Turning Our Hearts Toward Our Families

This was a recent Dad’s Corner request:

“We’ve managed to keep most of our children’s hearts, but two of them just seem determined to test us and stray. My husband isn’t sure that we are losing their hearts. He thinks that their behavior is ‘normal’ for children their age. One is eleven, the other seven. As a mom, I fear being too harsh and severing that connection completely, but I also fear being too soft and watching them slip further away. My husband sees no problem at all with their conniving, lying, and trickery to get out of chores, but I think that’s because he’s gone all day and can’t deal with things immediately. So is there a problem? Is it me? Do I leave it until it becomes a problem for my husband? I would appreciate a Corner in response to this.”

It is common for us to receive an e-mail from a mom describing a situation of concern in her home, and she will also say that her husband doesn’t see it as a problem. Since we don’t want to undermine a wife’s respect for her husband, this is the perfect topic for a Dad’s Corner directed to dads. In reality there are two significant problems here: the losing of hearts and a husband who isn’t plugged into the home.

It seems that we men tend toward extremes. Either we are harsh dictators not listening to our wives, or we are pushovers letting them lead our families. God said to Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee …” It is a good thing when a man listens to his wife, but it is a bad thing when, after listening, he obeys her rather than God.

Had Adam listened to Eve and then taken Eve’s problem to God, we might have had a different situation instead of the fall. That is what is needed for us dads as well: we need to pass what our wives are telling us through what we know Scripture says and then take what we learn to God in prayer.

I would consider the greatest problem reflected in this Corner request is the fact that Dad doesn’t have his heart turned toward his wife and is not listening to Mom’s heart-cry. I believe that losing the children’s hearts is just the first of many problems that they will experience.

As dads we can be so busy in the wood, hay, and stubble of life providing for the family that we lose sight of the hearts of the family members. Providing for our family is a far lower priority than being their spiritual leader. Yet, often, physical provision is a man’s focus. There can be many things competing for our time and attention, but we must put our attention on our highest priority, which is leading our families. To do this, we should listen carefully to the hearts of our wives or else our families may be at risk.

Each of us is to obey Paul’s command in loving our wives: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). One of the most important ways of loving our wives is to listen to them. Women are generally more sensitive than men. To ignore the heart-cry of a wife is similar to a pilot ignoring his radar. The wife is the one interacting with the children all day, and she is going to have a perspective that her husband would be foolish to ignore. Even if a wife is quiet, it doesn’t mean she won’t have thoughts about what is going on in the home. It is good to ask for her input on various issues.

The second problem I see from this Dad’s Corner request is whether it is normal for children to lie. Dad is right that lying and deception are normal, but they are not normal for believers. Lying is characteristic of the lost of the world, but we can never idly accept lying in our children as the norm. Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and those whose custom it is to lie will join him in the lake of fire. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). It appears that the dad has acknowledged that his children are lying and deceiving, but he fails to see the seriousness of letting it continue. “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalms 101:7).

Dad’s perspective on issues in the home will greatly depend on his relationship with the Lord. The closer our hearts are drawn to Jesus, the more we will love our wives and our children, being sensitive to their needs and concerns, and the more we will abhor sin. The more we are in the Word, the more we will recognize sin and correctly disciple our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

If Dad isn’t spending time in the Word every day and in prayer with his Lord Jesus, then everything of value will crumble. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Seriously think about it. Whatever hinders our spending time with Jesus is the real priority in our life.

Based on conversations with dads, I wonder if it isn’t the care, feeding, and entertaining of the dad’s flesh that most often bumps out personal and family time in the Word. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). A split allegiance will not produce a home of peace and children with hearts turned toward the Lord and their parents.

Another example of the importance of listening to Mom’s heart was her concern about being too harsh. Without examples, it is impossible to know exactly what she means, but Dad is the one who should be able to understand what is actually happening in the home. This mom is using the word “harsh,” but a mom’s heart is full of mercy, and to her, she may feel she is being harsh simply by having consequences for lying. On the other hand, if she is angry and yelling, that is definitely harsh and will contribute to losing their children’s hearts.

It is also likely this couple is not praying together. Praying together is a wonderful way of seeing into the heart of your spouse and being drawn together. Teri and I pray together every night just before we go to sleep. It is a conversational prayer, and we pray back and forth until one of us says, “In Jesus’ name,” and then the other one prays until ready to stop. I get to hear the real burdens of Teri’s heart when we pray privately like that, and she gets to hear what is on my heart as I talk to my Lord. If you aren’t praying with your wife, I would strongly encourage you to begin. It is a blessing that you are missing.

Raising children is a team effort with the Lord Jesus being at the head. If Dad isn’t in the Word daily and praying, he isn’t listening to his Lord and is headed for disaster. If Dad is not carefully listening to his wife, he is also likely headed for disaster. If Dad’s heart is not turned toward his children, he is going to lose them. There is so much at stake, we must be zealous about leading our family. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Titus Two Encouragement for a Young Mother – Part 1

Recently a mom asked me some pertinent questions about life with young children. As stay-at-home-mommies, we want our days to be filled with joy, love, contentment, and fulfillment. Over and over others tell us that the years when our children are little go by quickly and that we should be treasuring each day. However, we may feel that those giving us counsel have long forgotten the fatigue of being up in the night with babies and sick children, the drudgery of mundane household tasks, and the loneliness without adult companionship. Here is specifically what was asked:

“I have just two children. They are both very young, and I am very tired. I would love for our family to keep growing, and I dream of having LOTS of children, but I am worried about how I’m going to find the energy to keep up with everyone. I am having a hard time with my energy levels now. I do take naps nearly everyday. I am naturally a night owl, but would LOVE to be an early riser. I really need to get up earlier than everyone to get everything done in the day. But it seems hopeless to be able to do so. Do young children really take so much energy out of you like people say? I don’t like that excuse for being tired, but the daily chores of changing two diapers, changing two outfits, feeding two extra people, brushing mine and their teeth, and finally finishing about the time a snack or lunch is needed seems like it zaps my energy. Being overwhelmed when you are tired only makes things harder. I need some encouragement from those who have had their children close together, and any advice on how to keep myself healthy while having children and managing them.” A young mom (used with permission)

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). I believe this verse is a key to the energy a mom needs when she has babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Her strength comes from the Lord so that she can go through each day with high-energy children but not be weary or faint. This does not negate getting adequate rest, which I will discuss in part 2 of this Mom’s Corner series. However, it highlights the importance our daily relationship with Jesus Christ has on the practical aspects of having enough vigor for two small children and then perhaps even more children in the future.

Our daily lives involve a spiritual battlefield. These battles are waged in our minds, and they involve our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” I have a choice set before me. I can look at the tasks that fill my day in one of two ways: with a self focus or with gratitude. When I take my thoughts captive, I fill my mind with thankfulness to the Lord Jesus for my children and for the fact that I am able to stay home with them. I rejoice in the opportunity I have to influence my children for Christ every single day. I think about the provision He has made for me and view the responsibilities He has given me in my home with happiness.

I can also choose to allow negative thoughts to enslave my mind. Then I become discouraged thinking about being lonely, not liking to change diapers, wanting more sleep, or my lack of freedom. I am entangled by my mental decision that “it” is too hard, and I am too tired. Essentially I make myself discontent by choosing unhappiness, which causes me to feel like I have no energy because I don’t want to face that for which I am not pleased.

Practically speaking, I would encourage this mom to take her thoughts captive in this way: When it is teeth brushing time, praise Jesus for being home with the children to brush their teeth. Thank Him for the home He has provided and a husband who is supporting his family. Smile at the children as you brush their teeth. Tell them how much they are loved by you, how wonderful they are, how you delight in being their mommy, and how you are looking forward to seeing what the Lord Jesus is going to do with their lives. Sing to them.

Do the same when you are getting them dressed in the morning. Keep your thoughts on Jesus and His goodness to you while you are joyfully interacting with your children. Make your words pleasant and cheerful whether you really feel like it or not. In making this choice, I believe a mom is waiting on the Lord. She is following what she knows He wants her to do, and I think the result will be the energy she desires.

There will come times when a mom is emotionally feeling down and discouraged, perhaps because of hormones or from physically being tired. Then grab hold of the encouragement found in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In the midst of discouragement or weariness, we can still choose what we will do with our thoughts, and I truly believe as we take them off of ourselves and put them on Jesus, we will, as Isaiah says, “mount up with wings as eagles.” In that process, Jesus gets all the glory because His grace was sufficient and His strength was made perfect in our weakness.

When a mom has only one or two small children, it is the time in her life to cultivate a moment-by-moment communication with Jesus. With few or no adult interactions during the day, she can continually be talking with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a time to: memorize Scripture (Psalms 119:11), rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), in everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18), not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6), be content (Philippians 4:11), do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). When my mind is filled with the Word, a desire to obey, and thoughts of Jesus, I am energized and joyful. It is during the moments when I start looking at myself that I become discouraged, and with the discouragement comes weariness.