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Parenting for the Heart in the Midst of Crisis

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America is in the midst of a crisis unlike anything most of us have ever seen in our lifetime. And, as a result, we have an opportunity for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to shine in our homes and throughout our community. While the world buys the panic and fear that coronavirus offers in abundance, the Church, and each family, can instead bring glory to God by reflecting the peace and hope that he gives to his people (Phil. 4:6-7). Throughout this period of uncertainty in our day-to-day lives, we have an opportunity to make decisions that could have a lasting impact on our culture and in our homes.

Parents, it would be a tragedy if, rather than using our time well, we failed to take advantage of this moment to put the Gospel on display for our children. Knowing that the goal of a parent is to make disciples (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4) so that God is glorified, our parenting ought not to aim for their hands (their actions) but rather for their hearts (their motives and desires). What I mean is simply this, we ought not simply enforce right behavior, but instead our hope should be that our children desire right behavior. Their desires are a matter of the heart, and even in the middle of a crisis, we must continue to aim for the heart. Indeed, it is perhaps during a crisis that we can best parent for the heart.

1. Talk About Sin

First, crises naturally lend themselves to conversations about sin. Without sin, our world would be free from sickness (including COVID-19), pain, and death. Sin impacts each one of us on a moment-by-moment basis. Moreover, it has infected every part of who we are, even our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Our hearts, as well as those of our children, are stained by sin. Spend some time talking with your children about first, what sin is (1 John 3:4, Rom. 1:18-32), second, how you as a parent are a sinner, and third, how they are also sinners. Scripture tells us, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Rom. 6:20-21). Sin has consequences, and when those consequences are evident (such as in times of both national and personal crisis), it provokes us to hate sin rightly. Sin stinks!

Just as a quick aside to keep all of us on the same page: we should be quick as parents to point out that we have no way to discern whether or not a particular crisis was caused by a particular sin. As we have recently studied together on Sunday morning, the blind man in John 9 was not born blind because of his own sin or that of his parents. By all means we should make certain our children are aware that if they sin, it does not mean that they are the cause of a global pandemic. However, we should also point out that all problems emerge due to the sin curse we inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12). Our children must have a clear view of sin and its consequences if they are going to understand the need for rescue.

2. Talk About Jesus

Of course, as we parent towards the heart, we want our children to hate sin. The actions of our children will be driven away from that which they hate. On the other hand, and truthfully far more important, the actions of our children will be motivated by a desire for what they love. We want our children to love Jesus, because it is in their love for Jesus that they will want to know Him and to be like Him! We must tell our children about Jesus, both who he is and what he has done. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6b).

After we talk about sin and all of its consequences, we must then explain that only one thing can save us. There is only one way that we can be rescued. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Because we know that sin leads to death, we can understand what a great salvation we have been given through Jesus! Jesus was willing to go through incredible pain and sorrow for your children. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). Make sure your children know how much Jesus loves them and what He was willing to do for them!

3. Talk About Christian Security

In times of crisis, when the world feels as if it will never be the same (and indeed it might not), we can remind our children that God will always be the same. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17). Although the world around us may be changing rapidly, the God who is above us and with us is in control of all things.

Pastor Chris said this Sunday that a low view of God naturally leads to a higher state of fear when we are faced with a crisis. When our hearts are distant from God, it affects the way that we view God. As we parent for the heart and as our children are drawn closer to God, they will naturally trust God more. The fear and anxiety that can emerge during times of crisis will be confronted and conquered by their faith in a God who is in control. As we studied together Wednesday night, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:8-10).

Moreover, not only do we have security in our knowledge that God is always the same and always in control, we can also take comfort in knowing that God is always with us. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6).

4. Pray

Certainly this final portion could go at the top, the bottom, and within each section; all that we do must be covered in prayer, because we can only do what we do by the grace of God. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). I have said it often, but it bears repeating, we cannot save our children. William Smith writes this, “Parenting requires you to invest time and energy without knowing for sure what the outcome will be.”

Use this time of crisis, and any future crisis, to show your children just how truly and deeply dependent you are on God. Help your children to see that you know and understand how limited and incapable you are. Pray in front of them using language that shows dependence. This will model for your children that they too must be dependent on God. They will understand that mom and dad act the way that they do (and parent the way that they do) because they love and depend on God. 

Parents, you have a high calling and a lofty responsibility. You cannot do it alone. However, God is capable of healing the lame and the sick, controlling the wind and the waves, and bringing the dead to life. Lean on God during this crisis and for the rest of your life. Teach your children to do the same.

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