One of my most powerful memories from childhood involves a fear of thunderstorms and lightning. We grew up in the Midwest, where severe summer storms were quite common. I can remember looking for my mom one day in the house, and finding her out in the middle of the garage with the garage door open, gazing at the torrential downpour. The thunder was rolling and louder than I’d ever heard it, and it was getting darker. I yelled for her to come in, afraid in my five year old mind, that lightning would hit her. I began to cry, unsure of why she was just watching and smiling as she looked out at the storm. She turned to see me crying, and motioned to me to come close. As I did, she said with gentle reassurance, “Don’t you see how beautiful this is- all that God has created? You are afraid, but you shouldn’t be. His work is amazing. He is watering the grass, trees, and flowers.”
This was my mother’s reaction to most anything that ever frightened me. If I took a hard fall outside and had scrapes and bruises, she’d say, “No need to worry, God will fix it.” She would put a band-aid on and pray and ask Jesus to “make it all better”. If I was sad because children were unkind to me, she would ask me if I did what was right in the situation and then say, “God will take care of them, and you. You did the right thing. That’s all that matters. You have to trust God with the rest.” When bad times hit our family, I would walk past her room and see her on her knees praying, or sometimes praying and weeping. She’d later pray with me and reassure me that God was taking care of us, even if it was in a way that didn’t make sense to us in the moment. She would encourage me to keep talking to God and bringing all of my questions and desires to Him. When we went through times of grief, she’d reassure me that God was always in control, not to worry, and that He would bring joy and goodness even in the midst of sadness. When someone passed away, she’d tell me about the party the angels were throwing in Heaven as that person arrived to see Jesus.
Her habit was to see God working in all things. She never doubted Him, had an immense sense of gratitude for His provisions, and held tight to His promises. She redirected my fears toward trust and rest, and always helped me find the good in situations that seemed difficult to understand. In fact, I don’t recall a time in my life when my mom said she was worried about anything. And yet, she wasn’t carefree. She cared more than anyone I knew, but she didn’t waste her time on worry. Rather, she trusted in God’s presence, omnipotence, love, and desire for us to know joy and peace in all things.
It is because of what she modeled and taught me, that I can say that I am not a worrier in my adult life. Ultimately, I owe that to God, and to her for believing Him and showing me how to believe in Him also.
Today, as I parent my own children in the midst of our present world crisis, these childhood memories of my mother remind me to teach and model what she taught me growing up:
- God is in control. Things don’t always go the way we plan or anticipate, but God never fails to be in charge. (Psalm 46:1)
- He never fails us. He takes care of us and desires that we know His peace, joy, and presence at all times. (Philippians 4:19)
- He takes our ashes and turns them into beauty. When we are in crisis and feel sad, distraught, anxious, confused, and without the ability to see our way out, God creates beauty in the midst of it all. He sees us, and He provides. (Isaiah 61:3)
- God loves us and He never leaves us. We can think we are far away from Him, and yet He is right with us. We need only to trust Him. (Isaiah 41:10)
- We can ask God anything. He invites us to do so. He may answer in His own way and in His own time, but He always answers. (Matthew 7:7)
So, whether your child is anxious or sad about the current world crisis, or any of life’s situations today, focus on these five things when thinking through your own reactions and what you teach. I can promise you that your children, no matter their ages, will watch your behavior and learn from what you do. The calmness that you show and the peace you demonstrate in the midst of storms won’t be forgotten.