“How has the pandemic affected your kids?” I asked this question to a mom of three children. Right away she listed some of the meaningful activities her kids have lost: play dates with friends; music lessons; in-classroom school; sports practice; youth group; ‘normal’ church services; story time at the library and Friday dinner at their favorite restaurant.
After a pause, she reflected, “That’s just the surface. What’s more important they really miss grandparent hugs. No more weekend visits and birthday celebrations with special people. We’ve lost our daily rhythm. We used to pray together and read Scripture at dinner. Now snacking takes the place of mealtime. Our house stays messy—and we do too! Whining. Arguing. Nightmares. Crying. Clinging.”
Disruption is hard! What parent can say they are not battling discouragement? Where is God in all of this? Will life ever feel normal again? How can we give our kids hope when we’re struggling ourselves? Consider this—hardship is God’s fuel to reignite His children’s love for Him (Romans 5:1-5). Here are three truths to hold on to as you prepare your family for all God desires.
Hardship drives us to cry out to God
Our world expects parents to teach their kids to look on the bright side. But what happens when the bright side is hard to find? God doesn’t ask us to pretend that things are good when they are bad. Instead, God calls us to cry out to Him (Psalm 34:6; 42 and 43). The psalmist says, “Pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). Let your kids hear you talk to God about your fears, sadness and discouragement. They may begin to see the connection between our troubles and our need to depend on God.
Prayers of lament are not the “feel good” prayers we may think our kids need to hear. Reminders of sin, illness and death may make us feel uncomfortable. But we don’t have to pretend all is well. God, in His Word and by His Spirit, is with us in life’s hardships. He invites us and our kids to ask hard questions. Why does God allow bad things to happen? Why do people get sick and die? Why is there so much sadness and suffering in the world? Hard questions lead our kids to the solid hope they need.
As Easter approaches follow Jesus on His road to the cross by reading the gospel of Luke with your family. Get ready—your kids may hit you with more questions. Jesus had done nothing wrong, why did bad people accuse Him? Why did they call Jesus names and beat Him? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? For the first time your child may realize that sin is not just the bad things we do. Sin is in our hearts.
Godly grief for sin hurts but brings huge blessings. Is your child asking good questions about the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus? Do you detect a sadness in their ongoing battle with sin? Let your child know God can give them a new heart that wants to do right. When they cry out to God, He will change them from the inside out! “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Hardship prompts us to watch for God
Easter tells us that hardship has purpose. Even when we do not understand what God is doing, we know He is true to His Word. We know our bright future is not just wishful thinking because God sent His Son to die on the cross for us, “He who did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Now, from the hardships in our life, we have new eyes to watch for the goodness God promises.
As your family reads the Scripture together, teach your kids to watch for God—His Person and promises. Open God’s Word and show your family what it means to look for God’s bigger purpose. Hardship is not a bully to avoid. Within it hides a blessing. Look for the blessing to embrace. Our loving heavenly Father is at work, making us more like His Son, Jesus.
Hardship teaches us to hope in God
Our children hope for many things that may or may not happen. But there’s no maybe about hope in God. Hope in God means we are certain His word is true. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and open the way for us to be God’s children. He rose to life winning over sin and death forever. Now God’s children know that they too will be raised to new life after they die (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). We know Jesus will return (Luke 22:16,18,19). God gives us hope to live in the hardship as we remember that all His promises are for us (2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Peter 1:13).
Easter is our time to look to the cross of Christ and His resurrection to refresh our hope in God.
When hardship wears us out, His hope is our fuel to run the race before us (Isaiah 40:31). When hardship discourages us His hope anchors our soul (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). One day He will come for us and we will live with Him in His kingdom without sin (1 John 3:1-3). He will wipe away every secret tear and we will only have joy perfectly forever (Revelation 21:3-4; 22:5).
One day the crisis of the pandemic will be over. What lessons from this hardship are worth remembering? The mom I spoke with ended by saying, “Crazy busy was how I described the frantic pace of family activity before social distancing! Although none of our activities were bad, there was never enough time for more important things. Maybe this abrupt change will allow us to step back and re-order our family’s priorities.” Hardship is never our first choice! But God’s children can trust that we are safe in His care. Hardship is not an accident. Hardship is God’s fuel to reignite His children’s love for Him (Romans 5:1-5). Let this Easter be a time for your family to discover true happiness through faith in Jesus Christ.
Barbara Reaoch, author of A Better Than Anything Christmas (available October 19, 2020) is the former Director of the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship International. They now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attend Bethlehem Baptist Church. You can connect with her at www.barbarareaoch.com.