Personal Growth

Fathers, Let Your Children Struggle

by Brett Stowe

child crying with head in hands

We live in a society today that prides itself on the protection and care of young children. In some sense, this is a commendable achievement. All one has to do is go visit an indoor playground today with air conditioning, padded floors, and a care worker walking around constantly monitoring everything. While these “societal advances” are good, we need to remember that all pain, suffering, and hardship are not bad. In fact, without pain, growth does not take place. This is true physically as well as spiritually.

No good father would desire for his children to suffer. This is indeed one of the hardest realities of being a parent. But, without suffering and trials in our children’s lives, they will not become spiritually whole as God desires them to be. James’ admonition to believers in James 1:2-4, provides a template for fathers seeking to shepherd their children through the trials and hardships in life.

Count it all joy, Fathers, when your children meet trials of various kinds

James admonishes his readers to “count it all joy” when they are faced with trials. Believers are to consider the occasion of the trial as pure joy when it comes to their growth in Christlikeness. This does not mean that the trial is not difficult, neither does it mean that the trial is meant to be fun. This admonition towards joy teaches them that God is at work in their life and that through trials, they are made stronger. This process is a cause for being joyful!

When it comes to our children, we must remember that this process works the same way in their lives. There is not an age requirement for trials. Trials come into the life of the three year old as well as the thirty year old. We, as fathers, must cultivate an attitude of joy in our children when our children are met with “trials of various kinds.”

For you know that the testing of their faith produces steadfastness.

The testing of our faith through trials is meant to strengthen us. James argues that this testing produces strength, endurance, and patience. In explaining this verse, Douglas Moo writes, “The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith: heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord.”1

As parents, we desire that our children have comfortable and easy paths. If there is a chance to prevent suffering and struggle in the lives of our children, we pursue that chance. But, as James tells us, struggle and suffering in our children’s lives are meant to mold them into strong and capable followers of Christ. We must instead allow them to develop strength and patience through suffering knowing that this is God’s ordained means of growth.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that they may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If we, fathers, are able to push through the tendency to remove our children from trials and encourage them to embrace the process of hardship, we will witness the God-glorifying and complete effect that “steadfastness” brings.

James tells us that when this process is allowed to run its course, the believer is “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” This is not referring to perfection as one being sinless. This perfection and completion that James speaks of is one of spiritual integrity and “wholeness of Christian character.”2 Faithful and joyful endurance through trials produces strength which results in a complete and mature Christian.


Life is a struggle. Pain and suffering are a part of human existence until Jesus returns. We, as believers, are not exempt from this and neither are our children. It is easy for us fathers to resist the trials that enter the lives of our children. These “trials” may come in the form of pain experienced by the death of a grandparent, the mockery of a classmate, or the challenge of moving to another home.

Instead of resisting the trial, maybe the best thing for our children is to embrace the trial with joy and grace. The question we need to be asking is not, “how can I protect my child from suffering?,” but, “how can I encourage and support my child to persevere through suffering with joy?”


  1. Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, TPNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 54). Logos.

  2. ibid, 56.

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