11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29: 11-13
While perusing my Facebook page this afternoon, I came across a humorous article written by a mother about the often contradictory advice we get from experts on the sleep habits of children. I found myself shaking my head and laughing as I recalled much of the advice I received when trying to get my three young boys to sleep through the night as babies. Each person had my children’s or my best interest in mind, but taking advice on child rearing can be enough to make any Mom’s head spin. So, my topic today might seem a bit laughable, because I am no expert and have no claim to any secret of child rearing. However, I hope this will offer some of the encouragement, hope and direction I have found through wise counsel.
Tracie Miles, in her book Stressed-Less Life, made a comment in Chapter 3 that stuck with me. She, in echoing a verse in James, says avoid “the temptation to let the church teach my children about God instead of making faith and prayer a priority in our home” (p. 70). I know I am guilty of this at times. I often do not know where to begin or how to answer those tough questions my children have about God. I feel unsure of my own ability to teach others about God when I am still a student myself. I do not have all the answers. I feel a great responsibility in teaching my children about God and sometimes want to shy away from such a weighty task.
The truth is, God has perfectly prepared me (and continues to prepare me) to be the mother of my three boys. He gives me strength, wisdom, patience and love to raise them to be the men He intends for them to be. I have no need to back down from teaching my children about God, because God is in me, and with Him, I can do all things. In Jeremiah 29:11-13, God speaks not only to me, but to all of us, especially our children. The verse states:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
God already has a plan for each of us to give us hope and a future. Many are familiar with this part of the verse, but I like the next two verses also. God tells us that we will call on him and pray to him, and He will listen! He says we will seek him and find him when we seek Him with all our heart! What a promise. What reassurance. But what does this have to do with raising our children? God hopes that we will call on Him and seek Him with all our hearts and teach our children to do the same.
I used to think teaching my children about God was some monumental task that involved lengthy planning and extensive studying beforehand. What our teaching has actually been is far from that. I continue to study God’s Word each day and allow my children to see this. We pray together and talk about the importance of prayer. Our prayers are not long and are certainly not eloquent, but they are from the hearts of three young boys. We also read short passages of Scripture as many evenings as we can. This takes less than five minutes most of the time. This is about as much as they can take in at one time. As they get older, I imagine it will get longer. However, the biggest part of their instruction, and probably mine, comes from approaching problems with an eye toward what God wants. Just this evening I had to pull my oldest, who is six, into my lap after a lengthy meltdown over a misspelled word. I referenced a concept we had talked about in a verse months ago about worry. Over time, with a lot of love from me, my son finally began to see it was not as big a problem as he first imagined it to be.
I do not tell you this so that the next time your child throws a tantrum, you start quoting scripture or approach the situation as I did. Not at all. In fact, it may make the problem worse for your child. Confused yet? Don’t be. Each child is a unique and beautiful creation. God has a plan for each child that he is uniquely preparing him for. God has prepared you, as his parent, to help guide him in the way he should go. This is not easy, nor is it always obvious how to do this.
Here are some suggestions that I hope you can adjust to your family’s situation. Find a way to incorporate Scripture and prayer into your day. This does not have to be lengthy or complicated. Do what you can for your situation, but by making the effort, you are showing it is a priority for you. As part of this, use God’s Word and the wisdom He has given you to use problems as teaching moments. This can work when you make a mistake also. I will sometimes make an apology to my children when I messed up to show them how to seek forgiveness.
My prayer for each parent after reading this is that you find encouragement, hope and peace through Christ. Parenthood is not an easy task. When reading Romans 12:12, I thought it the perfect advice for parents: “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”
As a side not to my readers who are not parents or whose children are grown, all brothers and sisters in faith are important to the spiritual growth of a child. I am thankful for all who have helped me shape my faith and help my children feel the love of God always. Your encouragement and love could make someone’s day a little brighter.