Lying in the tent, during another in our long line of horrible weather Boundary Waters canoe trips, I was angry.
We had intentionally picked the “statistically best average weather week” of the summer. Ha. This time instead of droning drizzle, bone-chilling cold, or homicidal mosquitoes, we were pummeled by a ferocious, relentless wind that threatened to blow away our tents, and kept us trapped for four days on the same little island. (We learned later that the days of our canoe trip were the exact 4 days of record breaking continuous straight-line winds averaging 30-40 mph. At least it blew all the bugs away!)
The kids had been amazing through all of this, working hard and creating fun where there seemed to be none. But I was still frustrated. Like many of the writers of the psalms, I freely expressed my frustration at God. “Really? It’s been hot, sunny and calm most of the summer, and we get rotten weather! Again. Why?”
At that moment, I instantly flashed back to watching two of our kids and two of their friends as they heroically wrestled the wind in the center of the little cove near us, to get clear water for all of us. With that image came the words, “Because I’m raising overcomers!” Was that God speaking to me? Ya never quite know, but I answered meekly, “Oh… good plan. Really good plan.” I shared this insight with the whole group later around the campfire, sipping hot coffee from the water they’d fetched. It was a holy moment as the kids seemed to embrace God’s good purposes and wisdom in this.
So why a camping story in a parenting tip? Because it is a graphic illustration of an important principle: Only in adversity can our children learn to be resilient “overcomers.”
Most of us would probably state that we desire to raise resilient, faith-filled kids that can overcome difficulty and challenges. But in daily life, we are often vigorous to insulate our children from trials – it’s too painful for us to watch them struggle or suffer.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Certainly sometimes our kids need our protection, but many times when we rush in to fix a situation we may robe them of a valuable opportunity for growth and maturity – the learning of perseverance in trials.
So here are some practical ideas about how to develop resilience and perseverance in your family.
- Try to make “obstacles” and “struggle” good words in your family. Around the dinner table ask, “Who took on a challenge today? Who worked hard at something when it was tough?”
- Notice how you talk about your challenges. Do you talk about them at all? We recommend you do, not by complaining, but by sharing how you’ve experienced God’s presence right in the middle of them.
- Help kids focus on a hero they look up to, and talk about how they overcame obstacles. Consider reading the stories of Moses, Daniel, David, and others who were “overcomers.”
- When you see your children face a difficult challenge, don’t jump in to protect them. Instead consider: “Lord, is there a powerful opportunity in this situation? How could I help my child grow through it?”
When parents do more to think this way about guiding their kids through the inevitable challenges of life, their kids grow more resilient to trust God and to stand strong in the unpredictable winds of their culture.