Redeeming Pain

Helping our boys respond with courage when people hurt them.

We have a natural tendency to cause each other pain. The reality of pain in a fallen world should not shock us. Christian parents must communicate this reality to our boys in such a way that they will not be surprised when they are on the receiving end of a painful blow.  We must also help them learn to respond to pain in a healthy way that will ultimately honor Christ.

One of the unique ways that human beings deal with pain and fear is by assigning meaning to try to make sense of what happened. The problem is that we often get the “why” wrong. Our sinful reactions make our reflex responses ones of self-centeredness and anger, and through this veil of sin it is difficult to accurately interpret what is happening to us.  This process of assigning meaning must therefore be guided ultimately by what God tells us about people.  Our role as parents is to transmit this truth to our boy in ways he will understand, pulling back the veil of sin so that he can see himself as well as the person causing him pain through God’s eyes.

This is particularly important because over time the way we make sense of pain will become engrained and will shape the way we make sense of new experiences. Parents must therefore seek, in the grace of God, to help our sons establish accurate and healthy habits of interpreting pain. To the extent we do this we are producing mature men and we help them avoid serious problems in the way they deal with life, themselves, and others.

An example:

Let’s say your son is singled out in class and ridiculed by someone he thought was his friend.  This will undoubtedly create pain and a desire to respond. We can all relate to the natural response, some version of:  lash out, withdraw, or run away to escape the painful feelings. And if he is left to make sense of this painful experience without guidance, he is likely to grasp at an unhealthy explanation such as,

Unhealthy responses:

  • “What he said was true about me”
  • “Don’t trust your friends”
  • “Its better to hurt than be hurt”
  • “God doesn’t care”

Even more chilling is that without help in understanding these painful experiences they can become part of a person’s overall worldview and can shape the ‘big questions’ like “Who am I?”, “What is my place in the world?” and “How does God see me?” Boys need our aid as parents to help them make healthy sense of what happened.

It’s natural … but we aren’t natural people
We must remind ourselves that as humans we naturally do what we believe to be in our best interest. But as Christians we must recognize that when our natural reaction lacks love it’s not the right reaction. Jesus calls us to rebel against the “natural man” and instead to love our neighbors, even our enemies. Love of self is replaced by love of the other. We can all relate to how unnatural this is!

Healthy (unnatural) responses:

  • “My friend was just trying to look cool in front of the class; that has nothing to do with me”
  • “Maybe he wasn’t such a good friend after all; but I know other people love me.”
  • “We are all sinners; this shouldn’t surprise me even though it hurts”
  • “Maybe my friend is hurting himself and needs my help”

Seeing the world through a redemptive lens

We must learn, and then teach our sons to use a “redemptive lens” to view the situation.  We have to remember that because of Jesus when God looks at us He doesn’t see our sin, but who He created us to be, free from sin through Christ.

Questions to ask yourself and your son to help him see from a redemptive perspective:

  • “How does God see this situation?”
  • “What does God think of you?”
  • “How did Jesus respond to situations like this?”
  • “Given our fallen and broken condition what might have motivated the person who hurt you?”

One of the Seven Points of Valor is Courage: “a man of courage is one whose strength of mind enables him to overcome any fear or danger.” (Joshua 1:9).  Scripture doesn’t say: “a man of courage is one who has no fear.” By helping our son see himself and others through God’s eyes, we equip him with the ability to face pain with courage, develop healthy ways to deal with living in a fallen world, share God’s redemptive love with others, and honor Him in the process.

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