Uncertainty & Your Children

Posted on October 22, 2008 · Posted in Godward Orientation, Worldview

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? —Luke 12:22-26

 God is our refuge and strength,
       an ever-present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
       and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam
       and the mountains quake with their surging. —Psalm 46:1-3

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." —James 4:13-15

Here is a great comment and question from Michelle.  Her comment is a reminder that your comments and questions are welcomed here at the Shepherd Press Blog. Your input can directly impact the issues we address. So, thank you Michelle for sharing this with us!

Do you have an opinion on sharing with young children some of the uncertainty? I actually am thinking of an uncertain six-month trip to Iraq for my husband. On one hand, I see it as an opportunity to show them how we are learning to wait on the Lord, but on the other, it seems better to wait until we know for sure. But if that's the case, then why share some of the financial uncertainty with our children? (I remember asking a teacher for work one time because I misunderstood our family need, so I'm thinking of that possibility.)

Protecting our children is an unquestioned obligation of being a faithful parent.  However, we must be careful to follow God’s instruction about what to protect them from.  As in any other area of life, “natural inclinations” are not always safe guides in knowing how to protect our children.  Certain things are obvious: hot stoves, busy streets, harsh weather, dangerous terrain, etc.  But, then there is the false notion that children can be protected from every danger and uncertainty of life. That simply is not true. There is too much uncertainty in life, too much which is beyond our control.  Many parents are tempted to worry about all of the things from which we cannot protect our children.  

You cannot protect your children from life itself.  The storms in Matthew 7 come to the wise and the unwise alike.  Until we go to be with Christ, sin and uncertainty will be a part of life.  The question of judgment that Michelle raises fits into this discussion. Do you want children to worry needlessly? Of course not.  But neither do you want to give them the false impression that unexpected, painful things will not happen.  They will.  So, it is possible that attempting to protect children from unnecessary worry can result in giving the false impression that unexpected bad things will never happen.

In Michelle’s comment she raises the issue that her husband may be sent to Iraq for six months.  For young children,  and for Mom, having Dad gone for a long period of time is not pleasant.   Is it helpful to tell her children that Dad may be gone when they are not sure?

The passages listed at the top of the post give three biblical principles which I believe offer some help in answering this question.

The first principle, from Luke 12, is that worry doesn’t help and can lead to a lack of stability.

The second principle, from Psalm 46, is that God’s care is certain. He is a refuge, especially when difficult things happen.  The psalm assumes that hard things will happen and that God is a refuge of strength when they do occur.

The third principle, from James 4, is that we must be conscious that things happen because of God’s will.  We must not be presumptuous to the point of thinking that something will happen just because we plan it.

By putting these three principles together, we have a good response to Michelle’s comment.  Deployment is part of being in the military. Deployment is also under the control and wisdom of God. This is something that young children should be told about their dad’s current employment status. But—and this is the crucial point—regardless of the job Dad has, there is no guarantee that he will be doing the same thing six months from now. Any number of things could happen that would change where Dad is working.
Tell your children what is certain and uncertain in life. The model from James 4 is a good one. If you faithfully tell your children that your plans will happen if God wills them to, you will help them to order their own priorities. In Michelle’s situation, she might say that Lord willing, Dad will be with us next spring.  However, it is possible, because of his job in the military, he might be somewhere else if God wills.   And in reality, this is always the way it is in life.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring for either parent, but God does. While situations are uncertain, God’s care is not.  This is a valuable lesson for young children.

Michelle, let me know if this addresses your concerns. Thanks again for being a valuable reader and commenter to this blog!

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