Time for a Little Big Picture Thinking.
Dear Friends (especially Moms and Dads):
Trusting God to take a cruddy experience and use it for good is a theme that arches over the entire Bible. Still, we refuse to see it.
The best-known verse reflecting that idea is Romans 8:28, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Now the one-dimensional reader might think, Sure, it works out in the very end because all true believers go to heaven. And that’s absolutely true. We’re not home yet.
But there’s a second dimension to God’s promise of deliverance. The Bible tells us that following God offers double value – purpose in this life and security in the next. “Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)
In other words, put Jesus first and your life on earth finally makes sense. The joys of life are deeper because it’s not just about you. You realize things like beauty, love, freedom, friendship, hope, and life itself are really a gift from the Creator. What’s more, the vexations of life on earth – even Coronavirus losses and frustrations – are filtered through a lens of confidence knowing that God will use them somehow for good.
Ideally, you embraced God’s big-picture vision before the pandemic hit. That’s also something we need to keep in mind as parents. We want our children to acknowledge and understand big-picture thinking before they need it.
When your 16-year-old son gets cut from the high school baseball team, it’s hard to watch him throw out boxes of baseball cards, favorite old jerseys, and baseball caps. You want to come alongside and tell him “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” But probably hold back. The risk of verbal kickback is too high. In most cases, you’ll need to wait a week or longer.
However, if the two of you have already embraced the idea of “big picture thinking” and trusting God’s plan, then you can probably knock on his bedroom door and have a wonderfully encouraging conversation after only a day or two.
The same thing goes for the agony your beautiful daughter may be enduring when she gets demoted to the “B” squad, loses a coveted part in the school play to her archrival, or gets dumped by the boyfriend you never liked anyway. These kinds of nasty setbacks will happen to your little girl. But if she truly understands God is control, the recovery is quicker and less painful.
Stories – from scripture, from your own life, and allegories – can be valuable tools to share with your children. Again, not smack in the middle of a crisis. But speak those truths into their lives way before or a little while after.
In a true story from the Old Testament, Joseph’s jealous brothers throw him down a well. But a passing caravan rescues him and he eventually becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt, later saving the country and his family from famine. In the last chapter of Genesis, Joseph even tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Mom and Dad, consider the disappointments, setbacks and apparent failures in your own life. How many of them led to an open door that eventually brought significant rewards? The college class you were forced to attend due to a mistake by the registrar which led to an unexpected career. The wrong turn that led to a neighborhood where you found your dream home. Share those examples from your own life of bad news followed by good news. How did you decide on a career, get your first real job, or meet your spouse? Those are stories to tell your kids. (And it’s a good idea once in a while to remind yourself of God’s provision.)
God’s ways are indeed higher than ours. He looks down and sees all time and space — past, present, and future — at the same instant. He sees the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the herb garden in your backyard. At this very moment, God sees your first cries as a newborn, the day your own children were born, and the remarkable day when each member of your family crosses from this life into eternity.
Knowing we are part of that intentional plan that stretches out into eternity should give us unbridled confidence and hope.