My dad spent Easter alone this year. Normally, he joins one of our families for church and brunch, but we had to adjust our plans to comply with Illinois’ stay-at-home order. One sister delivered an individual portion of ham and brussels sprouts to his doorstep, another dropped off his favorite marshmallow eggs, the grandkids colored and mailed pictures, and we all called or texted. Though we couldn’t physically be with him, we tried our best to love and honor him from a distance.
Perhaps, like us, you find yourself asking what it looks like to honor our mothers and fathers—some of the most vulnerable among us right now—during the age of COVID-19. Though we’re dealing with a novel virus, God’s Word offers timeless truths to help us in whatever situations we may face.
Following Christ’s example
Our Savior knows what it’s like to care for a parent from a distance. As he hung on the cross, Jesus honored his earthly mother by entrusting her care to his close friend and disciple, John (John 19:25-27). In a moment of deep personal agony, he looked outside of himself and considered his mother’s needs.
As Christians, we’re called to follow Christ’s example. Though it may seem difficult to care for our parents in the midst of our own loss and disappointment, the Holy Spirit helps us love and serve our neighbors as Christ loved and served us (Gal. 5:13-16).
Caring from a distance
So, for their good, how do we care for our parents from at least six feet apart? Here are five suggestions:
1. Encourage them to stay home: If your parents are 65 or older, the CDC classifies them as high risk and encourages them to stay home as much as possible. To help them stay safe, consider running important errands for your parents. If that’s not feasible, think of other ways to help meet their immediate needs. You might order their prescriptions for delivery, arrange a grocery service, or connect them with volunteers at a nearby church.
2. Stay connected: Social distancing may leave our parents feeling sad and lonely. How might you stay better connected with them during this season? Maybe it’s just a matter of calling or emailing a little more regularly. Or perhaps it means helping them set up Zoom or Facetime so they can see your face.
While we may not be able to draw near to our parents right now, we are always free to draw near to the throne of grace on their behalf.
If you have kids, try to help them stay connected too. The sweet relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is part of God’s good design for families, and it’s natural for both generations to grieve this temporary loss. They might not be able to physically visit right now, but be creative. Play “Nana Says” over FaceTime, do a weekly virtual storytime with Papa, have the kids recite a verse to Grandma, or color pictures and send them to Grandpa. Whatever you do, it’s sure to bring them joy.
3. Be an advocate: This may be a good time to develop a care plan for your parents should they become ill. You might want to review medical histories, medication lists, and health directives with your parents as well. If you have a parent in a long-term care facility or nursing home, ask for regular health updates and see if there are ways you can support the caregivers who are standing in the gap for your family.
4. Offer hope: Bad news abounds these days. People are dying, politicians are sparring, and the economy is collapsing before our parents’ eyes. But in the midst of all the bad news, Christians have the best news. Jesus died for our sins and nothing—not even a global pandemic—can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39).
Offer your parents a different narrative than the one the world feeds them. If they’re already believers, talk about God’s faithfulness in your life. Encourage them with verses that speak of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Help them lift their eyes off of worthless things and onto Christ.
If they’re not yet believers, think about what your words and actions may communicate to them about Jesus. Do your parents hear you grumbling about your circumstances, or do they see you filled with joy and peace as you trust in the God of hope (Rom. 15:13)? Speak gracious words, be respectful, show compassion, and most of all, pray for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
5. Pray: One of the best (and safest!) ways we can honor our parents is to pray for them. Not sure what to pray? Let Scripture be your guide. Praying God’s Word over our parents helps us align our prayers with God’s will and his heart.
Psalm 71 is a great place to start. From this psalm, we might pray that our parents would find refuge in Christ alone (v. 3), that they would praise God and proclaim his mighty works (v.14-15), and that God would not forsake them in their old age (v.17-18). While we may not be able to draw near to our parents right now, we are always free to draw near to the throne of grace on their behalf.
A command with a promise
The command to honor our parents isn’t an empty one. It comes with a promise “that it might go well with you” (Eph. 6:3). May the Lord bless you and your parents as you seek to please God by honoring them from afar.