If you take just a moment to examine the means by which you function in the world, you’ll discover that MOST of what you do is performed out of mental habits. In other words, the way you’ve learned to THINK about things is what guides the way you behave, how you make decisions, the manner in which you respond to other people, and a load of other things. Your kids have already developed some of the mental habits that will shape their lives, but there is still time for you to guide them to tear down destructive mental habits and to develop the most important of all mental habits — the habit of trusting God. This episode digs into it.
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Trust in God is a habit that your kids need to develop too
We would like for you to be thinking about an area, or if you’re like most people, there are probably many areas where you struggle with trusting the Lord. We’ve definitely experienced the struggle in our marriage and in our lives as individuals. It’s a natural part of the Christian walk.
Thankfully, God knows that and He’s in the process of growing us up into faithful (full of faith) people, more and more every day. I can remember when we were first married, the area that tripped me up most often was the area of finances. I mean it was a BIG TIME struggle. We only had one income and as we continued to have more kids, and as my salary stayed pretty much the same (I was a small church Pastor at the time), it always felt like there wasn’t enough money for the month. At times when bills would come and we wouldn’t have the money and I would have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We all have our struggles in trusting God. And as a parent, it’s important for us to recognize our kids are going to have that same struggle. They too need to learn the mental habit of trust.
The reason I call it a mental habit is because once you develop the belief that God is trustworthy, capable, and cares for you, that belief becomes like software that’s running in the background of your mind all the time. Those truths enable us to trust even if our emotions are roaring. Even when you encounter a different situation than you’ve ever experienced, if you’ve learned that you can trust the Lord, that He is faithful, then you can weather those new situations with a lot more peace.
Let’s look at Isaiah 26:3-4…
Trust doesn’t happen in a void
You (God) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. – ISAIAH 26:3-4
When I say that faith, or trust doesn’t happen in a void, I’m pointing to the fact that Isaiah is stating: faith is always based on something or someone, or in this case, Someone.
This is important for us to understand when we live in a day and age when people say ridiculous things like this: “Oh, you just gotta have faith,” or “You’ve just gotta’ trust.” Those statements don’t mean much, they are nothing more than generic feel-good language. There’s no root to the faith that’s being described. ed in anything. Trust in what? Have faith in what? That’s the important question.
And so Isaiah 26:3-4 provides the answer to those questions.
Parents, anytime you read a verse like this, one that grips your heart or teaches you something you hadn’t seen before, you have a great opportunity to teach it to your kids.
Take the opportunity to introduce it to them so it can grip their hearts as well.
Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord is to be the basis of our trust. He’s the one we can rely on. He’s the one who is steady and strong and wise and good and secure.
We’ve got to make sure our kids not only understand that intellectually, but take it to heart. Begin teaching them at as early an age as possible that God is the object of their trust.
And what does Isaiah really mean when he says, “him whose mind has stayed on You because he trusts You?” What does a mind “stayed on” God look like?
What does a mind “stayed on God” look like?
When Mindi reads this passage she instantly thinks about our dog. Any dog will, at times, watch its owner. It’s waiting, watching to see what’s going to happen, looking to its master to find out what he’s going to tell me to do next.
In the same way, our eye is to be fixed on the Lord as the one who leads us, provides for us, gives us wisdom, and many other things. It’s a habit of completely depending on him. “What do I do in this situation? Or in this situation? How should I think? How should I obey? I won’t do one thing one way or the other until you tell me.”
When I hear this phrase, I immediately start thinking about God’s attributes. I think about His goodness, and I think about His omnipotence, which means He’s all powerful. I think about His commitment to us through Christ. I think about all the promises He’s given us, like the one that He’ll never leave us or forsake us. Promises like that tell us who our God is and that He’s trustworthy.
If we choose to believe it, those truths can change our lives, can provide amazing peace even in the midst of difficult times. That’s what trust really is, isn’t it? It’s believing what God has said about Himself, enough that we will act on it. So in those hard times, we determine that with His help, we will fight off those feelings, ignore the knotted stomach and the belief that the other shoe is about to drop.
We refuse to fear or be anxious because we believe that He is faithful and trustworthy. We determine in our hearts that we are going to honor Him for who He really is.
And think of what a beautiful thing it is to teach your child this. At a young age and all throughout their stages of growing up years, you have a great opportunity to equip them with a life-long stability. Imagine them leaving your home, ready for adulthood, already grounded in mental habits of trusting the Lord.
So if you’re expecting a little child, prepare yourself to go to battle for the mind and heart of your child. From day one, talk to them in this kind of language. Teach them about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Your kid can be an exception to the rule if you do this. They don’t’ have to be like all the kids you hear about these days who are experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, who are going to a therapist because life is too much for them (and because their parents feel unable to help them). You can teach and model for your children, what it means to trust in the God of the universe, who cares for them.
Dependence, not independence
Parents, this means you should not be focused on making your kids competent and independent, or self-motivated and responsible. Listen carefully, although none of those are bad things, those things should not be your focus.
Your focus as a Christian parent is to teach them godly dependence. Teach them and show them how to rely on God for everything, how to trust His character and His heart toward them. They need to know that He is inclined favorably toward them because of what Jesus has done. Teach them those realities in personal ways. Show them how abundant God’s love is and that they are right in the center of it.
Obviously parents, if you are not depending on the Lord daily, leaning on Him for YOUR every need, then your kids are going to have a hard time learning it from you. If they see you fretting and worrying and getting upset because something happened that was disturbing, and then the next day you try to tell your child not to be worried or fearful, they are going to see that hypocrisy. Make sure that you are growing in your ability to trust the Lord. As you do, communicate about it with your kids, let them see your growth in action. You only need to be a couple of steps ahead in your walk with the Lord to teach your kids about faith in the Lord.
And if you have a kid who’s discerning enough or astute enough to say to you, “Dad, you keep telling me not to be anxious, but you were fretting just yesterday,” thenyou humble yourself and repent, asking your child to forgive you. They aren’t being disrespectful, just honest. Tell them, “I’m so sorry. You’re right. I was fretting. I wasn’t trusting the Lord.” Your honesty will give them greater respect for you, for the authenticity with which you are leading them to know the Lord.
There were times in our family life as the kids were growing up that we would call all the kids together for a family meeting during the difficult situations of life. Let’s just say it was one of those times when finances were tight and we didn’t know where our how our needs would be met. We’d call the kids together and we would explain the situation./ We would be entirely honest with them by telling them that we’re really seeking to trust the Lord, even though we are tempted to fret or be afraid. We didn’t try to come off as being full of faith if we weren’t. We’d say, “We’re seeking to trust the Lord because that’s what we know is right. That’s what we need to do because we know that He’s faithful. So let’s pray together.” Then we’d pray.
We’d make it a family faith-building project by discussing it, coming together to seek the Lord as a family, and pray about the needs we had. I believe that’s one of the reasons our kids have been able to trust the Lord as they’ve become adults. They’ve seen God provide.They’ve seen the peace He’s miraculously given us during our hardest moments. In short, they’ve seen His faithfulness first-hand.
So parents don’t feel like you have to be pristinely perfect in this. God will faithfully lead your kids as you are honest about how He is faithfully leading you.
How much SHOULD you share with your kids about the hard situations?
I’ve heard people over the years who say things like this…
“I don’t feel like it’s wise to talk to my kids about the difficulties our family is facing because I don’t want to inject that kind of insecurity into their lives.”
Another way I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed is…
“I don’t want my kids to bear the weight of adult-sized problems.”
The premise of these comments is that we as parents could possibly inject insecurity into the hearts and minds of our kids by “sharing too much” with them. They might wind up becoming fearful that their family will have no place to live, or nothing to eat, for example, if you were to share about financial difficulties.
But as parents, we are responsible to teach our kids about the realities of life. One of the realities of life is that things come at us and we become fearful, we are anxious, we are worried, we are angry, whatever the negative response is. That’s part of being human and part of living in this world. But right alongside those realities (the ones parents are afraid might be “too much” for their kids), we need to be teaching our kids that God has a solution to every problem, no matter what it is.
He says, “Turn to Me, put your trust in Me, I will take care of you.” So picture yourself saying this to your children, “This bad thing has happened, but I’m choosing not to fret and worry because God has told us that He will take care of us.” Then, you get to work trusting, fighting the doubts and fears that will naturally arise in your heart as you work your way through the situation, and you keep your kids updated on how you’re doing, what the Lord is teaching you, and how He is providing and taking care of the family.
If you do this for them when they are young, then when they’re adults and difficult things happen, they’re going to remember their Mom or their Dad, who was concerned about the bills were going to be paid, but they chose to trust the Lord. They weren’t frantic. They weren’t having panic attacks. And remembering those examples is actually going to strengthen them and guide them to depend on the Lord for themselves.
Imagine the opposite: Say that you decide NOT to let your kids now about the difficulties the family faces, not to make them part of the prayer, and you don’t teach them to watch you as you struggle to trust the Lord. They are going to grow up — 10 years old, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, and difficult things are going to come into their lives. When that happens, they won’t have any “trust muscle” built up to help them endure that difficulty. That’s because you’ve not demonstrated how to trust. You’ve not taught them how to trust by helping them deal with real life circumstances when they were younger. They’re going to have a worse time in the future because you didn’t inject insecurity into their lives.
We honestly NEED a little insecurity in our lives. It is what builds our trust muscles. It’s what forces us to turn to the secure one, our Heavenly Father, and learn that our security is there, in Him.
Parents, if you neglect teaching your children how to handle the difficulties of life in the right way, a God-fearing way, they’re going to be taught to handle it in the wrong way, a way that dishonors God.
What a mental habit of trust does for our kids (and us)
Let’s look at the results a mental habit of trust has in our lives. It is a life-changing thing. Isaiah says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.”
Isn’t this what the objections I mentioned are about? We don’t want our kids to feel a lack of peace, right? We don’t want them to be anxious and fretting.
The answer is not to keep the bad news from them, the answer is to teach them to put their mind on the Lord. That’s the answer to any insecurity our children may feel.
Then at the end of verse four, Isaiah says, “The Lord is an everlasting rock.” That’s an image of stability. That’s an image of strength and a firm foundation upon which we can live That is what a mental habit of trust produces.
A MENTAL TRUST EXERCISE
The next time you’re struggling to trust the Lord, try this exercise. Imagine the Holy Spirit asking you this question…
“What if your greatest fear happens in this scenario? What are you going to do if that’s the case? Does it mean that I’m not God, that I’m not good, that I’m not in control? Does it mean that you are justified if you choose not to trust Me?”
Asking yourself “worst case scenario” questions like this enables you to see the situation for what it really is, to see what you’d really be doing if you chose fear over faith. It helps you fight the battle to believe that’s going on in your mind and heart and come to the conclusion that, by God’s grace and with His truth, you WILL chose to trust him.
You can also look through scripture at the people there who trusted in God. Many of them went through horrific things and their faith can encourage ours. Look at what God did in their lives even IN the difficulties and recognize that even if that sort of thing happens to you (or your kids), the same God who sustained and held them will sustain and hold you.
That’s what God teaches us in those moments when fear is on the doorstep, when anxiety is looming. It always goes back to God. He is trustworthy. His timing is best.
We can wait on Him and trust Him.
God teaching us to fear Him appropriately, which is actually our goal on this podcast, you know, “God FEARING kids and the parents who raise them.” As your kids get older, it’s even good to have those hard conversations with them about the worst case scenario. It can be uncomfortable to talk about, but God will teach us to fear Him as we are willing to look at our greatest fears and decide, to determine that He is greater. When we are able to do that, we reach a point of peace, as amazing as that sounds. Because we are learning to rest in His love, His care, His trustworthiness.
The root of trusting God is God Himself
It’s really interesting that also in Isaiah 26, we see that the root of trust is God Himself.
Look what the passage says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed…”
Where? On the hope that circumstances will get better? No.
On the hope that maybe the bonus will come in and we’ll have enough money? No.
On the Lord. That’s where our peace comes from.
Notice it doesn’t say “You keep him in perfect peace AND get rid of all the trouble because your mind stayed on God.” Nope. That’s not the promise.
The promise is the peace and it comes from Him. Why? Because of the last phrase of the passage, “Trust in the Lord forever. For the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” The focus is on who He is.
We can tell you from 30 some years of being married and trusting the Lord together, this is a slow process sometimes. We humans don’t take to this kind of mental habit easily because our tendency is to fret and to be fearful of things that are outside our control. Life and circumstances in our lives are bigger than us. But what Isaiah is telling us is that God’s bigger than any circumstance, and He’s in control of it. We need to put our focus there so that we can have the stability that we need.
We’ve seen this way of instructing our kids have great results. One example is that of our oldest son. We’ve been so blessed by watching him and his wife go through very hard times with different circumstances and illnesses. They’ve had hard times financially, circumstantially, with employment, and housing, and you name it. But today they have weathered the storms, all the while fighting to trust the Lord. As a result, their faith is stronger. Their relationship with the Lord is stronger. Their children love the Lord. Our way of parenting didn’t develop frantic, anxious children. Quite the opposite. Our son and his wife had the tools to know how to fight to walk by faith. They had the tools to know how to trust. And God brought them through His own process of growth and they’ve come out glorifying Him. It’s a hopeful story.
On a real pragmatic level, we need to be talking about the Lord and the goodness of the Lord all the time in our homes. We need to be talking about His goodness as we notice it, in everything from sunsets, to yummy desserts, to the gift grandma gave the kid for their Christmas present. Pointing out the Lord’s goodness and pointing out His strength, reminding the kids about His love for them all throughout life Then they will be able to draw on that when hard times come, because they will know who God is, that they can trust Him.
There is nothing else that is more foundational for a Christian parent to do than to teach their kids the mental habit of trusting God.
Bible Teacher, Podcaster, Author
Carey is a retired pastor who served in local churches in various roles for over 20 years. He’s the host of to Christian podcast, “The Morning Mindset Daily Christian Devotional,” co-host of a Christian parenting podcast, “God Fearing Kids and the Parents Who Raise Them” which he hosts with his wife, and co-host of “You and Me And Jesus: A Christian Marriage Podcast,” also hosting alongside his wife, Mindi. Carey has written numerous books, including a Christian Speculative Fantasy Fiction series, “The Dragon Slayer Chronicles.” He’s the founder of Podcast Fast Track (a full-service podcast production company focused on serving small businesses and entrepreneurs) and love family, Jesus, and life.
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