I had the honor of being published at Desiring God with the article, “The Permission Slip of Suffering: When God Calls Your Child into Danger.” If you didn’t read it, you can find it here.
But I write today to take the article a step further.
If you know me, you know I like to get practical. Thus brewing in my mind is the question: What can we do now to ensure we are ready to “let go” of our kids? How do we learn to “love God so deeply, his work so passionately, and our children so purely, that sacrifice for Christ is regarded a privilege”? And what will cause us to really become that “generation of parents who can say “Yes” out of an intense love for God and a paradoxically deep love for our children”?
Here are 6 ways we can move forward in our willingness to “sign the permission slip of suffering”:
1) Clarify Your Goals
Nowadays, life is full of options, activities, opportunities, and experiences, to give our children the best possible chance at “success.” Success, of course, is defined in terms of worldly health, wealth, happiness, and the like.
However, as Christians, we must filter our goals through biblical priorities. We must remember there is no career opportunity, no life-altering experience, no prosperity, fame, or picture-perfect family life, that will ever compare to knowing and serving the living God. This should be evident in what we talk about, and in what we fill our (and their) schedule with. Even our child’s education ought to be ultimately about becoming useful to our Maker, rather than mere self-fulfillment.
To put it simply, our goal should be to train our children to become Christ-followers, who are ready to obey God, regardless of the cost. If the Lord allows our efforts to produce the fruit we long for, their future sacrifices would be nothing less than them doing the very thing we hoped they would do!
2. Be About God’s Work Now
It would be illogical to think we will embrace the priorities of God later, if it’s not our reality now. We need to care about lost souls now. We need to serve in God’s church now. We need to be busy about God’s business today.
This is perhaps where your child’s appetite for serving God will be fostered. But it is certainly where your willingness to say “Yes” will be cultivated. For in serving others, your passion for God’s work will grow. When you experience the great delight of service, you will want nothing less for your kids!
3. Embrace Today’s Sacrifice
Just as it would be difficult to suddenly embrace God’s priorities later, so it is with sacrifice. If we shirk today’s opportunities because it’s hard, we will struggle with embracing any sacrifices our children have to make all the more.
For the sake of ministry, we should be willing to give up time, money, sleep, comfort, and ease. We may even need to sacrifice by helping our kids sacrifice (which is often what hurts us the most). There might be places your children don’t want to go, or things they don’t want to do that come with doing what is right. Perhaps so you can be at church when you should be. Or so you can meet someone’s need when they’re hurting. Or so you can be available for a sister in Christ.
Our willingness to embrace suffering for Christ starts with the little things.
4. Adjust Your Expectations
Our natural inclination as parents is to protect, to prevent pain, to preserve. Rightfully so; there is much evil in the world worth shielding our children from. But shielding our children from the suffering of costly ministry is a pitfall we must avoid.
John 16:33 warns us we “will have tribulation.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3 reminds us we are “destined” for affliction. 1 Peter 5:10 speaks of our expected “suffering.” If our children are going to follow Jesus, they, like us, will experience hardship. More to the point, we need to willingly allow them to experience hardship.
When your child is too embarrassed to say the right thing, don’t give them a way out — help them do it. When your child is too scared to stand up for the truth — challenge them to push through. Though they want to fit in — teach them the beauty of standing out.
We need to expect hardship, and utilize all the small opportunities to train them (and us) for the bigger trials around the corner.
5. Surround Yourself With Godly Examples
If we were the parents who received that intense letter from Adoniram Judson, we might feel isolated. We might wonder why we are the only ones having to let go of our children in such a dramatic manner. But the truth is, many godly people have gone before, and many will come after, who have learned to “let go” in big and small ways. Many parents have successfully shot their arrows into the world not knowing where God might take them. We need to find those godly people, and we need to learn from them.
If we surround ourselves with peers who hold tightly to their children out of fear, we will lower our standard. We will easily reason that any sacrifice is too costly if it carries a level of risk or danger. That is why we need bold examples around us. We need the encouragement of those who had reason to fear the future but instead trusted God. We need to look to those who kept their eyes on eternity and entrusted their kids to a big God.
6. Pray You Are Ready
As noble as any calling might be, it’s never easy to imagine our children being called to endure hardship. It’s even hard to say yes to the everyday types of sacrifices that impact our kids. Thus, we must pray regularly that God will cause us to be the kind of people that say “Yes” to whatever he calls us to do.
You Can Say “Yes”
Ultimately, we don’t need to muster up the courage to one day trust God; we just need to trust him today. If we can keep our eyes on God’s work today, if we can make sacrifices today, and faithfully keep our expectations biblical, we will be ready.
Whether God calls our children to sacrifice in distant lands or calls them to be expended for his church locally….
Whether he uses them for big things or small…
If today, we work to love God deeply, his work passionately, and our children purely, how could we not say “Yes” whenever we get the opportunity?!