Parenting Through Your Children's Disappointments

Sometimes there are disappointments. Not disappointments of your own, but those you feel for your children. Disappointments like...a friendship lost in a popularity contest, a loss in the column where they were so hopeful for a win, a girl who 'just wants to be friends', a boy who likes a girl who pays him more attention, a sudden illness, a separation from a pet they've loved, a grade they didn't get, missing the big game, missing out on the event 'everyone' was at, or not being present for the championship game because they're bound to a hospital room, or seeing one group of people experiencing so great a joy and knowing your child could have been there, but by some 1 in 200,00 "chance" they're detained. These disappointments hurt for those you love and they hurt for those who love the one disappointed.

But the God of providence. John Calvin says, "Suppose a man falls among thieves, or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse, to fortune. But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs on his head are numbered [Matt. 10: 30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan. And concerning inanimate objects we ought to hold that, although each one has by nature been endowed with its own property, yet it does not exercise its own power except in so far as it is directed by God’s ever-present hand. These are, thus, nothing but instruments to which God continually imparts as much effectiveness as he wills, and according to his own purpose bends and turns them to either one action or another (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.2). It's "God's secret plan" that guides and protects his children all the days of their life, and a trust in him keeps his own from crashing on the rocks of disappointment.

It is the God of providence who comforts the disappointed by the certainty of his benevolence in every careening adventure he takes his own and their children. God's providence is a doctrine revealing judgements that are beyond tracing out, yet a doctrine with comforting practical implications. John Calvin writes, “God always has the best reason for his plan: either to instruct his own people in patience, or to correct their wicked affections and tame their lust, or to subjugate them to self-denial, or to arouse them from sluggishness; again, to bring low the proud, to shatter the cunning of the impious and to overthrow their devices” (Institutes, 1.17.1).

Disappointments we suffer in the suffering of our children are the places of learning to lay into our true God making him our trust. Like Job, these are the places of learning to submit to our God's supreme authority over our lives and those of our children. 'Submitting ourselves to divine providence, being prepared to do God’s will completely, shows forth the wonderful blessing of this doctrine' (Institutes, 1.17.2).


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