I grew up on the Canadian prairies. That means I was bitten by a million mosquitoes, learned how to skate before I was in kindergarten, and watched in silent awe as the northern lights danced in the sky. It also means I learned how to dress for the weather.

Unless you wanted to stay inside for months at a time, you just put on the right clothes for the weather and launched out. There is wisdom here for all of us who are trying to raise children (or grandchildren) in this beautiful, stormy, wonderful, frightening world. Dress them for the weather.

In the face of an ever-growing list of complex moral and social issues, the temptation is to keep the kids indoors and never let them out, so to speak. But we can’t shield our children from everything forever, nor can we give them enough specific instruction to address every choice and situation they will ever face. We can, however, dress our children for the weather — in fact we must. That’s what Jesus did on the last night He spent with His disciples before His crucifixion. He prepared them to live well even without Him.

Here are four crucial messages we must impart in order to prepare our children to follow Jesus in complicated times:

BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE WORLD BUT NOT FEARFUL. The night He was betrayed, on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples. “In this world you will have troubles of all kinds, but take heart (or fear not), for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When our children are old enough to know that there are things broken in our world, we must help them understand that all of us are capable of doing things that hurt others and break God’s heart but that God still loves us, God is still in control, God is with us in every circumstance, and that we can trust Him. Let’s teach it. Even more, let’s model real faith rather than fear. Fear is contagious, but so is faith.

PRAY FOR YOUR CHILDREN LIKE JESUS DID. When He prayed for his disciples, Jesus asked His Father not to isolate them from the world but to keep them safe (John 17:15). I must confess that I have often prayed like this for my children — “don’t let any hard thing come to them, no disappointment, no rejection, no failure, no difficult choices” — but I wonder if that is just praying for them to be soft and comfortable rather than strong and courageous. In our prayers and in our actions, let us not try to shield our loved ones from the work of God in their lives, even if it means difficulty for a season. Let’s pray instead that God will use them to bring honour to Him and bless the world.

TEACH THEM TO UNDERSTAND AND APPLY GOD’S WORD. Jesus prayed for His disciples, asking God to, “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17). There are some scriptural truths we must teach early and consistently to our children if we are to dress them for the weather.

Genesis 1:1. This world and everything in it exists by the design and will of God, including humans who bear His image. This conviction shapes our thinking and will shape our child’s thinking at the root level on questions of racism, sexism, wealth and poverty, crime and punishment, gender and sexuality, how we steward the planet, how we treat the pre-born, the elderly and the disabled. It changes everything.

John 3:16. God sent His son Jesus to reconcile every person to God and to create one Body of believers. Children who grow up believing that God’s grace and love is for them and for every person who puts their faith in Jesus, will live in hope and will rise above the frictions and factions in the Church and in our world.

When I lived on the prairies, many times I returned home from sledding or skating or delivering newspapers, and I was chilled, my skin was tingling, my fingers and toes were numb. I was not immune to the weather, but I survived and even thrived because I was dressed for it. Let’s do all we can to help our children (and grandchildren) thrive. Let’s dress them for the weather.

NEIL JOSEPHSON s the National Director with FamilyLife Canada.Neil, together with his wife Sharol, lead FamilyLife Canada. Neil loves to learn, teach and write about anything related to marriage, family and Christian discipleship. Married since 1978, Neil and Sharol have two great sons, two awesome daugther-in-laws and four of the sweetest grandchildren ever.
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