Introduction for Parents:
Children, like all of us, enjoy great rewards and prizes. Yet most rewards, even those freely received, involve some kind of “cost”—something that must be endured along the way to receiving it. You can give your child her very first bike, but there is a cost to her as she learns how to ride it. There may even be some suffering associated with it. But she endures it for the sake of being able to ride to the park with her friends someday. The reward far outshines the difficulties.
As Christians, we have been given the greatest reward of all—the promise of enjoying eternal life with God. This reward is a free gift from God and not our own doing. But as we wait for that eternal reward to be revealed, there will be trials and suffering to endure. Our heavenly Father is not indifferent to the current suffering of His children. All suffering will serve to complete His perfect plans for us, and He will provide all that we need to endure every trial and tribulation. Though our children may seem sheltered from many of the hardships and trials of this world, if they are to become faithful followers of Jesus, they will suffer to one degree or another. Therefore, we must prepare them for suffering, giving them a biblical perspective so that, by God’s grace, they will remain steadfast under trial and receive the crown of life (James 1:12).
- Mansion picture (PDF)
- Shack picture (PDF)
- Piece of blue-colored paper or fabric (e.g., pillowcase, bath towel, etc.)
- Brown object to represent a mountain (e.g., paper bag, small cardboard box, etc.)
- 5 slips of paper—write one of the following on each: Heaven, God, earth, affliction, suffering
- 4 slips of paper—write one of the following on each: Holy Spirit, God’s Word, Prayer, Jesus’ example
- Optional: Hiking items, such as a water bottle, flashlight, map, snack, etc.
Pique Their Interest (3-5 minutes):
(Place the picture of the Shack1 on a table, and pose the following scenario.)
Pretend you lived in a house like this one. Do you see any problems with the house? [Encourage some responses.]
Everything inside this house is broken down in some way. In the winter it is cold inside. And in the summer it gets really hot. It is uncomfortable and dreary inside, but it is the only house you have.
(At least 2 feet away from the Shack, place the picture of the Mansion.)
Now, pretend that someone who loves you very, very much decides to build this beautiful mansion for you to live in. It is the most wonderful, beautiful, exciting, and happy place to live. It is the “best place ever.” When the mansion is finished, you are invited to come and move into the mansion. Would you be excited?
(Place the blue paper or fabric between the Shack and the Mansion.)
On the way to the mansion, there are some difficulties that you will have to endure. There is a river to cross, and there are some mountains to climb in order to get to the mansion. But every step along the way the person who built the mansion has promised to be with you and help you.
(Place the brown “mountain” between the Shack and the Mansion.)
Would you still want to go to and live in the mansion?
We are willing to endure difficulties when we know that there is a wonderful reward awaiting us. Examples: Learning how to swim, ride a bike, master a skill. We are able to endure difficulties when we have the help we need.
(Hand out the 5 slips of paper and read aloud what is on each slip: Heaven, God, earth, affliction, suffering.)
Let’s pretend that each picture and item on the table represents or “goes with” a slip. Can you place the slips on the correct picture or item?
(Have the children do this. The correct matches are: Mansion = Heaven, God; Shack = earth; mountain and river = suffering, affliction)
Review Previous Concepts (1 minute):
(Recall that in previous lessons we learned that God has subjected the world to a curse because of sin. The world in which we live is like the picture of the Shack—broken down and decaying under God’s righteous judgment. We then learned about our greatest need—the need for salvation in Jesus. Trusting in Jesus is the only way to be saved from the eternal punishment we all deserve because of our sin.)
Study the Scriptures:
(Read and talk about the following Scriptures. Depending on the age of your children and the time available, you may choose to have children look up one or more of the texts in their Bibles. Make sure to define any unfamiliar words or terms after reading each text.)
John 14:2-3—“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Psalm 16:11—You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;at your right hand are pleasures forevermore
(The great reward of salvation is enjoying eternal life with God in heaven. Jesus is preparing a real place for His people to live with Him forever. It is better than anything we could ever imagine!)
But between this broken world in which we now live and the time in when Christians will enter into heaven there is “affliction” and suffering to endure and go through. What are afflictions? [difficulties, hard times, hurts, troubles, etc.]
Can you think of some “troubles” Christians are facing today? [Encourage responses that are personal to your family but also touch upon your church family and global Christian community.] What kind of thoughts and feelings might someone experience when things are really hard?
Does God just expect His children to “grin and bear it”? “Tough it out on our own?”
(Have the children pretend that you ae going on a long hike. Would a good parent simply tell a child to go out on his own without any supplies? What might a good parent do? Display the hiking items. Point out that good parents provide their children with the tools they need for doing hard things.)
God is a loving and perfect heavenly Father. He provides His children with all the “tools” we need to endure troubles and hardships. What might those tools be? [Encourage some responses.]
(Hand out the 4 slips of paper and read aloud what is on each slip: Holy Spirit, God’s Word, Jesus’ example, Prayer. Make the following points for each, and then have the children place their slips on top of the affliction or suffering slips already on the table.)
- God has given every Christian the Holy Spirit to live within us. He teaches, guides, helps, and strengthens God’s children. The Holy Spirit is constantly present. He will never leave (John 14:16-17, 26). God’s children are never alone in their suffering.
How is God’s Word like a tool to help Christians during hard times and suffering?
(Explain that you are going to read a few verses that describe God’s children experiencing times of trouble. You want the children to listen very carefully for the special way God promises to act during those times. Note: If your children have been memorizing specific verses that would be similar, use those.)
Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Isaiah 43:1b-2a—…”Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”
Psalm 34:19—Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 23:1-4—The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
- God’s Word reminds us about who God is and what He is like—He is trustworthy.
- God’s Word reminds us about God’s love and promises for His people.
- God’s Word reminds us that God is always with His people when they suffer—He never, ever abandons them.
- God’s Word is a “weapon” to use to fight against discouragement, fear, grumbling, etc.
For example, suppose you were to get very sick this week. What might you start to become fearful about? How could you use God’s Word to fight against that fear? [Encourage some responses.]
What if a child was angry because his dad had lost his job and the family cannot go on a summer vacation anymore? How could a child use God’s Word to fight against anger about that situation?
Did Jesus endure any troubles and suffering? Can you give some examples? [He was beaten, mocked by people, betrayed, crucified, etc.] How can knowing that Jesus endured all of this terrible suffering help us when we go through hard times? [If even Jesus suffered, we shouldn’t be surprised at our own suffering. Jesus knows what it feels like to suffer so He can sympathize with us. etc.]
We also can learn to how to righty respond to suffering like Jesus did. For example, even though it was the most unfair thing to have ever have happened, how did Jesus respond when He suffered on the cross? Did He complain and grumble? Why not?
Hebrews 12:1b-2a—…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,…
(Explain that Jesus has already gone before us. He has “crossed over the river and climbed the mountains” of affliction and suffering. He has already arrived at the “mansion” of heaven. He knows the way. He calls us to follow Him. That should give us confidence and courage.)
Prayer is like an always-available phone line to God. God wants His children to come to Him in prayer.
Philippians 4:6—do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Why would going to God in prayer be the good and right thing to do when you are having a hard time? What does praying teach us about who God is and who we are? Can God help us in suffering in ways no one else could? How?
(Point to the slips of paper and other items on the table again. Ask the children if they can summarize the main points of the lesson starting with the Shack picture and moving toward the Mansion picture.)
(Emphasize that suffering is real, painful, difficult, sad, and hard. But God is loving and good. He has given His children everything we need to go through and endure hard times. God will be with us every step of the way. For everyone who is trusting in Jesus, the suffering of this world is only temporary. It will not last. Jesus is preparing an everlasting place of joy for us—a place that is so wonderful that it’s beyond our wildest imagination!)
2 Corinthians 4:17—For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Praise God for being a mighty refuge for His people. Thank Him for preparing an eternal home of joy for His people and for all His loving provision in times of suffering. Confess struggles and discouragements you may have. Pray for specific needs/people and that all would depend upon Jesus, who endured the cross.
Apply the Truth This Week:
- Take a few moments every day (maybe at mealtime) to highlight a biblical, historical figure (e.g., Joseph, Daniel, Paul, Martin Luther, Corrie ten Boom, Joni Eareckson Tada), or a Christian you know who endured suffering. How did God work in each situation?
- Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and think of ways you could comfort someone who is suffering.
- How can suffering increase our faith in Jesus? How can it help us to grow to love God more?
- Every day, talk about heaven. How does the greatness and worth of a reward give perspective to suffering.
- When your child expresses frustration, grumbling, or anger this week over some kind of difficulty that arises over something outside his control, ask: How does God want you to think about this? What does His Word say? How should our hearts respond—what feelings and desires does God command? What does God call us to do?
Optional Activity Pages:
- “Promise: God Will Be With You in Hard Times” (lower-elementary age), Lesson 22 from Faithful to All His Promises
"Trust God in All Circumstances" (upper-elementary), Lesson 19 from To Be Like Jesus
1. The illustration of the Shack and the Mansion was developed by Sally Michael for Faithful to All His Promises.
Next week’s devotional will be Biblical Truth #6 –God Designs All Suffering in a Christian’s Life to Work for Our Good.
This lesson is part of an eight-part devotional series, which was kicked off with this post.