The last year and a half have been a time of great upheaval in our lives. As a result, they have been a season of great emotional turmoil as well—of uncertainty, fear, anger, grief, and so much more. We’ve not only lived through a pandemic, but also through natural disasters, political strife, and economic losses. We’ve seen heartbreaking things happen in our communities and around the world. If there’s been a difficult emotion in response to all of it, we’ve likely felt it. Some of us are weary from all the turmoil, and really, we’re still in the midst of it. We struggle to put into words all that we’ve endured since March of 2020.
Imagine how our children feel.
Our children live in the same world and face the same upheaval to their lives as we do. They hear adults talk about the hardships of the last year. They see them frustrated, worried, or saddened by all that has taken place. They too experience the last-minute pivots and changes to their daily life. They too feel overwhelmed and weary by it all.
How can we help ourselves and our children navigate this difficult season? How can we help them with their heavy emotions? Where can we turn for hope and help?
God Knows Our Cares
We live in a fallen world. While we shouldn’t be surprised by the struggles and trials that come, we can have hope in the midst of them. As Jesus said to the disciples when their world was on the verge of being flipped upside down, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
God knows the trials we endure. In a world where sin impacts creation through fires and storms, viruses and disease; where it alters relationships through anger and strife, violence and terror; where it makes the heart selfish and self-seeking, discontented and idolatrous, God knows of our losses and griefs. He knows of our worries and fears. He knows the burdens we bear.
Just as we need to learn how to turn to the Lord and find him as a refuge in the face of this trouble, so we also need to teach our children to do the same. Thankfully, in his grace, God provided a place in his word where we can turn, bring our heavy emotions, and find refuge: the book of Psalms.
The book of Psalms was the hymnbook for God’s people and still is for many today. In its pages we find writers expressing their emotions to the Lord. Every feeling common to humanity is found there: joy and sorrow, fear and thanksgiving, loneliness and confidence. Among these songs is a category of psalms called the laments—the songs where the authors voice their darkest emotions, like fear, despair, abandonment, anger, and grief. As we read these laments, we find we’re not alone. Even more, we find a pattern for how we can bring our cares to the Lord in prayer that we can share with our children.
Teach Your Children to Lament
The laments have common characteristics we can teach our children.
First, the psalmist is honest about his emotions. “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping” (Ps. 6:6). We can teach our children to voice aloud how they feel to the Lord in prayer. Right now, our children are feeling all the feels. They’re overwhelmed and need to learn to voice their emotions to the One who loves them most. They might need to expand their vocabulary and learn words to express that they are frightened about getting sick from the virus, or that they’re sad when an important event is cancelled, or that they’re lonely when they can’t play with their friends. You can lead them in this by praying aloud about your own feelings.
Second, the psalmist asks God for his help. “Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters” (Ps. 69:14). The psalmist turns to God as the only one who can rescue him from trouble. Whether he’s being pursued by enemies, rejected by a friend, or in despair over his circumstances, he cries out to God as his Savior. We can teach our children to do the same. They can pray and ask the Lord to comfort them in their losses. They can ask him to help them endure the disruptions to their life. They can ask him to help them face their fears. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, if God sent his own Son to rescue us from our sins, how can we think he won’t help us with all our other troubles and trials? (see Rom. 8:31-39). Teach your children that God is both with them and for them.
Third, the psalmist trusts and hopes in God’s deliverance. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5). As he prays to the Lord, the psalmist focuses his heart on who God is and what he has done. He reminds himself that God is his refuge and strength, his deliverer and rescuer. He remembers that God is faithful and full of steadfast love for his people. He also remembers how God has rescued and delivered in the past. He places his trust in God and expects him to answer his prayer. He responds with worship, thanking God for all he has done. We can help our children remember this as well. Remind them of all the ways God has helped them in their life. Remind them of his great love for them. Help them to thank and praise God in their prayers to him, placing their hope in him.
These are hard and difficult times for us all, including our children. Let us turn to the Lord with our children, praying prayers of lament to the God who is our “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).