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We see the statistics about how the family is struggling. The divorce rate for both Christian and non-Christian homes is now about the same. Our children are facing their own hardships, whether it be bullying, drug abuse, cutting, or even suicide. The world in which we live in is compromised by evil. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What can we do? Where do we start? Where is God in all of this?
God gave us these words of Paul from 1 Timothy:
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Then hope starts to return. Yes, we are in a battle, but we’ve been called to fight the good fight. And with the Lord’s help and guidance, we can indeed turn back the tide on the depressing statistics. Here are a few ideas for starters:
Try to eat a meal together three times a week: Statistics show that the likelihood of drug abuse, depression, and even struggling in school is drastically reduced in homes that participate in family mealtime. Don’t stress about what the meal is, just that it happens. Running late? Pick up a pizza or rotisserie chicken. If you have a little more time, a frozen lasagna works well. Crockpots are also great because they create a welcoming, delicious aroma as people walk through the day after a busy day. When you sit down together as a family, you are making a commitment to spend time together. This is your time to connect after the day, a time to pray together, a time to talk together, to feel that we are in a place where we belong and where we are heard.
At my table, we often go around and do “best” and “worst” parts of each of person’s day. We support each other in the low times, and celebrate the high times together. Just being in the presence of my family keeps me connected with them. They might not be able to tell me what’s going on, but I get a much better sense just by looking around at their faces.
One of my son’s friends joined us for dinner and was surprised that we said the Lord’s Prayer together in unison before eating — and that we actually had a kitchen table. This friend had an extended countertop in the kitchen where the family put together meals, but then they would go to various rooms to eat—downstairs, bedrooms, living room. A missed opportunity, and sadly, this person has struggled with major depression and in school.
Have a bedtime routine: Even though my kids are older, I make a commitment to connect with each one of them before they turn in for the night. Sometimes it’s having a cup of hot tea together or listening to the “drama” of Instagram and friends. Other times, it’s just sitting on the end of the bed and being present. Regardless of their age, this is a time where kids can relax and prepare for rest, however, it’s also a time where anxiety can spike. She is worried about her test tomorrow. He is concerned someone will want to fight on the bus tomorrow. What about that teacher who might not accept late work?
Bed time is also a great time to for praying. I emphasize the fact that not only do I care about them, but God also cares about them. Many times I get surprising answers about things I never would have known about just by asking, “How can I pray for you?” A beautiful result is that they are beginning to model that question back to me.
Make a commitment of going to church: Even if the family is sick, and we can’t physically get to church, we will watch a service on TV, do a family devotion, or listen to an audio Bible storybook. The point is to set aside time to God, at least once per week.
Weave faith into your everyday life: We have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord’s presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection. We also pray whenever we see an ambulance or Life Alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.
I think that we place a lot of pressure on ourselves as parents and grandparents to teach our children about faith. It certainly does feel overwhelming sometimes. However, I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of children, my own, as well as others. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is, and that we all should seek that depth kind of faith (Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 19:4).
God is with us on this journey of parenthood. He knows our heart, hears our prayers, and is with us every step of the way through life’s journey. He wants what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can trust in that.
Catherine DeVries has written 20 books for children, including the bestselling The Adventure Bible Storybook and Let’s Learn about the Lord’s Prayer, the first in the HeartSmart series which focuses on learning scripture through story and song. As associate publisher of Children’s Resources at David C Cook, she leads product development for The Action Bible collection.