Pastor Joshua West
Worship Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
I’m convinced some of the hardest parenting moments have to be allowing something uncomfortable or painful happen to our children, because we know it is ultimately the best thing for them.
I experienced one of these moments last week, when I went to go change my son’s diaper in the morning. It only took one look at him to noticed his eyes were swollen and crusted over with that unmistakable “Pink Eye” look. A few hours later, sitting in the doctor’s office, my wife and I were instructed to pick up some eye drops from the pharmacy. Expected. Then I read the instructions on the label: “two drops in each eye twice per day.” Suddenly, visions of actually executing this task flashed in my mind. How in the world was I supposed to convince a toddler to hold still long enough for us to place two drops in each eye and then, willingly blink to absorb the entirety of the drop in his tiny eyeball? Turns out, this feat should be an Olympic sport.
We knew this whole situation was going to be an ordeal, so we put in some work ahead of time, attempting to get our son on board. We tried giving the drops toddler approved names like, “rain drops” or “super duper drops”. We tried bribing him with popsicles and other favorite things. We tried distracting and laughing and story telling so he wouldn’t be afraid and he would not be so focused on the actual eye drops. Nothing was working. My two-year wasn’t falling for it. He knew something was up and he wasn’t going to have any part of it.
Finally, it had to be done. The eye drops somehow NEEDED to go into his eyes. I tried a few gentle positions first, holding him in my arms and then, having him lie down on his back, reassuring him “it was okay.” But of course, he was screaming and kicking and thrashing, trying to get out of my grasp. So I had to force him to do the very thing he was begging me not to do. Sitting down, I finally placed his head between my legs and held one of his arms under the weight of each of my legs, as I dropped two eye drops in each of his eyes as quickly as possible. He was still screaming hysterically the entire time. Yet, immediately afterwards, I picked him up in my arms. I held him and kissed his forehead and told him “I loved him” and “he was so brave.”
Then, a few moments later, sucking on an orange popsicle, my son was happy- like nothing ever happened- and asking to sit in my lap. (Phew! I thought, for a second, there may have been permanent scarring from the level of drama exuding from that whole event.)
Of course, my son’s tears and whimpers broke my heart. Of course, I wished I could take those eye drops for him. However, I also knew if the drops were not administered correctly, the infection would continue in his eye. The reality of him feeling momentary discomfort in exchange for lasting benefit was a no-brainer. My child was sick and needed medicine to get well. I knew he would not “enjoy” receiving the medicine (the eye drops), but I knew the medicine was exactly what he NEEDED. What kind of parent would I be if I threw up my hands and said, “Well, he might cry and he might not ‘like’ the process of healing, so I will just let him stay sick”? That kind of parenting would not be real love. I would not be protecting him. I would not be looking out for his best.
Afterwards, I began thinking how God often parents us, as His children, this same way. God ultimately knows what is best for us in a realm we cannot see as humans. We see today and right now, but God sees our tomorrow, next week, or ten years from now. Often, we don’t understand why God is allowing us to walk through difficult or uncomfortable situations. We are quick to jump to the conclusion that “God must be a mean God” or “He doesn’t care about us.” But could it be, as we are kicking and thrashing and screaming in the midst of our fear and pain, God knows we must walk through the hardship in that moment because He loves us and ultimately, wants what is BEST for us? Could it be, as we are shaking our fists at Him, asking “Why?!”, our Father’s answer to us would be, “Because I love you” ? Yes, of course.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
A good parent is not concerned about their child’s “comfort” or “approval.” A good parent is concerned about the bigger picture- their child’s ultimate health, safety, and growth. In the same way, God knows the plans He has for us- plans to prosper us, and give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)- but the pathway to that beautiful, bright future may not be as easy and clean cut as we want. Remember, God knows what we NEED the most, which may not always be what we WANT in the moment. Paul must have understood this concept well to write:
Romans 5:3-5 “Not only that, but 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.”
As humans, we tend to only look at trials or hardship through the temporary eyes of our immediate circumstances, but God looks at many of our trials through His eternal eyes of love, favor, and protection. How often do we consider this?
In this life, we will all face difficulty and pain. Yet, today, let’s take a moment and focus on our trials through a different lens. Instead of kicking and screaming and thrashing and shaking our fists at God in the face of trials, what if we directed our focus back to God’s unchanging character? We know God is good and everything He does is good (Psalm 119:68). We know God is loving and faithful (Psalm 33:4, Psalm 86:15, 1 John 3:1). We know God has good plans for us and He came so that we could experience real joy and abundance in life (Jeremiah 29:11, John 10:10)!
What if we took the opportunity to recognize God’s heart for the “bigger picture” in our lives? What if we, in the midst of our discomfort, shifted our focus to ask ourselves: is God using this hardship to protect me from something far worse that I simply cannot see? Is God growing me into someone with unmovable faith or teaching me to rely fully on Him? Is God preparing me with tools He knows I will need later?
As we walk through our day, let’s remember the uncomfortable or difficult situations we experience are often there BECAUSE of our Father’s love, not IN SPITE of His love.