Something my dad taught me at a young age was to hold my breath under water. We would practice in the pool where it was safe. I would hold his shoulders and he would dive down deep. When I felt my lungs burning I could tap him and he came up so I could get air. This was important if I wanted to go surfing with Him. The longer you hold your breath, the less likely you would panic or drown.
If you’ve ever been held underwater by a wave, you were most likely thinking of just one thing…air. The key to surviving waves is to hold your breath. The key to surviving bigger waves is to hold your breath longer. What I didn’t realize then during my swim lessons with Dad, was that he was actually coaching me to survive the turbulent waters of life.
Truth is, when we’re held down by a trial or tribulation all we can think about is coming up for air. We can handle a small trial here and there, but when the waves get too big we start to panic and lose our bearings. We can’t tap God on the shoulder to control when we come up for air.
God often let’s us get tumbled around; we feel lonely, cold and scared. We panic.
Some curse God. Some walk away from their faith. While others, embrace it. Following a time of testing, George Eliot once said Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts to growing your faith other than having it tested.
As much as I’m tempted to save my children from any kind of difficulty, I realize I could be doing them more harm by not letting them feel the suffering. Children need to exercise their faith muscle in a safe environment so that when they get into heavier situations they will have that peace which surpasses understanding because they’ll remember what God delivered them from in the past.
As a youth pastor, I frequently see parents, unintentionally, allowing their teen to be the center of the universe. They do not teach their teen social or emotional responsibility or help them navigate through conflict resolution. They do not teach them to hold their breath. This produces students who have difficulties thriving in the pressures of the world. We must allow our children to experience the highs and lows of life; to feel the consequences of their mistakes and bear the weight of sin enough to rely on the Lord and experience what Faith looks like. Teach your kids stories like that of Helen Keller, who was born deaf, mute and blind. “The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.” she said.
I look forward to the day I can take my kids surfing with me. And I look forward to the day we will serve together in ministry. Until then, we’re practicing holding our breath.