His piercing blue eyes met mine through the dusky glow of the nightlight in the borrowed bedroom.
“But, Mom, what if we don’t ever find a new home?”
After ten years living overseas, we had found ourselves back in the United States, displaced by visa issues for which no end was in sight. Throughout that time, we had always had a place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear. While the housing options were varied and diverse, each one offered special blessings such as time with family and opportunities to explore this land that felt so new and strange to our kids who had grown up overseas. Despite those blessings, to the heart of my youngest child, transition and lack of a home base equaled chaos and uncertainty.
We had done our best to help our children through the process—to help them see how God had so tenderly cared for us. However, after six months of uncertainty, only one question loomed large in my son’s five-year-old heart: What if? What if we don’t find a new home?
His question cut deep—a dagger to this mother’s heart. I knew God often used hardships to hone my own faith and draw me closer to Himself in a new way. However, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I asked God to be real to my children and to help their faith extend beyond Sunday mornings.
Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.” Luke 12:22-23 (NLT)
My mind floated back to that very morning. We had just read together as a family in Luke about Jesus instructing His followers not to worry—not about food, not about clothes, not even about housing. Now God was giving me and my children the opportunity to put it into practice, just a mere twelve hours later. Funny how He’s practical like that.
Few things send a mama to her knees in prayer faster than concern for her child’s spiritual and emotional well-being. I hit my knees and asked the Father to give me wisdom beyond my years to help our children navigate these uncharted waters. I asked Him not to let these challenging months be wasted.
I believe He has given me some insights on how to help our children cultivate a real, deep, meaningful faith when times are tough.
4 Tips to Help Your Children Build Faith in Hard Times
Acknowledge and affirm that it’s hard and it hurts. Nothing stunts a child’s spiritual and emotional development faster than dismissing their initial thoughts and feelings. Simply saying, “I know this is hard, honey. I’m sad and hurting, too,” can go a long way to reassure a child that they’re not alone, and it’s not wrong or sinful to feel the way they do. When you fall and scrape your knee, it hurts. When something scrapes your heart raw, it hurts. And it’s okay to recognize that it hurts. Pain is an unavoidable emotion and we need to be a safe outlet for our children to come to when life hurts.
Help them know this is a season, not the rest of their life. For our family, this tough season has lasted closer to months and years than days or hours. However, we know that eventually the road will smooth out and the raw wounds will heal. Though we may carry the scars, the pain won’t last forever, nor will it be wasted. God uses the pain we walk through to develop deeper faith, hope, and compassion in us. Eventually, He may lead us to use the comfort we receive in times like these to then help others walking through a similar time.
Use examples from Scripture to show what to do when life is difficult and/or painful. I love the example we see of Martha and Mary when Lazarus died. They ran to Jesus and exclaimed, “Lord, you’re late! If you had been here, our brother would not have died!” (my paraphrase). Those women were hurt and grieving. I think it’s safe to say they were also a bit frustrated at the situation. However, the important thing is that they turned to Jesus. He welcomes our questions, confusions, and frustrations. However, He can’t clear them up and help us see the truth buried within them if we don’t first bring them to Him. Showing our children real examples like these will help them see that it’s possible for people to handle heartbreaking or confusing situations with faith without diminishing the difficulty of the situation.
Plan fun times for the family to participate in together. The situation may be dire, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be some levity and family bonding. Allowing joy to bubble to the surface during hard times keeps our eyes on Christ rather than on our circumstances. The possibilities are as vast and varied as your imagination. Some of our favorites have been putt-putt golf, bowling, and going out for a yummy sweet treat. Many times, however, money is tight in these situations and there just isn’t any extra for, well…extras. A family movie night at home with a DVD you already own, a family blanket fort sleep-out in the living room, or even a few rousing games of Uno or Go Fish in a hospital waiting room can do wonders. Kids need the freedom and permission to just be kids. Add to that the fact that laughter truly is a wonderful medicine and bonding agent, and you’ve got a winning recipe for stress relief and breathing room.
Hard times are going to come, we are promised that in the Bible. However, hard times don’t have to mean the stunting of our children’s faith. In fact, tough times can bring about some of the strongest, longest lasting, life-giving spiritual growth. That kind of growth doesn’t happen on its own; it requires compassion, intentionality, and guidance.
It’s not easy, especially when Mom and Dad are hurting, too. It can be difficult to muster the physical and emotional energy required to do the things we’ve been talking about. However, the eternal rewards for your children make it worth every bit of effort.
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Wise words and insight, Jennifer. We went through a total upheaval in our life when our kids were just entering their teen years. We honestly feared derailment of their faith. What we discovered was that God used all of it —the loss, uncertainty, fear, and learning to navigate an unknown path —to build a stronger faith and more courageous outlook in our children. Each of our kids discovered gifts and passions they may not have discovered had we traveled the easy path. They witnessed His provision and faithfulness in tangible ways. What we left behind pales in comparison to the blessings God had waiting for us in the unknown. We needn’t fear seasons of transition: through them our children can learn to anchor their life in Him alone. His grace is sufficient… always. [“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9]