When we love someone, we want only the best for them. As parents, we do all we can to keep our children safe and happy. But, set on the back burner of our minds are thoughts that at times keep us up at night. As our children grow we start teaching them rules. Lists of “dos and don’ts”, and “how to…” Along with these lists is another one. This list is the consequences. Positive and negative consequences to the actions and choices they make. Even at a young age, children can learn these. If they’re told, “Don’t bite your baby sister! It will hurt her! And I will have to put you in time-out.” Or, “Don’t touch the hot stove. You’ll burn your hand and it will really hurt.” They have been told the rule and what will happen if they disobey. One day the little guy chooses to touch the hot stove. The tears come and mommy consoles him as she fixes the “boo-boo.” But she also reminds him that he was told not to touch the hot stove because he would get burned. Mommy might even ask, “Now, you won’t do it again, will you? You know how much it will hurt now.” The little guy shakes his head “No”. He gets a hug and kiss and off he runs to play. However, he has a big, red welt on his little hand that will take time to heal and feel better. In the meantime, it serves as a reminder of his disobedience, and just perhaps, you may hear him say to his little sister or a friend, “Don’t ever touch a hot stove! You will get burned.” He willingly sticks out his little hand and shows the consequences of his actions. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if his little sister or friend learned a lesson from him and never touched a hot stove?  

Suffering is part of life. This is not a new concept. Sometimes we bring on suffering by our own actions. Sometimes suffering is caused because of what someone does to us. Sometimes suffering happens because of unforeseen circumstances and no fault of our own or anyone else.  

I know that God loves us. In His love and mercy, He gave us His lists of “dos and don’ts”, “how to…”, and consequences. Just like a loving father and mother who sets rules for their children, makes sure they understand the consequences, lets them know there is always a way out and tells them they can choose to make the right choice or the wrong choice, God, our Father, has done the same for all of us. If we choose to disobey, just like the little boy who touched the hot stove and now lives with a red welt as a reminder of his disobedience, we, too, will live with consequences of the choices we make. Sometimes, we will have to live with the consequences of someone else’s actions. 

So, two years after our family died, I look back on some of the choices that were made both by Russell and Shawna. Some of their choices were good and happy ones. Some choices had devastating consequences. And we are the ones left to suffer and grieve the results of the choices that were made. Russell chose not to open up to anyone about what was truly going on in his life and how his marriage was falling apart. A couple friends knew he was depressed and knew about some of the struggles in his marriage. But no one knew how truly bad it was. Choices and decisions were made and led to devastating results. 

I am reminded of the warning God gave Cain. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s gifts but rejected Cain’s. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”  (Genesis 4:3-7 NLT) 

If you are facing unbearable circumstances and suffering in your life, please don’t try and deal with it on your own. Share what’s going on with a trusted friend or family member. Take it to the Lord. But get help. There is always a way out.