Grow: Helping your child deal with fear – a visual lesson
Have you ever fielded the question, “How do I know prayer makes a difference when I can’t really see God?” I have – from my five-year-old! Goodness, that is almost as much fun as trying to explain why people in the southern hemisphere don’t feel like they’re walking around upside down. I won’t try to convince you that I had wonderful answers for either of these questions, but I recently sat through a children’s Bible lesson during a Wednesday night church program, and I was really encouraged and impressed by how the teacher, Nancy, helped the children to visualize prayer and how it can help us when we feel afraid. I definitely plan to use this teaching tool next time my kids are facing a scary situation.
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The Bible story the children were learning about was from the book of Acts, and was about Stephen. He trusted in God in an amazing way, and God gave him a peace that truly passed understanding, as he paid the ultimate price for his belief in Jesus. And here is where the neat visual that Nancy used came in to play.
First, she lit a candle. The children observed the flame. It was nice and straight andtall. Of course at this point she really had their attention because fire is cool! She told the kids that the flame represented them. Next she took a paper fan and waved it gently toward the flame. The breeze from the fan made the flame wobble back and forth and up and down. “The fan is like the things we are afraid of. When we are afraid, we can wobble all around like this flame is. We are not standing secure,” Nancy explained.
I plan to do this with my kids next time we have a potentially scary situation come up, and I think that before using the fan I will first help the boys write some things on the paper that cause them to be afraid (I can imagine that thunder, bad dreams, the dark, big barking dogs, and shots from the Dr. will make it on to the paper).
Next, she held up a plastic zip-lock bag. The children observed that since the bag was transparent, it was difficult to see. Nancy pointed out, “The plastic bag represents prayer. We can’t see prayer, but it can make a big difference when we feel afraid.” To demonstrate this point, she held the plastic bag between the candle and the fan, and waved the fan back and forth like she had done before. Of course this time the flame did NOT flicker, because the bag was blocking the breeze. She explained to the children that although the scary situation may not go away when they prayed, they could trust that God would give them peace, just like he had given peace to Stephen.
It’s funny how most of the spiritual lessons I try to teach my kids are often the things I desperately need to be reminded of as well. I hope that my family can grow together in our ability to trust God and not be “moved” by the things we fear. While there are many valuable ways to help your children see the relationship between prayer and peace, I hope that this visual will help you and your little ones in your family’s faith journey!
On a grown-up note, one of the best sermons I have ever heard preached on the topic of fear was preached by Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. You can listen to it here. In fact, I think I should probably listen to it again!