Teaching Your Kids to Handle Loss
About the Guest
Life is uncertain. How can we walk in confidence when the culture is continually changing? Dennis and Barbara Rainey remind listeners that regardless of what they're facing, Jesus is still the rock and firm foundation. The Raineys coach parents on how to teach their children to be anxious for nothing.
Dennis and Barbara RaineyDennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Their 43+ years of leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries. Together they have spoken at over 150 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples, Staying Close, A Symphony in the Dark, and Barbara’s most recent, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey coach parents on how to teach their children to be anxious for nothing.
Teaching Your Kids to Handle Loss
Bob: As a parent, do you want your children to grow up full of faith and courage? Then, your children need to see a mom and a dad who are full of faith and are courageous. Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: I think that that’s our call as parents—is to model a relationship with Jesus Christ that’s authentic, and strong, and rooted in the Rock. That’s what our kids will notice, and they will follow that. That’s what we want—we want our children to grow a faith too, but we have to remember that we are modeling that in what we say and in what we do because our kids are paying attention.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. In times of instability, are you modeling for your children what it looks like to walk by faith and be full of courage? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I have some counsel for those who might be trying to decide on a church home. If you should show up at a local church and the worship pastor says, “Let’s sing the great hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, and let’s sing verses one, two, and four,” you should leave that church immediately; and you should never consider joining that church.
Now, there are some hymns—first of all, I just—
Dennis: The one, two, and four—counsel of Bob Lepine. [Laughter] You heard it first here on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: There are some hymns where it’s fine to skip a verse if you want to; okay? I don’t prefer it—I like to sing all of the verses of all of the hymns—
Barbara: I do too. I agree
Bob: —but I’m also aware that Charles Wesley did write some hymns that had 20 verses to them. So, I get narrowing it down to the best ones. But when it comes to Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, this is based on Psalm 46.
You can’t go from verse two to verse four without skipping a big, important part in the middle.
Barbara: A big chunk of Psalm 46.
Bob: Exactly right. And Psalm 46 is that Psalm that says, “God is our Rock, our fortress, our ever present help in time of need.” I was thinking about the hymn and thinking about that Psalm—with what we’ve been talking about this week—because a fortress is a place that you go into to feel safe from an enemy that might be attacking you. And there are times in our culture today, where we look around and go, “It feels like I need a fortress just to rest for a little bit.”
Dennis: And fortunately, I’m married to a great woman who recognizes that, not only do we need a fortress—and reminds me of that in our marriage / in our family—
—but also pinned both Bob and me underneath her foot and said, “I’ve got to go into the studio and share with our listeners the need for stability today.” [Laughter]
Bob: Let me just say—it was not a hostile takeover.
Dennis: It wasn’t.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: We were very happy.
Barbara: Thank you.
Dennis: Semi—semi-hostile. [Laughter] But she is all about a new plaque that she has developed. Interestingly, when she created it, she said, “You know, we haven’t even talked about it on FamilyLife Today, and these things are flying out of the warehouse,” —it is Isaiah 33:6: “And He shall be the stability of your times.” Share why you have created this, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Well, I think everyone is aware that we live in a very uncertain world, and it’s not just in America; but it’s all around the world. People are feeling the sand underneath their feet shifting, and people don’t know quite what to do with economic changes. They don’t know what to do with political changes. They don’t know how to respond to changes in their family.
Life is an uncertain adventure. And when uncertainty comes or when instability is felt, we need to know what to do—we need to know how to respond and what to do next.
The idea of putting this verse on a plaque—in a really pretty frame too—is so that we can be reminded every day in our homes that Jesus is our stability: He is the One who never changes; He is the One who is the Rock; He is the One who is our fortress. So, no matter what’s happening personally or no matter what’s happening in our world around us, He will never change; and that’s what gives me my security.
Dennis: Uncertain adventures demand leadership. What Barbara’s talking about demands leadership of men and women in all walks of life—whether you live in an apartment, inner city, suburban America, smaller towns across the country. These are days when individual followers of Christ need to know who they are and why they are here.
Barbara and I were talking about just the whole need for leadership in the family in the midst of uncertain times. I was reminded of a story that I told in my book, Stepping Up. It’s a story about Sir Ernest Shackleton who, at the age of 40, recruited men to go with him to the South Pole, the Antarctic. He took 27 men on December 5, 1914. After 45 days at sea, ran into what was called heavy pack ice that trapped his ship in the pack ice and they couldn’t get loose. They tried for three weeks—couldn’t get out of the pack ice. I want to read you what leadership sounds like in uncertain times.
This was written by the ship surgeon, Alexander Macklin, in his diary.
He said this about Shackleton: “Shackleton, at this time, showed one of his sparks of real greatness. He did not rage at all or show outwardly the slightest sign of disappointment. He told us simply and calmly that we must winter in the pack, explained its dangers and possibilities, never lost his optimism, and prepared for winter.”
I think that’s a picture, Bob, of the family today.
Bob: Do you think we are headed into a long winter season where—
Dennis: I think we are in the winter—I feel it. We’re no longer the majority / no longer feel welcome, necessarily, in the market place with our opinions as we have in the past. So, therefore, what are we going to do? How are we going to view ourselves in the midst of this? I think we were put here for such a time as this.
Bob: Let me just recite through, if I can, the lyrics to A Mighty Fortress because I think it’s instructive—
Bob: —in the day in which we live. Here’s Luther, who was living in a turbulent time, and he wrote:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
No matter what’s going on, God is going to prevail above that flood of mortal ills.
For still our ancient foe—and that’s the devil—doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth, is not his equal.
You get there, and that’s kind of depressing.
Dennis: That’s why you’ve got to sing the rest of the hymn.
Bob: That’s right.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
In other words, if we thought, “I’ll take care of this,”—our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
So, you don’t fight this on your own; right?
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word—I love that—One little word—
Barbara: I know.
—shall fell him. And what’s the word? Well—
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Then, it says—you come to the end here.
Let goods and kindred go,—don’t hang onto your stuff. Don’t even hang onto people if they’re keeping you from Him; right?—
—this mortal life also;
Dennis: Death to self.
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
I mean, I get chills just reading it. When I’m in unstable times—when I’m thinking, “Okay; where do you find help and hope?—Psalm 46 / that’s the Psalm that this was built around—that hymn is a great reminder of where our stability / where our anchor is.
Barbara: I think it’s a great reminder that, throughout the ages, what has been the Rock for Christians in the past is the Rock for us today. And that Rock is Jesus Christ. Luther taught us in that hymn that that is where our dependence needs to be—not on people—but only on God and on His Word.
Bob: How do we help kids get a sense of that—not just get it up here / just in their heads—
—but how do we teach our kids how to be anxious for nothing and how not to fear? What do we do?
Barbara: We have—as moms and dads, we have to have lots of conversations with our kids about these things because they are going to encounter difficulties in school, and with neighborhood kids, and in their life as they grow up, regardless of what’s happening in the world around them. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” And moms and dads who aren’t teaching their children how to handle trouble are setting their kids up for great disappointment, because those kids are going to trust in their circumstances and not trust in Christ.
Dennis: And I just want to insert here—Barbara and I give each other permission to be sad about circumstances / to be grieved about what’s happening—
Dennis: —to spill out, maybe, discouragement around what we’re seeing, as individuals, both in our marriage but also in our family.
I think something that’s really healthy here is to give your kids permission to articulate what they’re feeling and experiencing, too, because it’s real. If the family is a safe place for kids to go: “You know, I’m kind of scared. This is kind of unsettling to me as a boy,”—I think those are great moments in that young man’s life or a young lady’s life, where you can come in and say: “Thanks for sharing that. Loss is real.” We need to talk about how we are grieving certain losses in our lives, but we need to move from that loss back to stability and how God is our refuge.
Bob: During times of war or conflict, kids can often be afraid, wondering how close the war is—
Bob: —to where they live. And in some cases, there’s reason to be alert to danger; but there is a difference between being alert to danger and being full of fear; isn’t there?
Barbara: Yes, and being overtaken by it. I think that’s the job of parents—
—is to listen to your kids’ fears, talk to them about them, pray with them, hug them, love them, comfort them, and try to help correct the situations that they find themselves in. Parents are supposed to be protectors. We’re supposed to take care of our kids, but there will come points in which Mom and Dad can’t fix everything. And even in the midst of the things that we can, the hope is always to point our children back to Jesus.
And it reminds me of a story that I read, probably, 20 years ago. I read a little tiny piece of an article that was about the Armenian genocide that happened in the early 1900s—1914 and ‘15. It was the story of what one mother said to her daughters in the midst of that. I—just a few years ago, I found the book that was written by this same family that told the details of that story. I felt like—when I ordered it, and found it, and it came in the mail, I felt like I had this treasure chest of pearls.
It just felt like this exquisite gift that I had just gotten.
It was a used copy / paperback copy of this book, but it was written by the woman who was the little girl at the time. She tells the story of how her family was a Christian family. They had great friendships in their community, and they did things together. She grew up singing all these Christian songs and playing safely in their backyard, climbing trees, and doing all the things that normal children do.
And then, one day—she was about 11—and World War I broke out. When the war began, things changed in their country. Armenia is a portion of the country of Turkey. The political and governmental climate in the country of Turkey changed dramatically. All of a sudden, her Christian family was not safe anymore. Her mom and dad were not safe anymore, and neither were the other Christian families that they were friends with either. Her parents were talking to her and her little sister.
They were also preparing them that: “This might not turn out well for us; but no matter what, we’re going to believe in Jesus. I want you to remember that.”
One day, the soldiers came to the village. Soldiers arrested her father and took him away. She watched—as the oldest of the two children, she watched where they took her dad. She ran over there later in the evening and found where he was. He had been beaten badly, and he was tied up and chained. She got down on the ground and put her little head next to his and started talking to him.
This is what her daddy said to her—he said: “Elizabeth, never give up Christ no matter how much suffering might come. Christ died for us, and we can be as brave as His name.” That was the last time she ever saw her father.
I was so struck by the fact that that father had the presence of mind to tell his little girl—
—whom he wanted to protect, whom he wanted to rescue, whom he wanted to save from all that was coming, and he couldn’t do it. So, he did the next best thing—really, the very best thing—but he put her hand in the hand of Jesus. He took her heart and turned it toward God who was over all.
Then, the story goes on to say that not long after—I can’t remember now if it was months or a year later—she, and her little sister, and her mother were rounded up again by the soldiers. They were all shipped off to another part of the country. There, they—all three of them—began to work for different families as a way to survive and a way to hopefully endure throughout the war.
One day, her mother managed to get away. She found Elizabeth, who was still 11 or, maybe, 12 by then at the time. She said: “My time of suffering has come. Tomorrow, they are taking everyone who does not renounce Christ and claim allegiance to Mohammed—they are taking all of us away.”
And this is what she said—so, the mother, now, had her moment with her daughter.
She said, “I cannot give up Christ no matter how much you girls will need me.” When I read that, as a mom, it just broke my heart; because the last thing a mom wants to do is to let her kids be taken / to let her kids suffer. We would rather be killed than watch our children suffer. Yet, she clung to Christ. She said, “I cannot give up Christ no matter how much you girls will need me.” She said, “I cannot give Him up. I know that He will watch over both of you.” “After crying together,”—Elizabeth writes—“my mother ran back to her Turkish home. The next day, the soldiers came and took all the adults and marched them away into exile, and they all died.”
So, now, Elizabeth is an orphan—she and her sister. The rest of the book goes on to tell how God did, indeed, rescue the two of them and kept them safe through the end of the war.
At the end of the war, they were able to immigrate to the United States, and they both lived normal lives from then on.
I just couldn’t get over the depth of faith of these two parents—of this mom and this dad—who, when they wanted with every fiber of their being to take care of their two precious girls that they loved dearly, clung to Christ and trusted that God was big enough to take care of them. I wondered, when I read that 20 years ago—I thought: “Could I do that? Could I trust God with my children?” And yet, it’s the question that I think all parents have to look to—we all have to answer that question: “Is God big enough to take care of my children?”
As we look at the uncertain times that we’re living in—it’s nothing like that—but we feel that same anxiety. We feel that same instability. We feel that same fear, and the answer is still the same: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is still on His throne.
“He can still be trusted. He can still take care of us.” That’s the message we need to teach our children so that they will grow up and they will be able to do the same—they will be able to put their faith in Christ and trust in Him.
Bob: You tell that story that you’ve shared with us today in a book you wrote, Growing Together in Truth. It’s a collection of stories designed to be read, as a family, to help encourage and strengthen faith. I think the main thing—as I heard you telling the story—the main thing that came home to me is: “If our kids are anxious and fearful, they are probably picking it up from us. And if our kids are going to be full of faith—
Barbara: They are picking it up from us.
Bob: They really do take their cues—
Bob: —from how they see us responding to human events.
Barbara: And that’s what is so stunning to me about this story—is that this mother and this father portrayed a really strong faith to those girls, and those girls picked up on that.
And I think that that’s the real question for moms and dads: “Do you really believe that God is big enough, and will you grow your faith so that you can pass on that kind of faith to your children?”
Dennis: As Barbara was reading that story, I thought: “As parents, we have two assignments. One, we are to be spiritual commentators on the times. A commentator is providing context for what is taking place. As a parent, we need to be providing spiritual commentary. We need to be talking about it from the Bible—looking at life / talking about: ‘What’s happening here? What’s going on?’ These are days that are ripe with opportunity.
“A second aspect of being a parent, that we dare not miss is—parents are to be spiritual priests. They are to direct faith. They are not to be ashamed of what they believe.
“As you just said, Bob, they need to have a faith / be living it out, but directing their children at knowing how to process this.”
In a time of crisis like this father was facing, as he was dying, he was just doing what he had always done naturally. He was placing his faith in Christ. As he took his daughter’s hand and put it in the hand of Christ—as you said, Barbara—he was just doing what he’d always done with his little girl. In a time of crisis, you don’t do something extraordinary if you haven’t been doing it before.
Barbara: And he was modeling for her what authentic faith looks like. I think that that’s our call as parents—is to model a relationship with Jesus Christ that’s authentic, and strong, and rooted in the Rock. That’s what our kids will notice, and they will follow that. That’s what we want. We want our children to grow a faith, too; but we have to remember that we are modeling that in what we say and in what we do, because our kids are paying attention.
Bob: I know you have been involved in helping to put together the devotions that we have created—a series of ten devotions for families to read through / interact around—all related to this issue of how we cultivate stability in our lives / where our security comes from.
If you’ve got the FamilyLife app on your smartphone or your device, you can pull it up and hit where it says, “Help and Hope.” You can get these ten devotions available so you can use them with your family at a meal time—or just together as a couple—go through these devotions. If you don’t have the FamilyLife app, it’s available from your app store. Just look for it and download it so that you have access to more of our content and access to this daily radio program as well.
You can also download the ten devotions when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; and that’s where you can see the Isaiah 33:6 stability plaque that Barbara has created that is available for order.
You can order it online so it can hang in your home, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order the plaque. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and our toll-free number to order is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, our goal, here at FamilyLife, is to see every home become a godly home. We think that ultimately the solution for what ails us, as a nation / in our world, is that there would be a return to a biblical understanding of what it means to live in harmony in your home. It starts with your marriage; and then, it continues as you raise children who know and love Christ. The mission of this ministry is to effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world one home at a time.
In a very real sense, when you invest in the ministry of FamilyLife Today, the funds that you’re entrusting to us are being used to help grow stronger, healthier, more biblically-anchored marriages and families. We just want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who partner with us in this endeavor. You’re helping cover the cost of producing and syndicating this radio program, articles that are being written and distributed online, our events, and our resources. It’s all because folks, like you, care about marriages and families in our country and in our world.
If you are able to help with a donation today, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a banner that reminds you that your home is an embassy for the kingdom of heaven. It’s a banner Barbara has created. You can request yours when you make a donation to FamilyLife Today online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate over the phone; or you can request the banner and mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how we can cultivate in our own heart a sense of peace and a sense of stability even when the 24-hour news channels are telling us that our world is in trouble and that there is no hope. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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