When I first read Paul’s phrase, longsuffering with joy (Col. 1:11), I thought, “Well we can’t use this one with children!” With these words Paul has painted a portrait of a person who waited long enough for burdens to turn into glory. He speaks of a prayer for the long haul of life.
My oldest daughter is a miraculous example of this. Born with a hole in her heart, I was told at two months to say “good-bye just in case,” and I handed my baby girl over to a doctor I had only met once, but also to the Great Physician I knew intimately. At four years of age, seizures controlled her. She often did not respond to my voice, and additional tests showed a profound hearing impairment. Vision issues became learning issues, and at a routine doctor appointment, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a disease that causes curvature of the spine. All this by the age of 6.
Over and over I hit the “adapt” button to cope as life became a series of emotional blows. This mama was suffocating in sorrow for the future my little girl faced. Before long, seizure meds, hearing aids, glasses, and a full body brace were Missy’s constant companions. She looked different than any other child she knew, and isolation joined the list of weird escorts for her. To say I cried daily is not an exaggeration. I am not proud of it, but I feel confident that Jesus joined me in my agony.
One night while the house was dark and silent, we heard a loud, repetitive bumping noise in the hall. My husband rushed to the staircase to find my Missy holding the brace that her little sister was secretly removing at night. In the other hand were her hearing aids, glasses, and seizure medicine, and she had an angry look on her tear-stained face. “Daddy, I hate this stuff,” she blurted out. “Everyone makes fun of me.” I immediately went into rescue mode, but my husband stepped out first.
“I hate all this stuff too.” “You do, Daddy?” “Oh yes,” he said as he spanked the brace and threw it down hard. He picked up the medicine and threw it across the room to a chair. And he carefully put down the hearing aids and glasses on the stair step (those are too expensive to throw in any situation!). Gathering her sweetly onto his lap, she snuggled into his shoulder and let him be her healer. And then he said, “Missy, Daddy loves you just like you are. Never forget that. If you can’t hear, I will just talk louder. If you have a seizure, I will hold you tight. And if your back isn’t straight, I will carry you myself.” She snuggled in tighter, secure in the love of her Daddy. “I love you just the way you are, but I love you too much to leave you this way.” Wow. That one line, sent we are sure by the Holy Spirit, gave all of us the courage to keep going and a deep understanding of God’s redemptive work.
Remember that I told you prayers never stop growing? It has been a long, lonely road for Missy, but through prayer and praise she has become one of the most joyful, kind, adventurous, caring women you will ever meet. With what she calls a “question mark” shape in her back, she joyfully cares for children even through pain, and she loves life. This mama could not be prouder of how she has turned her burdens into glory.
For many children, the burden of approaching adulthood and the everyday stresses of life are more than they can bear and just as debilitating emotionally as what my daughter went through. As independence approaches, the need to intercede in prayer increases. Moms instinctively want to “rescue” their children from hurt. We want to brush the pain aside without allowing the Lord to use it as a teaching lesson. Helping children face failure and disappointment enables them to find adventure in the midst of challenge and to forge ahead with new-found wisdom.
- Pray for your children to stay consistent in their character, not bowing to peer pressure or criticism. All children are susceptible to the need to change in order to be accepted.
- Pray that your child will be open and honest with you; that they will talk about the challenges and feelings they experience. No feeling is too small to discuss and to validate, but always talk about moving forward through prayer and the peace of God.
LASTLY: Perhaps your child has emotional needs, learning challenges, or physical disability and you find yourself asking “why” as I did for so many years. One day, the Lord answered me, and I have never asked again. “Jesus, why was this man born blind?” the crowd demanded to know in John 9. Jesus answered simply, “that the glory of God might be seen in him.” When your prayer is, “Father God, may your glory be seen in my child,” then He will answer in mighty ways that will surprise and delight you.
CLOSING: Prayer is the process by which we surrender the control of our children to the Lord Jesus. We trust that He is choreographing a beautiful dance of life for each child. These prayers will never leave your children; they will grow with them, breathe with them; and stand with them in all of life’s challenges.