Have you seen this before? If you look at it one way, you see an old woman looking down. If you look at it another way, you see the profile of a beautiful young woman looking away. You can look at the same picture and see two entirely different things. It’s all about perspective.
Our Children Need a Change of Perspective
This is a perfect analogy for understanding one of the most essential truths that our children need to grasp: how to look at life, especially the circumstances we don’t like, from God’s perspective. (Be sure to grab the PDF printable to use with your children at the end of this article!)
As parents, we are familiar with long, late-night conversations that often boil down to a child’s struggle with a particular circumstance. Some circumstances are of their own making, such as waiting until the 11thhour to complete a school assignment, maybe a Facebook post that backfired, or the fallout from poor spending choices. Other circumstances might be out of their control, such as a sibling who continues to push their buttons, the fact that they do not have a car to drive, or a chronic health condition. Either way, circumstances usually present emotional pain that we as parents are called upon to remove—and quickly!
How do we help our children see what happens to them in life from God’s perspective?
Usually, my instinct as a father is to simply fix their problem by immediately telling them what to do. While that response is understandable, and even appropriate in certain cases, alone it falls short because it misses the point of what God might be trying to do in the situation.
The perspective that says, “Okay, God. What are you doing here?” needs attention in all of our conversations with our children, but especially during the challenging moments.
Two Things to Say to Our Children to Help Them Change Their Perspective
Here are two thoughts we can share with our children as they are trying to reconcile their view of how life should be with the circumstances they are facing.
First, we might not grow as much when things are going well for us. In fact, things going great may simply mean our idols are working for us. Or perhaps, God in his kindness may indeed bless us with a season of reprieve. Either way, it usually isn’t very long before adversity returns. She breaks a nail, he is asked to clean up his room, or a much more serious event occurs and the emotional roller coaster begins again. This is where what they believe about God is tested and—if they’re looking—they can grow in their relationship with him.
Second, discomfort, emotional distress, and even physical suffering is often the crucible God uses to help us grow in Christ. Personally, I wish there were another way but this is why perspective is so important.
Think of Jonah. The circumstances he was in were in one sense of his own making because of his sin, but in another sense they were very clearly of God’s doing in response to his sin. Scripture says that God sent the fish to swallow Jonah.
By using Jonah as an example, I am not suggesting that every bad situation is God’s discipline for something we have done wrong—it isn’t. There was mercy even in how God dealt with Jonah. Through Jonah we also see how God deals with one man’s sin within the much larger context of his redemptive plan which only deepens our awe of God’s power and wisdom and compels greater love for God.
You don’t need to use your imagination very long to appreciate how hard that must have been for Jonah. But God was with him through those circumstances. God used adversity to do a great work in Jonah that resulted in Jonah being used by God in an incredibly powerful way.
God Is Working Through Our Circumstances to Do Good—We Can Be Assured
In Romans 8:28, we learn God works all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Do we often forget verse 29? What is his purpose? His purpose is to conform us to his image.
As we guide our children through their circumstances, we do well to help them look for God’s message to them through those circumstances. What is this teaching you about yourself? What sin is God exposing? How is God proving himself faithful? Are the judgements you are making demonstrating a belief in what God says is true, or belief in a lie by the Evil One?
While we often can’t control what happens to us, we can control our response. We are not victims in the sense that what happens has to be determinative. Toward that end, it is far more helpful to realize that God is sovereignly in control and can use our circumstances, most especially those we do not like, for good when our children look at them from that perspective.
This does not justify harm done or necessarily remove the real pain they endure in this life. But this change in perspective enables them to proceed with real hope, confidence, and the resolve that God is working through it, ultimately, for His glory and our child(ren’s) ultimate good and joy.