April 2009 - Vol. 29

The Hope That Does Not Disappoint
by Dave Touhill
Faced by today’s unceasing new challenges in raising children, parents can hardly be blamed for responding with fear or collapsing in despair. Unfortunately, fear and despair are the wrong responses. Faith and hope are needed instead. Kairos, the international student outreach of the Sword of the Spirit, recently interviewed Dave Touhill, senior coordinator of the People of Hope Community in New Jersey, USA, on the subject of hope.

..photo by David Steingruber 

How does hope differ from optimism?
Hope is based on a sure thing, on the pledge of someone we can rely on, who always has our best interests in mind. It’s based on Jesus Christ. Optimism is just a pleasant disposition. It may not even reflect reality. I can be optimistic about the Michigan football team beating the Ohio State team.

Why is hope important as a parent?
All parents, even the worst ones, want the best for their children. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, our children can make bad choices. If a child decides not to follow the Lord or to live an immoral life, it can be devastating to a parent. The situation can seem hopeless.

Yet, it’s at exactly these moments that we need hope. Real hope! Hope that the Lord has not forgotten our kids or our prayers. Hope reminds us that the Lord’s love for our children far exceeds our own, that he has not abandoned them, that he will do everything to win them back and that he will never dismiss our prayers for them. This hope doesn't fail.

What most undermines a parent’s hope?
Unrealistic expectations can douse our hope. Things like, “My kids are going to be perfect and never fail!” Even some seemingly realistic dreams like, “They will do better than I did,” can disappoint. False, high expectations can easily lead us to discouragement, to not praying, to becoming critical and thus to losing hope. It’s a downward spiral.

Low expectations are also a problem. Setting the standards too low is often a sign that hope has already been abandoned. Our standards should be where the Lord wants them, and that means challenging our kids to achieve their full potential in Christ.

And we must never underestimate the power of the spiritual battle our children face. It certainly isn't easier now than 30 years ago. Still, we mustn't fear. Fear is crippling. The battle can be won. Just don't underestimate it.

How can parents guard their hope?
All Christians – sinners and saints – have some good and bad chapters in their lives. Look at Peter, Paul, Francis of Assisi or John Newton. If we caught them at the wrong time in their life, we would have written them off as cowards, murderers, cheats or liars. But the Lord rescued them. Also, remember your own life. Look how merciful Christ has been to you, how he never abandoned you. Shouldn't we hope for as much for our kids?

Let’s not pronounce any final grades on our kids when they’re 16 or 18 or 25. Thank God I didn’t get my final grade at that age.

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