Christians often get confused about God’s plans and His timing. We tend to get our feelings, popular culture and out-of-context Bible scriptures all muddled in our brains. The final version either comes out “God’s only plan for us is to obey and get to Heaven” or God is “the ultimate fairy Godfather sent to grant all of our wishes (or He isn’t much of a God at all)”.
The reality painted by scripture is somewhat different. In the last post, we discussed the importance of God’s plans and His timing. Our children need to understand life isn’t just about getting baptized and avoiding sin to get to Heaven (although that is vital) nor is our every wish going to be fulfilled because we are a Christian. Rather, God has certain things He would like us to do with our time here on earth. I believe He guides us to see His plan if we are watchful. I also believe He has a perfect timing in mind.
Those concepts are difficult enough for adults to comprehend and accept. How in the world do we teach them to our kids? I think there are a few fun things you can do to help your children understand God does indeed have a plan for their lives and has specific timing He wants for certain events. There are probably many things you can do, but here are a few fun ones to get you started:
- Tell your child you want to take him to a new ice cream place or attraction in your town. Make sure he does not know where it is or how to get there (but you do and/or have your GPS ready). Tell him you have decided to let him navigate the plan to get there without any help from you. Allow him to tell you when to take turns (no GPS allowed for older tech savvy kids!). After a few minutes, park the car. Talk about what just happened. Did you get to your goal? Why not? What would have been a better way to get there? If your child had asked you for the directions and you had given them to him, would he have been able to get you to your goal? God has plans for us to live the best, fulfilling life possible on this fallen earth. We don’t have a clear roadmap for doing it ourselves. Only with God’s help giving us the turns as we go, can we navigate life successfully.
- Make deviled eggs or egg salad with your child. Place an egg in each of two pans and follow the beginning directions. For one pan allow your child to declare when the egg is done. Most children are impatient and will declare the egg cooked long before it is hard boiled. Take the egg out of the pan as you normally do when working with hard boiled eggs. As your crack open the egg, remind your child, it needs to be perfectly hardboiled in order for the recipe to work. Crack open your hopefully still runny egg. (If you have a very cautious child, you may get an over boiled egg which has a lovely green coating you can point out as “wrong”. Should your child get lucky and time it perfectly, you will have to punt and ask what would have happened if she had been in a hurry and told you it was ready five minutes earlier.) Then cook the second egg to the directions. Discuss the difference of waiting for God’s timing which is based on perfect knowledge and wisdom versus getting impatient and trying to “help” God by speeding Him up. (Ironically, people tend to err on the side of attempting to speed God up rather than to slow Him down.)
- Send your child on a mission. Set up clues around your house and yard. Each clue should lead to another place. The more clues you have, the better (at least ten to twenty – the older the child, the more clues you will need). Tell your child you have an important mission for him. Deliver the message as unemotionally as you can. You don’t want him to be able to tell whether this is leading to an annoying chore or a present. Hand him the first direction and tell him to follow the directions until the end where he will discover his mission. Don’t answer any questions (unless he needs help reading), but take note of the questions he does ask. Hopefully, you will hear questions about where the mission is leading, how much longer will this take, can’t you just tell me what you want now, etc. At the end, you can place a note with a small treat or the final note can just read “to be continued”. After the mission is completed, enjoy a snack or lemonade together. How did it feel only being given one direction at a time? How frustrating did it get when the mission kept going on and on with no end in sight? How tempting was it to quit? Explain how life can sometimes be like that. God may only give us a tiny piece of His plan at a time, and it may even take our entire lives to complete some missions He gives us. The important thing is to keep following God’s plans, direction and timing until the very end.
- Put together a puzzle without allowing your child to see the box or know what is on the finished puzzle. If possible find a puzzle of something or someplace your child loves. Help your child put together the puzzle. As you work discuss how much harder it can be to put together a puzzle when you don’t know what it is supposed to look like when it is finished. Discuss how much extra patience it is taking you to complete the mystery puzzle. When you are finished and admiring the beautiful final picture it creates, share with your child that our lives are often this way. God hands us a piece of the puzzle, but we are not always exactly sure what the puzzle piece represents or how it fits into the bigger picture of the puzzle. What we do know for sure is that the piece fits into the puzzle perfectly at some point and the results are often beautiful and better than we could have ever imagined.
- The next time your child says she is hungry for a meal, tell her to get into the car. Don’t answer any of her questions, but drive to a fast-food place or restaurant a few minutes or more away from your house. Take note of how many and what kinds of questions she asks you along the way. When you make it to your destination and are enjoying your meal, talk about the experience. How hard was it for her to trust that you would meet her need of being fed even though you didn’t tell her where you were taking her? Discuss the importance of believing God loves us more than we can understand and has our best interests at heart. He will provide what we really need, even if it is not what we want.
- Study the story of how David became king and the Psalms he wrote during this period. (Psalms 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 63, 142, etc.) Discuss with your child how David must have felt when Samuel anointed him as the future king. Talk about David killing Goliath and how he must have felt after it was all over. Then share the stories of King Saul’s insane treatment of David and his repeated attempts to kill him. What questions and fears must have been going through David’s mind? What clues can you get from the Psalms he wrote? Your children need to understand God knows when His plans aren’t fully revealed or His timing and plans don’t match our ideas or hopes of what they would be, we may become frustrated, afraid and even angry. God shows us by putting David’s Psalms in our Bible, He can handle us sharing our emotions with Him. What He does want from us ultimately though is our trust and obedience. Encourage your child to read the Bible, pray and even write his own Psalms when he becomes confused or frustrated by God’s plans and timing. Remind him though, ultimately he must obey and follow God’s plans and trust God’s plans and timing are perfect.
Teaching your children to trust in God’s plans and timing, is giving them a major piece of the firm foundation of faith they will need in the future. Taking some time now to have fun laying the groundwork of understanding these tough topics can help your child in ways you may never fully understand.