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Helping Children Prepare for Suffering

Children often grow up believing, on the basis of the cultural messages all around them—as well as the actions of their parents—that God owes them comfort and their “best life now.” But Scripture tells us otherwise. Jesus told us that “in this life you will have tribulation,” Peter said we should not “be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon us to test us, as though something strange were happening to us,” and James commands us to “count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds” (John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12, James 1:2).

How then should parents talk to their children about suffering? And what, if anything, should they do to prepare them for it? Steve Watters, communications director for Truth78, sat down with Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie to ask how parents can help their children process and prepare for suffering. Nancy and David Guthrie experienced the death of two of their children and now lead respite retreats for parents in similar seasons of suffering.

T78: How do children learn from parents how to face suffering?

Nancy Guthrie: Most of us as parents think that the primary way we teach our children about suffering, or anything else, is by what we say to them. David and I talk with lots of couples where someone in the family has a cancer diagnosis or something like that and they wonder, “how am I going to talk to the kids about this?” I don’t think though, that it’s primarily through what we say to our children that our children learn the most. I think the primary way they learn about suffering, how to think about it, how to feel about it, how to talk about it, is by what they observe in us.

If, when we’re going through a season of suffering, they observe anger, they’re probably going to absorb a sense of “this is not right; somebody out there has wronged us; God has wronged us”–they’re going to absorb that angry response. Also, they’re going to absorb an attitude about how things work in the world, that I deserve something different than to experience the brokenness of this world that is universal to everyone in the world. Kids can absorb a sense of presumption that somehow, I shouldn’t have to experience this, and surprise about suffering.

One thing we do have to say as parents is that the word of God tells us, “don’t be surprised at suffering. This is common to everyone in the world.” The Bible’s message about suffering is expect to suffer. Know that God will be with you in this suffering and your suffering is not meaningless, but purposeful. If you belong to Christ, your suffering is not meaningless, but purposeful. He can and will use it to accomplish in your life, and in the world around you, His good and glorious purposes. As you believe that, you can transmit that to your kids.

T78: What are the consequences when children don’t hear that, when they aren’t prepared for suffering?

NG: When they do experience suffering, they become hard and bitter toward God. They can see themselves as victims, rather than disciples who are living in a broken world, anticipating that part of living in this world that’s under a curse is experiencing the suffering of this world. They need to have a sense that this life is not all there is. Isn’t that something our kids need to understand more than anything else? They’re not going to get that message from the world, television, their friends at school, the culture around us—those are always telling us: this is where life is; this is where you’ve got to make a mark on this world; this is where you’ve got to grab all the Gusto you can get, in the here and now; you can be anything you want to be. People think this is some kind of self-empowerment message for kids.

I think a far better message is, “you can trust that God will work in you, to call you to His purposes, and will equip you to do and be all that He’s called you to do and be.” That’s a God-centered view that sets some expectations for your life in this world, rather than setting this expectation that you’ve got to accomplish your dream; you’ve got to become somebody. That sets kids up for bitterness when all of those things don’t happen, instead of acceptance of the sovereignty of God in their life.

T78: When we face suffering, what does that suffering tend to reveal in our lives?

NG: My husband David and I host weekend retreats for couples who have lost children. We’ve done retreats the last two weekends, and last weekend, there were a number of couples who were verbalizing their anger toward God. One way I pushed back on that is to say, “Whether it’s anger toward God or anger toward any person or situation, anger reveals an expectation—I expected this would be different. If I’m angry at you, it’s because I expected you would do or say something different. You have done something I didn’t want you to do, or you didn’t do something I expected you to do. Our frustration when the car breaks down or when somebody damages something of ours, reveals we have an expectation that these things shouldn’t happen to us.

Similarly, in terms of anger with God, a lot of times that’s based on having expectations of who God is and what He ought to be doing in our lives. We think that if we have been so smart, so spiritual, to choose Him, that now He’s got to do His job and His job should be to protect us from suffering in this life, and to bless us; to fulfill all these things we want to do and be in this world.

We sometimes have this expectation that God is our servant rather than we are His servants; expectations that God’s role is to give us the life that we think will be best for us, that we think that will be more comfortable. When those are our expectations, and suffering comes into our life, it makes complete sense that we’d be angry with God. The anger reveals the assumption and the expectations.

What I challenged those couples to do at our retreat was to say, “Identify what your expectations were, and then ask the question, on what basis did you expect that?” What that reveals, first of all, it kind of forces us to say, “I thought God was going to take care of me so that I wouldn’t have to suffer. I thought all my prayers for my kids were going to mean that I wouldn’t have to bury one of my children.”

Then you go onto the next question, “On what basis was that your expectation?” Then you ask, where do you see this promise in the Scripture? What that actually gets at a lot of times is the errors we make in interpretation; the promises we read in the Scriptures that we misunderstand, or misapply. Once you get to that point, you can deal with it.


Children need the deep, unshakable foundation of God’s sovereignty that is clearly taught in God’s Word. Truth78 has woven the topic of suffering, as well as God’s sovereignty, throughout our scope and sequence. For more help on teaching children about suffering, see:

When Life is Hard God is …

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Mommy… Daddy… I’m Sad

24 Things Your Children Should Know About God’s Providence


Read Part 2 of our interview with Nancy Guthrie: Helping Children Pray

The Three Ds of Deuteronomy 6

When it comes to understanding and articulating cultural shifts in light of biblical truth, Dr. Albert Mohler is a welcome source of clarity, exhortation, and encouragement. Joe Eaton wrote a summary of Dr. Mohler’s message Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform from our last National Conference, which pointed to three Ds from Deuteronomy 6 that we, as parents and teachers, can take to heart. 

The dominant culture tends to replicate itself in each new generation. This is why Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). The last thing that should surprise us is that our children are going to grow up to look like the culture around them…unless a great work is done. Deuteronomy 6 tells us how we can influence our children biblically to remain steadfast in an ungodly culture. Three key words guide us through this text.

1. “Doctrine”
What this passage teaches us about how we must teach is that teaching must be inescapably theological and central. Another crucial aspect of teaching is what narrative you are teaching. We need to make sure that we teach our children that we are not here by accident; God did a saving work that brought us into being, and a saving work that brought us into covenant with him. This is the narrative we must teach. If we don’t know that our redemption story is infinitely greater than worldly stories, we will not effectively reach the hearts of our kids.

2. “Discipline”
We are facing a situation in which our children are going to become Canaanites if we don’t impart truth to them in such a way that helps them own it, and sometimes that will mean going against the culture or their own desires. Helping our children learn discipline in this way will serve them always.

3. “Diligence”
Every opportunity is an opportunity to teach your children, whether effectively or ineffectively. Don’t give up; you’re going to have to teach your children the same things very often, because your children don’t always retain things very well.

Cultural Pressure to Conform
The cultural pressure to conform to the evils of our culture is so pervasive that Christians have begun to underestimate the urgency with which we ought to fight it. This pressure has always existed and has grown since the Garden of Eden.

Whole Counsel of God
We need to be teaching our kids that God is God, and his Word is ultimate no matter what our culture says. We need to be diligent to teach our kids the truths that are particularly disputed in our culture right now, because those are the truths that will become hardest for them to believe when they face cultural pressure to conform.

Holding Fast
Don’t spend time lamenting what we believe might have been lost in our culture. Remember that Jesus is going to hold us fast as we seek after him. Let’s hold fast our confession, and teach our children to do the same.


Indestructible JoyThis message is included in the book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, which is available for purchase in print or as a free download for anyone who signs up for the “Joy for the Next Generations” e-newsletter.

 

Introducing Truth78

Introducing Truth78

Today is the beginning of our mission as Truth78!

We’re releasing three new resources for church and family ministry, updating our web presence, and officially introducing our ministry at the Truth78 Inauguration in Louisville, Kentucky that will be livestreamed for anyone to join. We’ll also be giving away copies of a new book, Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, both at our launch event and at the T4G Conference April 11-13.

OUR VISION

Our prayer is that this new beginning as Truth78 will allow us to more strategically fulfill our vision that the next generations may know, honor and treasure God.

Hear John Piper describe the significance of Psalm 78’s emphasis on teaching the next generations … so that they might put their hope in God.

 

NEW RESOURCES

Glorious God, Glorious Gospel

An interactive devotional for families that can be paired with a companion coloring book and notebook for children.

When I Am Afraid

This picture book encourages young children to look to God for courage as it weaves together stories about everyday fears, God’s promises, and truths about our all-powerful God.

Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations

An anthology featuring chapters by John Piper, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Bruce Ware, and more.

Subscribe to our new e-newsletter, “Joy for the Next Generations,” and we’ll give you a free e-book version of Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations!

Truth78 New Resources

WEB AND SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGES

Find new details at Truth78.org. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

Our curriculum and resources have received some minor changes to match the new brand but the content is staying the same. You can continue to shop the materials at childrendesiringGod.org until the new Truth78 website is fully launched or contact us at 877.400.1414 with questions.

TRUTH78 INAUGURATION EVENT

We hope you can join us for the Truth78 Inauguration tonight at 7pm Eastern (6pm Central)—either at Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY or via our livestream.

COME SEE US AT T4G

If you’re going to be attending the T4G conference April 11-13, find us at our booth in the Galt House exhibit hall where you can see our new resources and learn more about our change to Truth78. Everyone who signs up for our new Truth78 e-newsletter, will get a complimentary copy of Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations and will be entered to win a framed leaf of Psalm 78 from a 1611 King James Bible.

PRAYER

We would value your prayer for this new mission as Truth78—that it would be the means for millions in the next generations to set their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God.

 

Introducing the New Format Preschool Coloring Books

Children Desiring God Blog // Introducing the New Format Preschool Student Coloring Books

Many of you have asked for a less expensive and less bulky option for the Student Coloring Books in the He Established A Testimony and He Has Spoken By His Son preschool curricula. Our New Format Student Coloring Book answers both of these concerns. The Original Student Coloring Books include a copy of the Parent Resource Page next to each coloring page. The New Format Student Coloring Books have removed these Parent Resource Pages since they are already included in the Teacher’s Kit 3-ring notebook and Resources CD for churches to email to or print and send home with parents. The resulting New Format Student Coloring Books are much leaner – they are less expensive, lighter weight and thinner for those who store the books in the classroom during the week, and remain excellent resources for both classroom and home use.

The New Format Student Coloring Books are now available! We expect that most customers will be excited about the change but recognize that others may have some of the Original Student Coloring Books on hand. These users may want to order additional copies of the Original Students Coloring Books so that all children in a class have the same version. The Original Students Coloring Books will be available through the end of 2018. Users of electronic Student Coloring Books will be able to choose between the Original Student Coloring Book and the New Format. (more…)

Prayer Tools

Children Desiring God Blog // Acts Prayer Tools

The Lord knows that we need help to pray. That is why He taught His disciples how to pray and gave all believers His Spirit, so we would be able to pray even when we don’t feel able. Prayer does not change God; it changes us by revealing our sinful hearts, and it allows us to know God’s will, purposes and, most importantly, Himself. By prayer we get to know our Heavenly Father and learn to trust Him more with the cares of this life. (more…)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness to the Lord for so many blessings, both small and large. We are thankful for family, friends and home, but most importantly for the truth found in the Gospel.

We are also so thankful for each and every one of you, our partners in ministry. Thank you for joining us in the mission to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things so that the next generation may know and cherish Jesus Christ as the only One who saves and satisfies the desires of the heart. Thank you for joining us in prayer that parents and churches will continue to partner together to instruct the mind, engage the heart and nurture the faith of our children so that millions in every generation will set their hope in God.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Children Desiring God Team!

David, Sally, Jill, Brian, Terry, Holly, Lori, Suzy, Karen, Nicole and Rachel

 

 

Fighter Verses App: Now Available in French and German

Children Desiring God Blog // The Fighter Verses App: Now Available in French and German

We are pleased to announce that we have expanded the Fighter Verses App to include multiple languages. We added Spanish in 2012, French in 2016, and German in 2017.

Having the Fighter Verses App in Spanish, French, and German might be really important to you if…

  1. Your heart language is Spanish, French, or German.
  2. You are studying one or more of these languages and want to learn Bible verses or practice your fluency in these languages.
  3. You know missionaries working in countries where they speak these languages and can benefit from the app.
  4. You are going on a short-term mission trip to a place where one of these languages is spoken.
  5. You have friends or relatives whose heart language or mother tongue is one of these languages.

We have also expanded our English version to include the New King James Bible translation. With the My Verses function, you may add verses from any version available on BibleGateway.com. (more…)

God-Glorifying Books for Gift Giving

Children Desiring God Blog // God-Glorifying Books for Gift Giving

Do you enjoy giving encouraging, God-glorifying books to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews? Have you been searching for a meaningful gift to encourage families over the upcoming holidays, or to show appreciation to your volunteers? Do you like to give books to children for class promotions or milestones they’ve reached?

If you love to give valuable resources to encourage the faith of the next generation there is a new bulk-pricing option for the Making HIM Known series and Jesus is Most Special. Individual books are also available below list price. The devotional books correlate to various Children Desiring God Sunday School or Midweek Bible curricula, and Jesus is Most Special involves children in telling the Christmas story. (more…)

Beyond Classroom Management: Training Hearts Toward the Savior, Part 2

Children Desiring God Blog // Beyond Classroom Management - Part 2

Discipline is helping children to grow, not controlling behavior. It is a long process that needs to be mostly positive in nature, but firm and loving. So relationship building is incredibly important.

Managing a classroom—keeping it under control, is something we can do the first time we ever walk into a group of children, and maintaining a well-run classroom achieves another goal—training our children in righteousness:

  • teaching them to walk in a manner worthy of being called Christians
  • having their behavior match their beliefs
  • exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit because their souls have been touched

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Beyond Classroom Management: Training Hearts Toward the Savior, Part 1

Children Desiring God Blog // Beyond Classroom Management - Part 1

Attentive, well-behaved children sound like a teacher’s dream. However, our goal is not simply well-behaved children, but children who joyfully submit to God.

It starts with an understanding of authority structure God has put in place, which brings about calm order and joyful submission. Jesus is the best example of one living under submission (Philippians 2:5-8; Luke 22:42; John 4:34). Resentment toward authority structures is actually rebellion toward God’s hierarchy in creation.

Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want; freedom is knowing and loving God and living joyfully under the authority structures that he has ordained.
Tedd Tripp from the Biblical Parenting Conference
September 19-20, 2008

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