The tough journey through misery and heartache

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Why doesn’t God smooth out our path through misery and heartache?

Most if not all of us have either asked or heard this question. What do we say in response to such an inquiry that rolls off our own tongue or from someone else’s anguished lips?

An article in a finance magazine comes to mind that featured these highlighted words: “Being a snowplow parent who removes obstacles is not the way to raise emotionally healthy, money-smart kids.” This article by Anne Kates Smith addressed “the lesson (to be learned) in the college scandal – a lesson that helps us answer the above question.

The finance article begins: “I was as stunned as the next person when news broke recently that 33 wealthy parents were indicted on fraud charges for trying to bribe or cheat their kids’ way into elite colleges.” The author went on to reflect: “The whole rotten debacle reminds me of a story I did a few years ago about inherited wealth. It was a look at why family fortunes tend to dissipate within a few generations … A revolution to me at the time was that it’s harder than it looks to raise emotionally healthy, money-smart kids when money is no object.” 

That is also true when it comes to raising spiritually-morally healthy people who are not just “money smart” but wise in righteousness, being right in the sight of God as they are thinking about and feeling for others and their needs. How do we grow in such wise goodness, a goodness that is not rooted in self-centeredness but Christ-centeredness? How do we come to realize that we need help from God, family, friends, and a support group? Do we ever gain that realization without being allowed to make mistakes and suffer the consequences?

Anne Smith declared: “One thing is certain (and someone should have told the gang of 33):  Being a snowplow parent who removes any and all obstacles is not the way to go.”  She then quotes Rod Zeeb, author of “Beating the Midas Curse”: “Too many parents want to prepare the road of life for their children rather than preparing their children for the road of life.” I couldn’t agree more with both Smith and Zeeb! I liked the reminder that “kids don’t inherit self-discipline, resourcefulness and resilience; they have to develop those qualities themselves.” 

I would add that this is where they need help from God, family, church, and friends. I loved the suggestion for parents that they start “early on with three piggy banks for your children so they can divide their allowances and gifts into spending, saving, and giving funds.” While this particular article zeroes in on “finance,” there are principles being taught that apply to every area of our lives. Perhaps there is no better principle discussed than when Smith closes the article referring to a psychologist who “asks clients who achieved substantial success to reflect on the best time of their lives.” They refer to “when they were starting out, working extra hours and eating ramen noodles because they couldn’t afford anything else.” It was working their way through and beyond tough times. 

If we had been writing this article we might have talked about how some of our best times occurred when we were learning to lean on God and one another, pull together, and not give up when the going got rough. 

Yesterday I heard Ken Thompson of our Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries share the story of a young man who had spent five years at the Children’s Home. Although “at the time” he viewed his stay as a kind of hell on earth, he later learned that this was a precious and priceless time when he learned about Christ and eventually ended up leaning on Christ as he married a Christian wife and started raising a Christian family.

We may encounter times when it seems like God is letting us go through unnecessary “tough sledding” or even “trudging through deep slow” instead of snowplowing for us.  Let us keep in mind that God knows that being a snowplow God who removes obstacles is not the way to raise good and godly people! 

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