On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was busy getting my three girls ready for the day. Two were in elementary school; my youngest was only three. My husband called to tell me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, and suddenly I was faced with a huge parenting dilemma.
How do I begin to explain this to my girls?
I’m sure some of you have daughters (and sons) who are at a vulnerable age—old enough to hear the news and to know some of what happened in Paris over the weekend, yet young enough to not quite understand terrorism or the implications of the weekend’s events.
It’s tricky, being a parent sometimes. We want to shield our kids from the ugliness of the world, and yet we know we can’t. How, as believers, do we handle the gruesome reality of our day? How do we instill hope in our kids in a world that seems hopeless?
In all honesty, I don’t know all of the answers. I just don’t. I don’t know how to handle difficult situations perfectly. And that’s why I need Jesus so much. I need His help and His guidance every day as I raise my daughters.
But just in case it might help you, here’s what I tried to keep in mind on 9/11 when I had three very young, vulnerable girls looking to me for answers. And here’s what I keep in mind today as I reflect on what happened in Paris just a few days ago.
On 9/11, the first thing I did was gather my girls in the kitchen to pray. I knelt down to their eye level and told them that some very bad people had done something very bad to our country and that a lot of people were hurt. So we knelt together on our kitchen floor and prayed. We prayed for the hurting. We prayed for the wounded. We prayed for the families of those who had surely died.
And here’s something a high school student told me this weekend (it convicted me, which is why I’m sharing it): we should also be praying for our enemies. Pray that they would see the light of Jesus in this dark, dark world. Pray that they would turn from their evil deeds. Pray that they would be stopped.
And, as I have so often prayed since that day, pray for Jesus’ return. The Bible tells us to pray for His coming, and it seems especially appropriate to long for Heaven when these days are hard and uncertain.
We need to teach our girls that our automatic response in a crisis should be prayer.
2. Talk about good and evil.
Obviously any discussion of good and evil needs to be age appropriate. Please do not scare your very young children with images of Satan and hell, but as you pray about how to discuss this situation with your kids, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the right wisdom to talk to your girls about evil.
God’s word tells us that we have an enemy that is not of this world.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
As a result, the world we live in is flawed and full of evil. But our fight is not against the world. Jesus told His disciples that the world’s biggest problem is that they do not believe in Him (John 16:9)—it’s not injustice or human trafficking or hunger or even terror. The enemy brings evil into this world and the results are devastating.
The greatest need of our world is Jesus.
We have to remind ourselves and our kids of this truth over and over again. We can fully trust in Him to one day conquer evil completely because He promises He will return to do just that. He is our hope!
3. Remember that Jesus is so much bigger than our fear.
When Christ went to the cross, He had some fears, if the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane tells us anything. And yet He conquered those fears, moving forward toward the reason He came to earth. We can take comfort in knowing that if Jesus conquered fear on the cross, we can, through Him, conquer our own fears for this world.
How many times does the Bible tell us not to fear? I haven’t counted, but it’s a lot. God obviously has a message for us about fear, and it’s clear that fear is not our friend.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“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?” Psalm 27:1
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Jesus came to bring peace, love, and joy. Not fear.
4. Remember that we are called to love at all times.
It’s hard to love our enemies. It feels impossible to forgive crimes like 9/11 and Paris (and for that matter, Somalia and Beirut and Bagdhad, which also suffered attacks this weekend). Yet Jesus came to this earth because He loved us so much (John 3:16). Love is what sets Christianity apart from so many other religions.
We are called to practice love, and if we don’t get it right the first time, we need to practice some more.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matthew 5:43-44)
We can start right where we are, in our homes and in our neighborhoods. Take this opportunity to talk to your kids about seeing our neighbors as better than ourselves and treating them that way, just as Jesus would. Talk to your kids about loving those at school who are hard to love. We have to start right where we are.
These are hard, hard days for parents. These are days that take an exceptional amount of wisdom and patience. These are days that should take us to our knees in prayer.
Mamas, I’ll be praying for you this week as you guide your children to the One who is peace and truth and righteousness: Jesus, who is our only hope.