Like many of you, our family has been watching the unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine with a mixture of disbelief and fear. The last time I remember watching the TV so closely was in high school when the War on Terror took place on American soil.
It was surreal then, too. But teenage naivety (along with a dose of national pride) had a way of softening (blinding?) me to the realities of war. My pending military enlistment felt like more of an adventure than anything truly dangerous. Funny how your perspective changes when you go from being a kid to having your own.
Barely a week in, we’ve watched the Russian-Ukrainian war split families apart with just a suitcase between them. We’ve watched husbands boldly protecting their cities while their wives bravely whisk their little ones to safety across the border.
My oldest shook his head in disbelief, “It’s like something out of Call of Duty.” The younger two-staged elaborate battles with their army men on the kitchen table. “We gotta practice, mom. Just in case.”
It’s these “just in case” moments that have led to sobering conversations about warfare and politics; discussions about fascism (blog post coming soon, btw) and dictatorships; of the realities of the human condition and how to help those in need.
It made me think of you other mamas out there, who are also having these same talks. We mamas want to comfort our little ones, but there’s wisdom in acknowledging reality too. Instead of promising comforts and freedoms we can’t guarantee, let’s take a moment to affirm some truths to remember when times feel dark.
1. No, people aren’t inherently good. But God is.
Four newscasters the other night argued over what they thought Putin was going to do. Certainly, he wouldn’t attack the borders! That’s where the women and children are! Of course, he wouldn’t launch an all-out attack! There are cameras everywhere!
Beneath this perfectly dressed panel of self-delusion was an underlying assumption: that deep down, each person will eventually do the right thing…at least while the cameras are rolling. Because no one ever does anything evil or dumb in front of those, right?
Yeah…that’s not how humanity works.
Sin is been the wet blanket on every humanist’s bed. It doesn’t matter how many news cameras or cell phones are pointed at a person; if they want to live out a worldview that destroys life, they’re going to do it. And they’ll do it with a smile.
Yet people are regularly surprised when their fellow humans do evil things. Why are we still so shocked? Maybe it’s those heart-wrenching monologues made by lovable characters who win over the bad guy. Or the secular humanistic views which try to say that “we’re all basically good people.” People just don’t have a proper perspective of the brokenness of man. When reality hits us like a roundhouse kick to the face, confusion, shock, and fear always follow.
We can help ease the fears of our kiddos by helping them understand the reality of the fall. The reason war is so scary is that it was never part of God’s original design. The beauty, safety, and security of that design were rejected by man’s disobedience.
Now we live in a fallen world. A world where people with God complexes and extremist nationalistic fantasies (to name just a few reasons why people go cray-cray) lead them to bomb apartment buildings. But this won’t always be the case.
He will one day come back and restore the Church and destroy evil once and for all. No more invasions, no more viral videos of mothers in hiding, pleading for mercy. There will only be joy.
When kids have a proper perspective of the meta-narrative of scripture and the world, then what they see on the news will be more understandable. Not good, but it’s basically what we can expect from fallen people in a broken world. No surprises here! It will also remind them that it is God, not the government, who ultimately saves.
2. We’re never promised comfort in this world
In truth, I bet most of us take comfort for granted—myself included. Indulgence has been so normalized that people get cranky when a restaurant isn’t all-you-can-eat. Even religion has flashy pastors with million-dollar grins promising us our best life now if we just pray hard enough and release our self-centered dreams to the sweet little baby Jesus.
But what happens when that actualization session is interrupted by job loss, displacement, or even explosions? Then what?
Few of us have had to look at our children’s shoes to see which could stand up to miles of walking. Or calculate just how much food our 10-year-old could carry in a backpack. Or leave our homes not knowing if we’ll ever get to return.
It goes without saying that all parents want the best for their children. The problem is that want what’s best often manifests in buying nice things, instead of seeking heavenly rewards–which is why most kids can rattle off a Christmas list faster than an auctioneer yet draw a blank when it comes to scripture or spiritual disciplines.
As your family watches the Ukrainian coverage, take time to refocus on what is truly important. The fancy tv? It’ll be broken in a few years. Those trendy clothes? Outdated by the time summer rolls around. That vacation you’ve got planned? A soon-to-be memory. What matters in life is not what we buy but who we impact for the Kingdom.
Ask your kiddos how instances like unrest in Ukraine reveal what is truly important. In what ways have we grown complacent in our comfort? What does God say our focus should be regarding nice things of this world? (Hint: read Luke 12:15, Matthew 6:19-33, Philippians 4:6-7) How can we use the blessings God has given to show Jesus to our friends, teachers, and coworkers? How can we give glory to God when bad things happen?
This isn’t just a lesson in empathy. It’s a way to help foster gratefulness while training kids on how to handle change and loss. It puts worldly gains in their proper place: as tools for the Kingdom, not treasures to hoard.
When we are heavenly-minded, worldly trials become opportunities to point others and orient ourselves toward Christ. Something sorely needed in today’s me-first world.
3. Be the hands and feet
Without action we become the Christian version of celebrities live-streaming themselves singing “Imagine.” Sure, it’s nice and all, but something tells me those refugees need more than just a virtual karaoke session. We need to have an outflowing of the heart to match (James 2:16).
Luckily, helping is one thing kids love to do! Since flying overseas is pretty much out of the question, model what faith in action looks like by involving your kids as you donate.
Show your children how to be good stewards with the blessings God has set within your care. It will help them become mature Christians while nurturing their desire to help the needy.
If their school is building care packages for soldiers or refugees, let them pick out what to donate. Being productive is filling a need can help ease worries that your little one might have. Plus it helps them practice their faith in kid-accessible ways.
Most news stations are running a list of verified charities, which can also be found through www.charitynavigator.org. Many churches are also proactively backing their sister churches overseas. My home church of Lake Pointe was able to connect with frontline churches in countries like Poland and offer financial support as they host refugees. If you’d like to donate to the relief effort through Lake Pointe, you can do so here and specify that your donation is for Ukraine. Be sure to ask your own church leadership how they are supporting the effort and get involved in your community where you can.
4. Prayer is part of how we help!
Pastor Josh Howerton said that if we always got what we prayed for, most of us would only have blessed meals and safe drives to work. Really awe-inspiring stuff there!
I’m not judging. A lot of my prayers have been more fluff than faith. But superficial well-wishes to the universe are not how we communicate with the Creator of the Universe. Read Jesus’s directions on how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15 together with your children. Take notice how it starts with the right heart and ends with the proper focus:
vv. 5-6: Don’t be a show-off
vv. 7-8: Be direct and concise
v. 9: Give God glory
v. 10: Recognize His control in all things (sovereignty)
v. 11: Only He can meet our needs
v. 12: Only He can forgive our sins
v. 14: Only He can save
When we reflect on Jesus’ example we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God. Ultimately, everything else will fail us, hence the phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
Prayer also affirms that the battle isn’t just in the physical realm but the spiritual as well. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist,” isn’t just a line from a great movie,1The Usual Suspects (1995) it’s an all too common belief within the church.
Satan is very real and seeks to destroy. We will never win the battle if we go at it alone. Prayer is how we cry out to the only One who can save. Let’s start praying like Elijah, and less like Oprah.
Here’s a prayer for Ukraine:
“Lord God, we praise you for your faithfulness. Thank you for sending Christ to die for our sins so that those who believe can be with you in heaven forever. You are good, wise, and just. And we take comfort in knowing that you are in control of all things. We lift up the people of Ukraine. Give them the wisdom to submit to you and boldness to stand firm. Soften their hearts and ears so they can come to know you through their trials. Please embolden witnesses to speak the truth within our government, Russia, and the world. We pray for protection over Ukrainians, the military, and the aid workers who are on the front lines. And help us be a living witness of the Truth. Amen”
For those of you actively serving and protecting our nation and fighting overseas, thank you. For those of us serving at home, be a bold witness. Let’s remind our kiddos that hope and salvation are found only in God. Both of which no man, or army, can take away. Though all our stuff is temporary, the most valuable thing that we have can be given away without fear of running out: hope in Christ. Finally, let’s encourage our littles by showing them how to live out God’s command to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Amy Davison is a former Air Force veteran turned Mama Bear Apologist. She is currently a grad student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary studying apologetics and philosophy. She and her husband Michael (also former Air Force) have been married for over 12 years and have 3 kids. Amy is the Mama Bear resident expert on sex and sexuality, and she’s especially hoping to have that listed on her Mama Bear business card.