I think John and I are setting a record-breaking pace in answering our kids with a variety of “I don’t know…” responses. In the past three days, we’ve responded to our children’s concerns about our family’s future with clueless abandon:
“I can’t tell you the time frame for….”
“I have no idea when….”
“I am doubtful that….”
“I hesitate to say….”
“I don’t have the foggiest notion of….”
“Only God knows….”
“That’s a really insightful question….”
“I wish I knew….”
Since John and I embarked on our parenting gig over 20 years ago, this is the first time that we have not been able to provide information to our kids in the timely manner they have come to expect of us. In the course of the past three days, we’ve answered our children in these ways:
We cannot tell our children the time frame for when we will return to South Africa.
We have no idea when we will be able to see their grandparents with less constraint.
We are doubtful that we will be able to secure a flight to South Africa during the summer.
We hesitate to promise them when the shelter-in-place restrictions will cease.
We don’t have the foggiest notion when a medical breakthrough will happen with the coronavirus.
Only God knows what is ahead for our family.
That’s a very insightful question. (Of course, at this moment, my brain is all fogged up with my own confusing, worrisome thoughts and I can’t remember my son’s query of a day ago. Boo!)
I wish I knew when we could get out of here. (We are currently living life in the basement of generous friends.)
For our kids, we understand that fear is enveloping their minds. It’s understandable. Each of our sons is working through layer upon layer of disappointment. Their grief is palpable. The ongoing losses of friendship and relationship hurt. The loss of opportunity – like missing out on a freshman year on campus – is frustrating. The loss of familiarity and routine – like going to the library each week – make our younger two sons very sad. The loss of tradition – like family Easter celebrations and Sunday worship – make us miss our family and friends even more. The loss of a milestone event – like Grandma’s birthday – left us all dissatisfied. And the loss of identity of our Joy Boy whose eyes fail to light up with joy and wonder is heartbreaking to witness in recent days. I’m not going to sugarcoat this situation and say that everything is going to turn out fine and we’re all going to be the better for it. For our children, many of their losses and disappointments are permanently lodged in the annals of time. Our family will not be able to retrieve the opportunities, the experiences, and the moments that have since passed. And John and I are very, very, very sorry about that. We hurt for our kids. Yet, John and I understand that life – even our current life that is affected by a worldwide pandemic – is not in our control.
This morning I asked our boys my own question: How long have you been praying for the coronavirus situation to end?
They replied in chorus, “Since March.”
For our family, this is when our return tickets to South Africa were rescheduled for early May and our shelter-in-place life began. For Caleb and Jake, this is the first time that they have been praying day-after-day-after-day-after-day for something and experienced no tangible answer – yet. Our May flight was cancelled to South Africa. For Caleb and Jake, this is an especially faith-stretching and faith-strengthening time as we have no return date to South Africa in sight. Eventually, something will happen for our family. We just don’t know what the complete answer is yet. And this uncertain time can exacerbate Jake and Caleb’s fears that we will never get out of here.
I believe that David, a teenage shepherd boy who grew up to become the King of Israel, would understand some of what our sons are feeling. David knew from experience what it meant to pray and wait for the Lord to act on his behalf in uncertain times. Although David was anointed king at the age of sixteen, this promise would not be fulfilled until he reached the age of thirty! During that fourteen-year time frame, I’m sure that David would have uttered similar questioning thoughts…
“I can’t tell you the time frame for when I will be king.”
“I have no idea when God’s promise will be fulfilled.”
“I am doubtful that King Saul wants me around.”
“I hesitate to say what will happen when I am finally king.”
“Only God knows when….”
“I wish I knew….”
Yet, despite David’s fears, wonderings, and questions, the would-be king was consistent in declaring his trust and faith in his God for the way forward.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
New International Version, Psalm 27:1
David’s bold question – of whom shall I be afraid – focused not only on his present difficulties but looked to the future as well. David drew his strength upon the hope, grace, love, and salvation of his God. He believed that the Lord would illuminate the courseway of his life. David basked in the light of God’s love and security and this made him fearless!
For our children, for me, and for you, God is a light to His people. When we suffer doubt and disappointment, feel uncertainty and sorrow, and don’t know the way forward, we can abide in the light of God’s love and care. He never leaves us in the dark. In fact, from the very beginning, on the first day of creation, the inextinguishable light of God shown forth:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
New International Version, Genesis 1: 3-4
The Lord does not leave us in the dark. Even now, His light is shining. He separates the light from the darkness and uncertainty of this pandemic-affected life. The Lord is the Light in which we may feel comfort and assurance his presence:
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
New International Version, Psalm 43:3
We need the Light of God.
We need Jesus – the Light of the World.
We need to live in the light of Jesus’ love and draw upon His wisdom, His joy, His peace, and His comfort. His light within us is our hope. His light around us is our security. His light reflected from us is our joy. His light emboldens us with confidence and praise. We become fearless. His light that is to be revealed in us is Himself – at work within us for the glory and honor of God. His light brings blessing:
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, O Lord,
who walk in the Light of your presence.
New International Version, Psalm 89:15
John and I may still have no tangible answers for our children regarding how long it will take to return to South Africa or even what is really ahead for our family as a result of the pandemic. What we can offer our children is the holy security and peace of mind found in the abiding love and light of Jesus. We will continue to pray and seek our Lord for His divine help and guidance together. It is a fear-inducing time. It’s a disappointing and difficult time. We don’t have any assurances that everything will turn out as we expect. Yet, we refuse to wallow in uncertainty and dread. We will count upon the strength of our God to see us through this time and light our way.
Our family has the assurance of God and his Word. He gives joy to the heart – we need His joy. We need His assurance. We need His love. We need His wisdom. And all are found as we seek and abide in His Light – today, tomorrow and forever.
My dear friends, your pandemic situation may be different than our family’s limbo-in-between life. However, I’m sure that your life has presented its own challenges since this all began for you.
I pray that the Lord will be your Light and your salvation – and so you will not fear! I pray that you will experience the Lord as the stronghold of your life – so nothing will make you afraid for today or tomorrow. May the Lord illuminate your pathway and give you peace, joy and hope in the way ahead. I pray you will abide in the presence of the Lord, always. Amen.