"Mom, did you hear the TV?" "No," I responded.
"There's going to be a bad storm this afternoon."
My son has always struggled with thunderstorms. And knowing one was looming on the horizon only compounded his fear.
"Let's pray about it," I told him.
Our Children and Emotions
Even from an early age, there's never a doubt that our children are emotional beings. They cry, laugh, pout, squeal, kick and scream, sometimes all in the space of an hour. As parents, we spend much of their early years teaching them not to drop to the floor and wail at the top of their lungs — especially at the store. While we often teach our children what not to do when they are angry or disappointed or upset, sometimes we don't teach them what to do instead.
As emotional beings, created in the image of God, our children feel things. Some of their emotions are positive like love, joy, and excitement. Because of the Fall, and the effects of sin in the world and in their own heart, they also feel hard and difficult emotions such as sorrow, grief, fear, rejection, loneliness, and anger. How can we as parents help our children know what to do with such emotions?
The Psalms of Lament
Many believers turn to the book of Psalms when their life has been flipped upside down. When unexpected storms cut into our life, we find comfort in the Psalms. That's because these poems in Scripture often reflect our own heart. They speak to the agony and pain that we feel. They give voice to the depths of our fear and searing heartbreak we experience. The Psalms of Lament are those psalms which describe the horrors and sorrows of this life in vivid prose.
But the Psalms of Lament are more than just poems we can relate to; they have a common pattern we can learn from. In studying the Laments, we can learn how to express our own emotions and in so doing, we can pass these lessons on to our children.
1. Cry out to God
The Laments begin by crying out to God. The psalmist comes to God and voices the depths of his sorrow, fear, and pain. He is descriptive and honest, telling God exactly what is going on in his heart. (Psalm 102:1-5)
2. Ask for help
The psalmist then asks God for help. He asks for salvation, rescue, deliverance, and peace. He also asks God the questions that plague him such as "Why?" "How long?" and "When?" (Psalm 69:14-18).
3. Respond in trust
Nearly all the Laments end in a response of trust and worship. The psalmist reflects on who God is and what he has done. He reminds himself of God's character and goodness. He then voices his trust that God will indeed hear and help him. (Psalm 13:5-6)
Learning from the Psalms how to lament can help us teach our own children how to come to the Lord with their own sorrows and fears. When they struggle with loss, disappointments, troubles with friends, injustice, and fears, they can cry out to God in prayer, following the pattern of the Laments.
After I prayed with my son that day about the pending storm, we then talked about what we knew about God. We talked about his character and his goodness. And we remembered that he is with us in all the storms of life — meteorological and otherwise.
Christina Fox writes for various ministries such as Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of "A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament." She blogs at www.christinafox.com and is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChristinaFoxAuthor.