As I have learned to do during tragic situations, I have been allowing myself only small snippets of news coverage. I cannot immerse myself in the real-time, full-time news-telling our culture gravitates toward when disaster strikes. So I teeter on the balance beam of being informed but not consumed.
During one news segment, tears puddled in my eyes as I saw a weeping mother hugging her child. Then this mother promised, right there on national television in front of God and everyone, “I will never let this happen to you again.” And though I was empathetic toward this suffering mother and child, I wanted to jump right through my television. Don’t make that promise! My husband and I both blurted.
Though it may seem contradictory to my overprotective momma-ness, I’m a big believer in being honest with my kids. I try really hard not to make promises I cannot keep. I try to be forthright with them, so their expectations will be realistic.
When my husband lay in a hospital bed, his heart rhythms dangerously abnormal and his blood pressure dipping frighteningly low, I was tucking the children into bed. As we prepared to pray, one of my sons asked in a wobbly voice, “Is Daddy going to die?”
Right then and there, I had a split-second to decide — would I be painfully honest with them and trust God to take care of their hearts or would I make a promise I had no power to keep? “Sweetie, I don’t know if Daddy will die. None of us ever know when we’ll die. And Daddy’s heart is very sick right now. But I do know this: God is in charge and God is good. I know that God loves us and promises everything will work out for our good. And I trust Him. Whether Daddy lives or dies, we can trust God.”
Yesterday, my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital with blood clots in both her lungs. Last night, as I tucked my little ones into bed, seven-year-old BabyThing’s lip quivered as he grasped my hand. “I’m worried,” he whispered. Taking a deep breath, I rubbed his back and said, “Yes, it’s scary. You love Grandmama very much. It’s scary that she is so sick. But remember our morning devotions? We don’t have to worry, even when we’re scared. We can choose to trust God. Grandmama trusts God. And whatever happens, God loves Grandmama and He loves you. And God understands what it’s like to feel sad. Remember our Bible verse: When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
Parents, we cannot promise our children that bad things won’t happen to them. We cannot shield them from every danger and every tragedy — no matter how much our overprotective momma hearts really, really want to do just that! (And that is EXACTLY what I really would LOVE to do!) And when we find ourselves in scary situations, we cannot promise our little ones that everything is going to turn out the way we hope. Christians, we especially cannot make these promises in the name of Faith. Faith is not trusting that God will do what we want and make all our wishes come true; Faith is trusting that whatever happens, God will be good and work things for our good and His glory.
In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
We will have trouble. Our children will have trouble. Tragedy. Disaster. Scary, scary times. Let’s be honest with them about that. And then let’s give them the good news. The trouble is not the last word. The story does not end with disaster. Jesus has overcome. And through Him, we can overcome as well.
So, this is what I want to say to that little girl in Oklahoma, what I wish her momma had promised instead: Sweetheart, you do live in Oklahoma. Very likely, this is not your last devastating tornado. But, Sweetie, God is good. Look for all the goodness and light and compassion around you. That is Him! That’s His Body at work! He loves you. Even in the freight train winds of an awful storm, you can trust Him. Whatever storm blows through, whatever destruction follows, He understands when you’re scared or sad. And He loves you. And even when we cannot see it, and even when we have trouble believing it, He is going to do something good in all this mess. Sweet Little Girl, this won’t be your last storm. Trouble will come again. But God is bigger than any storm.