Preparing for Easter during a time of hardship

March 4, 2021

“How has the pandemic affected your kids?” I asked this question to a mom of three children. Right away she listed some of the meaningful activities her kids have lost—play dates with friends, music lessons, in-classroom school, playing sports, youth group, ‘normal’ church services, story time at the library, and Friday dinner at their favorite restaurant. 

After a pause, she reflected, “That’s just the surface. What’s more important is that they really miss grandparent hugs. No more weekend visits and birthday celebrations with special people. We’ve lost our daily rhythm. We used to pray together and read Scripture at dinner. Now snacking takes the place of mealtime. Our house stays messy—and we do too! Whining. Arguing. Nightmares. Crying. Clinging.” 

Disruption is hard! What parent can say they are not battling discouragement? Where is God in all of this? Will life ever feel normal again? How can we give our kids hope when we’re struggling ourselves? Consider this. Hardship is God’s fuel to reignite his children’s love for him (Romans 5:1-5). Here are three truths to hold on to as you prepare your family for all God desires. 

1. Hardship drives us to cry out to God

Our world expects parents to teach their kids to look on the bright side. But what happens when the bright side is hard to find? God doesn’t ask us to pretend that things are good when they are bad. Instead, God calls us to cry out to him (Psalm 34:6; 42; 43). The psalmist says, “Pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). Let your kids hear you talk to God about your fears, sadness, and discouragement. They may begin to see the connection between our troubles and our need to depend on God.    

Prayers of lament are not the “feel good” prayers we may think our kids need to hear. Reminders of sin, illness and death may make us feel uncomfortable. But we don’t have to pretend all is well. God, in his Word and by his Spirit, is with us in life’s hardships. He invites us and our kids to ask hard questions. Why does God allow bad things to happen? Why do people get sick and die? Why is there so much sadness and suffering in the world? Hard questions lead our kids to the solid hope they need. 

As Easter approaches follow Jesus on his road to the cross by reading the gospel of Luke with your family. Get ready—your kids may hit you with more questions. Jesus had done nothing wrong, why did bad people accuse him? Why did they call Jesus names and beat him? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? For the first time, your child may realize that sin is not just the bad things we do. Sin is in our hearts. 

Godly grief for sin hurts but brings huge blessings. Is your child asking good questions about the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus? Do you detect a sadness in their ongoing battle with sin? Let your child know God can give them a new heart that wants to do right. When they cry out to God, he will change them from the inside out! “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

2. Hardship prompts us to watch for God

Easter tells us that hardship has purpose. Even when we do not understand what God is doing, we know he is true to his Word. We know our bright future is not just wishful thinking because God sent his Son to die on the cross for us, “He who did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Now, from the hardships in our life, we have new eyes to watch for the goodness God promises. 

As your family reads the Scriptures together, teach your kids to watch for God—his person and promises. Open God’s Word and show your family what it means to look for God’s bigger purpose. Hardship is not a bully to avoid. Within it hides a blessing. Look for the blessing to embrace. Our loving heavenly Father is at work, making us more like his Son, Jesus. 

3. Hardship teaches us to hope in God

Our children hope for many things that may or may not happen. But there is no maybe about hope in God. Hope in God means we are certain that his word is true. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and open the way for us to be God’s children. He rose to life winning over sin and death forever. Now God’s children know that they too will be raised to new life after they die (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). We know Jesus will return (Luke 22:16,18,19). God gives us hope to live in the hardship as we remember that all His promises are for us (2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Peter 1:13). 

Easter is our time to look to the cross of Christ and his resurrection to refresh our hope in God.

When hardship wears us out, his hope is our fuel to run the race before us (Isaiah 40:31). When hardship discourages us, his hope anchors our soul (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). One day He will come for us and we will live with him in his kingdom without sin (1 John 3:1-3). He will wipe away every secret tear and we will only have joy perfectly forever (Revelation 21:3-4; 22:5).

Worth remembering

One day, the crisis of the pandemic will be over. What lessons from this hardship are worth remembering? The mom I spoke with ended by saying, “Crazy busy was how I described the frantic pace of family activity before social distancing! Although none of our activities were bad, there was never enough time for more important things. Maybe this abrupt change will allow us to step back and re-order our family’s priorities.” Hardship is never our first choice! But God’s children can trust that we are safe in his care. Hardship is not an accident. Hardship is God’s fuel to reignite his children’s love for him (Romans 5:1-5). Let this Easter be a time for your family to discover true happiness through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Editor’s note: Would you like some help with gospel-centered materials to lead your family to the cross this Easter season? Meet me every Each Friday until Easter at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog for a weekly devotional called “Word in the Home—Easter.” You can also preview it now by downloading this free printable pdf!

Barbara Reaoch

Barbara Reaoch, author of A Jesus Easter, is former director of the Children’s Division of Bible Study Fellowship. She loves God, her husband, their family, and writing gospel-centered family materials. www.barbarareaoch.com Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24