I love the fall. I used to love winter. But now when the sunny summer days begin to drop off and the trees wither and die with spectacular beauty, I begin to dread the winter, knowing that with the cold comes sickness, sickness, and more sickness. For our family, this winter is no exception. Sure, we’ve had our fun–like our new family tradition of Friday night game night and hot chocolate, playing in the snow, and Saturday morning pancakes with Daddy. But, as the temperature continues to plummet, I am tempted toward worry and discouragement. I’m tempted to worry that my kids will get sick. I tempted to think that I’ll never be an active member of my church again because I’ll always be stuck at home with a sick child. In my almost five years of motherhood, I’ve had two kids hospitalized with RSV and I’ve seen two little boys with panic in their eyes as they experience the stomach bug for the first time. It is a pretty scanty CV I know, but, I dread seeing that fear in their questioning eyes. I want to take all their pain away and ensure them only happiness forever. It’s a little embarrassing to admit how much of a trial I find it to have a sick child, especially since I know many who have charted the much deeper waters of disease and death. But, for this mama, a trial it is. And however guilty I feel, the truth is that these hours of caring for sick children is intended in some measure to be a trial of my patience and a test of my faith.
Every time one of my little ones is knocked down with something, I can’t help but revisit the Garden of Eden and think what life would have been like if Eve had not taken that fateful bite and Adam had resisted following her lead. I surely would not be sitting on a cold bathroom floor at midnight, holding my trembling child explaining to him that he’s not dying, but that sickness is just a part of life–that his body is in the process of healing itself and he will live to sail ships, kill droids, and pester his brother again.
I certainly wouldn’t be having conversations with my four year old about wars and hostages and whose “side” God is on. I wouldn’t have to explain to him that because of the fall, suffering is a natural part of life. But given this cursed world and our sinful condition, I–a sinner–counsel my children–sinners too–that they are to expect suffering in this life. Because of our rebellion, things don’t work as they should. Because of our rebellion, Jesus came and suffered. And then something happens, and I stop regretting the suffering so much and I think for a minute of the glorious King of Heaven submitting himself to the will of his Father, agreeing to come as a weak, frail, human creature, being born in very humbling circumstances (scandal of an unwed mom, born to a poor family, in a barn of all places). I think of his having to learn to walk, to suffer the injustices of sinful siblings, the trial and error of learning a trade. I think of his public ministry–knowing his identity as God and yet suffering such verbal abuse from those he came to save. I think of the sheer exhaustion he labored under, not having a place to lay his head, constant swarms of people desiring his good gifts, but not necessarily desiring him, the greatest of all gifts. I think of his unwearied compassion toward sinners, his devotion to his Father’s will, of his intense physical suffering on the cross, and the mental anguish he experienced as he became sin for us and experienced the flood of God’s wrath toward our rebellion, MY rebellion. And suddenly, I’m not so discouraged anymore. I’m in one sense grateful for the opportunity to teach my children that yes, this life is not what God originally intended. We are indeed suffering under the curse of sin. But Jesus came and REALLY suffered. He not only understands our temporal suffering, but he understands a terror we will never have to face. So I tell my kids: “Jesus suffered too, you know. He was poor, he understood hunger and pain, his brothers and sisters took his things, people hated him and said nasty things about him. Why did Jesus have to suffer?” And as they ruminate on these things, I think (though they are small) they find a measure of comfort knowing that Jesus (who welcomes little ones with open arms) suffered too. And one day when He comes back that same Jesus will wipe away all our tears. And life will be perfect. Definitely not in this world, but certainly in the next!