I think we can all agree that this year has been strange. Covid-19 rushed in with a vengeance and changed life as we knew it. For most of us, nothing is going according to plan, everything feels chaotic and uncertain, and we are having to settle into a new normal that we could never have imagined and most likely do not even want.
Help for Parents Thinking Through Covid-19’s Impact on Schools
As we enter the upcoming school year, things only feel more muddled and confusing. I even homeschool my children, but as a part of a local homeschool community that is dependent on a host church to meet and who follows local school district policies, I have not been unaffected by Covid-19’s threats to the new school year. At the time of this writing, we are exploring every option known to man: delayed starts, virtual classes, splitting up our community into smaller groups, alternative locations outside of our normal facility, and a host of other options. It is enough to make anyone’s head spin, and to be honest, I have been frustrated, confused, and downright angry about this year’s school schedule, or lack thereof. Every time I seem to settle into an idea of what our school year will look like or allow myself to adjust and find a sliver of stability in the new plan, things change. Again. And then again. The Lord simply will not let me find my hope, peace, or comfort in our school year.
Let me be clear: this is not an article about what school decisions you should make for your kids this year. This article also won’t help you to decide between the in-person, virtual, or homeschool options that might be before you or which options are the safest or the best. Rather, this article is about how to be faithful to Christ in all the unknowns, amidst constantly evolving information, and with all the schedule changes and delays that most of us are inevitably facing as we prepare to send our kids off to school.
I reckon that most parents of school-aged children can identify with me when I say that I have felt all the emotions as we enter our school year. I have felt sad at the thought that my middle child’s first year of school will be abnormal as a result of the pandemic. I have felt frustrated each time our start date changes or delays. I’ve been overwhelmed at all the procedures we have to follow in order to stay safe on our community day. I have felt fear as I have considered reintegrating my children back into our homeschool co-op. I’ve spent many days filled with anxiety at the lack of stability and the constant threat of change that our school calendar brings. I’ve felt completely unmotivated to plan or prepare for school because I don’t trust that it will come together, much less well. And in moments of greatest despair, I’ve been tempted to quit our homeschool program altogether and just go rogue so I can ignore Covid’s effects on school and just pretend it’s not happening. Trust me: if there is an emotion for it, I have felt it.
While all of these responses are certainly human, they aren’t the most faithful. The reality is that I can’t change the implications of Covid-19 on the 2020-2021 school year. Things will be different this year. Things are subject to change. None of this is ideal. So rather than throwing my hands up in frustration, vowing to quit, or allowing my days to be filled with anxiety and fear, what does it look like for me to be faithful in the unknowns? And what does it look like for all of us who prepare to send our kids back to school to keep our eyes on Christ instead of the turbulent ever-changing school year before us?
Biblical Help in Uncertain Times
Thankfully we can look to the Scriptures to keep us grounded in such uncertain times. In Philippians 4, Paul reminds us to set our minds on that which is true; in this season where school districts and local officials cannot seem to offer definitive plans, His word and His promises are the only things we can cling to with certainty. Additionally, Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that faithfulness is looking to Jesus as we make our plans, yet keeping them loosely held as we trust that He is the one who will ultimately establish our steps. He hems us in and goes before and behind us. He knows our exact start dates and the safety measures that each school will take. He is not anxious about the school year, which means that we don’t have to be either.
However, God did make us emotional beings, and thankfully He teaches us how to rightly feel them and provides us with truth that guides us through them. As I feel each wave of emotion with every new change to the school year, His word has been a light and an anchor as I strive to move forward with faithfulness. Below is just a few of the verses I am clinging to in this season. I hope that they will help us to faithfully keep our eyes on Christ as we experience the full gamut of emotions concerning the upcoming school year.
When we feel sad that our children’s school year is playing out in less than ideal ways, we can remember that in Christ, we have reason to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) and are called to give thanks in all circumstances, even ones that we do not particularly like (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
When we are tempted to find stability in schedules and protocols, Scripture reminds us that placing our trust in anything other than God will eventually and ultimately fail us. Psalm 20:7 says that some trust in chariots and some in horses (and presumably, some in school districts and some in academic calendars), but we can trust in the name of the Lord our God. He is in the heavens and is in control, reigning perfectly, even as our school districts and local leaders struggle to create perfect back to school scenarios.
When we feel anxious at the ever-changing data and guidelines, we can heed the advice found in Matthew 6 to faithfully keep our minds on Christ today. Scripture warns us not to look too far ahead, and this has proven to be sound advice as I look ahead to a school year that is still one (or two) months away. God will give us the grace that we need as the school year’s plans unfold, but today we can wait and trust in the unknown.
When we feel unmotivated to plan for the school year, believing that all attempts are futile when school might not even reconvene, Scripture encourages us to work hard in preparation for the future. We are encouraged to be like ants who, despite their meager size and unawareness of the world’s ways, still gather, prepare, and store up food so they will be well supplied in times of need. The Proverbs 31 woman, too, does not eat the bread of idleness, but looks to the well-being of her household by storing up food and clothing for the times that scarcity will inevitably come. Regardless of what the school year brings, we can plan ahead by providing the things we need and gearing up for the school year because regardless of what happens, we still know that our kids will be educated, even if the timeline and medium are still unclear.
When moments of despair hit and we just want to throw up our hands and quit school and life altogether, we can recall 2 Corinthians 4:8 which reminds us that despite all of the confusion we might feel as we try to plan for a successful school year, that in Christ we will not be driven to despair. These unknowns cannot crush or destroy us; in fact, the opposite is true because Romans 5:3 tells us that this season is sure to produce endurance, character, and hope in us, and for that, we can rejoice.
Above all, and regardless of how you feel on any given day, we can remember that Jesus alone is our hope and peace. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” While things feel more unstable and out of control than ever right now, the reality is that control is an illusion, and Jesus is our only hope EVER. We can choose to be thankful for Coronavirus because it has stripped us of the illusion of security, health, and control and reminded us that Jesus alone is our sure hope and our firm foundation. He is good to remind us both where our security cannot be found and that He alone is the only true place where our confidence lies. Praise His name for that.