by Melissa Sundwall/ January 22, 2016
One of the most challenging things we do as children’s leaders is walk with our kids or team members in times of pain or disappointment in life. For many of us, our first inclination is to make the pain go away and help the person get their life back to normal as quickly as possible. I think we often respond this way because we don’t like to see people suffer, especially a child. Another reason may be our own discomfort. Walking with people through these times can be uncomfortable and go on longer than we anticipated. We find the place of prolonged ambiguity that often accompanies times of pain and disappointment very uncomfortable.
I would like us to consider times of ambiguity, disappointment, struggle, or loss as opportunities for our kids to experience God’s care and His very personal interest in their life. As we come alongside children or adults during difficult seasons of life, how can we best minister to them so they feel supported within a community of caring Christians?
Stay in the journey with them. Most church communities respond well to the practical needs that surround a disaster or traumatic event. They provide things like food, water, clothing, hospital visits, transportation, etc. But when the initial event blows over, all that is left is the pain. What many people experience is that once the practical work is done, the support presence goes away too. It is very important that kids feel the presence of God’s community not only caring for their physical needs but also their emotional needs. It is during these times that we have the opportunity to model God’s continued, caring presence to the child. When children experience this, trust grows. They learn God is with them in good times and difficult times.
Don’t feel like you need to provide answers to all their “why” questions. It is not our job to answer all their questions. The most loving thing we can do for either an adult or child in crisis is to help them intimately connect with God in their pain. The Holy Spirit will provide the “God” answers they need. He will speak to the heart issue. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you facilitate this process.
Help the child have their own experience with God. During these times of ministry to kids, they need more than lecture on behavioral issues or more information about what God can do. They need to experience Him for themselves. Help the child get in touch with God. Use music, or allow them to express themselves to Him through art. Perhaps they need to vent their anger to Him, or allow the sadness to spill over through tears to Him. As we make room for the child’s emotions and invite God into the moment, we communicate to the child that God cares about them individually, and it is not a bad thing to communicate their feelings to Him.
Though the pain and suffering of life is not considered enjoyable, it is often in those times that new treasures are discovered in our journey with God. God can redeem the unwelcomed trials of life to teach us that as we reach toward Him, our hands will never come back empty.The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed Psalm 34:18 (NLT).