Category: Fatherhood

Our Children Need More than a Mirror

more-than-a-mirror

Have you ever looked in the mirror an hour or two after dinner only to discover that a portion of your meal is still stuck in your teeth? You probably took care of the problem as quickly as possible (while reviewing in your mind how many people you had smiled at since you ate). You rinsed your mouth. You brushed your teeth.

The mirror helped you see what was wrong so you could do something about it.

God has given us a mirror to help us see what’s wrong with us, and that mirror is His Word, the Bible.

In it we read words like, “Love your enemies”, “In everything give thanks”, “Rejoice always”, “Lie not one to another”, and “Never take your own revenge”. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we read those words and realize that there is something very wrong with us. We don’t measure up to God’s holy standard.

When we look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’s not as tidy as discovering a piece of lettuce in our teeth. It’s more like going into the bathroom, flashing a smile at ourselves, and finding out a front tooth has a big chip broken off of it.

The mirror has helped us see the problem, but we can’t fix it on our own. If our tooth is chipped, we need outside help. We need a dentist.

When we go to the mirror of God’s Word, we see what is wrong with us. But we also find out that we can’t fix it ourselves. In fact, without God’s renewing power, we’re dead, and if we’re dead, we definitely aren’t going to be able to fix what’s wrong with us.

We need Jesus. We need the cross.

Read what He has done for us!

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14 ESV).

Are you remembering this Good News when you discipline and correct your children?

It’s true that we need to help them get a good look at themselves in the mirror of God’s Word.

  • When they lie, we should show them verses like Colossians 3:9 and Exodus 20:16.
  • We should help them understand how they have fallen short of God’s holy standard.
  •  We should show them from God’s Word how He wants them to live and think and speak.
  • We should help them learn to acknowledge and repent of their sin.

But then what do we do?

Do we leave them with the impression that they just need to  try harder? Or do we take them to Jesus, the only One who has obeyed God’s law perfectly?

If we don’t soak our correction and discipline in the good news of the gospel, we can unwittingly lead our children to believe they can or should be able to obey God in their own strength.

We may point to a verse and say, “Here, this is what God says about what you’re doing.” We may point to others and say, “This is what He wants you to do instead.”

But if we stop there, in essence we’re saying, “So go do it.”

And they can’t do it — not in their own strength.

As we point our children to God’s standard, we need to look them in the eye and say, “You can’t do this by yourself. You’re never going to meet God’s standard in your own strength. He requires perfection. What are you going to do about it?”

Then we can point them to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

As He died, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”

And it was.

Our salvation was won. In Christ, our sins were forgiven. In Christ, our debt was canceled. It was nailed to the cross.  

And that frees us. We don’t have anything left to prove. We can quit trying to save ourselves. We can look in the mirror and admit our sin, and we can repent, because we can trust God. We are secure in His love — a love that He proved at the cross.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5, ESV).

In Christ, we are made alive.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Gal. 2:20, ESV)

We live this life by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us — not by faith in ourselves. We need to remind our children — and ourselves — of this over and over and over again.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

 

 

(CC image courtesy of timlewisnm on Flickr.) 

An Eye-opening Experience

Post by Daniel Forster

mama

Sometimes I take care of the kids for a few hours while my wife goes out. Other times, when she’s sick, I step in to help do some of her work and keep the household running. That’s what I’ve been doing the past few days.

How she ever has dinner ready AND the house clean when I come home at night, I don’t know. It never happens when I’m in charge. On my watch, dinner is late (or messed up), books, toys, and couch cushions are strewn from one end of the house to the other, and oh yeah—I forgot to move the laundry again. It’s too many plates for me to spin at once!

This never fails to be an eye-opening experience for me. How easily I forget the dedication, skill, and hard work it takes to care for a house full of little people.

Just for fun today, we’re going to give away a “busy mama” book package including all our Busy Mamas Bible studies, Shopping for Time, and Loving the Little Years ($55 value).

mamas-books

To enter the giveaway, just comment on this post with your answer to the question below.

What’s one way your husband helps lighten your homemaking load or support you as a mom?

I’m looking forward to learning :-)

(One entry per person. Ends at midnight PST on Friday, 1/23. One random winner will be drawn and notified on Monday 1/26. Ships free to US addresses only.)

My Priorities for the Preschool Years

My Priorities for the Preschool Years

As a dad of four children ages 1 to 5, sometimes I’m tempted to think these early years are unimportant. But I know that’s not true; the way we treat a child from age one to five will have a huge influence on how the rest of his childhood and his life will turn out. These early years of life are likely the most critical and formative ones.

Here are five priorities my wife and I are focusing on during our children’s’ preschool years:

1. Teach them to obey

The clearest instructions to children in the Bible involve obeying and honoring their parents. Some call this repressive parenting, but teaching our children to obey will bring them many blessings. Besides promoting their safety (by preventing actions like touching a hot burner or running in the street), learning to obey at an early age gives our children the ability to make their own choices as they mature. As Andrew Murray says, “Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use it when he is free.”

We can make it easier for our children to obey us by earning their trust, making sure they know we have their best interests at heart.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1)

2. Teach them to be peacemakers

Our young ones must learn to temper their own desires and consider the needs of others. This is not an easy one! Every day in a house with littles provides opportunities to teach peacemaking.

We can teach them biblical methods for responding to offenses, such as “talk to the person who wronged you first, before you come to me” and “if he hits you, it still isn’t right for you to hit him back.” I have to keep reminding myself that they don’t just know these things; we need to model the right responses and walk them through what they should do, and they may need to hear it fifty times before it sticks. Often we will stop and re-play the situation that just happened, coaching them through the right words and actions. Eventually, they will be able to work through most problems without needing our help.

We can also set a good example by apologizing to our children when we make mistakes or wrong them in some way. Our failures can actually become prime teaching opportunities.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matt. 18:15a)

3. Teach them to concentrate on a task

Before they can become diligent students and helpful members of our household (or responsible adults, for that matter), our children need to develop enough self-control to concentrate on an activity or job and see it through to completion.

Our young children are often interested in “helping” with whatever we are doing, whether it’s washing dishes, changing the car oil, shopping for groceries, or typing on the computer. It isn’t always convenient, but we try to include them when we can. I hope that the helpful spirit will grow if we encourage it.

We’ve also started assigning each child simple chores after breakfast, like making their beds, helping clear the table, or sweeping the floor. This requires some coaching from us, but they are getting better already. This ability to focus on a task and get it done will be essential as they get older and we begin homeschooling.

“The hand of the diligent will rule” (Prov. 12:24a)

4. Impart a love of learning through stories

“Tell me a story, Daddy!” is something I hear a lot these days. A little tot scoots across the floor, eagerly pushing a board book in my direction. I don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm, so I’ve had to brush up on my storytelling skills and repertoire. (Our bookshelves are overflowing with storybooks too!)

Learning should be fun, and stories make it so. As a long-time reader of almost exclusively non-fiction and how-to books, I have to thank my wife Katelyn, and N.D. Wilson for opening my eyes to the power of stories. As it turns out, we enjoy and remember stories much better than the facts we learn from a textbook.

If reading and discussing stories can make learning not a chore, but a fun, natural part of our family life, then homeschooling will be that much easier when the time comes.

In addition, God has revealed Himself and much of His Word through the stories given to us in the Bible. The preschool years are the prime time to surround our children with the best stories ever written – stories that will form the foundation of their faith and their relationship with Jesus as they grow.

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Ps. 78:4)

5. Build a close relationship with each child

My parents used to hear it all the time: “Just wait until they’re teenagers.” But the predictions of doom never materialized. They were purposeful about building relationships with each of us six children, and they say it just got better as we grew older. I’m sure it still wasn’t easy, but we all had strong relationships with our parents through the teenage years, and we still do today.

I also want close relationships with each of my children, and now is the time to start building them. This means learning what communicates love to my children and making time for it. They like early morning snuggles, making forts, and watching movies together. They love to ride on my back or talk with me when they’re going to bed. Sometimes we go out for a quick dessert date or shopping trip. The girls love doing craft projects and showing us their dress-up outfits. The boys love playing with toys on the floor or helping push the lawnmower around the yard. Building relationships with little people is pretty simple – which is why it’s important right now!

I think of my Grandpa, whose simple love for Jesus and for his family has had a tremendous impact on our family and on me. His love helped us believe in God’s love. If I only succeed at one thing as a parent, I want my children to know they are loved, both by me, and by their heavenly Father.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:12)

God has given us these little followers, so young, trusting, and impressionable. He’s entrusted us with a great responsibility. May God give us wisdom and strength to love and train them for His glory!

How to Be a Wise Steward of the Next Year of Your Life

How to be a wise steward of the next year of your life

I’ll admit right now that I’m a goal-setting junkie. This time of year is always exciting and full of new possibilities!

Setting goals has always been an important part of my life. Growing up, I enjoyed reviewing the past year and setting new goals with my parents during our Christmas break each year. Now my wife and I have our own goal-setting tradition, and I can hardly wait for this week’s coffee-shop-planning-date where we’ll discuss new goals for ourselves and our family in 2015.

Wise people keep saying that life just gets faster and crazier. My oldest is just five, but I know they are right when they tell me “You watch out; you’ll blink and they’ll be all grown up on you!”

Life moves fast, and we’ll all be looking back on 2015 in no time. What do you want to see when you look back a year from now?

This week is a prime time to consider this question. Get some time alone if you can, and think about what is truly important to you in the coming year. To help you set meaningful goals, here are six simple questions that can help you set better goals and grow in faithfulness this year.

(You may also use this free printable planning sheet to write down your own goals as you consider your answers to these questions.)

1. How intentionally do I want to spend this year of my life?

Without deliberate planning, most of us could survive alright, just taking life as it comes. But it’s too easy for the ever-present “urgent” things to crowd out our real priorities when we live this way. As my pastor so aptly put it, “Do you want to keep playing whack-a-mole with your life?”

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, but in the big scheme of things, our lives make a greater difference and God gets more glory when we’re intentional about how we spend our limited time on this earth. Don’t feel bad about taking time to plan; it’s time well-spent.

2. What responsibilities has God given me?

It’s not hard to think up a few of my own goals or wishes for the new year. Knowing what I want for myself comes pretty easily. But our goal setting changes when we approach it from outside of ourselves. Rather than asking “what do I want out of this year?” I should ask “what does God expect of me this year?”

What commitments have we made to others? What life roles have we assumed that need to be fulfilled in a godly manner? As children of God, as husbands and wives, and as parents, we have certain obligations that should shape our dreams and desires for 2015. Every relationship we’re in carries some kind of responsibility, and those responsibilities are a great place to start when we consider our goals.

Example: My goals are organized according to my areas of responsibility, starting with “Personal/Spiritual” and including “Marriage”, “Children”, “Church” and more. (You can list each of your own responsibilities on this planning sheet.)

3. What does faithfulness look like in each of these areas?

Once we’ve identified our important relationships and commitments, we need a clear picture of what faithfulness looks like in each of these areas. What, specifically, do we owe to God, to our spouses, to our children, and to others around us? Stop and imagine (or better yet, write down) what it would look like to have a closer relationship with God this year. What would it mean to be a more godly husband or wife? What would it look like for us to take our responsibilities as parents more seriously?

If the picture is not clear in your mind, ask God for guidance. Perhaps this will provide direction for your next Bible study :-)

Example: While helping create two new studies on godly love this year, I’ve become aware of how much room I have to grow in my love for others. My desire for the “Personal/Spiritual” dimension is to be continually growing in godly maturity, and this year, I specifically want to become more of a loving person. This theme carries into my goals for my marriage and my children as well.

4. What specific goals can I set for each of my areas of responsibility in 2015?

With a picture of faithful living fresh in our minds, now we can set goals that will bring us closer to those ideals. How would you like to see yourself grow in the next 365 days? Do you see sin in your life that God is calling you to overcome? What can you do in 2015 that your spouse, your children, or your friends will appreciate? What do these people need from you? What specific changes or accomplishments would you like to look back on one year from now?

Example: My specific goal in the “Personal/Spiritual” category is to spend time reading and studying the Bible and praying each day, which will provide the grounding and direction for pursuing most of my other goals. This will include finishing the Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13 Bible study with my wife and gaining a better perspective on godly love.

5. What will it take to reach those goals over the course of this year?

Specific goals are good, but often it takes one more step to get the ball rolling. If I leave my goal at “Read the Bible and pray each day,” the chances of realizing this goal are pretty slim. We need to get down to the tactical level and devise a sufficiently detailed plan for achieving each goal. Ask yourself “What will it take for me to accomplish this goal this year?”

Examples: I have a goal of reading the Bible and praying each day. Unfortunately that won’t happen unless I specify when and where that will happen. So, I’m scheduling 30 minutes in my office in the morning when I won’t be interrupted, and I’m laying out my Bible and study materials on a desk for that purpose. On weekends, I will plan for a shorter study time in the evening after our children are in bed.

6. WHY will I pursue these goals in 2015?

This is the important question that is easy to miss. As Michael Hyatt helpfully points out, people often fail at goals and resolutions because they aren’t connected to the WHY behind their goals. Personally, I find it exciting (and fairly easy) to make plans and goals, but it’s much harder to actually do them. I’m learning that I need to be more aware of what actually motivates me as I set goals. Knowing what’s at stake helps us stay committed and see our goals through to completion.

Furthermore, if we’re pursuing big goals and accomplishments to feed our own pride or build a sense of control, then it’s all a waste of time. Our motivation needs to be God-centered, not self-centered.

God calls us to deliberately pursue wise goals as His servants. Let’s plan now to be faithful stewards of the relationships, time, resources, and gifts He has given each of us this year.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1 ESV)

 

(If you don’t have your own system for setting goals, you are welcome to print and use this PDF for your goal setting. Consider spending some goal-setting time with each of your children as well, if they are old enough.)

Six Different Kinds of Disobedience (and the Root Problem)

My wife and I are launching on a new Bible study. We’ve often tried to read through the Bible from beginning to end in a year (sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t), but this time we’re reading through the Bible looking for insights relevant to parenting. I’m already excited about what we are finding. You notice new things when you’re reading with a different perspective!

Six Different Kinds of Disobedience (and the root problem) - Doorposts blog

Israel’s early history as recorded in Exodus and Numbers contains many examples of disobedience and its consequences. These can be instructive to us as we seek to obey God in our own lives and as we train our children in obedience.

Here are six different kinds of disobedience we identified:

1. Proudly refusing to obey – Pharaoh at first scorned the word of God given through Moses, and as Israel was leaving, still demonstrated his hard-hearted will to keep the Israelites as his slaves against God’s command.

2. Partial obedience – After enduring four plagues, Pharaoh began telling Moses they could go – but without leaving Egypt, without taking their families, or without taking their livestock. Only after ten plagues destroyed most of Egypt did Pharaoh finally do what God asked.

3. Complaining instead of obeying – When Israel finally reached the border of the Promised Land, ten faithless spies brought back a bad report and caused them to hesitate. God was ready to lead them in, and yet the Israelites became afraid of the giants, armies, and fortified cities. This fear led to complaining and a failure to obey God’s directions. The consequence was 40 years of desert wandering and an entire generation missing out on the blessings God had offered them.

4. Delayed obedience – Once the Israelites realized the consequences of their failure, they admitted their sin and hurried to fight the Amalekites and Canaanites even though God said He would no longer help them. (Much like a misbehaving toddler saying “I obey now!” and rushing to mend his ways when he sees Dad ominously getting up from his chair.) As Moses warned, many of them died and the battle ended in defeat.

5. Obeying with an angry spirit – In a moment of anger, Moses and Aaron spoke harshly to the Israelites and struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded. God still brought forth water for them to drink, but for this sin, the two leaders were not permitted to enter the Promised Land.

6. Questioning clear commands – Tempted by the promise of fame and riches, Balaam asked God a second time if he should go with the king’s messengers after God had already given him clear instructions. God was angry and sent an angel to kill him, though he was mercifully spared, thanks to his donkey.

In each of these stories, the disobeyers lacked faith in God. Instead of trusting God to know what was best for them and submitting to His will, these men acted impulsively out of fear, anger, or greed. (And we consistently see the destructive results: disappointment, death, and loss of the very things they desired.)

When dealing with a disobedient child, it may help to look for the root cause. Is the child afraid of something? Is he just being selfish or willful? Or is trust missing from our relationship?

We can help our children learn to obey by proving ourselves worthy of their trust, just as God repeatedly proved Himself faithful to Israel. Of course we are imperfect people and make mistakes, unlike our Heavenly Father. But by His grace, we can become more trustworthy in the eyes of our children.

Here are some things we can do to build trust with our children:

  • When we ask our children to obey, it should be for their own good (safety, learning, receiving blessing etc.), not just for our convenience.
  • We can remember their weakness and immaturity and avoid burdening them with impossible expectations or rules.
  • When we do set rules, we can communicate them clearly, make sure they are understood, then enforce them consistently.
  • We can keep our word and our promises to our children, just as God keeps His promises.
  • We can spend quality and quantity time with our children, being available for them and taking care to make our relationships with them a priority.
  • We can provide for their needs, both physical and emotional, so they have no need to fear.
  • We can pray for them and with them.
  • When we make mistakes, we can apologize to our children and demonstrate our own submission to God and His authority.
  • We can tell them often that we love them and delight in them.

 

Feeling Stuck

Frustrated childI hear a child’s frustrated crying in the kitchen. I go to investigate, and I find my 2-year-old son pushing with all his might against a chair, angry that it’s not moving.

He has plans, but something has gone wrong. Soon I realize why he’s upset.

The back of the chair has run into an open cupboard door and stopped his movement. But his head is down, his brow is furrowed, and he’s still crying and vigorously pushing the chair with both hands. This focused little guy hasn’t noticed what’s happening, and he’s getting more frustrated by the minute.

I step in to help, moving the chair, closing the cupboard, and letting the relieved little fellow resume scooting his chair across the floor.

It makes me chuckle to myself. How silly of him.

But then I realize that I do the same thing sometimes as a parent. I get angry at problems instead of looking for a way to fix them:

  • I get frustrated when we’re late to church AGAIN.
  • I get angry at the child who tests my limits instead of obeying me.
  • I’m resentful that I missed my Bible reading time because I was up with children during the night or too early in the morning.

Although it’s easy to feel like the victim in situations like these, I’m actually the one responsible to do something about the problem. For example:

  • Make a plan for Sunday morning that includes preparing ahead and allowing time for the inevitable lost shoe and other emergencies.
  • Be more consistent in expecting obedience, so the child won’t need to test me every time.
  • Make back-up plans for Bible study at other times during the day, because mornings are just not predictable in this season of life.

Proverbs 14:15 says “the prudent gives thought to his steps.” When challenges or frustrations arise, sometimes we need to step back and take a better look at what we’re doing. We need to take responsibility, consider the situation, and look around us for a solution.

Here are some steps that may help:

  • Pray for God’s wisdom and help
  • Talk with your spouse and look for a solution together as a team.
  • Get advice from older, wiser parents you respect
  • Ask yourself questions like “What does God’s Word say about this problem?” “What can we do to prevent this problem?” and “How does God want us to deal with this problem?”
  • Make a change to your own behavior, priorities, routines, expectations, etc.

Parenting is a demanding job. One of the ways we can avoid burning out is to be prudent about how we respond to problems and frustrations. God sees it all, and He is ready and willing to help us!

A School for Training Parents

(Post by Daniel Forster)

Home-life-is-a-school-as

“Home life is a school as much for training parents as children” – Andrew Murray

This is actually one of the top reasons my wife and I are committed to homeschooling our children. Both of us finished homeschooling a long time ago, took  some college classes, and read hundreds of books, but we’ll never be done learning. I know God has more lessons for us to learn as we disciple and educate our own children. I know it will be hard at times, but I don’t want to miss out on those lessons.

It looks different for each one of us, but God has plans for us to keep growing and learning, no matter what season of life we are in.

I just spent a weekend with Mama (who writes most of the posts on this blog) at the Teach Them Diligently Washington DC convention, where she gave several workshops and I ran the Doorposts booth.

Though she’s been a writer for over 30 years, she’s never done much public speaking until the last few years when God has opened doors for her to speak at several different events. Both she and I have been working hard to learn public speaking skills (and discovering that speaking is a much different craft than writing!) She’s all done homeschooling, but you can still see her learning and growing as she follows God’s direction for her life.

ttd-washington-forsters-doorposts

If you’re wishing you could hear her workshops, you can get MP3 recordings online from the Resounding Voice website. They offer instant downloads for $4 each, or CD’s for $7.

We hope these messages will inspire you as you learn your way along the path of parenting the children God has given you. May He richly bless you and your family!

 

On Training the Will of the Child

Post by Daniel Forster

book-self-control

I love the feel and smell of old books. I’m in the middle of reading one right now. It has a plain brown cloth cover, with small gold letters on the spine:

THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST
————
ANDREW MURRAY

Inside the cover, there’s a note from 1952, when my great great grandfather gave the book to his youngest daughter. There’s another note from 2006 when my parents gave it to me. Somewhat like my faith in Christ, this book has been passed down for many generations.

I’m finding that these daily devotionals for parents take some serious concentration. They aren’t written in today’s easy-to-follow, simple language; the author really takes his time to make a point and to bring in relevant Bible teaching. It takes time to find them, but I’m discovering some beautiful treasures of godly wisdom.

Peek over my shoulder for a minute, and see how Murray’s thoughts on the 5th Commandment fly in the face of so much of today’s popular parenting “wisdom”:

“Man was created free that he might obey; obedience is the path to liberty.

“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction…

“But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.

“The child who is taught by a wise parent to honour him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”

Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 111-112.

This is why it’s important for us to lovingly but firmly require first-time obedience from our little ones. Our children aren’t just learning simple obedience to their earthly parents and to God now — they’re learning the self-control that equips them to live in true liberty and heartfelt obedience to God as they grow up and leave our homes.

More Than You Can Handle

Post by Daniel Forster

Boy making mess

Whoever said “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?

When you’re taking care of little people, every day feels like more than you can handle.

You’re making progress on something in the kitchen, only to find that in the last 10 minutes of silence, a misguided helper has dusted all of the family room furniture with flour.

You worked hard to make a fun lunch for the children, but no one wants to eat it.

After getting kids in pajamas, brushing their teeth, reading stories, tucking them in, and then handling last-minute requests for drinks of water, trips to the bathroom (or anything else they can think of to delay bedtime), you’d much rather go to bed yourself than finish cleaning the kitchen.

The morning you finally get to sleep in is the morning that your toddlers decide to wake up and crawl all over your bed (and you).

I realize these “hardships” are pretty mild, compared to what some of my friends face, but this is life at our house right now. I know I’m a weenie if I complain about this stuff while other parents are doing all this alone as a single parent, or adding homeschooling to the mix, or maybe giving up on home routines entirely to spend weeks in a hospital with a child struggling for his life.

Clearly, trials can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are harder than others. But they all take their toll, wearing us down and tempting us to be discouraged (or to at least lock ourselves in the bathroom for five minutes of peace and quiet).

Does God give us more than we can handle?

Yes, He does.

Not only that, but He does it on purpose.

I think He wants us to see how much we need Him. Just like we can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps in regards to our eternal salvation, neither can we just decide to be strong in our duties as parents (no matter what the self-help books say).

boy tired out

In every area of life, God wants us to see our weakness and our inability, not so we’ll be discouraged, but so we’ll admit our dependence on Him. We’re most likely to ask for His help when we’re at the end of our own rope.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s evidence that God is drawing you towards Himself. Instead of trusting in your own strength or wisdom, He wants you to lean on Him. When we feel empty, tired, or in need of strength, we need to take refuge in our all-powerful God:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isa. 40:28)

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20a)

“Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God…” (Ps. 62:11)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isa. 26:4)

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” (Ps. 18:1)

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer. 32:17)

“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matt. 19:26)

Clearly, God is the one who has it all together. By faith, we know there’s nothing HE can’t handle. So instead of looking inside ourselves and trying to drum up more inspiration or energy from inside, we need to ask God for strength from outside ourselves. He wants us to admit our weakness and depend completely on Him. Admitting our dependence on God is not weakness; it’s where we find real strength.

 

(I’ll be giving a workshop on “Parenting in the Strength God Supplies” this weekend at the Family Discipleship & Homeschooling Conference in Redmond, WA.)

Nine Benefits of Trials

Benefits of trials - tree and road in the fogAs a thirty-year-old dad of four little kids, I consider my trials insignificant when compared to the hardships of others I know. Some people deal with demanding leadership roles, persistent health issues, and life-threatening diseases on a daily basis.

My trials are small things like getting up to help a sick child in the middle of the night, picking up toys and books off the floor, or those times when I just want to vaporize the piles of dirty dishes so I can go to bed. However, parenting is full of difficulties like these, and we all need encouragement to persevere, no matter what kind of hardships we are facing.

The good news is, God’s Word is full of encouragement for us. Today I wrote a post over at the Boy Dads blog (don’t worry, this post is just as applicable to moms!) on Nine Benefits of Trials which summarizes what the Bible says on this subject. I hope you find it encouraging!