Counseling Our Kids—Part II

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Mother with college daughter

I want to thank you for your emails and calls over the last few weeks. I can’t tell you how much your prayers for BJU mean to us. Please be assured that we are praying for you and your students as well.

I also want to remind you that preregistration opens today so your students should be able to start building their fall schedule—unless they are graduating, of course. Either way, if they can let us know through eReservation on StudentCentral what their fall plans are, that is helpful!

Here’s the rest of my conversation with Pearson:

RW: Yesterday was Easter, and for some families, it is the first time they’re sitting at home on their couch on Easter. Have you found any creative ways for your family to enjoy corporate worship virtually?

PJ: This time of separation from our church family is a unique one for sure. One of my goals as a dad is to remind my son and daughter that this time should help us realize the sweet encouragement of true Christian friendship and fellowship and that corporate worship takes place biblically in the context of a gathered local church. If you and your children feel something is missing in corporate worship because you cannot be physically together, that is a good thing! God has saved and gifted us to gather together with His people to worship Him, serve one another, receive instruction and to make disciples.

Having said that, during this time, we do as much as we can do virtually. We have determined as a family to stay engaged with our church through live streaming options and to stay connected with brothers and sisters in Christ through social media. We can still have some measure of fellowship and ministry virtually, and we can practically meet one another’s needs even while maintaining social distance. We can stay engaged with our campus community, too, as BJU is live streaming chapel twice a week, so make that a part of your family activities for the next few weeks. Again, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word are needed during this time!

RW: What opportunities might we look for to share our faith in these uncertain times?

PJ: Times of crisis always provide an opportunity for the Gospel. Make use of these opportunities! Take walks around the neighborhood and ask how people are doing. Share your faith positively on social media while avoiding being critical, negative and political. Use Facebook groups or the Next Door app to connect with your immediate neighborhood and offer to help with needs, especially among the elderly. Encourage your student to think about one thing they can do each week to reach out to others or to serve others. This helps us all not be too self-focused and gives us perspective. Be very aware of people’s fears, concerns and anxieties and be willing to lend an ear (from six feet away). Many people just need someone to talk to during these lonely times.

This is a particularly good time to build on relationships you already have with unbelievers, so reach out to those you know—family, friends and coworkers—and ask how you can pray for them and take opportunities as the Lord gives them to speak of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

RW: You and some others in your family have underlying risk factors that could be life-threatening if they caught the virus. How can we deal with the fear associated with the unknown future?

PJ: A few years ago, I went through cancer surgery and chemotherapy. That was a time where I was at my weakest physically and during which the Lord taught me many lessons of dependence on His grace and strength. Thankfully, the treatments were effective in helping me recover from the cancer, and so far, I have been cancer-free for three years. However, the chemo did some long-term damage to my lungs, so that I am much more susceptible to respiratory issues. My daughter struggles with asthma, and we have another family member with immunodeficiency as well, so these things put us as a family at greater risk statistically when it comes to COVID-19.

Naturally, these realities provoke sober concern, but we have to be careful not to allow this concern to turn into fear, anxiety, paralyzing worry or despair. We fight these temptations first of all by being mindful and responsible with recommendations for isolation, distance, handwashing, etc.

We also fight our fears with good theology. We recognize that there is no germ, bacteria nor virus that is outside of the sovereign control of our loving, heavenly Father. We trust Him for protection and grace, and we are reminded of these truths in His Word. The familiar texts of Proverbs 3:5–6 and Isaiah 40:31 and 41:10 have been anchors for our souls. I like to use the phrase “be diligently dependent” in counseling. That is, I am diligent in living wisely while being dependent on the Lord for help and strength. This situation has given my family and me another opportunity to follow my own counsel.

RW: Both of your kids are seniors—one in high school and one in college. How are you helping them grapple with missing all of the “lasts” they won’t experience now?

PJ: There is no getting around the fact that this is a hard time for our seniors. Their last year of high school and college is not going to follow the normal script for sure. We have talked about the fact that God gives grace to handle the disappointments of life and also have reflected realistically that their experience will be deficient in some ways. In other ways, however, it is historic and memorable. There are things about their senior years that no other class will be able to reflect upon.

We have to remember that each student is an individual, and even each child in a family will respond differently to their circumstances. Be available and accessible and listen carefully, but don’t push or force them to talk if they aren’t ready to. Be quick to talk about how the Lord is helping you deal with the circumstances of your life, but be patient when you see your children respond, if negatively. Be extra compassionate, supportive and positive. We are in a marathon now and not a sprint, so pray and trust the Lord to work over time. Remember Philippians 1:6!

We do personally hope they will still have some of the memorable experiences like a graduation ceremony, and we will make sure we celebrate their accomplishments in some way ourselves, if not. While social media can be a danger for teens and young adults, it can also be a tremendous blessing and a way they can stay connected for support like never before in history. They are living this experience with their friends in a very unique way.

Overall, I am very thankful for how my seniors have responded. I have seen the same measure of resilience in our student body at BJU. There are disappointments for sure, but we all recognize that God’s grace will sustain us.