My orphaned grandfather, birthed a by music teacher who had an affair with a traveling salesman in Los Angeles, was fostered in the Roaring 20s by two spinster sisters, Roxy and Alice. Roxy eventually adopted him and he proved very beneficial with helping with the other foster children, playing with them and working hard to help the household function. A child of the depression and eventually serving in World War II, he endured many hardships from conception.
He met his best friend at the Vermont Avenue Presbyterian Church in downtown Los Angeles, where he attended with Roxy and Alice, and grew very close to his friend's family, culminating in marrying his best friend's sister, my grandmother. After being separated from his bride during the war while stationed in Bremerton, WA, they birthed two children, my mother and uncle. When my uncle was only 16 months old, my grandmother contracted Polio and was the 2nd person in California to die of Polio just two months later.
Grandpa's stoic generation was a product of living in a time of tremendous suffering. World hunger, war, disease, inconveniences that we will never know, gave them shoulders of steel. They were raised to work hard and didn't conceive of an option to think about how they felt about work and life. Though as they aged and the trying times evolved into prosperity and stability economically and socially, they were less challenged and lost the wood shedding of suffering.
With each subsequent generation moving further from true suffering in America, we have been pampered into soft easy lives, filled with leisure and entitlement. In short, we've become Wimps. We think that hardships are abnormal so we either try to escape or prevent suffering, or blame it on something. We even allow the "abnormality of suffering" to dictate our theological beliefs: "God doesn't want me to suffer--He would never CAUSE the suffering, so it must be Satan--and who can stop him because he rules the earth, so, poor God: Satan is just always creating battles for God to have to fight all the time. And if God doesn't want me feeling pain, I shouldn't have to feel it." Wimpy.
I think about my Grandfather's life and all he accomplished after a childhood of hardships: a very successful music career, 7 houses, worldwide travel, and good retirement; and then I look at our lives and my children's habits. I look at their attitudes toward hard things: brushing their teeth, doing their chores, eating what is put in front of them to eat. Seriously! Didn't you and I have to eat our vegetables???? Why to they get away with not eating them? It's very simple, really--because I let them. Period.
Our generation is the wimpiest yet when it comes to child-rearing because our strength has not been tested. We give into many whims of our children because we just don't have the wherewithal to withstand their protests. We have not gone without, truly, not really--maybe without some luxuries we covet and deep down feel entitled to. Most of us have not lived much of our lives without conveniences of vacuums, dishwashers, cars, TV, remote controls. And those are just the leisures.
We don't have the wherewithal to outlast our children's griefs because we have not outlasted our own griefs. Many of us don't grieve at all. We have vices of all kinds to get us through our grief of living each day in sinful bodies in a fallen world--foodie treats, coffee, shopping, hobbies, crafts, domestic compulsions (clean-freaks), medication, internet, extracurricular activities, TV, addictive substances, etc., etc., etc. (I listed mine first...) Life gets hard, I've had a stressful day, nothing seems to be going my way, my kids were disobedient, my boss wasn't happy with my work, I'm tired, I ran out of chocolate--I deserve to feel better. I could delve deeper in our culture's obsession with "giving kids a good self-esteem" but this is already far too long of an essay.
Christ aptly said, "In this world you WILL have suffering. But take courage, I have overcome the world," John 16:33. In short, if we don't suffer, we are abnormal. If we don't run -- sprint -- to Christ with our suffering, we will not only suffer more deeply than we if we had grieved, but we will sin against all those around us because we have chosen to be self-sufficient/indulgent.
Each day is an opportunity to be loved on by our dear Savior, who loves us and GAVE HIMSELF for us! But we usually miss out on experiencing the deep and true joy of His lavish love because we just want an easy load for today and will do whatever it takes to get it. He says, "Come to Me ALL you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest," Matthew 11:28. His promises will manifest in us as we clean another poopy diaper, discipline a child, feel the pain of someone disappointing us, not getting the pat on the back for that good thing we did, working hard, being tired, making dinner, walking through an illness or tragedy--for every circumstance, even those we don't consider significant--a toilet stopping up, tripping over a shoe on the floor, etc.....His power is made perfect in these things!
May we feel all the pain of life but not without hope--for if we ABIDE with Christ we receive grace in our time of need and thereby teach our children that suffering is a normal and daily phenomenon--even if it comes in the form of broccoli. "God is a very present help in trouble, Son. Ask Him for strength and He will help you accomplish what you need to do right now." Soli Deo Gloria.