Do not be discouraged! Part I

As parents and/or ministry leaders for kids it’s easy to get discouraged and wonder if we are really making a difference.  This 3-part blog series is meant to encourage you as you interact with your own kids, or serve as a ministry leader for kids. As parents, we want to see our kids “get it.  We want to see them live a life that demonstrates a solid understanding of God at work in their lives.  We want to see God’s truth lived out in the things they do and say, and we want to know that they trust Jesus and are saved.   We do our best, however inadequate that may seem at times, to teach them and train them about faith, and model that for them – and then we pray and trust God to do his work in their lives.

As a parent of two very different children, I have turned to trusting God.   My daughter, now 16, accepted Jesus at age 4, was baptized at age 8, wrote a book report on “How to become a Christian” in 2nd grade, in 7th grade was known as the “God Girl” at her school. Now she is a leader at her high school with a reputation for hard work, fairness and kindness.   She is also a leader in her youth group and although she struggles in a balance of school work, school and church activities, and having a regular devotion, as many of us do, we know she “gets it”.  She is very compassionate, befriends anyone that wants to be her friend and it seems that even now God has set her on a solid course as she plans for college and her future.  Things have not always been easy, as we have struggled with typical teenage issues.  She has also had many struggles over the past few years with friendships which as a parent I have prayed about for her and had to trust God with.  As much as I would like to take credit for how awesome she is, in truth my example to her has frequently been terribly lacking, and it is God that has done the work in her.  We wait with much anticipation to see how God will unfold her future.

My 11 year old son, however, while very skilled and talented in many areas, is very happy go lucky, and has not a care in the world.   While he doesn’t complain about church, or even home Bible devotions, he just doesn’t seem to care.  If you ask him any question about anything he values, you get an “I don’t know, can I go play now!”   He simply doesn’t show much interested in the things of God and we wonder if he will ever “get it”.   We wonder if we did our part, and then we pray and trust God to do his part.   Being that he was adopted, we wonder if the Buddhist influence of his birth culture when he was young has set up a spiritual barrier that in some way needs to be broken through. We wonder that with the comfortable life he now enjoys, what God may do to get his attention.   And then there are small signs of hope!   Just recently, my husband relayed a conversation that he had with our son.  My husband asked him if he thought he was popular at his school and he responded with “Dad, popularity is a dangerous word.  If you are popular you have to look and act a certain way.  There is a responsibility with being popular.  I do not want to be that kind of popular.”  My husband floored by his thoughtful response, rushed in to tell me. Whoa! Did those words come out of my son’s mouth!  And then when his neighborhood buddies cell phone wouldn’t stop ringing (no our son does not have a cell phone) because of the 5th grade girls calling him and his buddy calling them his “girlfriends, my daughter witnessed him lecture his friend saying “you don’t need any girlfriends – you don’t need girlfriends until you are thinking about getting married.” We presume he got this from many conversations we have with our daughter about the attitudes of her friends towards dating, but obviously he is listening and just maybe something is sinking in and he maybe just believes it - enough that he would share it with his buddy.  We wait with much anticipation to see how God will direct our son as well.

All this to say, that while some of us are blessed to see our children embrace God at any early age, I want to offer encouragement to the rest when it seems our kids just don’t have a spiritual bone in their body.  The Bible does say, “train up and child in the way he should go and he will return to it.”  Proverbs 22:6

If you feel discouraged, or like a failure, as a parent or spiritual leader of children don’t be discouraged. You never know how God in his infinite wisdom, works all things together to reveal himself.  The best thing we can do as parents when our children see our failures is ask for forgiveness from them, demonstrate how we can forgive others because of Christ and let them see how God restores us.   How many times, I have had to ask my children to forgive me for an outburst of anger towards them or their father.   Simply offer yourself to God and trust that he is working in and through you and those he loves to produce spiritual children and every once in a while God can actually use our kids to teach us something about Himself too!

Written by Darla Bair, with parts adapted from Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony