, the reassurance of God’s provision, strength, and unconditional love is proclaimed:
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) – Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Isaiah 43:1-3a (NIV) – But now, this is what the Lordsays— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
John 16:33 (NIV)- I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We first acknowledge the realities that can shake confidence and even at times faith. Then we redirect to the Truth of the Gospel. In doing so, we are helping our children and adolescents remember that God sees their frustrations, hurt, and sadness. He can use their suffering in the suffering of Christ to give them strength, endurance, character and hope to boldly walk so that they continue developing in who He is calling them to be. We can point them to Jesus who has overcome all the world’s brokenness in His death and resurrection.
Other verses to consider when ministering to children and adolescents
- Joshua 1:9
- Isaiah 40:26
- Isaiah 55:8-13
- Isaiah 64:8
- Jeremiah 29:4-7;11
- Lamentations 3:22-24
- 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
- Philippians 1:6
- Philippians 3:12-14
- Hebrews 12:1-3
- James 1:2-4
In 1923, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm, arr. William M. Runyan was first published. During a time of darkness and despair in the Great Depression, Christians were encouraged to proclaim the steadfast presence and love of Christ. Resiliency was possible because of God’s unending faithfulness. Today, as we lift our voices to sing these words, let us lift our hearts and heads knowing God’s faithfulness will carry us through the suffering, perseverance, character-building, and, ultimately, result in hope – that is resiliency.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!