The Pain in Raising Children

November 27, 2023

My dear children, I am in pain for you … And my pain will continue until Christ makes you like himself. Galatians 4:19 NIRV

We are aware, some of us personally and deeply, that longing for children who for one reason or another never come, is deep and anguishing. My heart has yearned for several precious friends who prayed relentlessly for children and that desire was never fulfilled.

A hard subject not easily acknowledged is that having children is also painful, at moments deeply so. It doesn’t matter how godly, how protective, how intentional and wise your parenting is, the crying of your baby arriving in the world will announce a little person bringing both laughter and tears into your life on a level you have never before experienced.

When God told Adam and Eve in the garden after sin had broken everything that childbirth would be painful, it wasn’t punishment (Genesis 3:16). It was a natural result of the brokenness. Sin made everything different, and the children who would bring them so much satisfaction and joy would also be a source of great pain. How is that? We all know that paternal and maternal love is a love like no other. These little pieces of us have our whole hearts. When they hurt, we hurt. When my husband died suddenly, my personal grief was surpassed by my inability to do anything for my children to assuage their grief. Their broken hearts shattered mine again. It’s that way from small hurts to big hurts. Their fears when they go to the doctor or face hurts and misunderstandings at school – and it keeps getting bigger.

We want control over what we will never be able to have because we believe we can make better decisions for them (when they are young, we know we can), and it’s painful when they reject and rebel against our best efforts. We wish we could manage other people’s responses to them, and that they could see our children as we do. It hurts when they are misunderstood at any age or rejected. When they are angry with us, we can get very angry too, but underneath it is pain and grief that we are not connecting with. Some of us experience the pain of children walking away from us. There are so many pains that we try to avoid but don’t know how.

There is one pain we should not attempt to avoid. We should embrace it and let it become the great desire of our hearts. Many things make us proud of our children, such as success at school, sports, their careers, their own families as adults. We can’t get so caught up and relieved at those successes that they overshadow the most important. It is the desire and pain Paul expressed: “I will not be over my pain for you until Christ is formed in you.” Our children were made to be like Jesus. May we never let that focus be replaced by any other.

  • Question: Is my desire and focus that my children please Jesus greater than any other?