He was 2 years old at the time, and delightful. Quinn always knew exactly what he wanted, and when he wanted it-like most 2-year-olds do.
That morning, he stood at the pantry door and said, "Chocolate.” In my opinion, 9:30 AM was a little early for chocolate and so I told him he could have a piece for dessert after lunch-not what he wanted to hear. The tailspin of tears, shouting, and banging of fists began.
Longing to reach out and hold him, I instead had to coax him over to me where I sat on the couch feeding his little baby brother. After a couple of minutes of agonizing crying, he wandered over reluctantly and climbed next to me, burying his head under my arm. It was almost as challenging to come to me, the one who was denying him the object of his desire, as it was to accept my "no."
And then he began to sputter through his heaving tears..."Hard...time...Mommy....hard time." I didn't understand him at first but when I figured it out, my own heart broke. For Quinn, the denial of what he was asking for was a very real and very heart-rending trial. It was a hard time. At age 2. And boy, can I relate.
As an optimist, I tend to see the good in circumstances naturally, but I made a promise to God long ago that I would be a radical Christ-follower. One thing I know for sure, if you want to be like Jesus, then you will share in His sufferings:
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-19
As believers, we need to rewire our thinking and our motivation in this life. The Lord understands our sadness and our grief. He sympathizes with us whole-heartedly when we go through hard times, but He will also use those moments to refine us and make us more like Christ. But He doesn’t leave us there. He is a God of hope:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Night acquiesces to day and the seasons of our lives change and shift just as they do in nature. There have been hard times that I never thought would end, but when we yield to God’s purpose in our pain, and praise Him through our lack of understanding and remain faithful, we discover the promise is real: we can have joy in every circumstance.
That painful moment was only the beginning of hard times for Quinn. I realized that even in that juvenile moment, at such a young age, he needed to learn that life will always have bumps-and sometimes mountains to overcome, but that the purpose of life is not to try to escape, erase, forget, or side-step pain. It's to trust God whose ways are higher than our own and to cling to the truth that He is love, even when He allows...hard....times.
And just as I had to convince Quinn to take steps towards me and my loving arms there on the couch that day, God also beckons us to come with our pain, our tears, and our honest confession of what we feel. His embrace is never occupied with another, and as a Heavenly Father, He provides a comfort even more secure than that of an earthly mother.
YOUR TURN! How do you help your kids through hard times? What's the most significant way that you can comfort your children when they struggle? Are you going through a “hard time?” How can I pray for you?