As we do the work of ministry, both the girls we minister to and us are bound to face trials, sometimes simultaneously. These are extremely difficult situations, so how do we handle them well in our own lives? And how do we come alongside our girls? To say it’s tough is an understatement. Trials are varied and complex. There’s no one-size-fits-all method for handling them, but there are some principles we can practice.
Be present and see them.
Simply being present alongside your girls may seem small, but it’s actually huge. As we’re with them, they don’t always need fancy words or an abundance of them. We must also be careful to not compare their trials with our own. Simply an, “I know this is hard” means the world. We may want to immediately fix, but what is usually needed most immediately is our presence. When Hagar experienced betrayal and loneliness, she called God, “The God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). Let’s remind girls of this beautiful truth, and then image our Savior by also seeing them in their grief.
There’s no such thing as just praying. Prayer is a powerful tool. Our prayers both encourage our girls and teach them. Praying also equips to minister well. When tragedy strikes, and we don’t know what to say, we can ask the Lord to give us wisdom with our words and actions. In our weakness, prayer can also be our source of strength, so that we may rely on God’s power and not our own.
Teach sound theology.
The moment a tragedy hits may not be the best time to exposit a passage of Scripture. However, a right understanding of God and what His Word says about trials is imperative. First, we should proactively equip our girls, even before trials come. For example, in a study of James, James 1:2 presented a great opportunity to discuss joy in trials with my girls. At the moment, they weren’t experiencing deep trials, but I pray the lesson was planted in their hearts for when they do face them. When trials come, our girls don’t need trite sayings, but the truth and hope only God’s Word brings. Books have been and could be written about this, and truly, we can’t fully dive into this here. Here are a few key aspects to remember and teach our girls, though:
- God originally created everything good (Gen. 1-2). When Adam and Eve sinned, every bad thing that exists entered this world. Usually, trials aren’t a direct result of our personal sin (John 9 is a great passage to teach this), but they’re a general result of living in a fallen world. Indeed, things weren’t supposed to be this way.
- If girls are Christians, then despite tragedies, their deepest need was met in Christ. If not, wisely use this as gospel-sharing opportunities.
- In Christ, we’re not only redeemed from sin, but Christ also redeemed every aspect of our lives, including trials. They aren’t wasted. God will use them and us for his glory. Trials don’t feel good, but we trust that God works all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). As we speak these truths, let’s also point out how we see God at work in their lives. In trials, things seem so dark, and it’s hard to see light. We can come alongside our girls, pointing out the light in the darkness.
- We must remember and teach our call to joy (Jas. 1:2-4). Since we have Christ, we have everything. This is why we can have joy, even on the darkest days. Christ is sufficient, but it doesn’t hurt to provide girls with some simple joys—coffee, a favorite snack, or an encouraging text.
- Ultimately, we fix our eyes on Heaven. The best thing about Heaven is Jesus will be there. In the deepest of tragedies, the hope we cling to is that one day, Christ will return and restore all things. We’ll battle sin no more, and we’ll never endure trial or tragedy again.
Have your own people.
We should walk alongside our girls in their grief and model for them what it looks like to endure trials while clinging to Jesus. If appropriate, we may even use our personal stories to encourage or counsel them. However, the teenagers we minister to aren’t equipped to bear the burdens we carry. We also shouldn’t endure our trials alone. We need other adult sisters in Christ to come alongside us. While we pour into girls, we need others to pour into us. We must have other adults to hold us up, pray for us, remind us of truth.
Even as I write this, I know these words aren’t enough. Every tragedy and girl is different. Situations are complex. As painful as trials are, though, I believe part of the joy are deeper connections with one another. Tragedies will most likely deepen the discipleship relationship you have with your girls, which will provide even more opportunities to speak into their lives. Praise God! As we persevere through difficult days on this earth, may we remember our hope is in Christ alone, and remind our girls the same. May God fill us with his wisdom to handle both our own tragedies and those our girls face for His glory.
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (5), Isaac (3), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. Connect with Cassie: Blog // Facebook // Instagram