Renewing Your Faith in a Pandemic

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As our national quarantine enters its sixth week, most of us have settled into a routine of sorts. We find ourselves working from home and homeschooling our kids at the same time. Some of us have arranged quarantine birthday parties with party guests driving by and delivering their well wishes. We may have learned a new skill such as bread baking or setting up Zoom meetings. We’ve worshipped in pajamas with bed heads and fuzzy slippers. Even though the uncertainty is palpable, there is a sense that God is working to bring good to his faithful followers.

And yet questions remain. On the very edge of every routine occurrence that calms us and reassures us that things will return to normal, a recurring theme emerges: fear of the unknown.

What if this doesn’t end sooner rather than later? What if I can’t get my job back or we lose our business or our house? What if someone I love gets the virus and doesn’t recover?

I have a confession: I frequently worry about how I will respond in a crisis. I know the things I profess to believe – that God will work for good for those who believe in him, that the God who cares and provides for the birds will care and provide for me. The problem is these truths are much easier to believe when things are going well. When a global pandemic strikes, well, even the most spiritually mature can have a moment of panic or doubt.

And for parents, we bear the additional burden of knowing that our kids are looking to us for an example of how to respond. My dad had a favorite saying that was usually delivered with a wink and a smile: Don’t do as I do, do as I say. My sisters and I knew he was teasing, but that phrase reveals an uncomfortable truth about parenting that can leave us feeling a bit guilty. It’s much easier to tell someone how to respond than it is to model the correct response. Words of reassurance come easy; acting confident in those words can be much more difficult.

In these unprecedented days of fear and sickness and economic trouble we desperately want to reassure our kids of God’s love and provision, but that can be difficult to do when we sometimes struggle to believe it ourselves.  

That doesn’t make us bad parents, by the way. It just makes us human. And because we’re human, we are also sinful.

As Christ-following parents we understand that difficulties present opportunities for tremendous growth and maturity for our kids. But we’ve never experienced anything quite like this before., and there aren’t many examples that are specific to these circumstances. We might be floundering a bit in our own faith. But we know this: God has promised to take care of us. Here are four reminders to help us when we struggle to lead our kids because of our own fears:

  1. God’s love is unconditional. When I feel doubts and insecurities about current events begin to overwhelm me, the first thing I try to remember is that God loves me in spite of those doubts. I do not have to prove that I am worthy of God’s love, which is a very good thing – there is no way I ever could. Jesus’s death on the cross and his resurrection made me worthy through God’s grace. If I believe in Jesus as my savior, I am counted as a child of God, with all the benefits that come to a child and an heir.
  2. God promises to increase our faith. With God’s love assured, I am free to pour out my worries. God knows them anyway, but in confessing and seeking God’s wisdom, I become more aware of areas in my life where my own faith needs shoring up. I feel such a kinship with the father of the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9:24 who comes to Jesus believing he can heal his son. “I do believe; Help my unbelief!” he says. This father realizes that the only one who can address his unbelief is Jesus. He doesn’t pretend that his faith in Jesus is complete, but he possesses enough to understand that he wants more and must ask for it. We must come to God like the father of that sick boy and ask for the gift of faith he has generously promised to give out of his grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  3. Small demonstrations of faith strengthen and prepare us for uncertainty. After remembering God’s unconditional love for me and confessing my unbelief, I can move forward in the faith I have been given. During difficult and uncertain times like the ones we are experiencing now, moving forward in faith might mean just putting one foot in front of the other and taking things one moment at a time. But baby steps are still forward movement, and each small act of faith strengthens us and gives us confidence in God’s goodness. Right now that might mean live streaming a worship service with your teens, or planting a small garden. It might mean reaching out to friends or family members with whom you’ve lost touch. Perhaps it means finishing that book that’s been on your nightstand for a while instead of turning on the news. Life is lived mostly in the small moments: if you fill your life with many small moments of faithful living, you create a foundation that becomes stronger over time.
  4. Faithful waiting develops endurance. Finally, having confessed our doubts and having asked for more faith, we must wait as we move forward each moment of every day with small gestures of trust in the goodness of our Father. Waiting is hard for us. We have become accustomed to instantaneous answers as quick as a Google search, and uncertainty leaves us feeling exposed and fearful. But the Bible clearly teaches that waiting is and always has been an important element of deep faith. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, a promise that seemed inconceivable to them in their old age. Sarah’s doubts were such that she laughed at the very idea. How could an elderly woman who had spent her entire life wanting a child believe that God would allow her to give birth when she was too old physically to do so? But God was both gracious and emphatic in His response, saying “Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14) Waiting for what seemed impossible surely produced moments of doubt for Abraham and Sarah, but they made the decision to trust God and wait – taking each moment of every day to do those things that indicated their belief that God would do what He promised. The life of faith is literally a life of waiting. The ancient Israelites waited for their deliverer in Jesus Christ; now we as Christians wait for the day God has promised when Jesus returns and sin and death are forever banished and the world is made whole and just and new.

This pandemic has rocked our world, literally and figuratively. There are many questions and few answers at this point. In the midst of this confusion and worry we must take seriously our responsibility to reassure our kids through this time. But we mustn’t neglect our own feelings of uncertainty. Only by being honest about our own fears and unbelief and asking God to increase our faith can we parent with hope and confidence during this time. Then we can move forward, one step at a time, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who has promised never to leave us alone. With faith, we will one day look back and be grateful and amazed at how God’s trustworthiness and love allowed us to endure as He led us through.

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