Listening to the Little Pains

Claude Houde

As a child, my daughter Elisabeth, once asked us for a hamster as a birthday present. So we gave it to her, and she named it Bidule. She petted him, spoke to him, and was just in love with him.

One morning, while we were getting ready to go to church, my wife took Bidule out of his cage so that he could stretch and run around a bit on the balcony, but then she forgot him there! After a whole morning at church and a meal at a restaurant under a blazing sun, we finally returned home to discover that Bidule was in hamster heaven, dried up by Quebec’s summer sun.

Elisabeth was inconsolable. Of course, my wife and I didn’t try to downplay her pain by saying things like “Come on! Honestly, it was a rat. Need I remind you that there are starving children in third world countries?” No! It was important to her; it was important to us too. So we listened to her tears. Bidule was even given a funeral service, officiated by me in the backyard (my only animal funeral, I can assure you). My daughter was brave enough to say a few words: “Bidule was a good hamster. Bidule was loved by all.” 

Today I share this memory with a smile, but it is to better illustrate two points of great blessing for you and your loved ones. 

  1. No matter how old our children are, let's take their pain seriously. They will have hardships to go through, from the pain of their first lost love to a rejection from their dream university, from a sports failure to serious illness. Our responsibility as Christian parents is to listen to their grief, to seek to understand it without minimizing or denying it. Listening to their pain with empathy, seriousness, attention and compassion is already teaching our children how to face it. 

  2. Our children learn from our example. Above all, our responsibility is to trace a path for them. Their path of faith is carved out in the wake of our own witness. They witness our struggles. They are the first to see us pass through our storms and, by the grace of God, continue to move forward, to pray, to serve God, to love, to give, to forgive.

Our children will develop their own capacity to overcome hardship by how we treat their pain and by watching our own attitudes and faith in the midst of trials.

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.