Learning Lessons About God Through Parenting: Suffering/Sleep Training

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I’m convinced that sleep training is not something that every parent looks forward to with great anticipation. Now, I’ll be honest – after months of sleeping in four hour shifts, one does tend to feel some excitement about the possibility of returning to a regular sleep schedule; however, the inevitable work and discomfort that it might take to get there led me to believe that I would be fine continuing to wake up for a nighttime feeding for an indefinite amount of time.

But as Freeman and I prayed through the great debate of to let cry or to let lie, we decided that sleeping through the night is an important skill that Fairley needs, and so we wanted to do what we could to help her achieve that skill, even if it meant some discomfort on all our parts. (And I really had to pray about this and test that it wasn’t my own selfishness that wanted to push her into a sleep-through-the-night routine. Lots of reading, praying, advice-seeking, doctor counsel, and the fact that she NEVER woke up hungry after she fed in the middle of the night led us to believe that she was ready for this. I know each baby is different and needs different things, so I’m not advocating that this is the only way to do it; this just happened to be the right decision and the right timing for us.)

So we did it. On Friday night, we put our little one to sleep at her usual time. And we woke her up to dream feed her as we usually do before we went to bed. But then when she woke up for her 3 AM snack, we let her cry. And it only lasted for eight minutes. Sweet. What’s the big deal? What was everyone else talking about? It was uncomfortable, but not unbearable! We drifted back off into a contented sleep, feeling like the luckiest parents in the world. Until 4 AM. When she started to cry again. Uh-oh, here we go…This bout of crying lasted for quite a bit longer, and was quite a bit more of a pull on our heart strings. Probably the hardest thing we’ve tackled in our three long months of parenting.

No one wants to hear their sweet baby cry. Any loving mother or father would want to rush in and comfort their precious little one, and we were no different. The only thing that keeps a parent strong during this type of training is the belief that teaching their child this skill is for their good – that the short-term discomfort is worth it in order to achieve the long-term goal. (And again, I know there are believers on either side of this issue, but once you make your educated decision that seems best for your family, whatever it may be, you commit to it, and you go with it because it’s what YOU feel is best for your child.) And so we waited. We resisted the temptation to throw in the towel, and we let her cry it out.

So where does the lesson about God come in in this whole issue, you ask? Well, recently I have been praying that God would open my eyes to see more of his character throughout my everyday life. Since I believe this verse in Acts 17, “In him (God) we live and move and have our being,” I believe that God can be found in everything we do (since he’s the one writing the story of our lives anyway!) So I was extremely grateful when a friend of mine helped me to see a parallel between sleep training and God allowing suffering in our lives. Our conversation about sleep training (after I had explained how our first night went) went like this:

Me: The only way I feel good about this is knowing she obviously isn’t hungry…and my doctor telling me it is ok to push her…still hate it though!

Tonya: I know, it must be hard! :(

Me: Yeah, but hopefully will be worth it!

Tonya: Yes, it will get better, and it’s for her good in the end! Must be a pic of how God feels about us sometimes!

Ahha! Thank you, God, for revealing more of your character through this aspect of parenting. Of course that’s how God feels about us! He doesn’t give us trials and suffering because he likes to see us suffer; He does it for our good. He, the creator of life, knows what is best for us, and if that means momentary suffering in order to achieve long-term benefits, He’ll let us suffer. He hears us crying, and it breaks his heart, but He’s strong enough to let us cry in an effort to bring about something better in the end (which is usually a greater appreciation for HIM). And you know what else? Just like we didn’t leave Fairley and were right by her side throughout the whole night, God doesn’t leave us either. He walks through trials and suffering with us, even when we might not realize He’s there.

Here are a few verses that can be encouraging during times of suffering:

  • “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
  • “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
  • “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. ” Psalm 34:19
  • “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Praise be to our God who knows what we need and does all things for our good. What a great Heavenly Father we have!

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

1 John3:1

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