When Tragedy Strikes

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In the life of a child, sometimes tragedy strikes.

It struck our home a few weeks ago when our oldest was unable to find her shoes for the first day of school after Christmas break.

What, is that less tragic than you were expecting?

Before you laugh at her, remember that many of your own ‘tragedies’ are of no greater importance.  I don’t know about you, but I almost lose my mind when I lose something that’s important to me. I can’t think of anything else. Even if the thing I’m looking for is not all that important, just the fact that I’ve lost it drives me crazy! I’m a 35-year-old man, so I have a different way of reacting to this frustration than a 10-year-old girl, but her reaction (tears ) is just as natural as mine is.

But we are called to be supernatural, aren’t we!

As her father, it is my job to guide her through this teachable moment. So, instead of going downstairs and lying on the couch to watch TV as I had planned, I put the boys to bed and came back to her room. As she brushed her hair, took out her new earrings, and brushed her teeth, we talked through the situation.  These were her favorite shoes, and she wanted to wear them to school tomorrow. Her other shoes were either too small or a little too big, and she didn’t want to wear boots because she wanted to be able to play at recess. I let her know that I understood, and then I gave her some advice about how to do it.

Pray For What You Want

I said that when I face something like this I have three different prayers that I pray.  First, I ask God to help me get what I want.  I guess that’s a no-brainer, but sometimes we panic and forget to pray about it.

Pray For His Will

I ask God to make it work out in some other way that he has in mind. I explained that God does want to help us and he does answer our prayers, so it is important to pray with faith. But, even though we are really smart, God is even smarter, and sometimes He has an even better plan for us. I gave the analogy that sometimes we ask God for apple juice, and he says no. But then he gives a sparkling grape juice!  He doesn’t answer your actual prayer, but it is because He has something much better in store for us.

Pray For Peace, Regardless

I ask God to help me to be calm and at peace, to be OK no matter what the result is. To help me have the right attitude and to be able to handle the situation. I explained that regardless of whether we find the shoes or not, the most important thing is that she is able to handle a situation or problem like this. I explained that whether she finds the shoes or not, she can be at peace, she can be calm, she can have a positive attitude. God can help her to get through it.

Her Turn to Pray and Listen

By this time she had calmed down a little, so I asked her to pray those three prayers. She did, somewhat hesitatingly. I crawled into bed with her and snuggled with her, then I prayed with her that she could be calm and at peace and that the Holy Spirit would encourage her. Then I explained that another way we can pray for God to help us find something is to literally ask Him. So then we said “God, where are the shoes? Where should we look for them?” Then we just laid there quietly for probably 30 seconds, trying to still our minds so that we could hear the Holy Spirit. If you’ve never done this before, it feels really weird!   Most of us have not practiced such a conversational intimacy with God. We have not lived our lives the way Jesus did, in constant communion with our Father. But there is no reason why we can’t!  In fact, with the Holy Spirit in us, we can have that same access to God that Jesus did! We didn’t hear anything so we asked God again. “God, where are the shoes? Are they upstairs? Help us to hear you.”  We were quiet again for a little while and Hannah said “I feel like they’re in the closet in the hallway, but I know they aren’t.” I said “Well, it doesn’t hurt to look,” so I went and looked. She was right. They weren’t there. So I came back and we prayed again. “God, where are the shoes?”  I was still snuggling with her, with my hand on her chest, and I could feel that her heart stopped racing and that she had calmed down quite a bit.  Whether we find the shoes or not, the tragedy was averted!

To be honest, this is the best thing about prayer. It takes our thoughts off of ourselves and our problem, and focuses them on God.  We became focused on seeking God’s presence.  On quieting ourselves and getting out of the way so that we can hear from him. Most of us spend our whole lives letting lost shoes, lost jobs, or lost loved ones steal our joy and separate us from God. And that is natural! But it is not inevitable. My daughter’s emotions about her lost shoes could’ve taken her away from God, but instead they took her towards God.

Parents, we have the incredible opportunity to teach our children how to deal with the tragedies that will come, both large and small. The next time tragedy strikes, view it as an opportunity.  Resist the urge to brush off their feelings, to just fix it, or to give them all the answers. By walking them through the situation you will teach them how to deal with whatever tragedies they have to deal with in their life.  Be their guide through the tears so that they can experience the joy that comes from moving closer to God in all circumstances. 

PS:  Are you wondering if we found the shoes?  We did!  They were just stuffed into a bag downstairs, and I found them before she had fallen asleep.  When you ask God and listen, He answers.


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