Saturday, August 5, 2017
The Humility of Parenting
October 22, 2009, Juan Sanchez
I have a confession to make. Parenting is the hardest, most humbling task I have to do. If ever I think I have already obtained the goal of the upward call in Christ Jesus, parenting helps me realize how far I have yet to go. While parenting our daughters, my shortcomings are magnified and my sins exposed. However, I want to suggest that parenting can and should be a means of our sanctification. Allow me to share some thoughts on why the humility of parenting is of great benefit to us.
Parenting exposes the progress of our sanctification. Before we ever teach our children the truth of who God is for us in Christ, we will be declaring our faith as we live it out before them. Our children are watching us, noticing our hypocrisies, lies, abuses, speech and conduct. Parenting is so hard and humbling because our family observes us when we respond to the difficulties of life, when we have conflict with our spouse and when we have conflict with one another. It is at home where living in light of the gospel counts the most, but for too many this is where it matters the least. Let us make it a priority to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we may live holy lives before our family. May we as parents provide a picture of the gospel at home.
Parenting helps us better understand and apply the gospel. Unfortunately, much parenting has behavior modification as its ultimate goal. If this is the case with our parenting, we will necessarily be instilling in our children a works-righteousness mentality - “do this, and/or you’ll get this.” I do not mean to imply that we should not hold our children to a biblical standard or that we should not discipline our children when they transgress God’s standard. My point is simply that keeping commandments is not the ultimate goal of parenting. The ultimate aim of parenting is that our children would “set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7) or as Paul says, that our children would become “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15).
A biblical understanding of the gospel takes into account human inability to justify ourselves before a holy God; therefore, we set God’s standard before our children to show them what God requires and to expose their rebellion. Sinfulness and rebellion against God’s standard receives God’s judgment, so when our children transgress against God’s Word, we discipline them accordingly with the purpose that they would understand God’s justice. Throughout our parenting we should continually be displaying God’s unconditional, steadfast, covenant love, grace, mercy and forgiveness so that they would see that while their rebellion deserves punishment, God forgives repentant sinners through the person and work of His own Son, Jesus Christ.
As we parent we should continually point to the greatness of our God and His works. We should share with our children God’s continual faithfulness and present Christ as the one who satisfies all our longings. Oh, may our children have a BIG view of God because we as parents have a BIG view of God. May they see our passion for God’s glory through the exaltation of Christ so that one day they too may confess that Jesus is Lord and their all in all.
4 PRINCIPLES FOR PARENTING IN A WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES
January 12, 2016, Contributors: Trevin Wax
In a recent edition of Comment magazine, James K. A. Smith marvels at the achievement of our educational institutions and the privilege we have in benefiting from so many opportunities to grow and learn. Then, he makes an observation:
"As someone who spends countless hours on airplanes, I never cease to be amazed at the number of professional, college-educated adults who, when presented with a three-hour stretch of downtime, proceed to spend that time playing video games. Our countries invest 5 percent of their GDPs in universal education; teachers invite us into the labyrinths of history and the imaginative worlds of literature; parents make sacrifices for us to attend Christian schools and colleges. And we play Angry Birds. We’re not educated for this, surely."
He goes on to warn his students:
"If I ever see you on a plane playing a video game, I will accost you, and I will be disappointed, and I will forthrightly remind you: you weren’t educated for this. The world needs your (continuing) education, and your soul is starving for it. We are remarkably well-educated dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants who could only dream of what we enjoy. Let’s not squander our inheritance."
With Smith, I'm also disappointed when I see people fail to fully appreciate just what a privilege it is to receive an education, own a library of books, and have access to so many resources in the English language. But I'm afraid this squandering is likely to get worse, not better. The generation coming after us has never known of life without video games, electronic devices, and iPhones with countless apps.
TEACHING YOUR KIDS TO USE TECHNOLOGY WISELY
What can we do as parents to shape the habits of our children?
What can we do to help them make wise choices regarding the time they spend on electronic devices?
Do we ban devices and games? Do we set limits? What is the best way forward?
Many parents wrestle with these questions. I know, because my wife and I have discussed this issue with other couples on many occasions.
Our family has implemented a system that works well for us. I realize our way isn't the only way, so I've asked a few Christian leaders and thinkers to share how they approach this issue. Below are some principles to consider.
1. Instead of banning electronic devices altogether, train your kids to discipline themselves.
The assumption among every family I spoke with is that there is a legitimate place for video games and iPhone apps and other forms of entertainment. Like watching television or listening to the radio, we can enjoy entertainment and leisure time in moderation.
Trillia Newbell, an author friend of mine, explained her family's view:
"We think devices are fine as long as they are monitored and have clear instructions, and restrictions."
In other words, it is better to help your children order their time wisely than to take away the opportunity to show self-control. Never use a device as a babysitter.
Aaron Earls, online editor of Facts and Trends, sees value in using video games for family time. On Friday nights, for example, his family will have a Wii family game night and everyone will play together. Electronic devices, in their proper place, can bring the family together instead of causing everyone to drift to separate rooms with separate screens.
2. Never allow your children to be alone with unfettered access to electronic devices.
Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church and father of six children, confesses that it is difficult to keep up with everything all his kids are doing. But there is one rule his family won't budge on:
"No TV, computers, phones, or tablets in the bedroom. Screens are used in public areas, not in private."
In the Wax home, our kids have limited access to our old, no-longer-in-use iPhones. But we set restrictions on those phones. That way, the kids are unable to unlock the phone, access the Internet, or make purchases. Take advantage of the restrictions settings on phones and tablets.
3. Set the timer.
When our kids play the Wii, they have to set the timer in the kitchen. When they play on our old iPhones, we set the Timer feature to "Stop Playing" so that the game shuts down and the phone locks when the timer goes off. Our rule is 30 minutes a day during the week, and an hour a day during the weekend.
Dan Darling, an author who works at the ERLC, limits his children's screen time to an hour a day, with some give-and-take on holidays, special times, etc.
For Trillia Newbell's family, the timer has been a huge help:
"The kids know exactly what to expect and it helps eliminate confusion. It also gives them something to look forward to. They enjoy their time on devices much more now than before we implemented to timer. They focus on playing because they realize they’ll need to be off for the night/day otherwise."
4. Use electronic devices as motivation for reading.
A few years ago, I asked one of my favorite authors, N. D. Wilson, how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids. He told me that he and his wife allow their kids to stay up at night as long as they want, as long as they are reading. We tried that a few times, but our kids like to go to bed early.
What has helped them develop a love for reading is what we call "reading for time." Our kids have the opportunity to earn more than their 30-minute-a-day allotment of electronics time by matching that time with reading. If they want to play games for 30 more minutes, great! But first, they must read for thirty minutes.
Our kids love this system. They've both taken to reading books they enjoy, and it helps them see electronic time as a privilege, not a right.
Aaron Earls' family does something similar. In 30-minute segments, they can earn additional time on an electronic device. Using this method, his boys have already read classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.
I want my kids to enjoy the Nintendo and the iPhone and the creative worlds of Minecraft. But I also want them to enjoy playing outside, reading good books, and growing up as well-rounded kids. I'm thankful that my parents limited my access to Nintendo when I was growing up, and that's why I can't imagine setting them loose to play devices for hours on end.
The challenge for parents is to be consistent in the principles we put into practice in our homes. Make sure your kids understand why you're setting limits. Discuss why certain games and shows are inappropriate. As Dan Darling says,
"Try to instill in your kids a sense of discernment that will help them when they leave the nest."
That's right. Discernment and self-control, where you can take time for leisure without letting leisure take over your time.
PARENTING DOES NOT CREATE THE CHILD
September 20, 2013, Kevin DeYoung
Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.
It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunch. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated with cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little Vitamin D.
As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are mistaken. It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like. Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”
10 PROMISES FOR PARENTS
July 1, 2014, Contributors: Kevin DeYoung
You probably have a book mark somewhere with promises to pray for your children. You probably have good kid verses on your refrigerator about obedience and kindness and sharing with others. You probably have a few standby verses you share with the little ones when they start to get defiant and lippy. All good.
But do you have any verses for yourself?
My kids need Bible promises, but on most days I need them even more. I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I want them to love.
So here are ten promises from the Bible that every Christian parent should remember, especially the Christian parent writing this blog.
1. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Since the verse refers to trials of various kinds, I assume that James is talking about more than martyrdom and death. Sleepless infants, tortuous bedtimes, muddy feet, spilled orange juice, moody teens–they all count too. And we should count them all joy, even when they feel like the biggest pain. God promises he’s at work to produce steadfastness.
2. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). You’re tired, scared, defeated, weary beyond all reckoning. Good. Get low, and God promises to lift you up.
3. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). It doesn’t depend on me. It’s not about me. My kids are not for me. Stop freaking out. Stop trusting in horses and chariots.
4. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). They are. They really, really, truly, actually are. Whether you have one child or two or ten or twenty, God has given you those children because he loves you. The world thinks they are burdens. God tells us they are blessings.
5. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Yup, that verses is for parents too. The anger in our kids is from their hearts, but the mouthy way they learn to express that anger may be from our example. Why do I think my gasoline will help put out their fires?
6. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). The only way to be a strong parent is to be a parent with self-control.
7. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Parenting is hard work. Period. But parenting up to the expectations of your (fill in the blank: mother, mother-in-law, girlfriends, next door neighbor, own little taskmaster) is impossible. Parent for Christ’s sake. He promises not to weigh you down with impossible burdens.
8. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). God knows that you sacrifice your time, your desires, your sleep, your money, and often your own dreams for your children. He sees and he smiles.
9. “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4). Everything is a mess, all the time. What else did we expect? We have dirty oxen running around. But there’s joy, memories, laughter, sanctification, and gospel growth from those wild animals too.
10. “But he gives more grace” (James 4:6). Ah, sweet grace. Grace to forgive your impatience (again) and your laziness (again). Grace to get you off the ground. Grace to get you walking. And grace to lead you home.
Parenting Is Hard for a Reason
November 8, 2012, Christina Fox
It had been a long and trying day where nothing went the way it should. I must have corrected the kids every five minutes. After refereeing fights and cleaning up messes all day, I was exhausted, irritated, and impatient.
Sitting at the dinner table that evening, it was my oldest son's turn to give thanks. When I heard him say, “And God, could you please help mommy to be patient with us?” I realized I wasn't the only one affected by our difficult day. I was part of the problem.
Before I had children, I considered myself a patient person. Having worked with children professionally, I felt confident in my ability to interact with them. I assumed that working with troubled children would automatically qualify me for parenting. It was soon after I had my first child that I realized just how wrong I was.
When my kids were small, I couldn't understand why things weren't going as they should. I read all the books. I followed each method and step listed on the pages. I did everything I was told to do. But my children didn't always sleep the way the experts said they would. They didn't potty train in a day. I'm not convinced they've learned their manners. And they didn't (and still don't) do what I say the first time.
I couldn't wrap my mind around it all. When parents seek to raise their children in a godly way, how can parenting still be so hard? But If I believe that God is sovereign, then I must believe he is sovereign even over all the challenges I have with my children. If they have a rough day, whine, complain, and don't get along, it is not outside his control.
Refine and Transform
While I used to despair over my children's imperfect sleep patterns, rambunctious behavior, and failure to say please and thank you, I now realize there is a greater purpose—-my refinement. Each struggle, each exhausting day, each behavioral problem, is an opportunity for me to grow in my faith. God uses my children as mirrors to reflect to me the sin I didn't realize resides in my heart. He is in fact using my own kids to refine and transform me.
Parenthood is tilling the soil in my heart, weeding out the sins that keep me from growing in faith. Some of the roots run deep and have entangled themselves around my heart. Before having children, I didn't realize how deeply rooted sins like impatience, selfishness, and irritability grew in the sin-fertilized soil of my heart. It took the challenges of raising children to reveal them to me.
This weeding is sometimes a painful process. Like the tough layers of leathery dragon skin that Aslan pulled from Eustice to restore him back to a boy, the process of seeing my sin and having it rooted out of my heart is painful. Yet it is so necessary.
But even as God reveals my sins of impatience, irritability, and selfishness, he also reveals his grace. When my children are easily distracted and I respond with impatience, not only does the Spirit reveal that sin to me, he also points out to me all the ways God is patient with my own distracted heart. When struggles in parenting reveal my sin of irritability, it also shows me God's endless forbearance. When the weeds of selfishness become apparent in my heart, I also see how selfless Christ was for me at the cross.
Time and again, the gospel of grace covers my sin, bringing me back to the cross of Christ. Jesus knew I could never be a perfect mom. He knew I couldn't respond to my children with love and grace at every moment. He knew I'd have days where I would fail. And that's why he came. At the cross he suffered for every time I am impatient, for every time I fail to teach and train my children, and for every time I don't love them as he loves them.
Hard for a Reason
Parenting is hard. But as I've learned, it is hard for a reason. God is in the process of making all things new, including our hearts. He is pruning, weeding, and tilling the soil in our hearts to make us increasingly like Christ. One day, his work will be complete, and we'll see the breathtaking result of his refining work in us. The weeds will be gone, and our sin will be no more.
That day when I came face to face with my sins at the dinner table, I count it as grace. For it is God's gracious love that desires to rid me of the sins that keep me from him. And after my son prayed, I asked him for grace and forgiveness for my impatience that day. Reminding him that I am sinner just as he is, I used the opportunity to point him to the grace of Christ who bore all our sins on the cross.
May we all embrace the challenges of parenting, knowing that each frustrating moment is an opportunity for growth—-one pulled weed at a time.
Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting
February 1, 2012, Jeremy Pierre
“I love you, but you need to obey.”
Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It's our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” I'd like to take issue, however, with using the conjunction but between these phrases. Using but may be communicating something we don't want to say—namely, that there is some kind of conceptual opposition between “I love you” and “You need to obey.”
You may be dismissing me as a sharp-nosed grammarian at this point, but let me explain why this is important. I grow concerned when I see well-meaning parents who, in an attempt to practice gospel-centered parenting, do not readily insist on obedience because they want to display that their love for the child does not depend on obedience. Unfortunately, parents take on an apologetic air when wills begin to collide. They hesitate to subdue disobedience out of fear of transgressing the unconditional part of love. Insisting on obedience from children feels legalistic or repressive. They fear that they'd slowly stiffen into the hawk-eyed disciplinarians of a bygone era with timorous children arranged silently around the dinner table.
God is not an unreasonable parent. But he is not a permissive one, either. He demands obedience from his children not in order to love them but because he loves them. Consider the relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus' sonship and God's insistence on obedience were not contrary facts. Jesus proved his obedience in suffering (Hebrews 5:1-8) so that “being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (5:9). Jesus' obedience secures God's love for us, and (notice I didn't say but) enables our obedience. Being called to obey is a sign of our adoption. “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7) Discipline for the purpose of obedience is a privilege of being a son or daughter of God. Obedience and sonship are complementary, not oppositional.
The but has to go. Try so instead.
“I love you, so you need to obey.” This conjunction more effectively communicates the logical relationship between the two concepts. It's not a relationship of opposition, but of grounding. The reason you are to obey me is because I already love you. This is how parents can be grace-based while insisting on obedience. We should never communicate even a hint of opposition between parental love and children's obedience.
A necessary part of loving a child is discipline.
You'll often hear the parental advice, “Just make sure your kids know you love them.” Okay. The only ones who would disagree with this are ogres, and they don't exist. But this universally held principle can mean extremely different things. It often means merely making clear to the child your affection for him as you watch him determine his own way in life. This falls short of the complex parental love we're called to.
Rather, we show parental affection in hugs and affirming words as well as discipline and words of warning. Proverbial wisdom equates discipline of children with love for them (Prov. 13:24), hope for their future good (Prov. 19:18), and delight in the parent-child relationship (Prov. 29:17).
So we should also avoid saying things like, “I love you, but I need to discipline you.” We've all said that a thousand times. It's much clearer theologically to say, “I'm disciplining you because I love you.”
Punishing disobedience is not anti-gospel; in fact, it prepares children to understand the gospel.
No one enjoys disciplining a child. Well, no one in his right mind does. Not only does it require us to get up from the recliner, it also makes us sad. We feel like ogres ourselves when we hear the desperate wails of a child undergoing the various sanctions we just placed on them. But think about it this way: Parents are preparing children to know how high-stakes the Day of Judgment will be by giving them low-stakes days of judgment now. You prepare them to understand experientially just how much they should desire mercy from one's judge. It is a part of teaching children that they should obey a Father who judges impartially (1 Peter 1:14-17) but provides a ransom through Christ (1 Peter 1:18-21).
Children should know that disobedience will be confronted quickly and patiently.
My mother always said to her six children: “To delay is to disobey.” And she was right. She knew that God is not an annoyed parent excising obedience from his children with sharp words of disapproval. But he is undaunted in his patient insistence that they submit to his design for human flourishing.
He will not be annoyed, nor will he be ignored. We should be the same. No children should feel the freedom to ignore a parent's direction, nor should they feel like the parent's quickness is motivated by personal annoyance. That may be hard to compute for those raised by angry parents whose rebukes proceeded largely from personal exasperation. But it is possible. Parents must ask for grace to deal patiently with sin, as well as to distinguish the varying degrees of culpability as the child develops. But deal with it they must.
We cannot attain perfect obedience from our children, nor should we want to.
Our children will fail to obey. Our goal is not to produce perfect obedience, but to provide regular demonstration that sin has consequences. The point of discipline is to show need for the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to hone children to the point of not needing it. Not only is that goal of perfection impossible, it also makes for a rigid and performance-based relationship between parent and child. Knowing the frailty of the human heart will allow parents to shepherd patiently with realistic expectations.
Discipline is concerned with behavior as a display of the heart.
We do not wish merely that our children would obey, but that they would want to obey from within. The desire to obey comes from being redeemed by the love of God (1 John 4:17-5:5). So in every confrontation of disobedience and commendation of obedience, a child should be reminded that behavior merely points to the greater issue of the personal need for God's redemptive love.
I've learned from wise parents who reinforce this in two kinds of situations. When punishing their children, they say, “Even though your disobedience makes me sad, I love you just as much now as when you obey me.” And, perhaps more brilliantly, when commending their children for pleasing them, they point out, “Even though your obedience makes me glad, I don't love you more because of it.” What a picture of God's unflappable love for his children.
Maybe along the way we'll learn a thing or two ourselves about responding to the unfaltering love of our own Father with, “I know you love me, so I will obey.”
March 25, 2014, Andrew Shanks
My 5-year-old daughter is fine with scary stories until she has to go to bed. The trouble starts when she is lying under the covers in her darkened room, separated from her parents not only by the admittedly small distance of a few yards and one wall but also by the infinitely vaster distance of imagination. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I can still recall my 11-year-old self, hunkered down with a neighborhood playmate, reading ghost stories (against my parents’ advice) and being certain, in the full light of day, that such ridiculous stories would never affect me. I didn’t sleep for a week.
My daughter, Julienne, is similarly full of confidence during the day and similarly terrified at night. Seemingly innocuous images catalyze this reaction in her 5-year-old mind. Once it was the giant depicted in Mickey and the Beanstalk. We dealt with that one for several nights. Once it was a mildly disturbing character from a children’s magazine, even though that character was clearly intended to come across as impish. There was a dragon from one story or another. The odd witch or two. Julienne has yet to experience such classics as Disney’s Snow White or Cinderella, not because we have anything against those movies, but because we know she won’t be able to handle the villains depicted in them.
When I am called into my daughter’s room to reassure her in her moments of fear, what strategy should I adopt to alleviate my child’s fear in her time of need? When Julienne is afraid of a cartoon giant crushing our house or carrying her away, I can respond by saying something like, “Sweetheart, giants aren’t real: they’re just characters in stories. You don’t need to worry about that. Go back to sleep.” Or when she is concerned about the incendiary ramifications of a passing dragon’s exhalations, I can counter, “Dragons don’t really exist, honey. You don’t need to be afraid of dragons.” This is what many parents do in similar circumstances, and it may often be the best course of action.
But is it always? Is it possible we’re actually doing them a disservice in the long run? Here’s what I mean: The “It’s not real” argument may certainly work when used in reference to a dragon, an ogre, a giant, or a witch. But it will not work when used to combat the real fears of pain, loss, heartbreak, loneliness, betrayal, and sin. So would it be valuable for parents of young children, like myself, to consider an alternative strategy for dealing with our children’s current fears, in the hope that it will translate into habitual practice of handling fear throughout their lives?
Here are two biblical ways we can address our children’s current fears and teach them how to handle the other fears that will inevitably emerge from the shadows later on.
Teach them that God is more fearful than our fears.
One of the most awe-inspiring ways God shows himself in Scripture is in what theologians call storm theophanies (for example, Ex. 13:21; 14:19-21; 19:16-19, 1 Sam. 7:10; 1 Kg. 8:10-11; 18:38, 19:11-12, Job 36:24-38:1; Ps. 18:7-15). Perceiving God in the midst of the storm helps us grasp his power and his majesty. But it also helps us remember the only one who ought to cause us to fear: God himself. As Jesus teaches:
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5)
How does teaching our children to fear God help them handle their other fears? If we prayerfully employ the Scriptures in our efforts, two responses will follow. First, the fear of God will vastly outweigh other, lesser concerns. And second, the fear of God will give birth to confidence in God. This is what we see happening in the life of David in Psalm 18. After reflecting on the terrifying magnificence of God in verses 7-15, he is led to announce his own salvation by God in verses 16-19.
Teaching our children to tremble before the Lord is a task we must embrace all the time, not just in moments of darkness-inspired fear.
Teach them that God will protect us from what is most fearful.
The second lesson we must instill in our children is the liberating truth that God will protect us from what is most fearful. The challenge here is to find the balance in emphasis between the reassurance that God will protect us and the clarification that God’s protection might include real pain and suffering. Another way of expressing this idea is to say that while God has never promised us that we won’t be cast into the furnace, he has shown us that we won’t go through it alone (see Isa. 43:1-2).
When Julienne calls me into her room out of fear of dragons or giants, I try to remind her of these things. I tell her that God loves her and is more to be feared than any monster. I tell her that Jesus died for her and that even if something bad were to happen, it would only mean that she would be with him that much sooner. I tell her that, while I’m pretty sure all the giants died off a long time ago and that I’ve never seen a dragon in these parts, if one or the other does show up, she can trust me to fight it off for her.
I tell her these things because I know the dragons and giants will morph into their real-life counterparts: the all-consuming destruction of self-love and the brutal ugliness of sin. And when the day of that battle arrives, she needs a sharper sword in her hand than my whispered delusion, “They’re not real.” Such a dull blade will never penetrate dragon scales or giant’s hide. But the monster has yet to be spawned that can withstand the fury of the protective love of the heavenly Father.
These are the truths that calm the night terrors of 5-year-olds in my house. Indeed, these are the truths that calm my own.