Walking with our children through suffering

November 22, 2016

Trials and suffering in our lives can be anywhere from stretching to downright devastating. However, I think most people would agree that as painful as it is to endure suffering in our own lives, it can be even more painful to watch our children suffer. Whether it’s a tragic accident like what happened recently, a bully at school, a friend who hurts their feelings, the loss of a loved one, a broken heart or life-altering illness, all of our children will be faced with the realities of a broken world.

All four of my children have endured suffering since they took their first breath. They each suffer immensely from the physical, emotional and neurological pain of Lyme disease. They have watched our family go from being financially comfortable to being on unemployment. They frequently feel left out of parties and school activities because of special diets and chronic pain.

If we think that we have the ability to control our children’s lives, we will have a tendency to become hover parents, living in fear of what we can’t control and running the risk of putting ourselves in the place of God. But there is great freedom in realizing that God has entrusted us with children he created for his purposes under his sovereign plan.

So that leads me to the question: What do we do when suffering strikes in our kid’s lives? How do we prepare our children for a world that involves disappointment, pain and loss? How can we teach our children to endure suffering in light of the hope of the gospel? I’d like to share five things we try to teach our children so that they learn to view suffering through a gospel lens.

1. Suffering is a result of sin in the world, and we shouldn’t be surprised by it (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

It’s important that we help our children understand that when sin entered the world, death did, too (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when we experience the inevitable sadness, brokenness and pain of living in a world under the curse of sin. If our children don’t understand that we are all sinners who deserve to die for our sins, then they will expect to be happy and comfortable in this life and may become angry at God when they aren’t.

Teaching our children the doctrine of sin and the hope that we have in Christ is vitally important in helping them understand the reality of suffering and the hope that can be found within it. A great way to do this is to share with your children, when appropriate, ways that you have struggled in your life and how you have found forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit to help you. We can also turn their eyes to all the great men and women of the Bible who made mistakes and endured perplexing circumstances, yet desired to follow Jesus and were used in mighty ways.  

2. Don’t view suffering as only a bad thing that should be avoided (Ps. 119:71-76).

Though it’s uncomfortable, we should consider how we view suffering. We can often see this in how we pray. Do we mainly pray for our trials to be taken away or for things that we want? Or do we pray with confidence that God is Lord over it, and though we are sinners in desperate need of him, Christ has died and defeated death so that our pain would be used for our good?

This isn’t easy when we, as parents, are struggling to understand and grapple with painful circumstances in our own lives or are dealing with the heartache of watching our kids suffer.

Yet, as we grow to understand and believe that God allows suffering in our lives to draw us to and give us greater life in him, we can gently share these truths with our children.

I’ve seen this happen in my own heart. Years upon years of praying for my oldest to be free from all that torments him and causes so much pain in our home began to make my son question why God wouldn’t answer our prayers to heal him. For a long time, I struggled to answer him because I couldn’t understand why the Lord was continuing to allow so much pain in such a little child’s life. However, over the years, my prayers began to change.

I found myself praying that Jesus would help me trust him more and give me the strength to keep going. I began to experience sweet blessings within the deep heartache that I never would have found if I had only viewed our trials as my enemy and something to get out of as quickly as possible.

Now, when one of my children comes to me with questions, I try to quickly reflect on all that God has done through the pain he has allowed and respond with, “I don’t know why God has allowed all of this, but I do know that it’s not being wasted and that he is allowing it to make us love him more, love the world less and become more like him in the process.”

3. Talk to the Lord about your feelings, questions and fears (Ps. 22:1-2).

Many children will bottle up their feelings, especially if they think that they shouldn’t feel the way they do or don’t know what to do with them. We have seen our own children struggle with anger, discouragement, weariness and confusion. It’s important that we help them learn to talk about feelings that they may not understand and then teach them to talk to Christ honestly about them.

Leading by example in this, as well as reading the Psalms out loud, can be helpful to show them that they aren’t alone in feeling this way. As the Psalmists’ and many others show us in the Word, it’s OK to bring our honest feelings to the Lord, as long as we don’t get stuck there and are willing to learn from and trust him.

4. Look for ways that God has been faithful, even when it’s hard to see (Ps. 34:1-6).

While it’s important to help them learn to talk to Jesus about their feelings and struggles, it’s even more important to teach them to praise God and look for ways that he has been faithful, even when it isn’t easy.

During the last several months, the trials have been so incredibly heavy on our family that it’s been easy to sink into a feeling of despair and hopelessness. I knew we needed something in front of us that would help keep our eyes on ways that God was being faithful in such a dark time. So I created a faithfulness tree—made of nothing more than construction paper. It’s not even close to Pinterest worthy, but it’s served its purpose. It’s simply a tree trunk and branches of paper taped on our wall with little green leaves that display ways we see God’s faithfulness.

This has helped our family see how God is providing and showing himself faithful. It’s been neat to see how this has encouraged us all, including the kids, to look for God’s faithfulness within the trials. This has also helped us grow a greater spirit of thankfulness and humility as we have become more aware of ways God is so incredibly faithful—and how easily we can miss his provisions and goodness towards us.

5. Wait on the Lord with and eternal perspective (Rom. 5:1-5).

One of the hardest parts of watching our children suffer has been watching their little hearts grieve the loss of so much innocence at such a young age. But, one of the blessings that I’ve seen the Lord bring out of the pain is an awakening to the reality of a world that cannot satisfy them. It has caused them to want to hear more about heaven and what there is beyond this world.

While it’s often hard, I am thankful that the pain that they are enduring is forcing them to search for a deeper meaning in their suffering and a purpose for their lives. Though they may not fully grasp the truths that they are learning right now, by God’s grace, they are watching my husband and me continually turn to Christ in our honest struggles with prayer and faith, trusting that as we wait on him, he will be faithful to bring good out of all of this pain.

So when our children come to us, not understanding why something is happening and just wanting it to go away, let’s use this as an opportunity to lead them to Jesus and help them learn to wait on him and trust his promises.


We are told that this life will not be easy, and, if we are going to point our kids to Christ in hope that they will trust him as their Savior, we also need to prepare them for the reality that suffering will come at some point. If we do not use the trials that they face when they’re young to guide them in these truths, then it will be much harder for them to face a life of following Christ as they grow up and are confronted with the pain of living in a broken and hostile world.

Thankfully, our children’s outcome does not fully rely on us. Yes, we bear responsibility in what we do with the time that we are given as their parents, but the Lord remains bigger than both our greatest failures and successes. While we plant the seed, only the Lord can give it life. While we water the soil, only the Lord can grow our children up in him. God doesn’t call us to walk this hard road on our own. I have never been more thankful for this truth than I am right now.

Though I can’t possibly know the struggles within your family, I pray that these things will be an encouragement as you learn to walk your own children through the trials they’ll face—with confidence in the hope and truth of the gospel.

This article was originally published here.

Sarah Walton

Sarah Walton is the co-author of Hope When It Hurts and Together Through the Storms, and the author of Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life. She and her husband, Jeff, live in Colorado Springs with their four children, where they are members of Cross and Crown Church. … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24