Being your child’s spiritual sensei in the Christian life can be daunting. There are days when you’re sharp, and others (more often) when the feeling that you’re a hack overtakes you. But here’s a nugget of good news–Sometimes, you can see tough days barrelling toward you. When there’s something major in the news, like Hurricane Harvey right now, it can be really, really hard to know how to field questions or worries your kids have. There’s one skill, one single skill, that’s going to help you. It works in difficult times, in great times, and in neutral times. The one skill every Rabbi mom should have is being able to take your child down this road: “What is God doing in this?”
The one skill every Rabbi mom should have is being able to take your child down this road:
“What is God doing in this?”
It’s super simple, and the more you talk about things in this context, the better you’ll get at it. And the more your child will start to see things that way, too. Let’s look at a few very different examples.
Let’s say your child isn’t getting along with another child at school. Whether your child is handling it badly, or handling it well, the question stands. What is God doing in this? If your child isn’t handling it well, talk about how God is using this conflict to teach your child about himself. Bring that into focus. Your child will learn that when she starts to do things more God’s way, the conflict will change. Great lesson.
If your child is handling it well, but the other kid isn’t, God may be using it to work on the other child because He trusts your child to do the right thing. Or He may be using it to teach your child a hard reality about the world–It isn’t always fair, and people aren’t always so nice. What do you do? You keep doing the right thing and learn about patience and grace. And maybe boundaries.
Let’s say there’s a divorce in your extended family. Even if it’s not God’s will for that couple to divorce, you and your child can think about what God is doing in it. What a great time to teach that God continues to work in people’s lives even when they make decisions outside of His will (thank goodness!) He may be teaching one of them about relying more on Him, or about the pain of stepping outside His will, or about putting differences aside for the good of the kids, or any number of things. And chances are, you’re not going to know all of it because it’s not your business to know all of it! But to the extent that your child is troubled, there’s room for discussion.
(Unless your child is old enough to know what’s going on on the divorce, don’t use it as a teachable moment, though. Also, be careful that these types of conversations are godly in nature, and don’t make their way into “judgey”.)
Major Life Decisions
Let’s say your child is in his senior year of high school and choosing a college. Where is God in that decision? What is He doing in that process? He’s probably forcing your child to examine his heart to see what’s important, and how to make wise decisions. Party school, or top-notch engineering program? Competitive football team, or vibrant Christian student culture? This kind of decision-making is real-world practice in making major life decisions in the light of the Lord.
It’s not the time to go to College A just because that’s where your girlfriend is going. It’s time to be a grown-up. A wise one. Rabbi mom, considering “What is God doing in this?” is going to give your teen the chance to weigh choices according to godly wisdom. And once the decision is made, guess what question comes next. Yup, “What’s God doing in this?” It works throughout college and beyond.
So now let’s look at how this might go with something like Hurricane Harvey (or any other natural disaster, or terrorist event, or racial upheaval, or anything else in the news). We’ll save how to address the “If God is so good, why does He allow things like this to happen?” question for another post. But there’s a lot of great discussion waiting to happen when you look around to see what God is doing with the hurricane. I personally know of a family who is taking a hard look at what matters and what doesn’t. When you have two hours to pack up whatever you want to rescue, knowing you may never see the rest of it again, you’ll make some quick, important decisions about what matters. And you’ll realize that the things you can shove into a suitcase are important, but the people you drive safely away with are what really matter. And you know for sure that God’s loving presence is not just important, it’s indispensable.
What else is God doing? He’s moving His people to action, to minister to those devastated and in need. Maybe that’s where news headlines get personal. God may be calling on your family to minister in some way.
He’s also opening wide the doors of His churches to meet needs and provide comfort. He’s bringing hope in a hopeless situation to a whole lot of people who wouldn’t take a second look at Him without a crisis like this.
God doesn’t delight in catastrophe, but He sure shows up in it.
And Don’t Forget…
Whatever you do, don’t forget to do this in good times, too. God doesn’t just work in hardship, He works in everything. When something great happens, like Dad finds a job, Mom finally gets pregnant again, a cousin gets a full scholarship, or a sibling is called to the mission field, take a minute to ask, “What is God doing in this?” He’s going to reveal different parts of Himself than in hard times. Your child will see that God is showing off, and that is thrilling! He shows his provision, His healing, His better plan, etc. It’s way too easy to take our focus off of God when things are good, so train your child to look for Him at all times, in all situations.
Once you start seeing things in light of what God is up to, start praying for God to reveal that to you. If you’re going through a trial and you want to know what God is doing in it, pray for Him to show you what it is so you don’t miss it! This is absolutely something you can do hand-in-hand with your child in her trials, too.
Your homework is this: Find one thing today for you personally to think about what God is doing in it. Tomorrow, do the same thing but think of something you can start a conversation with your child about. And seriously, it works for small things, big things, temporary things, permanent things. I would LOVE to hear how this goes, so please come back and share with us!