Have you had this nightmare? Your child is on stage in a school play; she is in the middle of a solo which she has performed flawlessly in every rehearsal and on previous nights, when suddenly her voice wobbles and then chokes. You can’t believe it’s happening, but there she is, humiliated and devastated, her hands covering her face trying to block out the hundreds of eyes watching her while the rest of the cast try to improvise around her failure.
Except that for my wife and me it wasn’t a bad dream. It happened to one of our children (who shall remain nameless, at a time that will remain unspecified!).
After first of all pouring out love, comfort and sympathy, my wife and I then began to talk with our daughter about some of the lessons God might be teaching her even through something as difficult as this.
Our starting point and overarching principle was that Romans 8.28 really means what it says. All things really do work together for the good of those who love God. God is good and wise and in control of everything that happens. He can use even huge catastrophes to bring about good things—if he could do this in the selling of Joseph, the exile of Judah and the crucifixion of Jesus, he can certainly do it in a ten year old girl fluffing a song in a school play!
So what good things might God be bringing out of this personal, small-scale disaster?
Affliction brings people closer together. Our hearts ached for our little girl and in a matter of seconds God transformed us into much more tender and empathetic people. I don’t think we’ll ever forget that wave of pity and compassion that engulfed us when we saw our daughter so exposed, helpless and disappointed.
Things tend to come easily to this particular daughter, whether it’s schoolwork, music or athletics. So we talked with her about how God sends things like this to humble us, to stop us from being proud and depending on ourselves—to remind us that apart from him we can do nothing—how it’s good for us to feel our weakness and inability. It was good for our pride too!
We encouraged our daughter (and ourselves) to believe that because God is our heavenly Father we can trust him to do what is right. That he knows what is best for us and knows the best way to bring about what is best. It may be painful and humiliating, it may not be something we would ever choose for ourselves in a million years, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t what is best for us.
It helped us realign our priorities. If we’re just living for this world, then something like this is an unmitigated disaster. But if we’re thinking biblically then we recognise that holiness matters more than anything else. We’ll pray that God will do whatever it takes to make us and our children holy. Even if it means cutting off the right hand, gouging out the right eye, or choking in the middle of a song on stage, it’s worth it. If this makes our child more humble, more dependent on the Lord, more sympathetic towards others less gifted and competent, then God be praised! Grace, meekness, humility, kindness, faith—these things really do count more than worldly success. And so we pray for the former much much more than the latter.
These are just a few of the things we know about or can guess that the Lord has done. No doubt our heavenly Father in his infinite wisdom, goodness and power is doing all kinds of other things through this that we haven’t discovered. But we can praise and thank him that his ways are perfect and that by his grace, his people can make the valley of bitter weeping a place of refreshing springs (Ps 84.6).