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Posts tagged ‘discipline’

Disciplining Your Children Is Challenging, but Vital

SOURCE:  Jason Houser/Family Life

Seeing the fruit of correcting your children requires delayed gratification.

The last thing I (Jason) want to hear from my wife as I walk through the door at the end of a hard day are these words: “We have a situation. You need to deal with it.”

But it happens.

I remember one evening when one of our sons was 7. I had given him a pocketknife, thinking he was ready to handle that kind of responsibility (in my defense, it was a very small knife). I even gave him explicit instructions, telling him that if he abused this privilege in any way, the knife would immediately be taken away from him.

For several months, there were no problems. Then my wife found that the headrest of the leather seat in the back of her van had been “wounded.” We asked our son if he had used his knife to cut the seat, but he adamantly denied the charge. He almost had us convinced that it might have been someone else.

We brought in some CSI forensics experts, took fingerprints, and interrogated all of his friends under a hot light at our kitchen table. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we did do a bit of detective work. We deduced that the new pocketknife was indeed the weapon used in the crime.

When we confronted him a second time, he broke. Tears flowed as we talked to him in his room. We left him there for a few minutes so we could discuss our plan for discipline. And we needed a little time to cool down.

As upset as we were that he had destroyed the headrest, we were more concerned about his lying to us. We had experienced a couple other times when he had lied, and we knew that this needed to be corrected, for his benefit and for the good of our family. We decided that the best option was to give him a spanking and walk him through a process of reconciliation.

We went back into his room and talked through his actions. We shared with him how his lies had hurt everyone in our family because they had destroyed our trust. We explained that lying is a sin, and because of his sin, he had disobeyed God and dishonored us, his parents. We asked him if he wanted to ask God and us for forgiveness. He said yes, and we led him through a prayer asking God for forgiveness. We told him that we forgave him too.

Then we informed him that he was going to be spanked for his disobedience. After I spanked him, I hugged him and told him I loved him. I reminded him that a father disciplines a child he loves, and that was why I was doing this. We left him alone in his room and asked him to let us know when he was ready to come back and join the family.

He stayed in his room for at least 30 minutes and then asked to join us. We reassured him that we were glad he was back with us. And we continued on with our night. We didn’t mention it to him again. As difficult as it is for us to follow through in times like these, we knew it was the right thing.

Practical lessons

There are a few things I’d like to highlight from this example with our son.

First, if you haven’t experienced this already, you will soon. When a child is disobedient, it is difficult to remain calm. Most parents get angry with their children at some point, and the flesh—the sinful nature in all of us—reacts selfishly rather than responding in love. In these moments, a parent needs to regain composure, pray, and step back from the situation before disciplining the children.

You’ll also notice that we addressed our son directly and told him specifically how he had been disobedient, in words appropriate to his age level. We reminded him that we loved him, and we made sure he understood that we were disciplining him because we wanted what was best for him. We took the time to walk him through the process of forgiveness, both with us and with the Lord.

All of this took a significant amount of time and energy, but it’s critical to the discipline process. After this, I administered the appropriate discipline that my wife and I had decided on, and we both hugged him and reassured him of our love for him.

Finally, we left him in his room to give him some time to think about his disobedience and consider the consequences. This gave him a chance to calm down, to let his emotions settle, and to reflect and learn from what he had just experienced. We made sure he knew that he was free to rejoin the family when he was ready, that the discipline was over.

The harvest of godly discipline

In Hebrews 12 there is an amazing word of encouragement. God promises us that if we are willing to walk through the hard process of discipline, there is a wonderful result: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v.11, emphasis added).

A farmer has to wait months before his crops are ready for harvest. Whether we’re talking about apples or oranges, growth doesn’t happen overnight. But today we live in a culture of instant gratification. We lack the patience to wait for things that develop over time, preferring immediate results.

The harvest of discipline doesn’t come immediately after we administer correction to our children. It takes time. You may not see the fruit until tomorrow, a year from now, or even 10 years from now. That’s why you’ll need to have faith in God and His promises. You’ll need to believe that the result God promises is better, in the long run, than any immediate result you can gain from other ways of responding to your kids.

But there is an added blessing in this! You see, God is also cultivating patience in your life, one of the fruits of His Spirit. And trust us, you will need it.

You will also see the benefit of discipline as God’s character grows in your children. You will be leading them to the Lord, helping them understand their sin and their need for a Savior. You will be cultivating the soil of their heart and planting the seeds of godly character by teaching and modeling the gospel to them. It may take several years for these seeds to bear fruit, but God is faithful.

She wanted to be in charge

As a toddler, my niece, Kylie, would have made James Dobson’s “strong-willed child” top 10 list. She created chaos in her parents’ lives. One time, she finger-painted an entire wall while her parents were in another room.

They were a young couple, and she was their first child, and she was determined to prove that she was in charge. Kylie always wanted to have things her way, and if that didn’t happen, she would clear the room with an epic meltdown. Her parents were desperate for peace, so they sought wise biblical counsel and developed a plan to discipline their daughter. They faithfully discipled her through discipline, and eventually she came to understand and submit to their authority.

Today Kylie is one of the most joy-filled followers of Jesus I know. She is walking with the Lord and trusting him. She has an infectious smile, and she reflects the goodness of Christ in such a beautiful way. The Lord has put a special fire and passion in her spirit, and she knows that it is best expressed under the authority of her parents.

I believe that the Lord has gifted her to lead others, but her stubbornness and rebelliousness needed to be reshaped—changed from selflessness to the meekness of Christ—to make her more like Jesus.

Every time I go to Joshua and Linda’s home now, I feel the peace of the Lord. Their home is a great reminder to me that God faithfully produces a harvest as we plant the seeds of godly character in the hearts of our children. It encourages me to be faithful as I work through the unpleasant aspects of discipline in order to enjoy the harvest of righteousness.

Reflecting the Father’s loving heart

Discipline is a challenge, but it is vital. And godly discipline is a combination of love, wisdom, and consequences. We are best at disciplining our children when we reflect our Fathers’ loving heart and His desire for holiness.

Most people tend to think of God as overly lenient or overly strict. But God is neither of these. In Romans 11:22, Paul describes how God’s holy love can be express in different ways—as kindness or as severity, depending on the situation: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (ESV).

As Christian parents, you will need to exercise wisdom to practice discipline in a balanced way that reflects the discipline of God. Sometimes you will need to emphasize the severe consequences of rebellion; at other times you’ll need to highlight the kindness and mercy of God. In every situation, you must learn to point your children to the grace of God, showing them that like your discipline of them, God’s discipline is for their own good, to help them become more like Jesus.

Discipline that Works: The Ages and Stages Approach

SOURCE:  Prepared by Judith Graham, Extension human development specialist/University of Maine

“Ages and stages” discipline is based on normal changes in your child’s growth and behavior. Children’s behavior changes just like their bodies change—in predictable patterns.

Stages of growth build one upon another, like the circles in a “slinky” toy. Each child grows according to his or her own genetic “time plan,” moving forward toward maturity. As they grow, children switch back and forth between “comfortable” ages or stages and “uncomfortable” ages.

The comfortable stages come when they take in all they’ve learned—all the new and old pieces seem to fit together well. Uncomfortable stages are times of rapid growth and change. Change, for most of us, causes stress and anxiety—discomfort. A child in a time of discomfort may have trouble coping with day-to-day life, may seem extra-sensitive or may argue more.

However, some children are naturally more relaxed. They are easier to discipline, even if they’re at an “uncomfortable” stage.

Other children may be more difficult. They may have more stress at a certain stage of growth.

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is about guiding children in ways that support their development of self-control. It is respectful, accepting and comforting. It enhances self-worth. Punishment is used to hurt. It focuses on the child rather than on the act or behavior.

Discipline is ongoing. It is the way you talk to your child, the way you treat your child, the way you live. It is how you help your children respond to the day-to-day events in their lives.

Examples of discipline for very young children include child-proofing cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom to keep children safe or putting fragile items out of reach.

For school-age children, making sure they have a good snack after school is an example of discipline that helps both them and you cope better with end-of-the-day fatigue.

Base Discipline on Your Child’s Development

Children change very quickly, especially in the years before they start school. Discipline that works at one stage may not work at another. A child of 2-1/2 is very different from a 3-year-old. At 2-1/2, many children are in an “uncomfortable” stage. They can be very aggressive one minute and withdrawn the next. A key to disciplining a 2-1/2-year-old is to use routines and avoid giving the child choices. By the age of 3, however, many children have reached a much more “comfortable” stage. Discipline at this stage can be much easier and relaxed.

Yet by 3-1/2 years the child may enter another “uncomfortable” time. He or she may have difficulty with changes.

The more you know about normal developmental changes, the more you’ll be able to guide children well. Knowing more about what they are going through also takes some stress off you as a parent.

Roadblocks to Good Discipline

The six biggest roadblocks to effective discipline are

  1. confusing discipline with punishment. Discipline helps children develop self-control and self-esteem. It teaches right from wrong. Punishment might restrain a child temporarily, but it does not teach alternative behavior. Punishment can even damage the parent-child relationship by reducing a child’s trust in the parent.
  2. believing that what works at one time will work all the time. You need to change the way you discipline your children to keep pace with their natural growth. Different ages and stages, as well as different children, require different techniques.
  3. thinking that when you have difficulty disciplining a child, you are a “bad” parent. Don’t put yourself down if you don’t get the results you want. Think it through and try again.
  4. believing your children “should” behave a certain way at a certain time. Children are unique and special. They develop at their own speed, in their own way.
  5. believing you must “win” every battle. It is important to “pick your battles.” Don’t fight over unimportant issues.
  6. parents disagreeing in front of a child about discipline. Solve serious disagreements in private.

The Effect of Negative Behavior Correction

If you treat your children with the same respect and kindness you offer a close friend, they will learn positive behaviors. Negative methods of behavior correction such as sarcasm, hurtful teasing, verbal abuse, humiliation and physical punishment do not help children learn positive ways of acting. Rather, they create angry children who do not feel very good about themselves.

Tips for Effective Discipline

Punishment is not a recommended way to teach children self-control. Here are some tips to help you discipline in an effective manner and avoid punishing actions.

  1. Set reasonable limits. Setting reasonable limits offers realistic guidelines for children and helps them to feel secure. When you set limits, stick to them and be consistent. If you don’t stick to your limits, you will only confuse children and they may misbehave more.
  2. Use consequences. Letting children learn from experiences can be very effective if done properly. Parents can tell children ahead of time what the consequences of exceeding limits will be. Remember that consequences give children a choice, and parents must be willing to accept the child’s decision.

Consequences can be natural or logical. Natural consequences let children learn the natural order of the world. For example, “If you don’t eat, you will be hungry.” Logical consequences are consequences that are arranged by the parents. For example, “If you don’t put your dirty clothes in the hamper, you won’t have clean clothes to wear to school.”

Consequences are used to teach responsibility and decision-making. The situation itself provides the lesson and helps to develop a sense of accountability.

  1. Take corrective action as soon as possible. It is important to correct misbehavior soon after it occurs. Carry out the logical consequences you’ve established for your child. If you don’t, what are you really teaching your child?
  2. Stay calm. Anger can “turn off” or “tune out” your child. It may make the corrective action ineffective. It may also create unneeded power plays.

Any kind of punishment done calmly is more effective than that done in anger.

  1. Provide a short time to “cool down.” In the past, this has been referred to as a “timeout.” The intent is to give both you and your child time to cool down and control any anger you may be experiencing. Remember that this cool-down time should be relatively brief. It is not a punishment. Maintaining or regaining respect and comfort are two important parts of cooling down, for both adults and children. Follow up with the child about his or her behavior.
  2. Set an example. Discipline is best taught by example.

Using Effective Discipline

Implementing effective discipline is not always easy and takes some practice. Don’t get discouraged! Remember, if you don’t get the results you want, think the situation through and try again.

Discipline is a positive experience that helps children learn to set and follow behavioral limits and develop self-control.

Discipline that Works: The Ages and Stages Approach

Age Development of Emotions                 Tips

 

Infancy Stable, well-balanced periods occur around 4, 16, 28, 40 and 52 weeks. Periods of imbalance occur often around 8, 20, 32 and 44 weeks.    No discipline needed. 

 

18 Months Acts on impulse. Is insistent, demanding. Not much trouble with own emotions, but has trouble with other people’s. Wants own demands met here and now. Not very adaptable or cuddly. Easily frustrated; attention span extremely short. Loves the outdoors and carriage/stroller rides. 

 

 Doesn’t easily obey direct  commands. Get attention by  doing something child likes  and wants to share. THINGS  TO TRY: Pick up and put child  where wanted. Distraction. 

 

21 Months More demanding and less adaptable. Dependent. Has strong needs and demands, but cannot communicate them. May resist being touched. 

 

  Need for great patience and   wise assessment of        capabilities; discipline is not     the important thing at this  age. Arrange to just get smoothly through the day.      THINGS TO TRY: Most  successful are physical;  rearrange the setting to  avoid problems. Talking to  them usually doesn’t work. 

 

2 Years Less demanding. More adaptable. Tends to be quiet and calm. Willing to cuddle and accept affection. 

 

 Take advantage of child’s  rituals, especially at  bedtimes; use security items  the child likes (thumb,  blanket, etc.). THINGS TO  TRY: Distract them or change  the scene. 

 

2 1/2 Years Great imbalance. Moves between extremes of aggression and withdrawal. Bossy, rigid, selfish, possessive, jealous.     Likes sameness, repetition, predictability; changes are very  hard, even minor ones; toys, etc. all have a “proper place.” 

 

  Age of opposite extremes.    THINGS TO TRY: Avoid   giving choices. Avoid   questions that can be  answered by no. Use  routines. Talk and work fast  so child will be doing what is  wanted before she or he has  time to think and rebel.  Anticipate difficult times or  situations and avoid if  possible; do not expect your  child to wait for things or to  share easily. 

 

3 Years Often time of emotional calm. May be happy, contented much of the time. Gets along well with others. Likes others and wants to please them. 

 

  THINGS TO TRY:  Enthusiasm,  good-will and  common  sense. 

 

3 1/2 Years Difficult age. Is uncertain, unsettled, insecure, yet is stubborn, demanding, unwilling or unable to give in or adapt. Tends to be fearful, unhappy. Child’s big emotional struggle is with his/her mother (she is the only worthy opponent); enjoys talking/conversation; time of great motor uncertainty and fluctuating fine motor capabilities. At this age, children are much better with almost anyone other than the principal caregiver. 

 

 Difficulty making changes.  May be good in long periods  of play, but very poor at  changing from one activity to  another. THINGS TO TRY:  Simplify changes as much as  possible. Avoid head-on  clashes. Let him know he is  great — the best child ever;  emotions may be very  fragile; may express fears or  anxieties about the dark and  animals — support these but  do not encourage; use an  imaginary companion to help  get things done; heavy use  of positive phrases: “let’s,”  “how about,” and “maybe  you could.” Give in when  things aren’t important.  Change subject or distract by  bringing in something nice so  child forgets to object. 

 

4 Years Energetic, out-of-bounds. May go to extremes to test self against others. Often enjoys own impish, humorous ways. May be selfish, rough, impatient, loud. Loves adventure. Socially silly and larger-than-life manners may annoy adults. 

 

Delights in upsetting adults. THINGS TO TRY: Ignore profanity, boasting, super-silly way of talking, if possible; enjoy her silliness and participate; usually likes and respects boundaries and limits; bargaining works well; surprises are good motivators; whispering very effective; praise and compliments work wonders as does the simple art of conversation. Make few rules, but enforce these strictly. 

 

5 Years Tends to be calm, quiet, well-balanced. Pulls in and usually tries only what he knows he can do, so is comfortably well-adjusted. Friendly, loving, appreciative, wants to please and do the right thing; wants and means to be good; not yet able to admit to wrongdoing and as much as he tries, does not always tell the truth. 

 

Let them know what is and is not reasonable to expect. Many things parents consider bad are often simplyimmaturities. THINGS TO TRY: Prevention is much better than punishment. If you punish, do so calmly. Child’s wish to be good and do the right thing is strong. With luck, there should be relatively little need for punishment. 

 

5 1/2 to     6 Years Highly emotional. Not in good balance. Loves one minute, hates the next. Much confusion and trouble between self and others. May demand, rebel, argue, fight. When in good mood, is cheerful, energetic, enthusiastic. Needs much praise, but behavior often merits criticism. This only makes behavior worse. Not able yet to tell the difference between mine and yours. 

 

Age of extreme imbalance. May be very rude, resistant, defiant. Thrives on head-on clashes. Punish if absolutely necessary, but calmly. THINGS TO TRY: Patience and skill. Ignore refusal or be impersonal when child answers commands with “I won’t.” Praise — it may not be easy to find something to praise but try hard; avoid resistance and head-on collisions; sidestep issues if possible; bargain; give in on occasion. 

 

6 1/2 Years Behavior quiets down for a few months. Usually relates strongly and warmly to adults close to them. Brief periods of being happy with themselves. Money is becoming of real interest both as an allowance and as a reward. Eager for more possessions. 

 

THINGS TO TRY: Small rewards for little chores or even eating a good meal. Give them “chances” to get a request done. Consenting and bargaining also work well. 

 

7 Years Quiet, rather negative emotions. May be serious, self-absorbed, moody, worrisome,    or suspicious. Very sensitive to others’ emotions. May feel disliked by others and that they are critical or poking fun.Procrastinates, has a short memory, and is easily distracted; often completely tunes out the outside world. 

 

Obedience problem may be because child is sidetracked. THINGS TO TRY: To have a simple chore done,tell child in advance. Be sure they heard the directions. Remind the child before he or she forgets and does something else. 

 

8 Years                                                                            Vigorous, dramatic, curious, impatient, demanding. Not as moody as 7, but still sensitive. Very demanding of parents, especially mother; strongly influenced by her wishes and desires; wants time, attention, affection and approval; beginning to think abstractly; interested in and concerned about own possessions. Easily disappointed if people don’t behave as wished.       Can be quite critical of others and self. Argumentative. 

 

  Easily disappointed if what an adult says or does isn’t   what the child wants. THINGS TO TRY: Give commands in   ways acceptable to the child.  Money is a good motivator, as are time, attention and approval.

 

9 Years Quieter than at 8. Seems to be independent, responsible, dependable, cooperative. May sometimes be temperamental, but is basically reasonable. May be age of considerable rebellion against authority;   tend to go to   extremes; will take criticism fairly well if carefully phrased;    great interest in fairness; group standards may be more important than parental standards. Demanding of others,   but likely to be as critical of self as of others. Very involved with self and may not hear when spoken to. May appear  absent-minded or indifferent. Shows anger at parents, but is  also proud of them, is loyal to family, friends. May show concern for others. 

 

   Interests are beginning to spread beyond home and   family. May resist feelings of being a little child and of  being told what to do.     THINGS TO TRY: Save direct commands for big important matters. 

 

10 Years Emotionally direct, simple, clear-cut, usually well-balanced, yet still childlike. Less anxious and demanding than at 9. Most often good-natured and pleased with life. But may show sharp, violent temper. Can be very affectionate. Not a worrying age, yet a few earlier fears remain. Enjoys own humor, which may not be very funny to others. Happy age.   Tricks or specific and special  ways of approaching a child are no longer particularly useful; involve the child’s ability to distinguish good   from bad, right from wrong, truth from untruth; best   technique is to know what is reasonable to expect.

 

Source: Ames, L.B. (1992).  Raising Good Kids: A Developmental Approach to Discipline. Rosemont, NJ: Modern Learning Press.

7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Someone in our community group reminded me recently of a parenting phenomenon that I experienced firsthand.  Perhaps you did also. My friend is living through her first “terrible threes”.   She has a three year old trying her patience.  As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the “terrible twos” that is a problem…it’s the “terrible threes”.

It goes something like this:  One day your precious angel; the one everyone thinks is so cute, who was hardly ever a problem before, suddenly becomes a holy terror at times.   You have never dealt with such temper tantrums, back-talking sassiness, and outbursts of anger.  You may have entered the terrible threes.

Children cycle through many phases and it shouldn’t be too surprising if they go through a rebellious stage early in life.   The terrible threes, or twos, as the case may be, most likely is the time when the child most openly expresses his or her independence.  The more independent the child, the more difficult this time can be.

He or she is exploring a new world, testing boundaries, discovering their own personality, and filtering through reactions of others.  As with other phases the child will experience, this one is difficult for the child as well as the parent, but in this phase the child is the least mature and their reaction is likewise.

Here is my advice for surviving the terrible threes:

Suffer through it! Most likely, it will not last long, perhaps not even a whole year, and there is hope on the other side.

Be consistent – This is not the time to give in to the child’s outbursts. This is the time to consistently follow through with prescribed discipline.

Keep loving –  As much as your child tries your patience, continue to always exhibit love to your child, even during discipline.

Experiment – Use different discipline methods until you find one that works for this stage of the child’s life.

Remember you are the adult – Sometimes when the child is showing his or her worse side it is tempting to show yours.  Keep your cool. Be mature.  Handle these days firmly, but calmly.  Remember you are modeling behavior for your child.

Teach your child – This phase can be a great opportunity to teach your child how to respond to disappointment and frustration.

Don’t be afraid to share your situation with others. Often parents are embarrassed because of their children’s behavior during this stage of life so they hide the struggle — not realizing that so many other parents experience the same with their children.  The biggest surprise at this stage of your child’s life may be when you discover you are not unique in this struggle.

By the way, these work in most other phases of a child’s life also.

Parenting: Discipline

SOURCE:  Living Free

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.”   Proverbs 29:17 NLT

Thoughts for Today
The Bible tells us to discipline our children. As in all things, we are to follow God’s pattern. He always disciplines us in love and is always consistent.

Emotional problems in youngsters are not so much a result of the type or amount of appropriate discipline given, but rather the lack of consistency. Our children need the security of knowing what their boundaries are and what will happen if they cross those boundaries.

Consider this … 
It is important that both parents agree on what behavior is acceptable and what is unacceptable. They must also agree on what type of discipline they will use when those boundaries are crossed. When parents cannot agree on these things, they should either try to reach a meaningful compromise or allow one parent to be responsible for discipline with the other parent offering support. Either way, parents should present a united front to the child. (This united front is important even if the parents have divorced.)

Consistent discipline is both appropriate and necessary in the training of a child. God disciplines us in love and wisdom. Let’s do the same for our children. “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4 MSG

Prayer
Father, help me to discipline my children consistently and in love and wisdom. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

What the Trinity Teaches Us about Parenting

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/ Stephen James and David Thomas

The way God relates to us is deeply relevant to how we relate to our children.

Parenting is a wild and unpredictable ride—full of twists and turns. That’s why books on parenting sell in the gazillions. Search “parenting” on Amazon.com, and you’ll find thousands of books offering insights on and solutions for raising children (we’ve even written one of them!). We secretly hope that if we get the right tools and practice the right techniques, our kids will turn out fine.

As we researched our book on parenting, we sought to discover a biblically-centered framework for raising children. Not surprisingly, we found many examples and concepts in Scripture that can help us become wise, mature, and loving parents. But we also found what you might consider an unlikely model for parenting: the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). As we looked at some of the ways the persons of the Trinity relate to us, we uncovered important insights into how we can relate to our children.

GOD THE FATHER

Scripture paints a picture of a Father God who is personal and purposeful as He relates to His children. These characteristics can serve as a road map for us as parents.

Personal. God relates to each of us on intensely personal levels. How He works in one person’s life may be very different from what He does with another person. How God engages with Moses in Exodus 3 (as an encourager) is very different from how He engages with Jacob in Genesis 32 (as an adversary and giver of blessing). Similarly, if we want to parent our children well, we need to parent them as individuals.

We (Stephen and David) each have a set of twin boys. Our respective twins share the same genetic mix, the same gender, the same hair and eye colors, and yet they couldn’t be more different. Their personalities are different, and they will pursue different vocations and different relationships. Despite all that they share, our sons are unique, and we need to relate with them according to that uniqueness.

An important asset for discovering a child’s individuality is curiosity. The curious parent looks for and notices how a child is changing and being changed. Curiosity seeks more than information; it draws out a person’s heart. It encourages dialog. One way of doing this is through questions. You might say, “You’ve seemed angry lately. Has something happened?” Or “I can tell you love your new bike. What excites you about bike riding?”

Another way we relate personally with our children is by entering their worlds. We have found play to be wonderfully effective. My (David’s) six-year-old daughter is passionate about dolls. Two of them, named Jane and Caroline, dine at our table, ride buckled in the back of our car, and are kissed goodnight every evening. Because I love my daughter and want to know her, I’ll sometimes sit on her bedroom floor and ask questions about Jane and Caroline. I even change their clothes and comb their hair. It’s pretty hilarious to watch a grown man receive instruction in ponytail placement. But this is what my daughter loves. She can even put ponytails in my hair if it communicates that I love her enough to want to know who she is and what she loves.

Purposeful. Our Father God is also purposeful in His relationship with us. He acts intentionally and carries out His good plans for us. He does not wait for us to come to Him; He makes the first move. Think of God with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 after they tried to hide. Or with Moses in the burning bush (so much for hiding in the desert). God moves toward us again and again with an invitation for us to move closer to Him.

Practicing this kind of intentionality can be particularly challenging for parents with teens. How can we be proactive with a kid whose behavior seems to communicate, “Get away from me” or “Leave me alone”? In the face of teen sullenness, it’s so tempting to default to standing at arm’s length and waiting to be invited in for a few seconds.

Yet we firmly believe that behind every hand (or heart) that says, “Get away” is another that says, “Come close.” Which means you may have to get really creative with adolescents if you want to stay in relationship with them. If you’ve tried a litany of options without success, food is a good bet. Figure out where they love to eat and take them there. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

GOD THE SON

God the Son also gives us a biblical picture of parenting. Let’s consider His roles as a sacrifice and a teacher.

Sacrifice. First and foremost, Christ was a perfect offering who suffered and died for our sins so that we can truly live, both now and forever (Ro. 5:6–8, 1 Jn. 4:9–10). He willingly did for us what no one else could or would do. And like Christ, we as parents are to sacrifice—lovingly and wisely—on behalf of our children.

I (David) recently took my family to the beach. We practically crawled there. The week before we left had been intense: challenges at work, the death of a friend, missed deadlines, and a cancer diagnosis for one of our parents. By the time we reached the ocean, all I wanted to do was plant a lounge chair on the beach and not move for five days. All my kids wanted to do was build sandcastles, fish, and play 20,000 rounds of Marco Polo. Joining them was an intentional act of sacrifice: I laid down what I wanted so I could be present with them. In the grand scheme of things, this may seem a small sacrifice. Yet I believe that with such sacrifices our children are blessed and our Savior is pleased.

Teacher. Perhaps one of Jesus’ most vivid roles is that of teacher. Throughout the gospel accounts, we see Him illuminating the truth of God for His listeners. Our children need the same from us.

Sometimes teaching involves giving specific instruction. Other times, it may mean we stand back and practice the art of silence so that experience can be the teacher. The father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) provides a rich example of this type of teaching. Surely this man knew his son well enough to know that he would blow his inheritance: Wouldn’t most adolescent boys do something reckless with a wad of cash? Yet the father allowed his son to squander it all. What a wise father, and what a scary, vulnerable place his hands-off approach must have put him in. His son learned a lesson, however; experience taught the prodigal that there’s no place like home.

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

Now we turn to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Two primary works of the Spirit that relate to our parenting are convicting and coming alongside us.

Convicting. One thing the Spirit does in all of our lives is to convict us of our sin (Jn. 16:8). Sometimes He does that through specific scriptures, words from a wise friend, or a persistent inner voice that urges us to examine our ways. If we are to love our children like God loves us, there will be times when we must stand before our children and name their sin, especially when it involves character issues. Too many parents fail to expose their children’s character defects for fear of harming their self-esteem. But we are not talking about verbally shaming, harassing, or assaulting a child. We are talking about speaking with our children the way God engaged with Paul on the road to Damascus: metaphorically knocking them off their high horses and into the truth.

Some friends recently caught their son lying about whether he had checked his backpack (he often didn’t) to make sure he had everything he needed for school the next day. It wasn’t a “big” lie. And overall, we’re talking about a pretty extraordinary kid: an excellent student, a great athlete, the kind of kid that most parents want their kids to hang around with.

Upon discovering the lie, my friends confronted their son and took away his “life” for a couple of weeks: his electronics, sports practice (he got to sit on the bench but not play), overnight stays at a friend’s house, and so on. The boy fired back that he couldn’t believe he’d lost that much over “a stupid backpack.” He added, “I’m a good kid, and this feels extreme.”

His dad explained that the issue was not his “stupid backpack.” It was his heart that his parents were concerned about. “You are a great kid,” they told him, “and plenty of people would testify to that—teachers, coaches, your friends’ parents. Enough folks have done so that you’ve lost touch with the fact that you’re a liar.”

These parents cared enough about their son to shatter his good-guy image and to deal with the state of his heart. This is strikingly similar to how the Holy Spirit deals with us when He convicts us of sin, exposes our foolish self-righteousness, and shows us a better way to live.

Coming alongside. The same Spirit who convicts us also comes alongside us and comforts us. Yet it is hard for many parents to move from being the ones who convict to being the ones who comfort, to set aside the teaching role and focus on simply being there.

Think of it this way: No kid wants to be taught the proper technique for riding her bike when she has just flipped over the handlebars. She wants a hug and a Band-Aid. And when your son doesn’t make varsity, one of the worst things you can do is to turn the situation into a teaching moment. He needs an arm around his shoulder to help him grieve his disappointment.

The example of the Holy Spirit shows us that there is a time for parents to convict and a time for us to comfort.

EXAMPLE PLUS EMPOWERMENT

Each person of the Trinity teaches us something about parenting. We learn from the Father to be personal and purposeful with our children. We learn from the Son how to sacrifice on behalf of our children and how to teach them God’s powerful truths. We learn from the Spirit how to expose our children’s sin lovingly for the sake of their emerging characters and how to come alongside and comfort them when life is not what they had hoped it would be. But perhaps the ultimate wonder is that the same Triune God who models parenthood for us also lives in us and empowers us for this scary yet sanctified calling.

The Wonders of Reality Discipline

SOURCE:  an article by Shana Schutte/Focus on the Family

This clever discipline method is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

I once read a newspaper headline that made me chuckle: “Red Lipstick Empowers Women.” The caption, coupled with a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing a white flowing dress and painted crimson lips, made me think that perhaps I’d found the answer to the discipline problems with my elementary students.That’s been my problem all along  I’ve been wearing champagne pink!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if changing lipstick was all it took to become more effective and empowered in handling discipline problems with children?

While child psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman is an out-of-the-box parenting problem solver who might buy into the lipstick method if it worked, Dr. Leman instead teaches parents about the effective “Reality Discipline.” This clever method of getting little “ankle biters” to obey is less exhausting and more successful than ranting, raving, blaming, pleading, begging or threatening.

It’s all about responsibility

The first thing to remember about Reality Discipline is that you want your children to learn to think for themselves and learn to become more responsible through guidance and action-oriented techniques. In an article from First Things First, Dr. Leman says, “Action-oriented discipline is based on the reality that there are times when you have to pull the rug out and let the little buzzards tumble. I mean disciplining your children in such a way that he/she accepts responsibility and learns accountability for his actions.” Here’s an example.

When my brother was in high school, my mother implemented Reality Discipline without realizing it. My little brother, Gannon, could sleep through a tornado (or a hurricane or tsunami) and my mother was tired of waking him up every morning and saying, “You’d better hurry, or you’re going to miss the bus.” Finally, Mom thought, I’m not waking him up anymore. He can be late. Just as she suspected, Gannon did miss the bus and was forced to walk the mile to school. Much to my mother’s delight, he was never late again. She didn’t have to beg, plead, give him ultimatums or nag Gannon one more time. Instead, she let reality do the discipline.

A little bit of ice cream can do the trick

One afternoon, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Leman explain on the radio how reality discipline teaches responsibility. He told an engaging story about a mother whose preschool son was driving her bananas because every day when she stopped to pick him up from preschool, he ran from her on the playground. She felt like a fool for being outrun by a preschooler while teachers and parents looked on. Desperate, she asked Dr. Leman for advice.

Dr. Leman suggested that if her son ran from her next time, she should ask another adult on the playground if they would be kind enough to keep an eye on her son for a few minutes. Then she should drive away, go to the nearest ice cream shop, purchase a cone for herself and drive back to the school to pick up her son. Then, when her little guy got in the car and asked, “Where’s my ice cream?” he told the woman she should cheerfully say, “Well you could have had some ice cream, but you ran away; so I had to go get some alone.”

One point for mom; zero for Junior. That’s Reality Discipline. No ranting. No raving. No warnings. Just cool, collected action with some quick, clever thinking to make your point loud and clear.

Sounds great, right? Here are some basic principles of Reality Discipline to help you get (and keep) the upper hand with your kids.

Don’t focus on creating a happy child

In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman says that the goal of parenting is not to create happy kids; rather, it’s to create responsible kids. This means Junior will probably be pretty unhappy that he didn’t get an ice cream cone; he may even throw a fit, and rant and rave — but he will become more responsible and respectful. Don’t back down, but do stay cool as a cucumber. Remind yourself that it’s a battle of the wits and the wills, and you will win.

Understand your child’s reality

According to Dr Leman, if you want to use Reality Discipline effectively, you need to know what’s important to your child — what really moves him in his reality. Your child may value money, sports, a daily cookie break, staying up late or spending time with friends. Parents who know how to use Reality Discipline make creative connections between bad behavior and discipline through action rather than through warnings, nagging or threats.

For example, suppose you ask your ten-year-old daughter (who loves saving money) to take out the trash. She ignores you, and thirty minutes later the trash is still sitting by the back door. With a little creativity, you decide to implement some Reality Discipline. Instead of reminding your daughter about the trash, you enlist her younger sister to take it out . Then you take some money out of your ten-year-old daughter’s allowance and give it to her sister for a job well done. Can you imagine the peace and satisfaction that could come from being such a quick-witted parent?

Note: If you want to use Reality Discipline, you have to listen to your child. Then you’ll know what will move him to responsibility. The more you understand what’s important to him, the more ammunition you’ll have in your arsenal to “train up” your child in the way he should go.

Make sure that Reality Discipline is grounded in love

In Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman writes, “Show me a mean teacher, and I’ll show you a good one.” If you find that you are a permissive parent who is afraid of “pulling the rug out from under your child” as Dr. Leman suggests, remember that Reality Discipline is not unkind. Instead, when it’s motivated by love to help your child mature into a responsible adult, it’s a very good gift.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The Problem of Evil

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by Tawa J. Anderson


Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the most haunting questions facing modern man. Why does such seemingly senseless tragedy strike such seemingly innocent victims? Why are many babies born with deformities or handicaps? Why are young women in southern Sudan raped and beaten by armed militia from the north? Why are girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery to provide a few months income for their families and to satisfy the perversions of Western tourists? Why did an unimaginably powerful earthquake in Japan cause a massive tsunami and cause so much destruction and death? 

To put the question in another way, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there such deep and senseless evil and suffering on earth? David Hume, the eighteenth century atheist philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

According to Hume, and many skeptics since, an all-powerful and loving God would not permit the existence of the evil that we perceive and experience. Indeed, since Hume’s day, the ‘problem of evil’, as it is known, has been the strongest challenge to Christian belief, and a key argument put forward in favor of atheism. The argument is basically thus: ‘if the Christian God exists, then evil would not be. Evil is, therefore God is not.’

We all struggle to understand why God allows horrible things to happen to people who do not deserve it. Tonight we are going to ponder this issue together. I want to suggest that we can come to a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people by identifying the who, the why, the what, and the how of evil and suffering. Who causes evil? Why does God allow evil? What does God do about evil? And How are we to respond to evil? As we search out an understanding of the who, why, what, and how of evil, I pray that God will illuminate our hearts and minds.

Before we delve into the who, why, what, and how of evil, we need to establish two preliminary facts. First, if Christianity is true, then there are no truly ‘good’ people. Second, if there is no God, then there are no truly ‘bad’ things to happen to people. We could spend an entire week talking about both of these fundamental truths, but we simply do not have the time. Thus, I am going to just touch on them briefly and then move on.

I. There are no “Good People”, only “Relatively Good People”


The Bible insists, and human experience confirms, that there are no truly ‘good’ people. Psalm 14:2-3 reads: The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:9-20 quotes Psalm 14 and builds upon it, insisting that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. Verse 20 concludes: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  

The bad news of humanity, which must be understood before we can acknowledge the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we are all alike sinners deserving of God’s just condemnation. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only after acknowledging universal sinfulness can we proclaim that we are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The bad news precedes the good news. This is crucial when we consider why bad things happen to ‘good’ people. The bottom line is that no one is truly ‘good’; there are only ‘relatively good’ people. We are ‘relatively good’ in comparison to Hitler or Charles Manson. But none of us is ‘relatively good’ compared to God. God alone is good. We are good only insofar as we have the spirit of the living God within us. This truth has no impact upon our existential experience of evil and suffering, and it does not answer the question that we have asked. It just helps us to realize that we have to put good in quotation marks. The real question is ‘why do bad things happen’, period.

II. Outside of Christianity, there are no “Bad Things”, only “Things I Don’t Like”

Now consider this – what makes ‘bad’ things bad? To consider something ‘bad’, there must be some kind of objective standard to which it is being compared. As Christians, we certainly have this standard – something is ‘bad’ insofar as it falls short of the goodness and glory and perfection of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But what about others? Where does their definition of ‘bad’ come from? For most Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, nothing is truly and objectively ‘bad’. Something may be maya, that is, illusory; but fundamental reality is one, Brahman, and transcends our categories of good and evil. There is not good and evil, there is only ‘is’. Evil is an illusion; suffering is an illusion. Thus, in those worldviews there is no point in asking the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’, because there are no ‘bad’ things.

How about the atheist? He fares no better. If there is no God, there is no objective standard of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. There is only ‘what I prefer’ and ‘what you prefer’; or what different cultures prefer. Without a transcendent source for morality, we are driven to some form of ethical relativism. But then the whole argument against Christianity based on the existence of pointless evil and suffering collapses. C. S. Lewis writes:
“My [old atheistic] argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

If there is no God, then there is no such thing as objective evil; but then there is no problem of evil to begin with. An atheist can rail against the existential unlikeability of things that happen, but he can hardly shake his fist at the God in whom he willfully disbelieves, and blame God for allowing evil to persist. Only the Christian can raise the question of why bad things happen to ‘good’ people, because we have a transcendent standard by which some things are indeed declared ‘evil’ or ‘bad’. Again, this does not minimize the reality and significance of evil and suffering—it only sets the framework for our discussion. There are no ‘good’ people, because we are all sinners by nature, and unless Christianity is true, there are no ‘bad’ things to happen to anybody. With that groundwork in place, let’s proceed to our discussion of the who, why, what, and how of evil.

III. Who Causes Evil? The impact of human sin

First, who causes evil? Where does it come from? Why is there suffering at all? In Genesis 1, God creates the universe and everything within it. In verse 31, we read: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. In the beginning, creation was good. There was no evil, no suffering. But in Genesis 3, the picture changes. Adam and Eve disobey God, rebel against God’s loving Lordship, and plunge all of creation into a state of fallen sinfulness. Their sin affects not just their own relationship with God, but the status of the entire created order. Where does evil come from? Quite simply, from the sin of mankind. Why are young girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery? Because of the moral evil of men and women around them—their parents’ sinful decision to sell them off, the sinful institutions in their country which perpetually impoverish their families, and the sinful perversions of sex tourists who come to Thailand solely to despoil and molest enslaved Thai women. Why do deformities and handicaps affect many children? Because the fall of man introduced sin and imperfection into the created order, including the genetic reproduction of humanity. Evil exists because human sin exists.

IV. Why does God Allow Evil?

Second, why does Almighty God allow evil? Granted that evil stems from the sinfulness of humanity. Why does God allow it? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop children from being born deformed? Why doesn’t He stop women from being abused? Why doesn’t He protect New Orleans from being decimated by hurricanes and floods? Before I begin to answer this question, I want you to note the irony of this complaint against God. Atheists frequently want to be left alone to do what they want to do, morally and intellectually speaking. In other words, they want God to let them do what they want to do. If they want to have sex with a multitude of women, let them. If they want to think that words are a power game and have no intrinsic meaning, let them. They want to be left alone. They certainly do not want ‘God’ (in whom, again, they do not believe) to interfere in their lives and disrupt their plans. And yet they raise a howl of protest against intuitively-known evil, and insist that if there was an all-powerful God, He ought not to let such things occur. They want God to intervene and prevent other people from perpetrating evil (that is, from doing the evil that they want to do), but they forbid God from intervening and preventing themselves from perpetrating what others might perceive as evil. Which is it? Do they want a God who intervenes in earthly affairs, or not?

A) Human Freedom

Why does God allow evil to occur? Why does He permit relatively good people to endure incredible suffering? First off, we must acknowledge that if God so desired, He could eliminate all evil and suffering with one word from His mouth. After all, God is all-powerful. However, we might not like what was left of the world if God did that, as we will come to see presently. At any rate, we can point to three broad reasons that God allows evil to occur.

First, and most commonly and generally, God permits evil to occur because He has endowed men and women with free will, and does not intervene to prevent His creatures from carrying out their freely-chosen evil intentions. We are all consciously aware of having the power of choice – the ability to determine what we do today and tomorrow. To be sure, we are strongly influenced and directed by our particular genetic make-up, as well as our environmental upbringing. Nonetheless, we choose our course of action. [For example], one could decide to go out after church on Sunday and bring sandwiches and cold ice tea to the homeless people living on the streets of Louisville. [Another], meanwhile, could choose to slip thumbtacks into the shoes and hats of those same homeless people. One would be choosing to do good, the other to do evil. But both would be making a decision to act. God would not approve of  [the latter’s] actions. [This] would be acting contrary to God’s prescriptive will – that is, what God desires and directs to happen. [This] act would fall under God’s permissive will – that is, what God allows to happen, even though it may be contrary to His character and commandments.

The vast majority of evil and suffering we complain about is due to the sinfulness of mankind. The argument that God should not allow such evil to occur is really a demand that God should make man to be something other than what He is—that mankind should be compelled and forced by God to act rightly, instead of being exhorted, encouraged, and entreated to do what is right. A world without evil would be a world without free-willed men; a world of robotic androids, incapable of forming relationships, incapable of expressing worship, incapable of ‘doing good’ because they are incapable of choosing their path in any way. That is why we as human beings really do not want God to eliminate all evil and suffering—because if He did, we would cease to be conscious of anything. Removing the possibility of human-perpetrated evil also removes the possibility of human good.


B) Suffering as Discipline and Judgment


There are two other reasons that God permits evil and suffering. On the one hand, He sometimes allows us to experience a wake-up call—such as when a man who has been eating deep-fried fatty foods for years suffers a mild heart attack and ponders his need to alter his lifestyle and diet. God sometimes leads us through suffering in order to refine our character and will. Other times, suffering is a more direct judgment for sin, as when God judges His chosen nation of Israel in the Old Testament for their rebellion against Him, and sends them into exile in Babylon.

C) Suffering/Evil and the Greater Good

On the other hand, God often uses apparent evil to accomplish a greater good which we can not see because of our limited human perspective. Indeed, the comforting promise of Romans 8:28 is that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. From my perspective (and I know there are many who disagree with this), God does not approve of or will the evil that occurs, but He does redeem it, working in the midst of great evil to accomplish greater good.

V. What does God Do about Evil and Suffering?

Indeed, that is part of the answer to our third question: What does God do about evil? Granted that mankind is the source of evil, and that God permits it primarily because He has divinely created us to be creatures with the freedom to choose good or evil—what does God do about it? Is He merely standing on the sidelines, cheering on the ‘good guys’ while booing the ‘evil ones’? Is He wringing His hands helplessly, weeping over His inability to rein in the forces of doom and darkness? In addition to working good out of evil, I suggest that there are four things that we can identify God as ‘doing’ about the evil and suffering in the world.

A) Grieves Over

First, God grieves with us over evil in the world. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus cries out:O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. Jesus is grieved by the unwillingness of the people of Israel to acknowledge and embrace His messianic ministry. Throughout Scripture, we see God expressing sympathy for those who are suffering, and promising to provide comfort to those who are afflicted. God grieves with us as we suffer, and carries us through the darkest times of our suffering.

B) Condemns and Judges

Second, God condemns evil. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus expresses strong anger and condemnation towards the evil of the religious leaders of Israel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. If you want even stronger expressions of condemnation for evil, check out the Old Testament prophets. A brief taste from Amos 2:6 – For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. God judges and condemns evil in all forms, from whatever corner it comes. God’s Church is not exempt from condemnation—if and when evil is perpetrated by professing Christians, God can and will condemn it also.

C) Absorbs and Endures

Third, God takes evil upon Himself. God descends to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Though a righteous, sinless man, incarnate God suffers intense evil at the hands of sinful men. Whatever suffering and evil we have endured, Jesus has gone through similar or worse. Furthermore, when Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, He assumed upon Himself the evil that we have committed, and endured the punishment that we had earned. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As Jesus hangs on the cross, bearing upon Himself all of our evil and consequent punishment, God the Father judges the evil present upon God the Son. Jesus experiences this divine abandonment, and cries out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Never lose sight of the fact that the suffering of the cross is real, and that Jesus takes evil willingly upon Himself. God does not just witness evil from the sidelines; He enters into human suffering and takes it upon Himself.

D) Ultimately & Finally Defeats
Finally, God gives His divine and certain promise that evil will one day be defeated and eradicated. We live as fallen creatures in a fallen creation, but God has assured us that He will one day remake creation and re-establish for all eternity a righteous, perfect order. Revelation 16-20 (like many other biblical passages) describe the future defeat, judgment, and demise of Satan and other workers of evil; Revelation 21 then opens with a beautiful picture of the paradise that awaits us when evil is eradicated. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. God grieves over evil; He condemns it; He takes it upon Himself to redeem us; and He will ultimately defeat and demolish all evil and suffering.

VI. How are We to Respond to Evil and Suffering?

With all that in mind, then, how are we to respond to evil? Are we to throw our hands up in the air and cry: ‘There’s nothing we can do about it! We live in a terrible world!’? Or are we to take a shotgun and shoot whoever around us seems to be most evil? How does God desire us to respond to evil around us, and the evil that we ourselves endure. First, we need to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, as Philippians 2:1-11 reminds us. We must grieve with others who encounter evil and experience suffering, and seek to comfort them and carry them through their trials. We must also condemn the evil that exists in our society—as well as the evil that exists within ourselves. We must not be content to accept the inevitability of evil and suffering, but rather are called by God to strive against it. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We truly desire for God’s will to be done here, and thus we struggle and fight against evil, injustice, and sources of human suffering. 

Finally, when we experience evil personally, we must keep fresh in our minds the convicting, challenging, but comforting words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Yes, our suffering may be intense; the evil we encounter may be gratuitous, grievous evil. But we must keep in mind the victory over death and evil and suffering that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ won the victory over sin and death through His glorious resurrection, so too we are assured of our own victory over evil and death. Just as Christ was raised from the dead to eternal life with God the Father, so too we are assured of our own resurrection to eternal life.

Who causes evil? We do. Why does God allow evil to persist? Because He created us with the freedom to choose, for good or for evil, and allows us to act accordingly. What does God do about the evil that He permits? He brings good out of it, grieves over it, condemns it, takes it upon Himself, and ultimately defeats it. How are we to respond to evil? We are to grieve over it, condemn it, and keep our eyes focused upon the redemption of our suffering through our future resurrection.

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