Reflections by Dr. Teston
A Fellowship Christian School Blog
Dear Fellowship Family,
As we launch into our Christmas break, who wants to think about Adversity, this week's focus of "Not on Our Watch"? Some of you may be in the thick of adversity as a parent or family, and the joys of Christmas may feel elusive. Whether you're in a season of adversity or sweet peace, I pray that this Friday Reflection will be encouraging as we focus on the One Who keeps us His.
According to Miriam-Webster, adversity is "a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty." This definition, while clear and concise, seems insufficient. Is a flat tire adversity? Suppose you don't know how to change it. In that case, it is undoubtedly an instance of difficulty, but I hesitate to call it adversity. Our culture sometimes misperceives situations as adversity when they are just a temporary nuisance. So, let's consider a revised definition in light of what God says about adversity and our intended response:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1: 2-4)
How can we "consider it pure joy" when we're enduring adversity? Keeping afloat is hard enough – and we're supposed to choose joy also? If we're convinced of God's enduring attributes (love, sovereignty, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence…) then we also know that His glory and our greater good is what's of supreme importance. We're not left on our own to "figure it out" and "make it stop."
Galatians 6 reminds us of two principles: we each have our own load (burdens) to bear in the normal course of life. However, we also have the responsibility to help others bear their loads (burdens) that are greater than one can bear alone. As the Body of Christ, we're meant to help ease others' loads of adversity whenever possible. It may be that you've experienced a similar situation and can leverage how God cared for you in the midst of the storm to encourage someone else.
So, how do we as parents model for our children what it looks like to correctly identify adversity, acknowledge the difficulty and impact, seek wisdom, and lean confidently on the Lord? As we near Christmas, it seems fitting to explore the following two verses from Matthew that provide a beautiful example of handling it with grace, humility, and confidence.
"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly" (Matthew 1: 18-19).
Before the miraculous birth of our Savior, Mary and Joseph's situation was steeped in adversity. Yet, their response was like a masterclass in navigating challenging circumstances. Though they may have never willingly chosen this, they trusted that God's plan was better than theirs. Because Mary and Joseph knew the character of God, they yielded to His will and confidently obeyed His instruction. How would our response to adversity – whether our children's or our own - change if we were confident in Who God is and His promise that we will not be shaken?
To gain that confidence, we must allow our children to experience adversity and see God at work. Today's generation has been described as the snowflake generation, accusing them of being less resilient and more easily offended. I am not pointing fingers (that's never wise to do!), but we should consider that perhaps it was snowplow parents who molded those snowflake children. I have often heard it said, "Don't pave the road for the child. Prepare the child for the road." I know how difficult it is to watch our children endure hardships. Still, I have also seen the fruit produced when adversity leads them to the arms of their Heavenly Father.
When facing adversity, let's help our children navigate it by teaching them to ask some self-reflecting questions:
- Did I create this situation or has something outside of my control caused this?
- What is the impact of this situation on me and others around me?
- What do I think God is trying to teach me in this – about Himself and myself?
- What is my next best step if I trust God completely in this circumstance and aim to reflect His character to others?
Most importantly, let's anchor our children in the Truth that nothing comes to us that hasn't been filtered through God's sovereign hands first. Teach them that grace and humility mean submitting to God's will even when it is not our own. Furthermore, reassure them that accepting what He has for us in each situation is not a posture of weakness but confidence in who He is and what He intends to accomplish.
We cannot shield our children from hard things. Still, by loving, encouraging, and pointing them back to God, we can help bear their burdens (Gal. 6:2). In seeking His will, we proclaim that "Not On Our Watch" will we allow adversity to be our undoing nor let it be our children's undoing either.
Whether you're in the midst of adversity, coming out of it, or anticipating it coming around the corner, may the birth of our promised Messiah settle your hearts and minds, knowing that His Father is yours as well. And He is good. Always.
Merry Christmas, my beloved family,
Dr. Kathryn M. Teston
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Dr. Kathryn M. Teston