With many schools sending kids home for an indefinite period of time, this is becoming a highly anxiety provoking situation for many children (and their parents too). My sister told me that her children have been playing “Coronavirus tag” on the playground at recess. Tag, you have the virus and now you are “out.” On the surface, it’s kind of funny, but what it shows is that these kids are wrestling. They may be laughing and smiling as they play, but things are not always what they seem to be on the surface. Play is how kids talk about what is really on their hearts. And what is on those kids heart is fear – or at the very least, uncertainty.
How do we talk to them about what is on their hearts? How do we deal with our own anxieties?
Before we can help our kids, we have to help ourselves work through some of this. And the best tool is the Word of God.
I was recently reading Luke 21 and the timing of that reading couldn’t be more perfect. Here are some passages from that chapter from the Amplified Version:
When you hear of wars and disturbances [civil unrest, revolts, uprisings], do not panic; for these things must take place first, but the end will not come immediately.”
Then Jesus told them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and in various places famines and [deadly and devastating] pestilences (plagues, epidemics); and there will be terrible sights and great signs from heaven.
But not a hair of your head will perish. By our [patient] endurance [empowered by the Holy Spirit] you will gain your souls.
Now when these things begin to occur, stand tall and lift up your heads [in joy], because [suffering ends as] your redemption is drawing near.
You are probably skimming this article looking for tips about what you should do and may have skipped over the Scripture above (as, admittedly, I sometimes do when I read articles). Well, the answer to your question is in bold above. Jesus calls us to do three things in response to something this big:
1) Do not panic
2) Stand tall
3) Lift up your heads (in joy)
But what does it mean to “not panic”? It’s not always helpful to tell people what they ought not to do without telling them what they can replace it with. If we rid ourselves of something, it makes sense to replace it with its opposite. What is the opposite of panic? Peace. Where do we get peace? God. He has peace that passes all understanding. What that means is that His peace doesn’t make any sense. In the midst of a pandemic, peace doesn’t make sense from a worldly perspective. But that peace is what God offers us.
That peace was with the disciples as they crossed the wave torn sea in the form of Jesus. And it is with us in our hearts today in the form of Jesus as well. If you can’t find peace, ask God for it. Pursue it. He wants to give it to you, but you have to be willing to trade in your panic for it. They can’t occupy your heart at the same time.
What does it mean to “stand tall”? This makes me think of young David. He “stood tall” in spirit in the face of the giant, Goliath. He was not a boy of stature, but it didn’t matter. There was a bigger “giant” standing behind him as he swung that stone. And Yahweh was His name.
God is bigger and stronger than any bully on the playground of our world. Even one that goes by the name of coronavirus. He is standing right behind you. Turn around. Do you see Him? He’s right there. He’s so big and so close that it’s hard to take Him all in. If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?
When I really (I mean, really) think about the greatness of our God, it makes me chuckle. Nothing stands a chance against our God.
What does it mean to “lift up your head with joy”? What comes to mind immediately is the stoning of Stephen. He was facing his murderers yet he lifted up his head and saw Jesus at the right hand of the Father. His faced beamed. He was filled with joy in the face of immense suffering.
We can be surrounded by a pandemic, but choose to look up and smile because there is a hope inside us that brings joy.
It might be actually as simple as a physical act. Try it. Lift your face up, take a deep breath, think of the hope you have in the Lord and smile. Feel it? That’s joy.
So that’s what we are supposed to do. But the Bible doesn’t stop there. It also tells us why we are to do this. If you peek back up to the passage above, why we are called to do these things is italicized. There are also three things:
1) Because not a hair on our head will perish
2) Because we will gain our souls
3) Because our redemption is drawing near
We are called to these things because if we are believers, we don’t actually die. This isn’t hyperbole. It’s truth. Think about it. Job, covered in wasting flesh, said this: And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God (19:26). He’s not going to see God in spirit, but in flesh. Skin. Hair. Teeth. All of it will be redeemed someday. Death has no sting for the believer.
We are also called to these things because with every one of these hardships, our redemption gets closer. We can let go of panic and grab onto peace when we get excited about our redemption. We have to loosen our grip on this earthly life. Jesus said that if we give up our life we will actually gain it (Matthew 10:39). We have to give it up to get it back.
I know the title was about talking to kids about the Coronavirus and so far, I have not given any tips how to do that. But you can’t give your kids what you don’t have. It’s like when you are flying in an airplane: they say to put your oxygen mask on first and then help your kids. We need to take in the Breath of Life ourselves before we can pass it on to our kids. When we have peace instead of panic, courage instead of fear, joy instead of dread, we can pass that on.
So spend some time talking to God. Ask him to help you to get your oxygen mask on. Then have a conversation with your children about what God breathed into you. You don’t need a “how to” article on that. God will direct your words because they will come from a heart of peace, courage and great joy.