Parenting in 2020: Everything and Nothing Has Changed
Somewhere in the last decade of my life, I have lost my tolerance for suspense. About the time I finish the second chapter of a book, I will not-so-casually flip to the final pages of the book to see how the story ends. Furthermore, I’ve been known to look up the Wikipedia synopsis of a movie before actually going to see the movie. If I don’t like what I read, I won’t waste the time or spend the money. The ending does not by any means have to be a happy one, but I like to know what I am getting into and adjust my expectations accordingly.
And here we are, smack in the middle of 2020, the Year of Nasty Surprises.
Frankly, I have more than a little trepidation about what’s coming in the months ahead, as do my kids – as do we all. None of us knows what to expect. But what we also have, as parents, is a golden opportunity to take God at His Word in full view of our kids, such that we show them how a Christian behaves when the sky truly appears to be falling. The vulnerability we all feel right now can actually be a nice foot in the door to talk with an otherwise tight-lipped teenager.
As a way to get the conversation started, share what you’re concerned about. You can talk about income loss and health issues and the turmoil that you’re sensing in the world around us in an age-appropriate way. Your kids won’t trust you if they sense your stress – and they do – yet you go around acting like you trust Jesus so completely that you haven’t a care in the world. Besides, you don’t want them thinking that trusting Jesus means pretending difficult circumstances aren’t difficult.
Sharing your concerns actually teaches your kids what it looks like to trust the Lord. Trusting God means we are not destroyed by our anxieties, but it doesn’t mean we are impervious to the chaos around us.
Find out what they’re most concerned about. In times like these, we can discern something about what’s most important to our kids. Whatever feels most threatened likely reveals what’s most important. You might find that your child is extremely worried about the health of a beloved grandparent or the prospect of having to do school online again. They might also be worried that everyone is hanging out without them, or that social distancing dooms their chance to date in high school. Remember that nothing they tell you is trivial or insignificant. You may be stressed about paying the mortgage, but you may also be fretting a little about covering the gray in your hair. Give them the same grace you need and take their concerns seriously.
Pray together, out loud. Be honest, forthright, and open with God as you pray. Use the language of groaning and lament. Tell Him that you don’t understand what is happening, or why. Tell Him that you trust Him anyway, that You know He is good, that for every uncertain day there are brand-new mercies. Ask Him for wisdom for specific needs and thank Him for Jesus.
Invite your child to pray too. Remind them that the name that God gave His people, Israel, means “he who wrestles with God.” God’s people have always wrestled with Him in prayer. We fight to believe; we ask Him to teach us to trust. We wield the sword of Scripture against our fears, not because those fears are not real, but because His Word overcomes them.
Listen to music that reinforces faith and trust. You have your favorites; here are some others that will help you communicate. Sing the words out loud. You need to hear them too. God’s Word encourages us to worship in all circumstances, not only because He is worthy of our adoration, but because praising Him strengthens us.
Get specific about the Gospel and what it means right now. We are all so focused on current events that we forget the good news of Jesus is more real, true, and relevant than anything we learn on Twitter. Sin has rendered our hearts and minds like sieves; what we know about Christ can slip through so easily, especially when we are flooded with challenging circumstances. But because of the Gospel, here’s what we know: sin will not win. Disease will not win. Injustice will not win. Jesus told us (because He foreknew these things) that life would be hard and there would be much turmoil before His return. He also promised us He would never forsake us, and that His life, death, and resurrection would secure a forever victory against all evil on our behalf. Teach these things diligently to your children, and … talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Remind your kids about all of the things that have NOT changed and will not change. Namely, the character of God has not changed, and His purposes will not be frustrated.
In the aftermath of her husband’s shocking murder by the tribesmen they were serving, missionary Elisabeth Elliott struggled to know what God wanted her to do next. She prayed that He would give her “marching orders,” remembering a time when her father was overwhelmed by his unexpected new responsibility as editor of a family-owned Christian magazine. In the midst of his panic, he was comforted by the words of his own father, who said, “we are still under the same Auspices.” The mission and intent of the magazine had not changed, nor had Elliott’s God-given call to serve as a missionary in spite of her husband’s death.
As Christian parents in 2020, we too remain under the same auspices, still under the protection and direction of our loving Father. No matter what surprises are in store for us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is our Rock, solid ground beneath our feet for eternity. No force of hell can snatch us from His hand or separate us from God’s love for us in Christ (John 10:28, Romans 8:39). Because these things are true, nothing fundamental has changed. Our “marching orders” remain: we are to love our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We collect our daily manna from His word and once we are fortified, we follow His lead in loving our neighbors and discipling our children.
When we live convinced of the sovereign strength and lovingkindness of our good God, our homes become havens for our kids, filled with the peace of Christ. No matter what happens with the start of school, or with fall sports, or even with our jobs or our health, we can trust God with every outcome. We have read the final pages of the Book, and it exceeds our wildest expectations:
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3-5).
These words are trustworthy and true.