Handling Hard Questions: Having Empathy for the Ache

In Part 1 and Part 2 we discussed the importance of understanding God’s sovereignty, as it relates to human suffering. But also keep in mind that on our list of “What not to do with your teen’s hard questions,” one of the suggestions we made was to not offer defensive monologues.

Instruction about God’s sovereignty is best during times of non-tragedy, like when your teen is batting around the intellectual argument instead of wrestling through difficult personal losses. If he already has a grasp of theology, including God’s sovereignty, even gentle reminders of it can sting during hard times. It’s then that we need to be God’s hands and feet to them, demonstrating His limitless love.

The Reality of the Ache

Trusting God and praising Him doesn’t always look like the caricatured Sunday school version of “joy” we sometimes hold up to our kids. Sometimes it’s through real, hot, confused tears. Songs like the one below by Lauren Daigle or those on this album by Sovereign Grace Music provide a transparent view of a believer struggling under the duress of intense suffering.

Like Job 13:15, these modern “saints” express a resolve to honor God amid the ache. They don’t pretend it isn’t there, which is sometimes our mistake. Notably, God points Job to consider his own humanity along with God’s sovereign, all-knowing nature.

As Isaiah 55:9 puts it, God’s understanding isn’t just different from ours: It is higher and more thorough. When we truly believe that, we will still struggle when suffering comes, but we won’t be completely devastated.

Even David in Psalm 62:2 says that because God provides His stability, he won’t be “greatly shaken” — don’t you just love that word “greatly”?!

Let’s not expect more from our kids, or ourselves. It’s okay to feel the ache of a not-yet-full-redeemed world when we see or experience the suffering to which sin gave birth. And when our kids ache, they need for us to grieve with them (Romans 12:15).

The Frustration of Unanswered Questions

While the fact that God is all-knowing and all-powerful should bring us to our knees and prompt our praise, it is also difficult. For ages, theologians have tried to understand how the sovereignty of God and free will of humanity intersect. The mystery of the Trinity defies any illustration.

The fact that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man baffles even the most resolute. But when we surrender to the fact that He has reasons, even for those mysteries He doesn’t allow us to solve in this life, on this planet, and they are good reasons, we realize we’d make the same choice He does, if we loved ourselves like He does and had the same kind of ultimate knowledge and power that He does. But in the meantime, it’s still hard.

When we let our teens know that we feel the ache and frustration that comes with suffering — and that we struggle with our own unanswered questions and unfulfilled longings, we’ll be much more likely to connect with them in theirs.


  1. Lisa Arquette says:

    Do you walk children through deliverance?

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