In troubled times, one of the biggest challenges parents face is knowing how to transfer their faith to their children. Because we have learned how challenging life can be, we want our kids to know how to depend on Christ as their Rock, whether it’s on the battlefield of the school playground or on a real battlefield one day across the globe. But how?
Several years ago I read a story about a family who lived a comfortable, peaceful life in a happy community. Unexpected national events in their country changed everything for this mom and dad and their two daughters, 11 and 8.
In the months leading up to the beginning of World War I, life changed dramatically for Elizabeth, 11, and her Armenian family living in Turkey, the land of their ancestors. Raised by parents who followed Christ and taught the truths of Scripture, Elizabeth’s world began to implode in April 1915 when her father was arrested and beaten by Turkish soldiers, who accused him of crimes he did not commit.
He was offered sanctuary if he renounced Christ and gave allegiance to Mohammad, but he refused. After he was arrested a second time, Elizabeth searched for him and found him badly beaten. On her knees, with her face near his, she heard him say, “Never give up Christ no matter how much suffering might come. Christ died for us. We can be as brave in His name.”
That was the last time Elizabeth saw her father. She fled with her mother and sister to another city, where they found work as servants.
‘My own time has come’
Elizabeth’s employers began to pressure her to deny Christ, but her mother told her, “Remember your father’s example.” Then her mother admitted, “My own time for facing that question has come. I was told today that all Armenian adults must acknowledge Mohammed or be exiled.” She began crying and continued, “I cannot give up Christ no matter how much you girls will need me. I cannot give Him up. I know that He will watch over you both.”
The next day her mother was taken away, along with hundreds of other Armenians. Elizabeth and her sister were now orphans.
Can you imagine the pain that Elizabeth’s parents felt when they talked to her for the last time? They desperately wanted to protect her and her sister, to keep them from suffering. But they knew they could not renounce their Savior. So they did the very best thing they could do—they put their daughters in the hands of Jesus. By faith.
God rescued the two girls and kept them safe through the end of the war, and they immigrated to the United States.
Could I trust God?
When I first read this story, all of my children were safely in my nest. I wondered if I had the faith to act as these parents did. Could I trust God to take care of my children if He took me or both Dennis and me to heaven? Did I believe His sovereignty and goodness would be unchanging if He allowed them to go through something harmful or painful?
What most of us face today is nothing like the instability in Turkey a hundred years ago. But the answer is still the same. Jesus Christ is still on His throne, and He can still be trusted to take care of us—no matter what that looks like. That’s what we need to teach our children so they can put their faith in Christ and trust Him in everything.
If our kids are anxious and fearful, they’re probably picking it up from us. And if we want them to be full of faith, they need to pick that up from us, too.
So that’s the question for moms and dads. Do you really believe God is big enough?
Followers of Christ today stand on the same Rock that believers have trusted for over 2,000 years. No matter what is happening in the world, that Rock is Jesus Christ.
Teaching your children
So how do you pass this truth on to your children, so they will rely on this same solid foundation as they grow into adulthood?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was a consistent source of guidance for Dennis and me as we raised our children. It begins with a statement that Jesus later identified as the “greatest commandment”: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This is what you need to teach your children, and it should be a way of life—not something you restrict to Sunday school or family devotions.
God’s Word should be “on your heart”—something that is so central to your existence that you can’t help but talk about it to your children. In the daily circumstances of life, you will find many opportunities to tell your children about God, about His Son Jesus Christ, and about what He did for us.
Point them to Christ
As they grow older, initiate conversations with your children as they encounter the normal troubles kids face in life—difficulties at school, with friends, with unfair adults, with bullies. These are great times to point them to Christ and teach them how to trust God. They will encounter trouble, and if you don’t teach them how to handle it, you’re setting them up for great disappointment.
Give your kids permission to articulate what they’re feeling and experiencing. The family needs to be a safe place to express their fears and disappointments. Those are great moments for you to love them, affirm them, and help them make wise choices. And in times of cultural instability, you can act as a “spiritual commentator” of sorts—talking through current issues and helping them see a biblical perspective.
I think that’s our calling as parents, to model a faith that is authentic and strong and rooted in the Rock, and that’s what our children will notice. We have to remember to model that in what we say and what we do, because our kids are paying attention.
Copyright © 2016 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
In a time of turmoil and instability,
FamilyLife is offering several resources to help you remain UNSHAKEN. A new devotional, “UnShaken: Searching for Stability in a Troubled World,” offers biblical advice to encourage you to focus on God as your foundation. Listen to Dennis and Barbara Rainey in in their FamilyLife Today® series, “UnShaken: He Is the Stability of Our Times.” Also, a new resource from Ever Thine Home® gives you the opportunity to remind yourself and your friends and family that Jesus is our stability (see photo at right).