Suffering

The world class athletes stand on wobbly legs, sweating profusely and wondering when this nightmare drill will end.  Some are doubled over at the goal line, retching, coughing, sputtering, and moaning.  Others have their bodies steeled and upright, but their minds are reeling.  Never in their lives have they experienced this kind of suffering.

Their jerseys declare them to be the 1980 USA hockey team.  Their halfhearted efforts on the ice and boyish comments on the bench have said otherwise tonight.  So here they are, doing line drills on the ice after the Norwegian team, all the fans, and even the rink manager have long since gone home for the night.

“AGAIN!” The whistle blows, and down and back they skate.  “AGAIN!” Another whistle blow.  Another down and back.  “AGAIN!” Down and back. “AGAIN!”  “AGAIN!” Despite the exhaustion of the players’ bodies, the disbelief of the assistant coach, and the protests of the team doctor, Coach Herb Brooks does not relent.  Over and over and over and over, the men skate the agonizing distance from one line to another, back and forth across the punishing ice.  “Back on that line.  Again!” “AGAIN!”  “AGAIN!” When will this madness end?!  Is the coach trying to kill his players?  Has he lost his mind?  Someone make it stop!!!

The rhythm is finally broken by the faltering voice of one of the players, who would eventually become team captain.  “Mike Eruzione…Winthrop, Massachusetts”  “Who do you play for?” “I play for…the United States of America!” “That’s all, gentlemen,” says Coach Brooks in a casual voice, and he turns and walks off the ice.

Do you think these men will EVER forget this lesson?!!

I think not.

Did these men learn their lesson?  Learn to play to their best ability as a team?

Ask the 1980 Soviet team!

Parents, today’s message is for us.  Buckle up.  And watch Disney’s “Miracle” about the 1980 USA hockey team while you’re at it.  It just might help drive home the point.

If we are not willing to allow our children to suffer for foolish choices, laziness, disrespect, and disobedience, then we are not willing to prepare them for life as God has called us to do.  In fact, many times it falls on our shoulders to actually induce the suffering in their lives, in an effort to help them muster the motivation to rise from their waywardness and walk on the right path.

Rewards in life are wonderful, and they can serve as helpful motivators along the way.  But let’s get honest here.  From the cradle to the grave, the life lessons most deeply impressed upon us have most often been etched into our memories by suffering.  When we suffer, we tend to become very motivated and very open to learning a better way.

And so it is with our children, be they 4, 10, 16, or beyond.  Now, I am not telling you that the key to successful parenting is to be cruel and sadistic, reveling in the pain and suffering of your children.  If that is your style, please get in to see me asap, so I can point you on a better way.  What I am telling you is that your children need you to love them enough and be devoted enough to their real, substantial growth of character that you will lovingly use the tool of suffering to guide them toward right living.

Yes, it hurts to see our children suffer.  Especially when they try to manipulate us into believing we are being cruel to them.  But we don’t do them any favors by standing back and watching them take the easier, softer way in life.  Whether they realize it or not, whether they appreciate it or not, whether they temporarily despise us for it or not, they need us to hold them accountable for their actions and see that they suffer enough for their misdeeds to find sufficient motivation to improve their ways and grow.  We must be willing to parent for the long haul, not just for the peace of the moment.

With Hope in Him, Dr. B

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”  Proverbs 22:15 (NIV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”  Proverbs 19:18 (NIV)

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)


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