One of the things I find the most difficult in life, is that I cannot protect my children from pain. As I write, one of my children is recovering from malaria which is a miserable disease. Another child during his first case of malaria in Uganda said that he felt like he was going to die. Since many children in Uganda do die from malaria that was not just an overly dramatic statement to laugh off. It was terrifying. Thankfully he recovered from that case after receiving treatment and the one who is sick now is on the mend as well.
While physical ailments can be scary, we have always had access to the medical care needed and were able to do something to help them recover. Walking through the challenges our children experience in other ways can be even more challenging. My older two children are learning to be young adults in a country where they did not grow up. Figuring out cultural norms and how to do life in a different place where you do not yet have community is definitely challenging. My younger children are learning to make friends in a new culture. They are used to living on a large compound with other missionary families and children in residence who play outside until dark most days after school. We are working to build relationships with our neighbors here, but we don't really see most of them. It can be lonely. The challenges of adjusting to living in America during this season are not as easy to "treat" as malaria. My heart aches when my youngest cries because she is missing her friends in Uganda and does not yet have many friends here.
As each of my children face different challenges in adjusting to life on this side of the ocean, I often feel overwhelmed. I wish I could make it all better. I wish I could take away the pain of the losses they are experiencing. I find myself waking in the night wondering how to love and support them well. But what I am learning is that I cannot make it all better. As our children walk through challenging seasons of life, maybe my role is not to make it all better, but to just be there and lift them up to their Heavenly Father who loves them more than I do. I want them to find comfort and joy in Him, not in a comfortable, easy life. Even as I write that sentence I struggle with it. I do want life to be comfortable and easy for my kids. I hate seeing them suffer. What good parent really likes watching their child suffer. But what I am learning, is that God has a bigger better picture in mind.
In my life, God has always used my most difficult struggles to draw me nearer to Himself and then to give me opportunities to minister to others. Yesterday I sat with a friend who reminded me that our deepest hurts often lead to our greatest opportunity for ministry. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
Our Lord suffered in this life so that we could be comforted in Him. My prayer is that my children would each know comfort from their Savior as they walk through challenging times. I regularly need to remind myself that I am not my children's best hope. Their Savior is. And I pray that each of them would find hope in Him.
I am learning that as my children grow, my role is becoming more a ministry of prayer. And maybe, God is teaching me to trust Him with the ones closest to my heart. Maybe, God is reminding me that I never was the One in control and that is a good thing. He is God, and I am not. I don't see the whole picture. I just see a little snippet. And He who loves us enough to die to bring us into his family, also loves us and our children enough to work for our good even in challenging seasons of loss and change. I am learning to trust Him, slowly by slowly (as we say in Uganda), with some sleepless nights along the way. But He is good and I am clinging to that. And He loves our children better than we ever could.