My older daughter played her first soccer games of the season this weekend with her new team. She played a lot and won both games. But that wasn't the best part of the games. The best part was the smile and the clear joy she found in playing this weekend.
She had a tough season last year. She didn't connect with her coach. She spent a lot of time riding the bench. Her confidence on the field was shattered. Soccer wasn't fun. It was draining. It was tear-stained. It was painful. There was no joy in playing.
Watching her play this weekend was like watching the sun come out from the clouds. Seeing her laugh with the other girls and play with confidence was a gift that I can't put a price on. It was the light at the end of a really dark tunnel for her.
Watching our kids go through tough moments, weeks, months and years isn't easy as a parent. God doesn't create those tough moments for our kids, but He does use them. He doesn't find any joy in watching our kids struggle, but He does take joy in watching them turn to Him in those moments of struggle. He doesn't want our kids to hurt, but He never wastes those hurts.
You see, tough times happen in everyone's lives. The struggles our kids go through, the ones that cause our mama's hearts to crack wide open for our kids, are never wasted. God uses them in powerful ways. It's just hard to see that in the midst of the struggle.
It's hard to step back from our kids' hurts and know that God is going to use those dark moments for good. It's hard to watch our kids struggle when we see their eyes filled with tears and their hearts being bruised. It's hard to know what to do to make it better.
In the midst of those moments, though, the best thing we can do for our kids is to point them to God, the Healer of all hurts and the Comforter of all broken hearts. It's only by relying on God that our kids (and us) can make it through those days in the middle of a dark tunnel, the days when the light seems so far away we don't think we'll ever get there.
Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." If we teach our kids to love God and to follow His calling, then we know that no matter how hard the day, no matter how long the tunnel, good is going to come of it on the other side. It may take us a while to see it, but God doesn't allow our hurts and struggles to go to waste.
We also know that God is simply waiting to comfort us. He is a God who sees and understands the broken-hearted. Jesus was betrayed and left alone by all of His friends. He knows what it's like to feel all abandoned. He was beaten and crucified. He knows what it's like to feel pain. He was followed by crowds everywhere He went. He knows what it's like to feel tired.
God understands our kids' pain. He understands the despair found in the darkness -- which is why He offers us light and comfort. Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Pointing our kids to God, teaching them to look for His light in the darkness, allows God to heal their hurts and bind their wounds in ways that are some much better than anything we can do.
All through last year's miserable soccer season, I kept telling my daughter that someday God would use those hurts to help someone else. I kept telling her that God would use the tough moments to mold her character. I kept telling her that she would find joy in playing soccer again.
We haven't seen how her hurt can help someone else -- yet, but we have seen how God used those moments in darkness to help her grow and mature. We have seen her step out of that tunnel into a season of light.
So, while the dark times in those tunnels aren't fun, when we turn our kids' hearts toward God, we find that He uses those moments to shape our kids -- and us.