by Kate Borders | Senior Director of Mobilization
At World Orphans we are deeply committed to and working towards the wholistic care of the children being cared for through our church partners; their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual care. Recently I’ve been wrestling with what it looks like to model and teach a theology of suffering to children, particularly children who are in the midst of suffering themselves.
How to Talk About Suffering? And the reason I’ve been thinking about it within the context of our ministry, is because I’ve been thinking about how I personally think about suffering and how I talk to those I love about the trials they are going through. I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to point people to the hope of Jesus and the goodness of God when I have no answers for their struggles, trials, and suffering.
People a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than me have written entire books on suffering. (Glorious Ruin, by Tullian Tchividjian is one I would highly recommend). I don’t want to re-create the wheel and I know that I’m not going to answer unanswerable questions in a blog post, but I would like to share some thoughts and ask some questions.
What do you do when in the course of a week or a day or an hour when you hear one testimony of God’s miraculous provision of finances or physical healing or protection, and then in the next moment you hear a story of devastation because the provision was not there? How do we think about that, or help a friend or family member think about that? And how in the world do you help a child think about it?
What's the Truth? For me, regardless of how I feel, I have to keep choosing to go back to the truth of God’s word. A study of His character reveals that while He has a perfect wrath and hatred of sin, the good news of the Gospel is that the death of Christ satisfied God’s wrath towards sin, so now we are recipients of His perfect love and care, where He reveals His tender heart towards His children, His creation. When I don’t understand the suffering I see I go back to the fact that sin has distorted all of God’s perfect creation. But because of Christ, we are given a new hope, we are shielded by God’s power, our faith is refined, and all of this happens in the midst of suffering (1 Peter).
As a very minor example, I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently and a mentor prayed for me that I would be able to get good rest. Shortly after he prayed I realized I had many nights in a row of good, restful sleep. I believe God knows and cares deeply about everything from the minor details of our lives (like how I’m sleeping) to all the major political things happening around the world. He knows and cares about every joy and every pain of His entire creation.
So what about the nights that I don’t sleep well, and all the heartache, pain, and suffering that still exists? Did God forget? Does He not notice?
Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Again, looking at God’s character in scripture shows that he is perfectly good and perfectly loving. Psalm 33:5 says, “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” Psalms alone is full of God’s unfailing love, and the whole of Scripture continually points back to His love, His faithfulness, and His goodness. So I can trust Him even when I don’t understand why things are how they are
At World Orphans One of the most tangible examples of hope in the midst of suffering that I’ve been privileged to witness, are some of my brothers and sisters in Christ that I have met through our World Orphans church partnerships. I am constantly encouraged and motivated by these men and women who care for their families, care for their church bodies, care for struggling families in their community, and care for orphaned and vulnerable children. I have the utmost respect for their persistent faith in the midst of struggle, and the way that is modeled and reflected to the children in their care.
Our need (each and every one of us) to be encouraged and pointed back to the truth is why we at World Orphans are passionate about and committed to Wholistic Care Training. As an example, our Director of Wholistic Care, Kathy Davis, is preparing for a Caregiver training in Haiti in August. Our Wholistic Care trainings usually include practical elements (such as education, safe-birth best practices, etc.) as well as time in the Word, in worship, and in prayer. We know that hope in Christ and the good news of His Gospel will only be reflected and taught to children being cared for, when it trickles down from church leadership, to church members, to families, and to caretakers who are with the children on a daily basis.
My Prayer for You I pray that wherever this finds you, and particularly if it finds you in the midst of struggle, that you are able to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. May you rejoice, even though you may suffer grief of all kinds. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. May you be filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you believe in Him and love Him, even though you do not see Him. (from 1 Peter 1:3-9).
- Have you read a good book that talks about a Gospel-centered approach to talking with children about a theology of suffering?
- How have you talked with children about the mystery of why there are some things we just can’t understand?
- What aspect of the Gospel or of God’s character has most encouraged you during times of trials and suffering?
Interested in giving to support our upcoming caregiver training? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details; we’ll be so grateful for your support.