Hello again. How are things at your house? Ours fluctuates from “I have soooooo much schoolwork!” one minute to “I am sooooo bored!” the next. This new normal doesn’t seem at all normal to me … YET.
For this week’s email, I sent some questions to my friend and colleague, Pearson Johnson. Pearson is the Director of Student Care at BJU. He is also a husband, father, counselor, professor and a fellow former math major. I asked him some questions about guiding our children in a time of uncertainty that I would like to share with you over the next two weeks. I hope you find his wise counsel an encouragement to your heart.
RW: How can we help our children maintain faithfulness in spending time with God in His Word?
PJ: This is a great question, and it gets to the heart of what we all really need as we face this time of uncertainty, change, anxiety and fear. We need to fix our minds and hearts on God who knows all things, never changes, is in control of all circumstances and is working out His plan to make us more like Christ. Staying in His Word and in prayer is the way we stay anchored.
My first encouragement in helping your student is to help them by example. I have been reading through the One Year Bible plan and am currently reading in Deuteronomy. Moses keeps reminding those he is leading to remember what God has done, what He has promised, and who He is as they are encountering uncertain times. He particularly talks to parents in Chapter 6 and tells them to talk about God’s truths at home, outside, when going to bed at night and getting up in the morning. In other words, it isn’t so much about instructing at particular points in time as it is making God’s truth a part of our lives as parents so that we organically work it into conversations and circumstances of life with our children. This shows them that God’s truth is real to us.
Second, I would encourage having a plan for reading the Bible together and/or individually. I mentioned the One Year Bible plan, which I love and use, as I read a part of the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs every day. This has been invaluable to me. The You Version app for your phone has several shorter plans. Do one of these as a family and let your student choose which one to do. I encourage my counselees to do something realistic, starting with a goal of 15 minutes a day, five days a week. We can all do that. Regardless of the plan, spending time in God’s Word is vital for keeping us oriented.
Third, pray together. Even taking a little extra time at meals to ask what concerns you can pray for together is a good and simple way to do this. Ask each person to mention one thing to praise God for, one thing they are thankful for, and one thing you can ask God for together. Keep it simple and specific. We are told in Philippians 4:6 that giving thanks as a part of dependent prayer is an antidote for anxiety, and we certainly need that.
Listen to good music as a family. Music is designed to teach us truth and to help us meditate on that truth. Ephesians 5:19–20 reminds us that singing truth to one another leads to giving thanks always for all things, so make use of this tool as a family.
Accept the gracious opportunity to rest. We have been forced away from the hectic pace we usually maintain. Use the time to reevaluate priorities, reestablish important connections, and renew your own body, mind and spirit. In some ways, this time is a gift of grace for many of us.
Finally, remember that your student has changed since they left home. They have been on their own, developing independence, leadership and confidence in the Lord. Ask them for advice and for their perspective on their circumstances. You may find them to be encouraging to you as well.
RW: The first time you do anything, like learning to walk or ride a bike, it’s really hard. None of us—students, professors, moms, dads or children—have ever been through a worldwide pandemic, and life is hard for all of us now. How can we help our students when they are overwhelmed?
PJ: Finishing the semester online, facing a pandemic and staying in a home with our family or (like some international students) with strangers 24/7 can easily be overwhelming. My encouragement is to break down the overwhelming issues into more manageable parts. Ask what can I do now, what can I get help in doing from others, and what things do I need to entrust to God?
Again, spend time in God’s Word. I developed a study last year with passages to read and memorize when I was feeling overwhelmed. I would be glad to share that with anyone who wants to email me for a copy. Anxiety thrives in the cloud of generalities, so seek to be specific. Make a specific schedule and a list of things to get done, and start bringing your focus from what is overwhelming to what you can accomplish with God’s help in the next hour and day and week.
We were never intended to live life in isolation from God or others, so certainly reach out for help when you aren’t sure what to do next. At BJU and in the Church, God has given us people who want to help and are gifted and equipped to do so. Our primary goal as faculty and staff is to help our students finish the semester successfully, and I know I and others are fully committed to that goal, so never hesitate to ask for help.
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as both a professor and as the Director of Student Care at BJU. The Student Care Office is available to provide confidential biblical counseling, and we would be glad to meet via video or talk by phone during the remainder of the semester. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rachel Dahlhausen, our Women’s Counselor at email@example.com any time, and we will be glad to set up a time to talk.