My 10-year-old daughter played in a soccer tournament this weekend. She played five games in three days, with three of them on Sunday. Her team played amazingly well, and for the first time, they made it to the championship game.
The final game was a nail biter. Both teams played really well. It ended in a 0-0 tie. The tie breaker in this tournament was a shootout. Five girls from each team got a chance to go one-on-one with the goalie. The team with the most goals wins. If it's still tied after five, it goes to sudden death -- first team to score when the other one doesn't wins.
My daughter's team lost in the sixth round of the shootout. The girls who missed their shots were devastated, feeling like they had let the team down. The goalie was upset, thinking she should have been able to stop more shots. After such a great weekend, this team that had played their best tournament ever walked off the field with heads hanging and shoulders hunched. Tears flowed.
In talking to my daughter after the game, I found out neither coach wanted to have a shootout. They both asked several times why they couldn't just declare the game a tie and give both teams the first-place medals. Neither coach wanted their girls to end up feeling as though they had failed.
A shootout at this age really boils down to not much more than luck. The coaches wanted the girls to walk off the field with their heads held high, knowing that they had played their best. They knew a shootout would leave two girls -- the goalie and the last girl to miss -- feeling horrible. After playing so well, neither coach wanted that for either team.
But there was to be no bending of the rules on this day, so to the shootout we went. The coaches' request reminded me of what it's like to be a parent. We do the best we can to keep our kids from getting hurt. We protect them and love them. We offer guidance and try to keep them out of situations that will leave their heads hanging, their shoulders hunched and the tears falling. We ask God to protect them.
Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts and our diligent prayers, the hurt gets through. The painful experience happens. The world wallops our kid with a healthy dose of disappointment.
Our kids don't make the team or get a part in the play. Someone says hurtful things to our children. Broken relationships bring sorrow and uncertainty to our children's lives.
It's in these times that we want to teach our kids to turn to the only source of help -- God. When hurt walks into our children's lives, we want them to know the ultimate source of help and comfort. Psalm 54:4 says "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me" and Psalm 119:76 says "May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant."
God always offers us help and comfort in difficult times. He doesn't take the difficult circumstances away, but He does offer us a way through those circumstances. He promises never to leave our side. We want our kids to know that no matter how dire the situation seems, no matter how awful it makes them feel, God is waiting to help them through it.
- Talk to your kids about what the word comfort means. Ask how they feel most comforted in a difficult situation. Ask them who they turn to for comfort. Talk about how God is the ultimate comforter. He offers us His unconditional love. In tough circumstances, He's just waiting to offer us peace through His love.
- When your child is in the midst of a difficult situation, talk with him about the ways that God can help him deal with it. Make a list of the things God could do. Write down all the possibilities you can come up with, even if they seem outlandish. Talk about how God may not choose to take the problem away or zap our enemies, but He is there to offer help.
- Help your child see that God is bigger than their problem -- no matter how big the problem seems. Place a small rock on the table next to the biggest rock you can find. Ask your child which rock they think represents their problem. Talk about how God is the big rock, and their problem is the pebble. No matter how big our problems seem, to God they are always the size of the pebble. God is bigger than our problems, and He can help us through them.
Just as my daughter's coach couldn't protect his team from the disappointment of losing their game in a shootout, we can't always protect our kids from pain and disappointment. But we can direct them to the ultimate source of help and comfort when tough things come their way.