I prayed for my children before they were even born. I prayed for their health and their influences. I prayed for their future. I prayed for their parents–that we would be godly parents with wisdom to know how to guide each of their personalities.
I prayed for their choices. Not that they would be prevented from making mistakes–that was inevitable.
I prayed that they would learn from them.
(Much to their chagrin, I let them know that I also prayed that they would always get caught!)
And I prayed above all, that they would come to have an intimate, growing relationship with God. That they would know Him, and because of His love for them, they would want to obey Him.
I can’t remember ever wanting anything more than I wanted to be a wife and a mom. It is a vivid memory of my early years–I would often pray and ask God to allow me to live long enough to experience love in that way.
And He answered my prayer.
You might think it a small request. One that was totally unnecessary. After all, life just takes its natural course, and we are just victims of chance, right? We make a decision and just hope it turns out alright?
I respectfully disagree.
Too often we make life choices based on our own desires without looking to the Lord for direction… including who we marry and whether or not we will have children–even doing our best to make sure we plan it all out perfectly.
I wonder if there is laughter in heaven over that, or just a heavy sigh…
There is a book in the Old Testament that fascinates me. Zephaniah’s message from God was not a pleasant one:
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah… and Jerusalem.. and those who turn back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.” Zephaniah 1: 4-6
It was a dire message to proclaim, but right there in the middle of it all is his admonition:
Zephaniah the prophet wrote this book sometime during the rule of King Josiah, whose reign in Judah was marked by revival. Josiah was young when he became king, but 2 Chronicles 34 shows us a powerful story about the impact of his choices.
“In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a youth, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David…“ (v. 3)
Our human tendency is to make every excuse in the book for doing things our own way, and then we have the audacity to ask God to bless our efforts. It’s like our children saying, “I’m going to do what I want, Mom and Dad–’cause I know you’ll love me anyway!”
And when that happens, it’s our job to lovingly correct them.
“And at that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and will punish the men who settle down comfortably, who say to themselves: ‘The Lord will not do good or evil.'” Zephaniah 1:12
Ouch! What a convicting thought–that we would get so comfortable doing things our own way that we forget about God. His standards never change, and if we say we love Him, we can’t ignore the fact that He does care about our choices.
And discipline is never fun, but always necessary.
If you’re a parent, you know that discipline is what helps to mold and shape our littles. It creates boundaries for them and protects them from danger. It puts them on the right behavioral track, and prepares them for relationships. It guides them to make good choices, and teaches them the concept of consequences.
And the best guidebook we have is God’s Word.
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who carry out what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be concealed on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Zephaniah 2:3
I never really like to think of God as angry. His is a righteous anger, and I see in Scripture how it is always preceded by a warning. His warnings aren’t just threats that come in the midst of disobedience. He makes it very clear what His expectations are, well in advance, and even assures us that He has created us with the ability to live them out–but gives us the choice to follow Him or not. [See Deuteronomy 30]
Giving your children clear boundaries and setting standards should be understood before they test your limits, not just after. A good parent doesn’t wait until the child gets burned before telling them that the fire is off-limits. When little man breaks the rules, there should be a clear consequence to his disobedience.
The best part of it all–understanding how much God loves us, we realize that any discipline is intended for our good.
And joy comes to both the Ruler and the rule keeper when we choose to obey.
Not unlike the joy we feel when our children make the right choices based on truths that we have taught them.
“The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17
The words of Zephaniah were perhaps a spark that ignited King Josiah’s passion for reform. If these warnings were what God used to remind this earthly king of his rightful place as he led the people of Judah, how important it is for us to be mindful as well, of our responsibility as parents. It is not a job for the weak or faint of heart.
And it is pompous to think that we can do it without Him.
This is a spiritual battle we are fighting for our children and grandchildren.
On those days when you feel you are losing the battle, and every.day.in.between.,
He has the answer. He IS the answer.
**Zephaniah 3:17 is the verse I am memorizing for my Scripture Memory Challenge.
If you’ve read any of my past posts in this Challenge, you will remember that I struggle with memorization. I began this journey many months ago, and continue to work to retain these verses. I will probably always have to review them to retain them, but the choice I made to TRY has been so good for me. I especially love that many of the books in Bible that in the past I mostly skimmed through, now have become some of my favorites. Tackling hard things often brings the greatest reward. And, quoting my pastor-husband, “It’s often in the difficult things of life that God teaches us the most.” Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever forget: God is fighting for you!