My husband hates it when people tell us how fast our children will grow up. Just give him the good ole, “children don’t keep” line, and he’ll have a hard time trusting you ever again. While I find it comical to watch him squirm in such scenarios, I understand where both parties are coming from. When scripture tells us that children are a blessing (Ps 127), we must remember the context in which the Psalmist is writing.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5
Children are a gift from God precisely because they are a heritage. Parenting is valuable because as one participates in the activity of it, it produces something of worth. Something that brings significance for both the parent and the child. The Psalmist is confirming that a man in his grown age will not be intimidated by his enemies when he has persevered in faithfulness as a parent. This verse is not just about children being a blessing in general, but about the process of raising children. Childrearing produces something that over time blesses parents who are faithful. Therefore, we should make note that this process takes both time and effort, especially if it is to one day produce something that is of value. When we seek to encourage parents by reminding them that young children won’t last forever, it is likened to forcibly reminding Christians that they should have joy amidst trials. While it is a true statement, an opportunity is being missed to dispense true comfort amidst real hardship.
Hope in heaven.
There is something sweet about each stage of a child’s life. From the coos of a newborn baby to the innocence of the toddler waddle to the hilariousness of a kid’s perspective, each stage presents new challenges and new joys. When we are tired of doing daily “parent things,” we must be encouraged that our hope isn’t in this season ending or in the results of how good a parent we are. Our hope is in heaven. It reminds me of John Stam, a missionary martyred in China. On the way to being beheaded, someone asked him where he was going. “We do not know where they are going, but we are going to heaven,” Stam answered. Stam didn’t think of his life as ending. Instead, he had a perspective because of his hope that helped him stay strong in a deathly circumstance. He truly had grasped an understanding that his hardships on earth were not going to last forever. Remembering that Jesus awaits us in heaven helps us be patient as we endure daily hardships on earth. This includes parenting.
Joy in Christ is better than joy in kids.
Appropriately so and probably just like you, I love my kids more than any other kids on the planet. Right now I have a six-year-old who sings and dances 100% of the time, a two-year-old who is cooler than I am and a 6-month-old who has literally smiled at me more than any one other person I’ve ever known. And although this season of life is so challenging, the joy my kids bring is beyond what I could have imagined. When people want to remind me to be thankful for that, they forget that Jesus is better. In the middle of parenting hardship, I don’t want to be reminded that best part of parenting, the joy part, will one day dissipate. I need to be reminded that even though my little children will one day be grown, joy from Jesus is possible now and will be possible then.
Being thankful but real.
When someone feels the need to remind me to be thankful for the early season of parenting, it is insinuating that I’m not thankful. While this season will “be over before we know it,” I still need to be real about the suffering involved. It’s the hard parts of parenting that make the good parts of parenting all the better. Instead of assuming that I am not thankful, I need my gaze to be pointed to the beauty of a God who is always working and always doing something good. Knowing that God is involved makes me thankful, and it also makes me honest. To think that parents are only having one emotion at a time is unhelpful and not how God created us. When James tells us to have joy amidst trials, he is not telling us just to be thankful. He is acknowledging that there is suffering. There is also a bigger picture filled with hope that can bring joy. He doesn’t belittle the suffering. He recognizes it while pointing to something actually helpful, complete joy in the Lord.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.