In tough times we can help our children grow up to be people of hope and purpose.
Recently one of my daughters told me she didn’t want to live to be 100. “By then,” she said, “Artificial Intelligence will have taken over, a lot of the natural world will be destroyed, and I really don’t want to have to go live in outer space.”
This from a homeschooled kid who doesn’t watch TV and isn’t exposed to a lot of the harsher realities of life. But at 13 she knows many of the issues that plague our world today and she’s not too excited about what’s on the horizon. As a mother it got me thinking more about how to instill hope in my kids who are growing up in what is, and surely will continue to be, tough times.
As Christians we know that our ultimate hope is in heaven. This world is passing and our time on earth is short. Our hope is in the Lord and in the eternal life He has promised to those who believe in him. But we must never forget that this life, for however long each of us gets to live it, is a gift. I want my children to know that this is not their permanent home, but that life here is still beautiful and good. I want them to look forward to the future.
We are meant for such times as these
Even if y0u’re tempted to think you would have been better suited to a previous era, that’s not what God willed for you. In His mysterious plan, He wanted you to be born in this time of history, in this place. Which means you have a purpose that is suited to the needs of the world right now.
It’s important to instill this idea in our children. They were meant to be born in this time, with all the particular challenges and benefits that come with it. Each of our children has a special mission that only they can bring to the world. They are meant to give themselves and their talents in service to God and others to shine more light into this world.
So when the tough issues come up, let it be an opportunity to talk to your kids about how they’re being called by God to make things better. What are their talents and interests? What needs or problems in the world are calling to them? If our children grow up understanding that their lives are meant to be a gift to this world, it will provide a sense of purpose, which in turn fosters hope.
The problems we see all around us can make us feel small and helpless. Many young people feel this today — the challenges can seem insurmountable and it’s easy to grow cynical and pessimistic. But taking action helps us move out of despair and breathes hope into life. No action is too small to make change — in fact, most change happens by taking one small action and then another.
We can show our children, through example and encouragement, that actions matter. How we treat our neighbor, stand for the truth, serve the poor and marginalized, take our civic duties seriously — there are many ways for children to learn that actions – big and small – make a difference.
And let’s not forget the most powerful action of all — prayer. When we teach our children to pray we give them not just a tool but a way to live that not only affects change in the world, but also changes their own hearts. Without the constant conversion of our own hearts, none of us can become who we were made to be.
Pointing out beauty and goodness
When children are very young they notice the little things — the snail slowly making its way across the sidewalk, the daisies pushing up through the barely green grass, the toothless smile of an elderly man begging for money on the street.
Little children notice the good and the beautiful. But as they grow, they become more aware of the darkness in the world, the concerns of grown ups, the problems and evils all around them. As parents, we can make it our mission to keep pointing out beauty and goodness. There may be wars and sickness and natural disasters, but the sunrise and sunset never disappoints, and there are kind and courageous people to inspire us, and so many places to witness the goodness of God.
Hope is a virtue to cultivate
Just like faith and love, hope must be cultivated. It begins in childhood. Hope rests in part on the belief that nothing is impossible for God, and the victory is already won, no matter how messy things can be on this side of the veil. As you cultivate the virtue of hope in yourself as a parent, your kids will see it in what you say and do. And be sure to turn to Scripture to reflect on some of the edifying passages that call us to hope. One that comes to mind that is so helpful for our times is this promise from Jeremiah 29:1 —