New Series: Plot Twist


We all have a storyline for how we think our lives are supposed to go. Maybe for you that story includes Straight A’s, a perfect family, lots of friends. Maybe it’s athletic stardom and college scholarships. Maybe for you it’s just finding someone to date before summer starts. No matter what it looks like, we have a script for how we think middle and high school should play out. And that’s great until things don’t work out like we had hoped. Until there’s a change of plans, a let down, a failure or a disappointment. Moments like that are frustrating and can leave us feeling like our whole story is ruined. The Apostle Paul’s life-story was full of twists and turns like these. Moments where no one knew what would happen or if it would ever be okay again. But through Paul’s response, we discover that our most disappointing moments don’t have to be the end. In fact, they may just be the plot twist that makes our story even better. 


by Dr. Kara Powell

I’ve sat through too many of my kids’ soccer games to count. The community soccer league where we live is called the “American Youth Soccer Organization,” or A.Y.S.O. Many of us now refer to A.Y.S.O. as “All Your Saturdays Occupied.” 

One of my kids likes playing goalie. I think it’s mostly because it means she runs less. Regardless of the reason, those minutes when she’s blocking the other team from scoring are the longest of the game for me. It’s agonizing to think of her being the last line of defense. The fate of her team ends up in her hands. Literally. 

In many ways, I wish I could be a goalie in my kids’ lives, protecting them from the pain and disappointment that comes their way. From the embarrassment of not being asked to the big dance. From the rejection of seeing social media posts for a movie night they weren’t invited to. And from the agony of not being admitted to their top choice college. 

Unfortunately, pain happens. To us, and to our kids. In spite of our best efforts, we can’t stop pain and loss from entering the net of our kids’ experiences. 

But even if we could be a perfect pain-resistance goalie, maybe we should let a little pain into our kids’ lives. After all, loss brings growth. As my friend and colleague at Fuller Seminary, Dr. Scott Cormode, regularly reminds me, “As a parent, I want my kids to never suffer. But I also want them to experience the kind of growth that comes only from suffering.” 

So in the midst of the disappointment our kids will inevitably feel, how can we help our kids not just survive, but thrive? 

  1. We can stand with them. We can be the affirming, constant presence they need when they are shaken, and maybe even knocked down. 
  2. We can apologize for any pain we’ve caused. None of us are perfect. All of us are dysfunctional— it’s just a matter of degree. I’ve found two of the most powerful words I can say to my kids are, “I’m sorry.” If you spend much time in my house or minivan, you will hear me say them a lot. 
  3. We can offer forgiveness quickly. Our kids blow it. All the time. And sometimes they disappoint, lash out, and intentionally hurt us. When (note I said “when” and not “if”) they do, we can offer them three other powerful words: “I forgive you.” 


Think about one area of life where your son or daughter may feel disappointment. Which of the responses mentioned above would be most helpful for him or her? Maybe it’s... 

  • Offering encouragement. 
  • Offering an apology.
  • Offering forgiveness.

Maybe they need all three. 

This week, try putting a reminder on your calendar to make one of these offers to your kid in an area where you know he or she is currently experiencing disappointment.