During yesterday’s conversation over coffee with friends, I was asked a very general question about kids, parents, and parenting in today’s world. The conversation quickly turned to how new ways of parenting (think “helicopter”, “lawnmower”, “snowplow”, etc.) have done little or nothing to help our kids prepare for an adulthood of spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational health. In many ways, the road to unhealthy adulthood is paved with good intentions, but good intentions which are horribly misguided and misdirected. While I’m sure most parents want to see their kids grow into healthy adults, our parenting and culture have combined in a lethal mix which has left kids anxious, stressed, depressed, and without resiliency.

At one point, my friends mentioned Jonathan Haidt’s new book, which came out just the other day, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing An Epidemic of Mental Illness. (Haidt’s cultural analysis is typically spot on, so I ordered the book this morning and look forward to reading it.) You have to have been living under a rock to have missed the endless parade of news reports and research regarding the declining mental health of our children and teens. Of course, the spike can be traced back to 2007 and the advent of the smartphone as one major contributor, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Yesterday’s conversation prompted thinking about the declining state of a world and humanity marred by sin. I believe that whether they ever consciously think it or state it out loud, everyone implicitly senses and knows that things are not the way they’re supposed to be. We all know, Bob Dying once sang, that “everything is broken.” This is why so many live life on a never-ending merry-go-round ride, all in an effort to grab a golden ring which is believed will stop the emptiness. . . and even when they manage to get one, their hunger for wholeness is never satisfied, and they start grabbing again as soon as the merry-go-round spins around again.

It’s this hunger for wholeness. . . for things to be made right. . . that the Apostle Paul describes as all creation’s “groaning” for redemption in Romans 8. Whether we consciously know it or not, all of us hunger for what once was prior to Genesis 3:6 and our first parents’ rebellion against God. . . a rebellion each of us participates in 24/7.

For our kids struggling with increased stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, this weekend of remembering and celebrating the grace of God through His amazing plan to redeem and restore all things offers us a great opportunity to point our broken and hurting kids to the life-giving hope of the Gospel. There is no other answer or antidote to what is happening in their world and lives. None. And I believe that for us to open the door for conversations at the level of what they are feeling and experiencing in terms of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues is a most effective starting point to pointing them to the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which we commemorate and celebrate this weekend. Remind them of the bad news so that they might be more-than-ready to hear the Good News.

In God’s grand plan of redemption, what we remember this weekend points to the fact that one day all things will be made new. . . redeemed and restored when the risen and reigning Christ returns to bring in the new heavens and the new earth. What once was will be once again. . . and even better! And those gaping holes in our lives which are filled with stress, anxiety, depression, and so much more will finally be filled to overflowing. This is the new life our kids can begin to experience now through union with Christ.

Perhaps a little summary I read this morning – as I revisited in a book written all the way back in 1720 by the Scottish pastor and theologian, Thomas Boston – would be helpful to read and talk about with our kids at some point this weekend. The book is titled Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, and it offers an amazing summary of God’s grand plan of redemption from Creation, to the Fall, to Redemption, to final Restoration of all things. Boston describes what existed at Creation and was declared “Good!” by God is they way things are supposed to be. I have found that by thinking about the way things are supposed to be according to God’s creational design, I am able to understand how sin has undone the world around me as well as within me, while helping me to look forward with great hope to the day when what once was, will be again! As an adopted child of God, I know what He had in store for me at creation, and what He has in store for me when all things are made new. Consequently, hope is fueled!

So, what exactly did Thomas Boston write that can be helpful and hope-filled for our kids as we celebrate Easter this weekend? I’m thinking here about one paragraph where Boston is describing what he calls humanity’s “primitive state”, or “primitive integrity”, before we fell into sin. . . a “primitive state” that will one day be the restored state of those who are in Christ. Here’s what Boston wrote that I believe jumps off the page for those living with stress, anxiety, depression, and the mental health issues we hear so much about these days. . .

“As he (humanity. . . our first parents) had a perfect tranquility within his own breast, so he had a perfect calm without. His heart had nothing to reproach him with; conscience then had nothing to do, but to direct, approve, and feast him; and without, there was nothing to annoy him. The happy pair lived in perfect amity; and though their knowledge was vast, true, and clear, they knew no shame. Though they were naked, there were no blushes in their faces; for sin, the seed of shame, was not yet sown (Genesis 2:25). And their beautiful bodies were not capable of injuries from the air; so they had no need of clothes, which are originally the badges of our shame. They were liable to no diseases or pains; and, though they were not to live idle, yet toil, weariness, and sweat of the brows, were not known in this state.”

What a helpful summary of what once was! No stress, anxiety, depression, mental health issues. None. Think about that this weekend. Share it with your kids. Allow Boston’s words to fuel your gratitude for God’s gift of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Allow Boston’s words to fuel your hope, joy, and great expectation for what will one day be!

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