Fear is arguably one of the biggest threats to modern parenting. Whether we’re parenting toddlers or teenagers, there are myriad reasons to fear for our children. In the words of pastor and author Rich Nathan, “We live in a world that bombards us 24/7 with threats to our kids.” Amber alerts, abduction stories, school shootings, screen time and internet predators…the list of these threats to our kids goes on and on. It feels impossible to protect our kids from all the things.
And the list seems to be growing by the day.
“Should I make my child wear a mask in public?”
“How do I get my child to keep a mask on and stay six feet away from friends?”
“How is my child’s academic progress going to be affected by a disrupted school year?”
“Do I send my child back to school or keep them at home this school year?”
I’ve noticed a growing sentiment that perpetuates a narrowly focused either/or choice. That is, we can either choose to trust that God will take care of and protect us and our children or we can take reasonable precautions. But it does not have to be this way. It does not have to be either trusting God or taking reasonable precautions.
Scripture teaches us that there is both a place for trusting God while putting aside fear and a place for planning for the safety of people. The story of Nehemiah courageously rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem for the protection of its people incorporates both of these ideas.
In the history of the nation of Israel, Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, and God’s people were sent into exile. The book of Ezra (just before Nehemiah) begins with the temple of God in Jerusalem being rebuilt and many Israelites returning to the city. Many years later, Nehemiah learns that although the temple has been rebuilt and many exiles have returned to Jerusalem, the city’s walls are broken down, the gates have been burned, and the people are in “great trouble and disgrace” as a result. Nehemiah seeks to the LORD, gains favor with the king, and returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.
In Nehemiah we see not an either/or choice but a both/and reality. He trusted that God was going to work out His will for His people and shouldered the responsibility to care for God’s people. He trusted in God and worked hard to plan for the safety and protection of others.
As parents living in our current era, perhaps we can glean some wisdom from this cupbearer-turned-builder from 2400 years ago. Like Nehemiah, we can be aware of the threats before us, turn to God in prayer, choose to trust Him and make decisions for the safety and health of our children and families. And as we allow our minds—with all of our fears and questions—to be transformed and renewed by God, we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”