By Dr. Josh Mulvihill
Hope is one of my favorite words. Hope is the promise of a great future. It is the confident expectation that all things will work out for us. Hope is full assurance in a certain future. Right now, it is easy to lose hope because the future appears uncertain, and the outcome of the next few months is unknown.
I’ve had numerous people reach out to me and state, “I’m scared” or “I’m surprised I’ve been so anxious.” If we are honest, most of us have had moments of worry. Most of us face uncertainty in some form right now. We all have something to lose, such as health, home, finances, or a job. I’ve joked that my 401k is now a 201k. It can be hard to have hope when the rhythm and routine of our days have been interrupted, and the future looks dark.
Let us remember that we have an enemy that wants to steal our hope, but God assures us in His Word that we have a great future. Christians are to be hopeful people because we trust in a good God. Our hope should radiate the brightest when the world is the darkest, and the most important place this needs to happen is in your home. Hope manifests itself as joy (Rom 12:12), love (Col 1:4-5), boldness (2 Cor 3:12), and perseverance (2 Thess 1:3). 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says that the foundation of our confident hope is the grace of God: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
Right now, all of us want comfort for our hearts. I encourage you to take a moment of self-reflection and ask yourself this question: Where am I looking for comfort and hope? For many of us, we are looking to the wrong source. Psalm 42:5 is clear: “Hope in God!” This is the most important thing your child needs to hear during a pandemic, or for that matter, at any time. Everything may not turn out exactly how we envision, and we may face temporary trials, but we can have unshakable confidence in a great future because we have a good God.
A Word About Fear
Anxiety and fear are the results of trusting in self or others. Fear is born out of a desire to control the future. We cannot control the future, and that’s why we become anxious. The Bible lists many causes of fear, which are future-oriented. They are things we cannot control, such as dread of disaster (Prov 1:33), death (Heb 2:15), physical attack (Gen 32:11), natural disasters (Ps 46:2-3), and evil (Ps 23:4). Take time to read and discuss these passages with your child. Ask them if any of these examples are causes of fear in their heart.
Remind your children of the great truth of Isaiah 41:10, which states, “Do not fear.” This is a bold, strong command. There are no conditions that make fear acceptable, other than in God alone. It is important to note that if God commands us not to fear, then the presence of fear in our hearts is sin. If we have been fearful during the pandemic, let us confess this sin to God. Why is it a sin to fear? Fear is the manifestation of unbelief in God. Will God keep His promises? Is God trustworthy? Is God good and gracious? The answer to all these questions is YES!
The biblical answer for fear is trust in God. As a family, open up God’s Word and read God’s solution for fear in these passages: Proverbs 29:25 (trust in God), Psalm 56:4 (trust God), Isaiah 26:3 (focus on God), Psalm 112:1, 7-8 (fear God), Proverbs 3:21-24 (wisdom and obedience), Philippians 4:7-8 (prayer), and Psalm 55:5-8 (take shelter in God).
Praying as a Family
Prayer is a form of trust. In prayer, we admit we are dependent upon God, and we seek His care and His help. The best thing you can do with your family at this time is to pray. During difficult times regular family prayer reorients our focus, reveals our dependence upon God, and reduces our fears. Prayer may not feel remarkable, but it is God’s answer in times of need. Philippians reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer is not an extra but an essential habit for our home. Our excuses for prayerlessness have been removed. We have time, and our calendars are open. The coronavirus may limit our ability to be physically present with our friends and extended family. Still, our prayers transcend time and geographic location and are an important form of ministering to others. In addition, the ministry of prayer is something that the youngest child can do. In Psalm 8:2, we are reminded that age does not limit the effectiveness of prayers, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” God accomplishes His purposes through the prayers of the young and old.
So parents, pray. Gather your children and invite them to pray. What should you pray about? Let us pray with our children for God to heal those affected, provide wisdom for leaders making decisions, give peace to our hearts, fill us with calm assurance in God, and for the gospel to advance.
Fill Your Child With Hope in God
The Bible tells us that we can be confident in God and can have full assurance in Him because He has good plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). God has plans for each of His children, and it is a good plan! No one can hinder those plans. Nothing can thwart those plans, not even the coronavirus.
Colossians 3:21 provides a specific command to fathers (but equally applies to mothers), “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” The goal of a good father is to raise children who are not discouraged. To be discouraged means to lose heart, become disinterested, or have an unmotivated resignation toward life. We are not to raise that kind of child. We are to raise the opposite of discouraged, which is hopeful, joyful, and confident.
If fathers are given a command to avoid one kind of parenting, then it implies we are to pursue a different kind. We are to pursue the kind of fathering that gives hope instead of discouragement and confidence instead of fear. So fathers, don’t discourage your child in this time of uncertainty, rather fill them with hope in God! Teach your child that they can rejoice in times of suffering, knowing that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” in God (Rom 5:3-4). Don’t discourage them. Teach them to hope in God. Help them fix their gaze on God, not on the uncertain circumstances that surround us.
A Unique Opportunity
The coronavirus provides you the opportunity to talk about where we put our trust and where we look for hope. Use this opportunity to build up your child’s God-confidence. Work to root out self-confidence, government-confidence, money-confidence, and replace it with God-confidence. Our hope is not in the government. Our hope is not in our money. Our hope is not in ourselves. We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most common phrases in the Bible is the phrase, “Do not be afraid,” and it is often followed with the words, “For I am with you.” Our confidence is in God, for He is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). He offers His help to us right now.
When the world is broken and all else fails, God will be there. We have a reason to hope. Our hope is rooted in the character of God. He is our refuge in times of need. The coronavirus will pass. The days of social distancing and quarantine will come to an end. Not because an elected official outsmarted the virus, but because God is sovereign, and He is on the throne. God has not abdicated the world to sickness. He has not left the throne. God is in control. We are to put our trust in Him and Him alone.
Remind yourself of these biblical truths and teach them to your children. Let the promises of God’s Word and the unchanging character of God’s nature wash over your household at this time, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant” (Ps 35:27). Be glad in our good God today and filled with hope for tomorrow!
Downloadable Poster: Solution to Fear