Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Illness

Few images rend the heart as does the image of a suffering child. The apparent injustice is appalling, and you may wonder how a supreme being, or any being for that matter, could tolerate an innocent child to suffer. Feelings of frustration, anger and powerlessness overtake, and doubts arise about the sanity of life and of creation. You may want to forcefully eradicate illness and suffering from your life, especially from children’s lives. But this none of us can. We are faced with the seemingly impossible task to live with illness and suffering and not lose courage.

A Spiritual Perspective

We are not the first ones to feel frustration in the face of suffering. At one point Jesus’ students ask him why a man was born blind (John  9:1). They wondered if his blindness was related to his sins or to the sins of his parents. And Jesus answers: “He was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in curing him.”  And he cures the man. That is certainly an unexpected answer. He does not share in their frustration. He does not engage in a medical discussion, nor does he lay out a philosophy on the influence of diet, attitudes, karma, etc. on health. He does not look back to causes, but looks ahead, to what might happen next. And next, the man is cured.

     Jesus met with a lot of sick and suffering  people. His first reaction always was to relieve pain, to heal the sick and to restore the physical body to its perfect condition. When healing the sick, Jesus bypassed both the physical world with its ways and cures (pills, surgery, etc.), and the mental world with its ways and cures (karma, beliefs,  etc.) Instantly, he perceived the spiritual reality of the person in his presence and thus made them both subject to the laws and principles of the spiritual world. He looked beyond the appearance of a sick body to the person's true identity: a child of God, perfect as God had created him. Jesus’ spiritual perception overruled the physical perception the person had of themselves, namely “I am sick.”

Your Unique Role

So, where does this leave us? Having children means that rearing them and being with them is part of your life plan. Now that they are here, they form, at least in part, the reason why you are here. What does that mean in practical terms? If your child is sick or suffering, try to discover your unique role in your child’s life. What does your involvement mean to the child and to yourself? Illness and suffering demand that you become clear about your priorities in life, and explore the ways in which you can best express your love and commitment to your child.



A Spiritual Quality You Can Offer

Try to see if it is helpful if you view illness as an invitation to look at your family situation from a broader perspective. Ask yourself: what does this situation call for in spiritual terms? What spiritual qualit is needed most in the daily living of it? Would that be patience, dedication, service, love, tolerance, hope or joy? See if you can identify one specific spiritual quality that you personally resonate with. Take that quality and translate it into a mental attitude. For instance ‘hope’ could be interpreted on a mental level as ‘encouragement’, while ‘patience’ could be interpreted as ‘prioritize’.

Attitude and Action

Next, take the mental attitude and extend it in terms of an action you could actually do. 'Encouragement’ could be extended to ‘catch a negative thought and say a positive affirmation to myself.’ ‘Prioritize’ could be extended to ‘review calendar and make choices in order to be less rushed.’ These two actions, or any other you come up with, would help you put into practice a spiritual quality you hold dear in a difficult situation. They allow you to see how the work of your hands express the intent of your heart. This process will forge who you are with what you do. And make no mistake about it: this can be life changing. Wouldn’t you want that for you and your child? Wouldn’t you want to express your love in this most difficult of situations in a way that changes lives?

Fully Present Parenting

Although the purpose and function of illness may stay unclear and suffering remains an enigma, by connecting your inner and outer world in this manner, you will come closer to the truth of your being. It will help you become fully present and mindful in difficult circumstances. And that, my dear friend, is the greatest gift you can give your child.

Recommended Reading

To learn more about being fully present with your kids, you might want to read the following posts presented previously on ParentsAreImportant.com:

Mindful Parenting
What is the Goal of Child Rearing?
Finding Peace in Hectic Daily Life With Kids

Images courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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