Comfort in the Corona Virus Pandemic

What a different world we are now in! State governments have closed schools, many stores, dine-in restaurants and have mandated shelter-at-home. Covid-19, with worldwide response, is presenting us with a variety of temptations to fear. Is my life at risk? My family? How will the economy affect me? What will I do if I lose my job? Are my aging parents safe? This situation makes obvious that we have far less control over our lives than we think.

Yet, for Christians, we know there is one, and only one–God–who is in control. Because we know Him personally, we also know that we can cast our cares upon God for He cares for us. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We need not fear. Our times are in His hands, good, kind, and powerful hands–trustworthy hands. (1 Pet. 5:7; Ps 31:15; Ps. 46)

Isn’t this also a time of great opportunities? 

  • Trials are opportunities to show our love to God by how we put off worry and anger and put on trust and joy.
    (“Considerate all joy, my brethren, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” ~ James 1:2-3)
  • Trials are opportunities to love others with service and self-sacrifice.
    (“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:13)
  • Trials are opportunities to grow in holiness.
    (“…we also exult in our tribulations, know that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” ~ Romans 5:3-5) 

Meanwhile, our dear pastors around the world have been publishing an abundance of articles and videos to comfort and guide us. Be sure to thank your pastor. Attached are a few links that have encouraged me this past week.

The website http://www.cbcfortworth.org/resources/elder-messages hosts a series of short videos produced by elders at Calvary Bible Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, directed at encouraging their own church members. I started with the one on Psalm 46 and found it very encouraging. The one on Psalm 121 ended with a few very doable ideas for how to serve others at this time. 

John MacArthur (18 minutes, interview style)
https://youtu.be/Z-9TxD1BF60

Steve Lawson’s devotional from Psalm 23:1
http://www.onepassionministries.org/steadfast-hope

Calvinism in the time of Coronavirus
https://geoffrobson.com/2020/03/11/calvinism-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/

Jesus is King–Not the Corona Virus https://www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/2020/03/16/jesus-is-king-not-the-coronavirus/?utm_source=Supporters&utm_campaign=e3f75f485c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_12_28_10_47_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_943e0c2e65-e3f75f485c-252996781

Posted in Christian Living, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Waste the Virus

While my husband and I were out yesterday we heard that our state’s dine-in restaurants are being shut down for two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of the most recent corona virus, Covid-19. Out of fresh broccoli, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I’ve never seen the shelves so empty! The only bread left on the whole, long bread aisle were a few loose slices and one bag of English muffins and some tortillas. Ditto the canned meats and the dried pasta shelves. Many fresh fruit bins were empty. And of course, the toilet paper shelves.

I wonder how many people hold less fear of the illness and more fear of secondary factors, like fear of food restrictions due to store closings and people  hoarding, fear of lawsuits if leaders don’t take extreme precautions. Whatever the case, the issue has become less whether the reason is valid and more the fact that people are making decisions based upon fearful perceptions and beliefs. Ungodly fear is a cruel task master–distorting perceptions, feeling dark and oppressive, luring into inaccurate thoughts, influencing to foolish decisions, hindering love for others. Worse still, fear is dishonoring to God. Fear with an earthly mindset is proving to be a far more infectious and damaging condition than a physical illness.

This situation is a trial. Let’s not waste it. Trials are opportunities–opportunities to demonstrate love for God by resisting ungodly fears and instead responding in the fear of the Lord (Ps. 112:1, 2, 7; 56:3-4). Trials are opportunities to trust Christ, to believe that He really does care and is caring for all that we need (1 Pet. 5:7; Matt. 6:25-33; Ps. 34).  Trials are opportunities to put off love for self and instead demonstrate love for others (Matt. 22:37; Phil. 2:3-5; John 15:12-13).

But others have explained this so skillfully that I want to share with you what they have written about holding a God-honoring attitude in a Corona virus world. These authors remind us of what the Bible says about facing a risk of serious illness or death and what God says about living in the midst of a culture gone crazy in fear. The first in the list below provided a helpful rebuke to my own sinful attitude and corrected me, so if you don’t like correction you might want to avoid it 😉. I recommend all of them. Be comforted. Be encouraged. Be challenged. Rejoice in the Lord!

Wasting the CoronaVirus and Mocking Our Mission Field, by Jordan Standridge
https://thecripplegate.com/wasting-the-coronavirus-and-mocking-our-mission-field/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCripplegate+%28The+Cripplegate%29
(Credit this one with the title I chose for my own.)

A Christian Response to the Coronavirus, by Warren Peel
https://biblemesh.com/blog/a-christian-response-to-the-coronavirus/?utm_source=BibleMesh+List&utm_campaign=dac3be8cd8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_07_02_08_54_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5126f03e05-dac3be8cd8-1210431513

God’s Love in a Time of Pestilence: 4 Responses, by Clint Archer
 
Should Churches Meet During Corona Virus?, by Jesse Johnson
Posted in Christian Living, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mother of the Murderer –Immediate Aftermath, Pt 2

Some years ago, on a beach in North Carolina, I was introduced to boogie boarding. I found that each time the waves deposited me near the beach, trying to stand was a struggle beyond my ability. Each wave knocked me off balance and its undertow drug downward on my body so powerfully I literally did not have the strength to straighten my legs to stand. I had to flounder into shallower water before I was able to stand. Like an undertow sucks the swimmer down and under the pounding waves is how the mother of a murderer may feel in the aftermath. (The disclaimers listed in my previous post on this topic apply to this one as well.) 

Sorrow rolls over her. All the time this mom invested, all the love she gave, all the teaching of right and wrong–obliterated. Wasted. Disdained. She grieves over loss of quality relationship with her child (obvious now if it wasn’t before). She is horrified that her own child showed no evidence of the least decency or compassion for his victims, that her child forced all of the victims’ family and friends into the excruciating grief of permanent loss. She grieves for the sorrow such wickedness must be to God. She grieves for the fact that she’ll carry this oppressive source of sadness for the rest of her life. “My heart is crushed and the crushing won’t stop. Will I ever smile again?” The heartbreak keeps rolling in upon her.

There is also a sense of being implicated. It isn’t that the victims’ families have been forced into devastating loss and mourning by the generic someone you hear about on the news. This time the killer is MY child. My son took the life of another mother’s son. My daughter coldly murdered a father’s daughter. The killer has appallingly dishonored his parents and tainted the family name. As one clergyman in Santa Clarita said of the murderer’s mom,

“She is going to be in some sense a pariah in the community by unfeeling people.” [1]

What he said publicly is what such a mom might be tempted to think privately. “Do the neighbors know? Will people assume that it is my parenting that led to this? Will people on social media denounce me as a parent? Will my friends censure me?”

There is more than sorrow and shame. Murder is hideous. The evilness of such an atrocity is sickening. There is a loathsome sense of darkly oppressive horror.

Practical questions arise. What does she say to her child? She can’t say everything is okay; it isn’t. To talk about the crime may be unproductive. To say nothing seems fake. How does one go about loving without condoning the sin?

Will her child be safe in jail? Will the police or prosecutor question her? Is it wrong to refuse to post bail or hire a defense attorney? Will she have to attend a trial? May/should she attend the funerals of the victims?

Why didn’t God stop this? How can anything good possibly come out of this? In essence, why is there evil? Is God good? What do I do with my pain?

Hope in the immediate aftermath

Strong reactions are normal. We should have a reaction to horrendous evil. Numbness, confusion, not knowing what she feels or thinks, strong emotional swings through fear, anger, despair, physical agitation–these are normal reactions to overwhelming circumstances.

In your sorrow, grieve trustingly. There is one who has been where you are and worse. Think on what God–Father, Son, and Spirit–suffered for you. The cross shows that God knows what it is to have a child murdered. He also knows what it is to have children who kill others–it was His children who shouted about Jesus, “Crucify Him!” (and Gentiles who drove in the nails). He has experienced the ultimate rejection and shame, yet still offers peace and joy to those who trust in Him.

Jesus died and rose again to overcome evil and pay for sins. Confess and repent from your own sins. God will give you the desire to please Him, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower obedience.

Trust in God who is in control. Acts 2:22-23 explains that the death of God’s own blameless son at the hands of evil men was ordained by God. That means specific actions like their striking of the nails was God’s will. “God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps 115:3). So, did God do evil? No, God is not the author of evil (James 1:13-15). He did not coerce anyone to sin. Those who crucified Jesus freely chose what they did.

I know the doctrine of the sovereignty of God raises the question of why God ordained evil to be a part of history. Whether or not we understand, the fact is He did. The issue is less our understanding and more how we respond. We don’t want to find fault with God, yet when evil strikes us our tendency is to grow angry at God (which exposes that we really do believe God is sovereign over evil). Consider the alternative. Would we really want a God who did not have control over all evil events? We would have no guarantee of a good end. Evil could run amok. God would be too weak to save us and too weak to turn the evil to a good purpose. The sovereignty of God, at first difficult to accept, proves to be one of our greatest comforts.

Trust in God who is good. The evidence in Creation and the Bible for God’s extreme goodness is overwhelming. One example is Joseph, in Genesis 37-50. Although God did not save Joseph from human trafficking, abuse, and prison, He sustained Joseph and used the years of suffering for good. As Joseph told his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result…,” the saving of many lives (Gen 50:20). The Bible shows us that, from Adam to the last judgment, God keeps turning evil to His good purposes. This demonstrates how good and powerful and glorious He is.

You don’t have to try to control what is coming next. God is good, is sovereign over tragedies, has a good purpose, and has the power to bring that purpose about for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28-29). Therefore, in the midst of your pain, trust God to act sovereignly for your good and His glory (Ph 4:11-12).

(I plan to discuss practical applications more in the next post.)

~~~~~

[1] Harriet Ryan, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-11-17/santa-clarita-clergy-explain-unexplainable, Nov 17, 2019 4 AM

Here is another resource:

https://thecripplegate.com/a-biblical-response-to-the-saugus-high-school-shooting/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCripplegate+%28The+Cripplegate%29

Posted in Christian Living, Parenting, Child-rearing, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mother of the Murderer – Immediate Aftermath

After the Saugus High school shooting in Santa Clarita, California, in November 2019 the Los Angeles Times observed the spiritual and practical help that local churches generously offered to the victims’ families. There was even a “flood of donations” for the mother of the shooter, who had killed himself.

“His mom is certainly a victim in this,” pastor David Hegg told my colleague Harriet Ryan. “She’s lost a son.” [1]

I rejoice that someone cared about the shooter’s mom. People rightly sympathize with families of victims, but have you ever wondered what it is like to be the mother of the murderer?

Disclaimers

  • I don’t intend to leave out dads, but I am a woman writing to encourage women. 
  • I write from a Christian perspective.
  • Pronouns will be used interchangeably because murderers can be female as well as male.
  • While suicide results in heart-rending grief for the mother, there is a different complexity of this terrible grief for the mom whose son first murdered others or whose daughter first murdered her own children. There is more complication in the murder cases which end in arrest rather than death. I would like to include this latter situation.
  • Obviously, the reaction of the mother who supports her son in terrorism will be different from that of the mother who never dreamed of her child committing a crime. It is the latter about whom I write.
  • I recognize that mothers of criminals live in wide ranges of neighborhoods, economic standing, family cultures, beliefs, and parenting practices. I don’t profess to know what all such mothers think and feel, but I’d like to offer some possible reactions for the purpose of understanding, empathy, and help.
  • My first draft for this post was so full of reactions that the post grew too long, so there will be subsequent posts.

First Reactions

A mom receives a phone call that her child was identified or arrested as the school shooter or for murdering a friend, husband, or children. How might she react?

Shock and Concern. “My child did what? This can’t be happening! No, no, no, NO, NOOOOO! Surely not! Is my child alive? Does he need medical care? What is happening to him now? I have to go see him right now! Will she be safe in jail? Is this real?”

Horror. As details are learned or awareness grows of what was actually done, so also grows awareness of the savagery, the hideousness of it. Realization of the results of the crime and the impact it will have on everyone involved can produce a bewildering array of anguish, disgust, outrage, and dismay.

Shock continuing. “They say it was my child! How could he be so cruel? Oh, those poor families (who’ve lost loved ones). O God, how grieved You must be! Oh, my child, my child, how dark is your heart? I’m devastated! My world is shattered. This can’t be real. I can’t even think what to do. Or think. Or even what to feel. This is more than I know how to process.”

Anger. “I’m so upset. I’m not really sure what I feel. Is there anger? I’m in turmoil but, yes, I think I’m angry. Shouldn’t I be? Did he give one thought of compassion for his helpless victim? Did she give one thought to all our love and what we taught about right and wrong?”

Aloneness. Who is there to talk to? As one mom said, “Just an hour after I heard that my daughter had been arrested I called a religious leader who was supposed to help me. When I mentioned that I might be angry, he shut me down, ‘Oh, you mustn’t be angry!’

“Are you kidding?! Isn’t it right to be angry at unmitigated evil? Who in their right mind would not at least consider being angry over murder?

“Can’t you just listen to me right now? If someone I’m supposed to trust for help has no compassion, who else is there?”

Hope in the immediate aftermath

How can someone help this mom?

Give kindness. This mom’s child has just done something so horrendous as to be unthinkable. Depending upon the person, the sense of shock may generate bewilderment, anger, fears, desperation, confusion, despair, or a calm numbness. A kind act like the one reported at the start of this article can go a long way toward comforting and connecting her with someone who can help her spiritually.

Provide compassionate presence without expectation that it will bring immediate relief. If this mom is in shock you will not be able to relieve it. You don’t have to make her feel better. Just be present.

Accept that you don’t truly understand what she’s going through. Accept that you can’t solve her problem. She doesn’t need a fix. At this moment, she likely doesn’t need grand theological answers to life’s questions. What she needs is someone to care and be with her in her trial. Listen well.

Pray with her and as appropriate, say what will steady her to help her make immediate decisions more wisely than her emotions might tempt her to do.

Church leader, be there. If this mom belongs to a church, her pastor and/or another leader need to be there to listen, pray with her, and perhaps give steadying counsel. If she agrees, a godly woman in the church can be appointed to stay with her for the day, field calls, or contact her every day that first week.

Remind her that God is in control, loves her, and that she can trust Him. Appearances would indicate that her world is wildly reeling so it is important that she know that God is in control. “His sovereignty rules over all,” even calamities (Ps 103:19b). 

She also needs to know that the God who is in control isn’t a cruel tyrant fomenting evil. God is good, compassionate, and gracious (Ex 34:6-7). In the Bible He has kindly written for us all the counsel she needs for how to handle grief, emotional pain, and every difficult situation she will face in weeks ahead. He gives grace to trust Him even in our weakness.

To the Christian Mom

I am aware that your pain is wrenching, excruciating, possibly disabling at first. Maybe those words don’t even do it justice and you would describe it differently. Even though this catastrophic experience has changed you forever from what you were yesterday God has not changed. He is still as loving and powerful as He always has been, and still as worthy of worship. I encourage you to follow the example of Job who though he tore his robe in grief still bowed in worship (Job 1:20). Spend time in praise as soon as possible, even simultaneous with your grief. If you can’t think straight, pray the words of praise psalms like Psalms 145, 90, or 33. Make some time to love Christ with worship.

I’m not advising anyone to tell you to do this, although the loving friend may find the right moment and words to invite you. Essentially, it has to come from your own heart. I simply encourage you, regardless of your circumstance, to love the Savior who sacrificed Himself for you.

~~~~~

[1] Sandy Banks, In Santa Clarita, grace, not anger, fuels the healing process, Nov 19, 2019 (Accessed Nov 19, 2019).

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Posts for 2019

I am grateful for those who read this blog in 2019 and those who shared it with others. I hope that the posts have been encouraging and helpful. Below are those read most often in 2019.

Besides the ten below, other consistently popular posts include those on the reasoning with children, the seeming lack of conscience, purposes of marriage, self-esteem, and hearing from God in subjective and mystical ways.

10.  Josiah’s Fire This is a book review that, due to pushback, led to a series on hearing from God subjectively. Serving up the attraction of warm, fuzzy sentiments and titillating claims that a little autistic boy visited heaven, talked with the dead, and heard from God frequently, this book promotes trusting one’s subjective experiences and undermines the doctrines of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the person and work of Christ.

9.  He…thought of me above all? This is an attempt to remind us of who God’s plan of redemption, kingdom, and glory is really about.

8.  In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 2): What are the Benefits?  How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials?

7.  No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

6.  When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment  Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility may pose challenges for the family. Here are what parents might experience personally, what siblings might experience, and some big-picture ideas on what parents can do to grow spiritually, help the siblings adjust, and prepare for successful reentry of the troubled child into the home. 

5.  Parenting the Difficult Child  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. While psychologists have helpfully categorized behaviors under a label, their views and solutions are a mix of what the Bible already teaches and what is not biblical. Part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God and, in doing so, sets the Christian moving into biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

4.  Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary  Some people believe that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Others say the primary read for sex is procreation. Regarding the latter position, Genesis 2 emphasizes the “one flesh” of marriage (which includes sex) a whole chapter before Eve conceived a child, which seems to imply sex expressing oneness in relationship more than use for procreation. The “family” is husband and wife; children are secondary and temporary. First Corinthians 7 ties sex to the relationship, saying nothing about children, and indicates that sex is to continue apart from children. Sex is intended for joy and intimacy in marriage. See more in the post.

3.  The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship  Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. The pleasure and glory of God is more important that our satisfaction, so I recommend: The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: Image-Bearing.

2.  Visit the Sick – Using Scripture In suffering it is easy to forget to trust God. You know that Scripture can re-focus a sick person’s attention back to the character of God and His love for the sufferer, but you’re just not sure which passages to use. Here are some specific verses that speak to anxiety, discouragement, or a person approaching surgery, and other situations.

1.  An Unloved Woman  This is the second year in a row that this post made #1. What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?

Thank you for reading.

I wish you a 2020 full of God’s grace and peace!

Posted in Top Ten

Chores: How to Determine Reasonable Responsibilities

In agrarian societies the idea of children working in the home and on the farm was not unusual. Children had to work to help put food on the table. Now, families no longer need children to work and that has been to their detriment. In the previous post I encouraged parents to have their children work at both personal care and household chores starting very young but limited to their abilities. The goal of teaching young children to work begs the question, what are some ways to determine reasonable responsibilities? Parents can’t expect a two-year-old to vacuum the car.

One helpful guideline recommended to me was, if she can do it, don’t do it for her. For example, if she can put on her shoes but can’t tie the shoe strings, have her put on her shoes and then come to me to get the strings tied. This isn’t intended legalistically to mean a parent should never help a child do something he can already do, but rather that there should be a strong trend in that direction, for the sake of  gradually preparing the child in character and habits for responsible adulthood.

As to kinds of work, let me give an example. Something I found our eldest could do well before she was two was “make” her bed. Her bed at the time was actually a crib with a loose blanket. We made it fun to wave the blanket and let it settle onto the mattress, complete with plenty of wrinkles appropriate to her age which, in respect for her efforts, Mommy did not straighten. Thus began a habit of making the bed that prevented conflict over this particular chore when she graduated to a twin bed. It became something you just do. Something else she could do fairly early was to carry spoons to the table for meals. Well before she was four, she could shake (sort of) a small rug outside once a week. Such responsibilities are age-appropriate, not burdensome, and can even be made fun.

So how can we determine reasonable responsibilities for young children?

Is the child physically able to do it?

  • Can he take toys out of the toy box? Then he can put them in the toy box.
  • Can he put on his own shirt, put on his shoes (and come to you to button or tie as needed)?
  • Does he rearrange a blanket or other fabric items to suit himself? He can “fold” his own laundry (in simple and more or less imperfect fashion), perhaps while you also fold yours, and put it away in drawers he can reach.

Is he mentally able to do it?

  • Young children can entertain themselves. If they entertain themselves at some time in a day when they want, they are capable to do so at a time of your choosing (such as fifteen minutes for you to read uninterrupted, talk on the phone uninterrupted, or simply for the sake of him learning to play alone quietly).
  • If they can get the toys out quickly, they can put them away without dawdling.
  • Children can do assigned chores without being told at set times on scheduled days. When they know “Monday,” they can also know and do Monday’s chore.
  • Once they can read a clock, they can come home from the neighbor’s by a predetermined time without a parent texting or calling to remind.

Does he know what he needs to know?

  • The love of the parent
  • That work is good and rewarding 
  • Scope of the job
  • How to do the job
  • Rewards and consequences

Will possible negative consequences of his use of personal responsibility permanently harm him or someone else?

  • He wants to go into the cold without a coat. Using prudence, judicially allow him some choice. After all, he may not get cold like you do. Or he may become so uncomfortable (but don’t allow frostbite) that next time he will choose differently.
  • He refuses to eat. That’s okay. He’ll be hungry for the next meal or pre-designated snack time (as long as you don’t let him snack or drink something with calories between times). Kids throughout history have survived and thrived without having food available at all times of the day.
  • He doesn’t start his paper for an assignment until the night before it is due. If you’ve done your training work well and he is still procrastinating, there is no need to remind. In fact, he may be waiting to see if you’ll step in and save him from “forgetfulness.” This may be a great opportunity to allow him to carry his responsibility without your interference and to allow an outside authority to provide the consequences.
Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing | Tagged