I recently walked out of an OB appointment before seeing the doctor. With tears in my eyes, I tried to avoid the nurse’s gaze and keep my voice from shaking as I gathered our things and told her I would have to reschedule. Because of a change in my husband’s typical schedule, I had both boys with me at the appointment that day (something I don’t normally attempt), and it was a complete and total disaster. I came armed with snacks, books, and the ipad full of movies. Regardless of all my gear, the boys were their usual active (read: wild) selves! They loudly ran about the waiting room and then got into a screaming, yanking fight over a bag of veggie straws right as the nurse was calling us back. That fight carried over to another one over the only extra chair in the exam room while the nurse stared awkwardly as I tried to get my children under control. The iPad refused to work properly, so I couldn’t get a movie started to help settle them down. My stress levels were elevating, and I was slowly coming unglued. Completely embarrassed, I dragged both boys out to the car and pretty much had a come-apart the entire thirty minute drive home. It was a low point in parenting. A real low point.
In spite of the story above, parenting my boys is probably the most significant, joy producing, glorious task I’ve ever been given. It is also, without a doubt, the most challenging task I’ve ever been given. The task of bearing and raising life is such a gift–a miracle, honor and privilege. But it’s also ridiculously hard. Harder than I ever really imagined. I find myself growing tired, impatient, and worried more than I care to admit. Parenting, like nothing else in my life thus far, has driven me to mine God’s Word for truth, wisdom, and hope. Below are seven significant truths from God’s Word that I am continuously turning to and meditating on through both the good and hard days of parenting (but especially the hard days):
1. Children are blessed gifts from God’s hand: On the days when our children are acting impossible, we must dwell on the truth that they are undeserved gifts from God’s hand, and they are great blessings to our lives regardless of their actions at the moment. No new life is an accident or a mistake. Every child, regardless of the circumstances through which he or she is conceived and born, is a purposeful gift from our good God’s hand. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).
2. God is sovereign over His creation–each child is created exactly as God intended him or her to be: Individual personalities, full of their various strengths and weaknesses, are more than just random genetic combinations. They are the careful handiwork of an all-wise and sovereign God who does not make mistakes. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
3. God possesses all the wisdom and strength we need to faithfully parent our children. This wisdom and strength are made available to believers through faith in the shed blood and finished work of Christ. Through Jesus, we must draw from this strength and wisdom daily. Because Christ’s strength is perfect and is magnified in our weaknesses, we can rejoice even in the greatest parenting struggles that we face. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
4. Our children (and spouse) are our closest neighbors. Jesus calls His followers to love our neighbor(s) as we love ourselves. Contrary to common belief, no one has to be taught self-love. All people naturally seek their own happiness and well-being and naturally look out for their own interests, although this takes different forms in different people and varying circumstances. Jesus radically calls His followers to pursue the happiness, well-being and interests of others with the same intensity that we pursue those things for ourselves. Upon close examination of the heart, all of us will find that self-love often tries to dominate and overpower a love for others, even in the case of our own children. But, by God’s grace and power, we must see to it that our parenting is not tainted with selfishness or driven by our own idolatrous desires for security, peace of mind, a good reputation, convenience. etc. The way we parent must flow from a self-sacrificial love for both God and our closest little neighbors–a love that seeks to point our children to Christ through and in the midst of challenges. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
5. Anxiety and worry are sin. When it comes to our children (and our parenting), anxiety and worry can so easily creep into our hearts and minds. Am I doing this right? How is this child going to turn out? How will we make it through this tough season? Is something wrong with my child?!?!? God calls believers to stop fretting and turn to Him for everything, resting in His peace and trusting Him to help and supply us in every need. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, 19).
6. Parenting failures are inevitable. If we confess our sin and repent, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us. Believers in Christ will not be made perfect until we meet Him one day and, therefore, we will not be perfect parents during our time on this earth. All of us will fall short. We will all lose patience. We will sin against God and our children more than we care to admit. But if we come face-to-face with our sin through confession and repentance, God through Christ is faithful to forgive us and make us clean. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
7 .Our job is not to produce godly children. Our job is to be a faithful parents. God has not called us to produce godly children because we have no power to do so. As parents, we do not have the power ultimately necessary to turn our children’s hearts away from sin and toward Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can draw people to repentance and light the fire of true faith in the heart. Parents, however, are called to put as much “kindling” around our children’s hearts as possible. We are called to teach our children the truth about God, themselves, and our world. Through our everyday interactions and conversations, we must help our kids see their brokenness and rebellion against God and point them toward the good news of the gospel of Jesus–the only one who has the power to transform their hearts and lives. We are responsible to hold up the glory and goodness of God before our children and teach them that a life apart from God our Father is really no life at all. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise’”. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
May our parenting be guarded and guided according to the blessed truths of God’s Word, and may we seek to steward well the good news of the gospel by holding it out to our closest little neighbors. It is our greatest hope…and theirs.