By Anna Kettle, Crosswalk.com
As a parent, it’s been hard to miss the heated discussions taking place over recent weeks about whether or not children should return to school in the fall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Most schools have already set out plans for how they intend to keep children safe when they return, and now parents everywhere are left with difficult decisions about what course to take.
Some families are choosing to home school for the very first time or exploring online learning options, whilst others feel keener to return to a more ‘normal’ routine. Still, many other families don’t have the luxury of choice at all. But with so many different options and conflicting opinions to consider, many parents and carers are understandably feeling uneasy.
Everyone wants the best for their kids, and let’s face it, there’s really no ideal ‘scenario’ here. In an ideal world everyone would be vaccinated before returning to work or school. However, since that reality is still a way off, parents are left weighing up the ‘least bad’ option instead—and there’s so many different factors to consider.
What if we are lifting the stay-at-home orders too soon? What if someone in my household is considered high risk? What if I send my children back to school and then someone I love gets sick? And what about the longer term effect’s on my children’s social and emotional development?
For many families, there are more practical challenges too. What if both parents are essential workers, or have to work outside of the home? What about the parents of children with additional needs, or single-parents who are struggling to cope with the load?
When so many unanswered questions hang in the air, it can really start to steal away your peace.
But what if there is no perfectly right answer, and no perfectly wrong one either?
There is simply no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to family life, and you have already been equipped with everything you need to make the best decision for your own unique family situation.
Here is some biblical wisdom to help you find God’s peace as you make necessary decisions:
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1. Turn Down the External Noise
Just as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ so I have found that it tends to be much easier to hear God speaking to me in the quieter moments when I create space to really listen, much more than in the noise of other people’s endless fretting or the buzzing of my devices.
Of course, it’s not a bad thing to ask a few trusted friends for advice, but it’s very easy to become overloaded by lots of unhelpful conflicting views and opinions—particularly on social media. So why not stop reading the debates between different moms on the school’s group message, and stop trawling all of those Facebook discussion threads for a while? Instead, try being still in God’s presence for a while and see what He wants to say to you about the situation.
2. Ask God for His Wisdom
I can’t help wondering if the sheer amount of information and self-help advice that we have instant access to these days is actually making us more indecisive. For every argument you can find online, there’s also a good counter-argument just one click away.
What’s more, I think it’s possible all of the knowledge and information we now have access to is actually making us slower to pray and to ask God for His help. I’m not saying that there isn’t useful advice to be found through Google, Alexa, or Siri, or that you shouldn’t do any research around a subject either. But sometimes we make things so complicated for ourselves, don’t we?
James 1:5 simply says that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault,” so let’s aim to make God’s wisdom our first point of call– instead of our last resort!
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3. Remember Who Your Children Belong To
As parents I think part of the stress we feel when faced with big decisions also comes from believing that the wellbeing of our children is solely our responsibility. It’s so easy to forget that although we have been entrusted with their care for a season of life, they really belong to God. But I find that whenever I remember who my Father God is, and how much he cares about me and about my family, I can begin to relax into His promises and trust Him with the future.
Matthew 7:11 reminds us of this: ‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’
The truth is that God is our children’s heavenly Father, and how much more perfectly does He love them than we ever can as human parents? How much more thoroughly does He provide for them? And how much more fiercely does He protect them, and give them good things?
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4. Pray, Don't Worry
I think it can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we have given all of our worries over to God, when in reality we just keep picking them back up again after we finish praying, and carry on trying to control the situation ourselves.
Sometimes we can even end up “prayer-worrying”—that is bringing the same anxious thoughts to God over and over again. Of course there is a place for perseverance in our prayer lives, but God doesn’t ask us to lay the same burdens down over and over when we come to Him. He asks us to give our worries over to Him fully and to leave them with Him.
This is a hard thing to learn if you tend to be a bit of a control freak like me! So my advice is to pray about the situation, but do it very intentionally. Give your worries over to Him fully, and refuse to pick them back up again.
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5. Get Some Fresh Perspective
When we are constantly being bombarded by voices of fear through news reporting, and on social media, and even in conversations with family and friends—it’s hardly surprising that we might feel anxious. That’s why it’s so important to read God’s word. When we read His truth, it helps us to keep the size of our problems in perspective, and lends us his fresh perspective.
I’m not saying that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t serious because obviously it is, but it’s just that all of our worrying, obsessing and stressing rarely change a situation for the better. Maybe that’s why the psalmist David calls us to ‘magnify the Lord’ in Psalm 34:3.
To magnify God literally means to make Him larger and give Him more of a focus in our lives—and it’s one of the greatest anxiety-busters I have ever found. Because whenever I decide to re-focus my perspective on who my God is rather than the size of my problems, they immediately feel smaller and less scary.
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6. Accept What Is Beyond Your Control
Most us like to believe we’re in control of every aspect of our lives, but Proverbs 16:9 says that we’re not: ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their step.’ Sometimes unexpected things come along to disrupt all of our plans, and when it does it can leave us feeling horribly out of control.
At times like this, it feels like we need a periscope that allows us to see what’s around the next corner and help us second-guess all of our decisions. But actually, what we have is far better! We have a God who is in control of all things, and who we can trust without fail.
This pandemic may have been a surprise to us, but nothing about 2020 is a surprise to our God. Isn’t that reassuring to know? So when we are faced with situations that we can’t control, let’s remember who is in control, and let’s determine to trust in Him alone.
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7. Stop Wavering
In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah poses the following question to the Israelites ‘How long will you waver between two opinions?’ But I also find it so easy to become paralyzed by indecision when I’m worried about making the wrong choice—especially in situations like this, where there’s no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’
Maybe we need to start by taking some pressure off the decision-making process, and realize that God doesn’t need us to get everything right. He only expects us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given, and to make the best decisions we can based on the information we have.
I find it also helps to remember that difficult decisions are opportunities for learning and growth, and maybe God is more interested in our growth than in us always being ‘right.’ Besides, if we genuinely believe that He is loving, gracious and good to us, then surely we can trust Him to cover any of our poor judgements and mistakes in the times we get things wrong?
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8. Accept His Peace
Isn’t it interesting that of all the things that Jesus could have left the disciples with on this earth before he ascended to heaven was his peace? ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27).
I mean, He could have mentioned leaving them with his love, power or any number of other things, but He knew that what they would need most at his parting from this earth is His peace—and I believe this is still the case for us as his followers today.
But God’s peace isn’t like the peace the world offers us—it isn’t just based on our feelings or circumstances. The peace we can know from Him is unshakeable because it is based on who He is and what he has already done for us.
So try to take some time to remember that God is for you and your family—and that means you relax and know his peace—even in the midst of hard things.