A businessman battles against the heavy weight of failure after his business goes under. A teen feels abandoned and rejected after the divorce of his parents. A husband suffers through the unexpected loss of his wife. A man drives a delivery truck through a crowded street, killing dozens.
Trials come to us all. Our response to them can either make us or break us: we can either grow from them, or they can be our undoing. As Christians, we are even exhorted to celebrate trials, knowing that God can use them to produce virtue in us.
Part of our responsibility as parents and educators is to prepare our students to not just survive trials, but to thrive in them. To grow from them. Even to celebrate them. The truest fruits of our labor will not manifest themselves in high SAT scores or admissions to the best universities (though we get those) but when our students cling to Jesus as their Lord despite temptation from the world, when they remain faithful to their spouse in a difficult season in their marriage, or when they love the unlovable child.
How do we strive towards such a noble goal?
We ask our students to fight lions and bears. Here is what I mean: in 1 Samuel chapter 17, David arrives at the Israelite camp; the Philistines are camped across the way, and Goliath their champion has spent 40 days challenging any Israelite brave enough to face him to a winner take all, fight to the death; David, just a teenager at the time, volunteers to fight Goliath, and all the Israelites mock him; finally David is referred to King Saul, who tells him more the same: “You’re a teenage boy. He’s a professional soldier. You can’t possibly hope to beat him!” Note David’s response:
“’[I] used to keep [my] father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth…. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’ Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
“Our natural inclination as parents and educators is often to try to make life easier, more comfortable, for our students, when in reality God is calling them to fight lions and bears.”
David had a perfect confidence in God’s provision because he was in the business of fighting lions and bears. David knew that because God was faithful when he fought lions and bears, God would be faithful when he fought Goliath. And He was.
Our natural inclination as parents and educators is often to try to make life easier, more comfortable, for our students, when in reality God is calling them to fight lions and bears. When our students go out in to the world and face their own Goliath, do not let it be the first fight they have been in. They need to be able to look back and see moments where they were pushed, where they were challenged, where they did the hard thing, and see God’s provision in their lives. They need to know that they can conquer any Goliath that life throws at them, because God has given them the victory before.
It is true that at The Ambrose School students are required to do hard things. Reading Virgil as a sophomore is no easy task, but Virgil makes a great lion. Mr. Hosier and Mrs. Pauls will often expect more from students than they expect from themselves, but Chemistry and Precalculus make great bears.
Our hope is that when students leave here and arrive on college campuses, in the workplace, or are confronted with difficult circumstances in life, they will have a perfect confidence in the provision of God because they first experienced it here. When faced with future trials, may our students say with confidence, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of Virgil and the paw of Chemistry, He will deliver me from the hand of this Goliath.”