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Keeping Your Family Healthy

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
October 15, 2021 6:00 am

Keeping Your Family Healthy

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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October 15, 2021 6:00 am

Dr. Scott James offers a three-step approach for how families can integrate biblical truth and faith with their health and well-being. He also offers some general health tips and encouragement for those struggling with fear in the face of trying circumstances.

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Well, if you're a parent, you know that routine all too well. It's late, long after everyone's bedtime, but you can't sleep because your child is sick. You keep checking their temperature.

They don't have a fever, but the cough medicine isn't working and it's really hard to watch your child suffer. What do you do? Today on Focus on the Family, we're going to offer some encouragement to you as a mom or a dad, particularly if you have younger children about navigating sickness and health in your family.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. You know, if you're facing a challenge like that in your family, I hope the first thing you do is pray. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to say it, but I didn't often do that. I needed to just say, Lord, help us in this moment. That's the first right place to go, especially if your child is not feeling well and is sick. It's so easy for us to take our health and our family's health and well-being for granted. And the apprehension many of us felt during the COVID pandemic is still fresh in our minds.

It's a little bit in the rear view mirror, but we're still suffering the consequences of it. And that's why I'm so thankful for the doctors and nurses and the medical staff who have dedicated themselves to making us healthier. And I love that the Lord works through their capability and their giftedness to help us do better physically and emotionally. More importantly, though, we need to remind ourselves and our children that no matter what illness or health issue we may be facing, we can trust God in those moments. And we don't know where it's going to go, but we can trust him that it will go where he wants it to go.

Absolutely. And we're so pleased to have Dr. Scott James join us today. He's a pediatric infectious disease specialist and a member of Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council. Jim, they are a great team of physicians and medical professionals who volunteer their time to advise us about medical issues that are most relevant to families. And Dr. James is a professor and author of several books as well. One of those that we'll be hearing more about today is called God Cares for Me, Helping Children Trust God When They're Sick. And you can get your copy from us here at Focus on the Family. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY or click the link in the episode notes. Dr. James, welcome back to Focus on the Family. Jim, thanks so much. It's really good to be with you all.

Yeah, it's good to have you here. And let's start with the idea of why. What prompted you to write this book?

What did you see that you're trying to fill a need for? I think as a pastor, as a parent, as a pediatrician, I'm in this world all the time where we're navigating really difficult conversations with kids. And so it's always been on my heart to want to be able to equip parents to have some tough conversations about some really hard things, illness, pain, suffering, death, even. These are things that kids are aware of in the world around them. They're not naive to these things. And I want to be able to help parents have some gospel centered conversations about that.

So that's that's always been my heart. And it really does seem like the past couple of years have been some a lot going on that have brought those conversations to the forefront. Let me ask you about that. You know, some of the pandemic discussion, the masking and the things that people had to do, many people thought about those children that were born during that time, those one and two and maybe three year olds that were seeing people faceless as a physician. What impact do you think that will have on those children now that they're going to be five, six, seven, eight? Has anybody looked into that? I've read some good studies that are beginning to look into that. I think the long term effects are still going to be something we look at as the years go by. But there's been a lot of good work, I think, on facial recognition and the importance of you have a baby even kind of bonding and connecting with caregivers over facial features and expressions.

Whether or not kind of people in masks sort of in the community would have a more direct effect is probably less obvious, but definitely worth worth looking into. And you know, the book is really written for the common fears. And Jean and I had that with the boys. You know, we had the late night problems, the vomiting, and then you're thinking, okay, you go to a website and you start looking at all the symptoms.

Oh, my goodness, how could Trent been bitten by an African spider? You know, but anything's possible. But it is kind of you can become fear or grip by fear as a parent, even a Christian parent who knows the Lord has these things in his hand. So what, what are your observations about parents and how they are driven by fear for their kids? It's interesting you put the locus on parents there is because as a pediatrician, I'm kind of thinking first of the kid, they're afraid of what's going on. They're the ones who are sick and walking through whatever illnesses and they're scared by what's what's going here.

But as parents, you're absolutely right. We can be filled with as much or more fear because we, we see the bigger picture. We've, we've, we've Googled it and we know what the worst case scenarios could be, right? So we're, as we're trying to help them walk through fearful times as they walk through illness, we also are full of fear and that can impact the way that we interact with them. And we can sometimes unwittingly kind of even spread our fear to them by sort of highlighting that fear is the driving emotion in this situation right now. I'm afraid you're afraid we're all going to be afraid together. And that's kind of a hopeless situation.

Yeah. Dr. James, I do want to pick up on that because you said it right from the beginning as a pastor, as a physician, as a father, you have young children. How do we balance that when the scripture says, fear not, and you know, your child's ill. And again, we're not talking about those serious illnesses, although that certainly is part of it, but we're talking about just illness in general where your child has symptoms and it's difficult. How harmful can it be for the parent to be transmitting this issue of fear? And what are we teaching our children when we're that fearful? Well, in a sense, it comes down to what is, what's your foundation?

What is your driving motivation? And for me as a parent, the thing I want to communicate to my children is that it's, it's Jesus Christ. It's who I am in Christ. It's the firm foundation of God's word and his care for me. And so if fear is the primary emotion that I'm communicating to my kids right then, I think I'm missing an opportunity to demonstrate God's love to them. I'm missing an opportunity to show them the gospel. So I want to acknowledge the fear. I don't want to sugar coat it. I don't want to pretend that a bad situation is no big deal until, you know, little Johnny like, Oh, you know, there's nothing going on.

We're fine. Like, no, he's, he's smarter than that. He knows that something is going on. Children are way more perceptive than we give them credit for. They know that something's not right. So acknowledge that and then go from that position of you're in the valley together to then who's going to walk with us through this valley. And that's when we can look to Christ. Have you seen a parent because you're, you know, you're interacting with hundreds of patients. Have you seen a parent that has really caught your attention that has managed this?

Well, by God's grace, many. Yeah, that's good. That's encouraging to hear. And what are those adjectives that describe those parents that manage this? Well, there's a peace and a contentment that transcends the reality of what's going on. So we could be in a hospital room. Things are not going well. Things are falling apart.

It could be even more serious illness type stuff, not just, you know, cold symptoms at home, but like serious illness. And I'm there as a physician trying to walk them through that and obviously help the child get better and get past this. But in the midst of even the hard things that are going on, a lot of the parents that I work with, there's just this sense of peace.

There's this sense of this is not good. This is not right, but I trust that God has a plan for this. I trust that God is in control and it's not lip service. You can kind of hear them when they sort of appeal to God.

It's not just, you know, where I practice, I'm in the Bible belt. So a lot of people use religious language, but there's a lot of people that when we're having these hard conversations, give heartfelt appeals to God and his goodness and his glory and his just Providence throughout the whole thing. And that that is what they're trusting in. And as a physician, when I'm walking through a tough situation with a family like that, it bolsters me. I find hope and encouragement and it energizes me. It reminds me why I do what I do because I ultimately want to bring healing here and now so that eventually healing can come eternally through Christ.

That's amazing. I mean, I don't know that we, as parents who are doing our vocational thing would think that we would be able to lift the spirits of the physicians working with our children. That's a great encouragement. Down to some practical advice. You recommend a three step approach for comforting our children when they're sick. And it starts with acknowledging their pain and discomfort. Why is that first one important?

What are the other two? Well, you backfire from the beginning if you don't actually validate that something is going wrong. So if a kid obviously knows I'm sick, I don't feel well, something's not right. And you kind of tell them, ah, it's nothing.

You're fine. Well, they know that's a lie. Like they're the ones feeling the pain. They're the ones with the fever. They're the ones with the whatever's going on. And so if you sort of, they have legit concerns over what they're feeling and if you dismiss it from the start, you kind of lose your trust. So acknowledging with them, get down in the trenches with them, acknowledge that this is a hard thing we're walking through.

This is not fun, but then help them understand. And they're usually perceptive enough to bring this out on themselves that when we're walking through hard times and things are going wrong, there's this kind of baseline feeling that this is not the way it's meant to be. Something, something in the world is broken. Something is gone wrong that an innocent child in this sense would have to be suffering through cancer or through whatever illness this is we're walking through. There's something deep in our guts that says that's not the way it's meant to be. And so that's that sort of gospel yearning that when you acknowledge the reality of a broken world that we live in and the effects of sin in our world far and wide, which includes illness and death, then you have an avenue to then kind of put your arm around them and point them to Christ, which is the second thing of putting them on a firm foundation.

Acknowledge the reality, but then let them know even as hard as it is, we're not alone. God is with us. He is right there with us and he gives us an open pathway to run to him, to call out to him, to trust in him and take all of our fears and anxieties to him because he cares for us. Right.

And then that third thing. We're not in this alone from a community standpoint either. So God is right there with us and we get to put them on a firm foundation and celebrate in the goodness of the gospel even in the midst of hard times, but also God's given us a church family to be a part of. He's given us a community of believers and he has specifically told us, bear one another's burdens, love one another, don't do what's a selfish thing, do selfless things to encourage other people around you. So we've got this community of believers who want to walk alongside us as we're going through difficult times and kids just like anybody else can appreciate that fact that they've got a team of people that are rooting for them, that are praying for them, that are on their side and they're bolstered by that. So kind of finding that sort of kingdom mentality.

We are all in this together. We are all God's family. There is something unique about children though, and being a pediatrician, I know you see this, but kids have a vibrancy, kind of a trust. They're not, what's the right word?

They haven't been burnt by the world. They have that innocence, I guess is the right way to say it. And it must be encouraging for you as an adult who, you know, you have gone to med school, you've lived this life, you're married, you have children, you know, but to see that buoyancy in children and then to see it in this context where they may be diagnosed with a traumatic illness or, you know, it's just the everyday stuff that those patients are coming in to see you. They're suffering through something. How do you see that as a doctor? I mean, do you see the difference between adult and children when it comes to their heart?

Absolutely. And I learned so much from them every single day, every encounter. I try to just sort of key in on how kids are walking through it because they typically are wise beyond their years in ways that adults don't always recognize. So I see the resiliency, the innocence in a sense. When I'm prone to see the worst in people, children are the antidote to that.

They assume the best of people. When I'm prone to be cynical, they're prone to be more charitable and to believe good things and good motives. So I'm, whether it's my own kids or my patients, the Spirit is continually working through them to kind of help give me glimmers of what God is calling me to be like. In this, I mean, great children's book that you've written, God Cares for Me, what are some of the scriptural truths that you're getting across to the kids? So yeah, a lot of the book, it's a relatively simple story that kind of walks through the day in the life of a sick child who's scared of going to the doctor. But the whole point of the book is to give parents some concrete handles to hold on to, to begin having those conversations.

So a lot of it is very intentionally kind of scriptural themes that weave in such as the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe. So we've got a strong tower that we can take refuge in. You've got a God who you can cry out to and you can give your cares to Him because He cares for you. So the parents are reminding kids of that.

You're scared right now. Let's take it to the Lord. Let's give our anxieties to Him because He's going to care for us. And then the mom at one point tells the child, this is a concept that I love so much, praying God's words back to Him. And so she says, she specifically says to the boy, when I'm scared, I like to pray God's promises to me back to Him. So I tell the Lord, when I'm afraid, I will trust in you from Psalm 56. These are scriptural truths that can bolster even the most fearful heart. And as a parent, these are things that I need to be preaching to myself constantly. So anytime I can interact with my kids in a way that ministers to them and points them to God's faithfulness, but also to be frank, bolsters up my own trembling heart, I desperately need that. What wonderful lessons to teach children and parents. That's great. I really appreciate what we're hearing today from Dr. Scott James on Focus on the Family. And as you can tell, we really like this book, God Cares for Me. And it's a great tool for any parent. If you've got grandkids, maybe pass this along as well.

Get a copy from us here. Call 800 the letter A in the word family or click the link in the episode notes. Scott, you're a pastor. I've mentioned that a couple of times now. How do you integrate your pastoral care, I guess, into your role as a physician? I love the idea, the concept of that. I guess when I think of Dr. Luke in the scripture, that's the kind of doctor I would envision.

He's a role model for sure. Yeah, I look at them both as shepherding work. And so I think they overlap a lot. Most of my work as a pastor and as a doctor really just involve listening well to people and trying to find out where they are and what's going on and what challenges they're facing, and then how I can sort of step in and minister alongside them. So in a pastoral context, it's directly applying pastoral care in the word of God. And in a medical context, it's often applying medical advice and wisdom and the common grace that God has given us through treatments and therapeutics and such. But I want to make sure that a large part of the medical relationship is really that patient-doctor relationship and the trust that's formed there and listening well. I really do my best to sort of minister to them in a pastoral sense, just in the sense that I want to sit, I want to listen, I want to give them the time to really get off their chest, what their fears and concerns are, what's motivating, why they're seeking care and what's going on. And then I'm going to sort of dive in and see if I can help actually fix their issue, medically speaking. But oftentimes parents tell me at the end of that, even if it's something I don't have a quick fix for, I can't just write a prescription to make this thing go away. I'll often have parents tell me that they just appreciate having been heard. They feel like they truly have been ministered to in that sense that they were able to be pastored to in that way. So I look at them kind of hand in hand.

I can imagine that moment being with the patient and his or her parents. I mean, it's an intimate situation. Let me ask you so much of modern culture. You know, we put so much trust in science. And, you know, in some ways, science is also now I think with the objective thinkers in science, they're saying, especially with the human being, there are elements that they don't understand that prayer somehow works. You've seen research and studies in this regard. And of course, Christians as Christians, we talk about those three components of body, soul and spirit.

And you must see that how do you integrate the spiritual component into your vocation as a scientist and a doctor? Does that come easily? Do you get into those discussions with the parents of your patients?

How does that happen? Yeah, absolutely. I do. At baseline, it's what motivates me. So the interaction between faith and science is why I'm a doctor. It's because of my faith in Jesus Christ. And because of what God has shown me in the natural world that made me curious as a scientist to go learn more and to dive into the truth that I can discover through scientific research and such I learned more about God in the sense the more that I study his natural word because he reveals himself through his creation.

Can I can I interrupt for a second then let you continue. But in that regard, you look at some of the famous scientists Louis Pasteur and others, Isaac Newton, they kind of had that framework that what they were trying to do as scientists was discover God's natural law. They kind of started with that premise. Now we've gotten far from that now where many secular schools they're teaching, you basically start just with the science, there is no God. But what a refreshing reminder about what those early scientists were trying to do. They were unlocking the mysteries of what God had put in place, right?

Absolutely. You look at a verse like Psalm 19 one, the heavens declare the glory of the Lord. So heavens, creation in general, you can see the majesty of God, you can see some general revelation of who he is in his creation. And so if the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, if I can get a telescope and look out into the vast skies and see some form of the majesty of God, it also stands to reason that I can do the opposite and look through a microscope at a microbe or at some cellular component and it goes the reverse and I can see the glory of the Lord in the microscopic view of creation as well.

And so as a scientist and so many historical scientific discoveries have been motivated by Christians who are just trying to know God better in his creation, that drives a lot of people in the scientific community. Yeah. And I think that's refreshing. I think that's something to remember as we look at a highly secular world now that doesn't understand what we as Christians believe.

Yeah. Let me ask Scott, you have four kids of your own. I mentioned that you're a father of young kids.

I'm wondering what are some pros and cons of having a parent who is a doctor? How do your own children suffer, you know, your WebMD yourself? It's tricky for them because I'm constantly running a track in the back of my mind of all the worst case scenarios that this could be.

So any sniffle that comes along, I've got a differential diagnosis list. How does your wife interact with that? Does she leave all the medical things to you or does she come to you and say, have you noticed? She's wiser than me in many, many ways. So she does definitely kind of defer to me on some of those thoughts and kind of basically a triage level of what do we need to freak out about and what do we not need to freak out about? So it's one of those tricks where I try to balance it. I don't want to be overbearing in any way. So I actually tend to kind of go to the opposite end of the spectrum.

So even though I'm running a list of worst case scenarios in the back of my mind, in practicality, I end up much more low key, much more laid back, much more kind of rub some dirt on it and you'll be fine. So I kind of, I tend to be more on the lax side. That's pretty normal for doctors.

I've, you know, the friends, Jean and I that are physicians, they tend to be that way. They're very, yeah. So what? Yeah. And you kind of keep an eye on like, all right, what's a red flag that I might need to pay attention to, but everything else is probably fine.

Right. You're far more practical than I think most parents would be. What are some general health tips for families who want to prevent disease and stay as healthy as possible? I mean, I know these things are, we should be able to tick these off even as non medical people, but what are the habits that we need to develop as families? Well, Jim, you mentioned part of it is just kind of this half healthy balance between physical and emotional and spiritual health. We're designed to be kind of whole creatures.

We're not compartmentalized into different aspects. And so we've got to kind of take care of all of these things together. So any attempt to sort of separate those things off and focus in on one little aspect, just eat healthy and work out a lot and you'll be fine. But if you're not, if you're neglecting kind of the mental and emotional aspect of health, then you might not be fine. So I typically recommend that parents just have a well-rounded approach to physical, mental and spiritual health.

So the spiritual health obviously is from our perspective is going to be leading them in the word and kind of fostering a spiritual life that is connected to God and drawing closer to him continually. Mental aspect is really helping children process the world that's going on around them, having good healthy sounding boards available to them. So I've got a couple of teenagers now, and so the conversations are just expanding in scope at an exponential rate. Welcome to the club.

Yeah, it's so fun so far. So it really is kind of, yeah, from a mental aspect, just trying to foster good, healthy habits and thinking and just sort of process, a healthy way to process the world around them and just having good conversation partners. And that's not a cure all, but it can help put them on a right footing to interact with the people around them. From a physical standpoint, I really do kind of just advocate some of the basics of good, healthy diet, a good balance between kind of physical outdoor activity. And you know, everyone needs to kind of have some rest and relaxation and read a good book as well.

So don't be too overboard on one end of the spectrum of the other good rest. I think sleep is often an overlooked part of a healthy environment. And so yeah, a lot of the complaints that I get in my clinics, if you kind of tease it out, it really comes down to a teenager that's sleeping four hours a night with his phone on the bed stand every five seconds. Oh, I was going the other way, the teenager sleeping 12 hours a night.

Oh, no. Well, that does happen too. But we have a lot that just end up kind of staying up all night. Yeah, that's not good. Well, and then they're trying to nap during the day.

Yeah. They're trying to come into clinic and say, Oh, he's always tired during the day. You know, in that regard, let's just tease out some of those perspectives. You might have a child who's leans into activity really easily, and another child that doesn't.

And you know, we're all created very uniquely. How does a parent manage those differing dynamics? How do you motivate a child who isn't that active physically? Yeah, that's tricky, because you're not going to have a one size fits all approach to this. I have four kids, and they're all four pretty drastically different in regard to how they interact in that way. And so a lot of it is trying to avoid cookie cutter approaches, but also having kind of a well rounded family approach. So part of our deal is, if you're part of this family, you're going to be on board with certain things, even if it's not your favorite thing, because there's other times we're going to be doing something that is your favorite thing.

And your sister is going to be kind of the one making the sacrifice. There's a family component where we can kind of spur children along to do some activities or some, some things that we would consider to be good and beneficial and healthy things that are going to help them develop well and stay healthy, even if it's not their cup of tea per se, but they're kind of gonna go along with it because the family does. Beyond that, though, it really is this kind of individualized approach where I've got to do the hard work of actually getting to know each and every one of my kids and finding out what makes them tick and kind of how to help guide them. It's so true. That's what makes parenting I think, somewhat enjoyable, actually, because it isn't cookie cutter, you've got to treat each child in a unique way.

I like it. And Dr. Scott James, you've written a great little children's book here, God cares for me. And the subtitle, this really tells us what it's all about helping children trust God when they're sick. And we as parents, not falling into the fear category, chasing down every little symptom, and, you know, exploding that into a catastrophe.

And you see it every day. And I so appreciate that reminder as parents, how we need to provide our children's stability, emotionally, spiritually and physically to the best of our ability. And you're, again, your book here does a wonderful job with the whole family. So thank you. Thanks for being with us. And thanks for creating this resource. Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Yeah. And let me remind you that if you can, we'd love for you to join us in ministry to help people and if you can make a gift of any amount, particularly a monthly gift that really helps us even out the budget. We'll send you a copy of Dr. James's book as our way of saying thank you. If you can't afford it, we'll get it in your hands. We get that and we'll trust others. We'll cover the cost of that. But we want you to have this. We don't want you to be that fearful parent and really contributing to your children's fear when it comes to their physical well-being. Let's be fearless in the Lord in every way, including our physical status.

Yeah, this is some great stuff. And certainly thanks to all who pay it forward through your generosity and your prayers, making it possible for others to receive this book by Dr. James. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word family, 800-232-6459. Or you can donate and find help.

We've got all the links in the episode notes. Well, have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well. And then coming up on Monday, we're going to hear from Robert Lewis, who describes how to prepare your son for manhood. Let me tell you, those responsibilities are hard.

They're going to take everything you've got. So you've got to live courageously. And the thing that keeps you steady in those difficult times is you've got to believe on the back end, God will reward you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Christmas Memories of Baking and Sharing Stories with Your Family. That's depicted in the giclee from Focus on the Family titled Family Traditions. This story and paint by artist Morgan Weisling, a portrait of a lively family kitchen scene will find a special place in your home and heart. Find out how to get a signed version of this special edition print at slash family traditions. That's slash family traditions.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-09 09:30:42 / 2023-08-09 09:42:58 / 12

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