By Lindsey Bell
When my oldest child was about 2, he was deathly afraid of storms. One day, as the thunder began to rumble and the sky filled with dark storm clouds, he looked over at me and said with sweet innocence, “You sit by me, Mommy. You keep me safe from the storms.”
When I wrapped my arms around his tiny body, he calmed. Everything was right in his world, not because the storm was over or because the thunder quieted, but because his mother held him. He felt safe as long as I was near.
That little boy is bigger now. He’s 6 instead of 2. I can’t pick him up as easily as I used to. But one thing hasn’t changed. When he is afraid, he still feels better when I am near.
I think that’s the kind of faith Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:3 when he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus told us to become like little children because kids understand some things we adults often forget. They understand what it means to really trust someone, they have an innate ability to be honest, and they love without fear.
Wouldn’t it be nice to begin 2016 with that same kind of childlike faith? Wouldn’t it be nice to—like my son did with me—trust that everything will be OK as long as the Father is near?
Though we can’t turn back time and actually become kids again, we can change the way we live and start behaving like the little children Jesus spoke so highly of.
Live with Authenticity
The first way we do this is by learning to live an authentic life. We adults are good at putting on a show. We come to church wearing invisible masks. We don’t want anyone to know our marriage is failing or our kids are out of control, so we act like everything is fine. When someone asks us how we are doing, we respond with a smile, even if our hearts are breaking on the inside.
The problem with wearing a mask is that no one can help us if they don’t know anything is wrong. Broken things don’t get fixed when they’re hidden beneath something; they can only be fixed when they are brought into the light and dealt with.
Children, unlike adults, live with authenticity. Once, when my youngest was walking with me at a local theme park, he spotted a pregnant woman. He asked (in a very loud voice, I should add), “Mommy, why is her belly so huge?”
Thankfully, this woman was gracious and laughed at the question. My guess is, if you’ve been around children, you’ve witnessed your fair share of similar incidents. Kids might lack filters at times, but they don’t lack authenticity.
Little children don’t wear masks—not with God and not with other people. When they’re upset, they don’t try to hide it. When they’re happy, their smiles are contagious. What we see on the outside is real. That’s the kind of authenticity Jesus longs for us to have too.
Trust Without Question
The second way we become like little children is by learning to trust. When my son was a baby, my husband used to swing around his car seat so much that it scared my mother-in-law each time she saw it. The swinging didn’t scare our baby though. Quite the opposite, in fact. He loved it and giggled and cooed through the entire ride. He didn’t fear being dropped or falling out because, as a baby, he had an innate ability to trust.
I’ve seen children jump off the side of a pool into deep water because they trust their parents to catch them. As we age, though, and people begin letting us sink, that trust begins to fade. Instead of jumping off the ledge with smiles on our faces, we grow hesitant. We put one toe in first. We slide in slowly instead. We’ve learned from experience that not everyone can be trusted. We’ve also learned from experience that God doesn’t always help us in the ways we anticipate.
There might have been times you’ve prayed for something which God didn’t provide: healing, a child, a mate, a job, or clear direction. Maybe you prayed for this particular thing for quite some time, only to hear silence. Now you’re not sure what to think or how to pray. You’re not sure if the God you used to trust is still trustworthy.
The truth is, God is trustworthy—no matter what. It’s a part of who he is. In Hebrews 13:5 God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” There are times we have to choose to trust, even when our circumstances suggest we shouldn’t. There are times we have to choose to believe what we know is true, even when we don’t feel like believing it.
Love Without Fear
A third way we can develop childlike faith is by loving without fear. Little kids, unless they have been neglected or abused, aren’t usually afraid to love. They do it naturally. My youngest son loves to cuddle. Nothing makes him happier than sitting on my lap or being held in my arms. When he runs to me and asks me to hold him, he’s not worried I’ll reject him. He loves without fear.
As adults, we’re a lot more hesitant. Loving another human being is risky. We could be hurt. We could be rejected. Many of us (probably most of us) have experienced rejection at some point or another. Because of being hurt in the past, we believe there’s no such thing as love without fear.
The truth is, there is such a thing. We might not be able to love another human being without risk of rejection, but we can love God that way. He has promised to always be with us, always love us, and never reject us. We don’t have to fear with him. We can, like a child, run to him with our arms outstretched and know—with certainty—he will be there to pick us up.
The Key to Childlike Faith
When my son relaxed after being afraid of the storm, his circumstances hadn’t changed. There was still a storm raging outside. What had changed was his outlook on the situation. Instead of fixing his eyes on the rain, he fixed his eyes on his mother.
I don’t know what 2016 holds—for me or for you reading this article. It might hold a storm. It might hold heartache. The thing is, though, no matter what the year holds, there is still a God who holds us. That is why we don’t have to be afraid. We can fix our eyes on the one who holds us in his ever-loving, always-trustworthy arms. That is the key to childlike faith.
Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a devotional for new moms, and a blogger (lindsey-bell.com).