By Jessica Van Roekel, Crosswalk.com
Welcome to 2020, the year the world turned into a broken amusement park ride, and we all got stuck. Is there anyone else out there wondering when our do-over will start?
I keep thinking it will be next Monday or next month or the start of the school year. But it seems as though we’re stuck in a loop that feels a wee bit dystopian. Almost every day I ask myself if this is really our reality.
We’ve made it to the beginning of a new school year even though it doesn’t feel as though we finished last year. Moving ahead without proper closure is hard. But moving ahead is what we must do.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from this coronavirus-infested year, is that I must figure out how to still live a full life when the world doesn’t look the same. Life isn’t based on how busy I am, but how I respond to it.
My response has ranged from anger to sadness to fear to peace and back around again. But the constant presence of the Lord in my life has carried me through. And he will carry you through too.
This school year looks mighty different. Our kids and us are getting a crash course in “fluid” and “subject to change”. But one thing we can count on as we take tentative steps towards fall is that God doesn’t change.
He is constant and steady; good and kind; willing and able to sustain us and our kids. Let’s turn to him in prayer.
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1. Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
This year leaves us scrambling to adjust to online or in-person learning. Under normal circumstances, I’m excited to buy school supplies. I love it when the stores are abuzz with families choosing fun pens and notebooks.
However, this year there’s a somberness in the air. Stores feel risky with the pervasive unknown. 2020 has brought us unprecedented uncertainty. But life must continue—for our sake and for the children’s sake. We must move forward whether we choose online learning, in-person learning, or homeschooling.
Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us actionable steps to take when our way is uncertain.
I give you glory for who you are. Your words guide my life as I move forward when the way seems unclear. I don’t know what this year will hold for me or my children, but I know that I can trust in you. Let me throw my whole heart on you to carry. I’m letting you take my worries and fears about adjusting to this COVID-19 school year. I can’t figure it out on my own, but I know you can, so I lean not on my limited understanding, but on your infinite understanding. As I begin this school year and make schooling choices for my children, I acknowledge you. You are my way, my light, and my life. I trust you to make our paths straight and that you will lead us onward. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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2. Proverbs 4:23-27
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."
As my children journey through their adolescent years, I’ve taken to praying Proverbs 4. I insert their names into this chapter, and it guides my heart to trusting God rather than to worrying. Unlike the younger years, the teenage years brings a different kind of separation.
I’ve needed to learn to parent in a way that guides rather than directs. I’ve needed to let them figure things out on their own and it scares me to let go. So, I pray Proverbs 4 and believe that God will work in their lives as much as he works in mine.
You are great and mighty and worthy of praise. Thank-you for my children. They are precious gifts from you. As they move into the new school year with new ways of doing school, I pray that they would guard their hearts. Lord, they will face learning challenges, friendship challenges, and online challenges. May they fix their eyes on you and only take ways that are firm. May their words be words of life—uplifting and honoring to you and others. Guide them as they go about their days whether at home or in the classroom. Be their guide and gatekeeper. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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3. Romans 12:9-10
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."
Love and honor need to drive our responses as we cling to what is good. My heart aches as I observe the lack of love and honor in our society. These are simple gifts we can give each other that should transcend disagreements.
In fact, choosing to love and honor helps us navigate difficult conversations. We will make some hard decisions about this school year. 2020 is plain old hard. It is unlike any year we’ve ever faced. Each family needs to decide what’s best for them and the individuals within their family units.
Then it’s important to sincerely extend honor and love even when we may disagree with another’s choice. We can lead the way in this so our kids learn it as well.
You call the stars by name and you know every hair on my head—I am amazed by you. Lord, let my children walk in love and honor to their fellow students, teachers, and family members. They live in a world wracked with strife. Everyone has an opinion but there’s little tolerance for opposing thoughts. Help them to learn to love and honor one another even when opinions clash. Guide them to your good ways and help them to put others above themselves. Place within them a heart that yearns to serve you and one another. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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4. Ephesians 4:29
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ah, the power of our words. There is life and death in the tongue, and it is so difficult to manage it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something I’ve regretted. I know what it feels like when someone uses their words as weapons against me and it does not feel good. Yet, unwholesome talk still escapes from my lips.
But when someone uses their words to speak life into my heart, scarred places heal. We can be that for each other during this time of coronavirus schooling. Our kids need it from us, and they need to speak beneficial words to others as well.
Keep this scripture where you can see it, potentially in places where you're more likely to lose your temper (i.e. in the kitchen or the homework room). This is a new and stressful situation for all involved, so frustrations will arise--but make sure your words are still benefitting those who listen.
Your words spoke this world into being. You spoke and it was so, and I get to enjoy that benefit with every sunrise and sunset. Guide my kids’ words this school year. Let them speak words of life to their teachers, fellow students, and mom-teacher. Help them see the power in what they say. They can build up or tear down with a single word. Guide them to choose well. Help them to stop before they speak and to examine how their words will affect others. Place within them a desire to bless others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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5. 1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Temptations that target our flesh, pride, and eyes surround us. Comparison can be a tempting trap that snares us into thinking we’re less than or more than someone else.
Online temptations are as close as a tap of the screen. We have a choice between choosing what’s right or succumbing to temptation. God promises and is faithful to provide a way of escape.
We need to equip our sons and daughters with the power of prayer as they face these daily minefields. We can do that by praying for them as well as talking about the different temptations they will face.
Thank you for your faithfulness. Temptations surround me, Lord. I’m tempted to compare my school choice against another’s and then reach for condemnation when I don’t agree. My kids face temptations each day. They face the temptations to cave to negative pressure from friends. They face easy access to soul-damaging links. And they face comparisons as they navigate who gets to do what this school year. Help them to stand strong in the face of temptations and to look for the way out. Give them eyes to see your escape hatch and to take it. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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6. Proverbs 29:25
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
Fear of man has stopped me in my tracks more times than I can count. From choosing to be home with my kids rather than pursuing a career to choosing homeschooling for many years to dual enrolling, and finally, to one in public school and one at home, my fear of what people say clouds my ability to trust God’s leading.
If I struggle with this as a middle-aged mom, I can only imagine what my kids must face. They have friends, media, and entertainment all sharing their opinion of what they must be. The pressure our kids face can lead them to positive or negative choices.
You alone can save. You are mighty to save and strong to release us from the snare. Let my children trust you to keep them and to guide them. In areas of their lives where they struggle to stand for your right ways, give them the courage to stand strong. Place with them a desire for you and your ways. Your ways are light and life to those who seek you. I pray that my kids would desire you more than they desire the approval of their friends. Let them rest secure in your approval: that you smile on them and consider them the apple of your eye. Let their hearts burn bright for you and that their trust in you compels others to want to know you more. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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7. 1 Timothy 4:12, 15
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and purity. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
Paul exhorts Timothy to not let his youth hinder what God wants to do through him. What if we, as parents, became a Paul to our children? Let’s encourage them that in their youth they can be a good example to others.
This year has gifted us with plenty of times to respond to difficulties with grace or grumbling. It’s easy to slip into the complaining when things don’t go our way. Our kids need us to lead the way and we need them to spur us onward into God’s ways as well.
Thank-you for giving us a blueprint for how to live this life. Your word is living and active and helpful for every situation I and my family finds ourselves in. Lord, my kids will be facing a difficult year as they adjust to new ways of doing school. Help them to set an example as they do their work with a good attitude. Develop diligence in them. Help me to encourage them to live their life to reflect your glory. Let them not use their youth as an excuse to deny the work of grace in their lives. Let them embrace grace so that your presence may refresh others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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8. Hebrews 10:23-24
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
I don’t know what I would do without the Lord’s faithfulness. He is my rock and refuge.
In a world splattered with negative headlines and anxiety, we need his faithfulness more than ever. It’s hard when friends or family make choices that we wouldn’t make. It’s disconcerting when others question our choices. How wonderful it is that we have a hope we can hold onto and a faithful God to cling to.
It will be an extremely meaningful example for your children to watch your cling to God's goodness in a time that is hard on all of you.
You are our only hope and I need you more than ever. This is a year filled with unprecedented uncertainty. The hopes I had for my kids’ school year don’t seem to be coming to pass. But you are ever faithful, ever true and I hold onto the hope you offer. Be my kids’ hope. Let them hold onto hope—not in the hope for a football season or normal school—but let their hope rest in you and your faithfulness. As this hope swells, may we catch the wave of it and spur one another one in whatever choices God has led our families to. We can love and do good even in the midst of uncertain times. May you be our hope, and may your faithfulness comfort us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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9. Hebrews 12:2-3
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Is anyone else weary? The unknowns coupled with shouted opinions is enough to tucker me out. I grow weary of the constant need to be flexible.
I wrestle the “Do I? or Don’t I?” when it comes to making plans and then the need to pivot through every new update. Then I remember Jesus—he begins and completes our faith.
He is faithful and true to grow us in the midst of pivoting once again. This school year necessitates the need to be flexible—for us and our kids.
Thank you for setting joy before you as you endured the cross. Help my kids and I find joy in this school year by fixing our eyes on you, not the changes in procedure and place. Those are necessary to know, but not helpful in keeping our hearts steady. Help my kids to look to you for their source of joy and help me lead the way by living out my faith in you. Complete the work in our family so that we do not grow weary and lose heart. You are our everything—our joy, the lifter of our head, and we lift our eyes to you, trusting you to keep us and care for us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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10. 1 Peter 5:8-9
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
When I think about the state of the world my kids have to grow up in, my heart aches a little. But then I remember the riots of the 90s and the increase of suicides in my high school and I realize that suffering spans the ages and while I wish for my kids a struggle-free life, I know they need opportunities to grow in their faith.
The victory is mine because of you. I praise you for this! Lord, my kids face spiritual battles as they stand for you. Help them be alert for the traps set by the enemy of their soul. Plant within them a desire to be self-controlled. Let them stand firm in you so they can resist the enemy. I know they face pressure to compromise their values so help them maintain their ground. Bring them others who lives for you so that they can strengthen one another. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if schools will stay in session. I don’t know if homeschooling will work out. The only thing I do know is that God is with us. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. This is the constant truth I cling to in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty.
I know my God is for us and that he has our backs.
As this school year unfolds, cling to the Lord in prayer. Let the cries of your heart reach his ears. Seek him in all your ways. Hope in him. Let his light lead you. This Coronavirus school year provides us with a few new lessons in trust, hope, and prayer. This is an opportunity to strengthen our trust, solidify our hope, and develop a consistent prayer life. God is good even in the midst of a bad year.
As we pray for our kids, their trust and hope in the Lord grows too. Praying for our kids is one of the greatest gifts we give them. This school year will challenge us in many ways, but it’s a great opportunity to grow together. Every disappointment is an opportunity to practice trust, hope, and to experience the peace that praying brings. May your school year be filled with God’s presence in the midst of the unknowns.
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