Christopher Chelpka

Mercy and Empowerment

This is entry 2 of the blogchain TBRI.


When my wife comes home with groceries in the car, the kids and I will help her unload them and bring them into the house. Even the littlest ones participate.

And while I like to challenge them—”Do you want to try and carry that milk by yourself?“—I’m careful not to overburden them. I also empower them to fulfill their task. If it’s dark outside, I can turn on a light. If an item is fragile and unusual, I can show them how to hold it. If it’s a large bag of dog food, we can carry it together.

The Bible says that God has compassion on his children in a similar way.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Yahweh shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

TBRI teaches that this principle of mercy + empowerment must undergird the things we ask of kids from hard places. As, I believe, it must undergird all our expectations of others, no matter the kind of relationship (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).

If you owned a trucking company, would you ask a driver to drive if he hadn’t slept for 24 hours? It wouldn’t matter whether the lack of sleep was the driver’s fault or not, you simply wouldn’t require someone to drive who didn’t have the necessary sleep.

Likewise, if a child’s brain is filled with stress hormones—whether you think it should be or not—it’s not right time to have a reasoned discussion about why one shouldn’t flip out over a broken crayon. The driver must sleep before he can drive; the child must calm down before he can reflect.

Getting kids from hard places to do the things they need to do can sometimes feel impossible, and sometimes it is impossible. That’s why getting really good at mercy and empowerment is essential for me.

It has to start with the right attitude. Remembering how merciful God is with me ought to help. And learning more about the effects of trauma is also key. Empowerment is about first knowing what’s going on in a person and then accommodating accordingly, especially according to grace.