An Exercise of the Will – Part 1

I’m guessing and hopeful that every family has had a situation come along where they felt the Lord was leading them to make some major changes, and they obeyed. First the Lord brought conviction to the hearts of Dad and Mom, and they came to the place of knowing they wanted to comply with that conviction. Next these potential changes were broached with the children. Dad wondered what the children’s responses would be as he presented this information to them. If only they would eagerly accept the new direction from the Lord, but he was concerned that there was going to be major resistance to it. What was the result? Was it an emotional and spiritual battle, or the children cheerfully following Dad and Mom’s leading?

Is there a way to make these transitions easier? Most certainly, but first let me give you a scenario that is quite sure to produce conflict and bitterness in the hearts of the children. Picture the dad who sits the family down sternly telling them that the old way is wrong, but the new way is good. He says that’s the way it is going to be, and he really doesn’t care what any of them think about it. I can assure you that this method may initially be less time intensive, but the damage done to the hearts of your children is hard to reverse, if it even can be reversed. There is a better way to handle these difficult changes that will draw the children’s hearts to you and your heart to them.

If Dad and Mom have the hearts of the children, then it will be far easier to introduce change into the family. If you find you aren’t willing to make a decision for the good of the family out of fear of how the children might react, that is a serious situation. It shows that you don’t have your children’s hearts and are more afraid of your children than the Lord. We are to fear God and not man. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). When God directs us to do something, we must do it. For more information on keeping our children’s hearts, I would direct you to our book by that title, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts.

In order to walk us through how to biblically, lovingly, and compassionately implement a change in the family, let’s look at a possible example of a decision and how Dad and Mom could go about presenting it to the children. Let’s assume Dad and Mom have been convicted that they should get rid of the beast (TV). Here is how Dad could go about such a dramatic change with his family.

God gives grace when we follow Him, so depend upon that grace through the process of implementing a change. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). When God directs and we follow Him whole-heartedly, we can rest knowing He will give the family the needed grace to follow as well.

It all begins in the prayer closet. Seek the Lord for His help concerning how to best present the change to the children. Ask Him to prepare your heart, making sure it is loving, tender, compassionate, patient, and filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Also cry out to Him to be softening the children’s hearts in preparation for what you will be discussing with them. Pray for His blessing on what you say and the outcome with the children.

Next you will want to determine whether it is better to have a family meeting to talk with all the children together or to meet with each child individually. I have done it both ways. When we decided to take our older two sons out of Little League Baseball, I started by inviting Nathan, my oldest son, to Burger King for a milk shake one afternoon. I told him I had something important that I wanted to discuss with him. I did the same thing with his brother. That allowed me to hear each of my son’s heart response to my request without their being influenced by the other.

Most generally, I call a family meeting by telling the family, after Bible time, that I have something that has been on my heart that I would like to talk with them about. I begin by explaining how the Lord has been dealing with my heart and Mom’s heart in a particular area. In this case, it would be concern over the influence of the TV in our home and the time wasted watching it. I explain that it is my desire to follow the Lord Jesus no matter what He tells us to do.

I generally confess that I have failed my family in the situation such as bringing the beast into our home in the first place, and I ask their forgiveness. I have had to ask my family’s forgiveness many times for bad decisions I have made. I’ve found asking forgiveness to be a good thing because it is a humbling process for me, it shows my children my sincerity, and I’m more careful when making future decisions so I that I won’t have to undo it in the future. I look each child individually in the eye and ask him to forgive me. I’ve never had a child who wouldn’t say yes.

You will want to tell the children what you decided to do and why you believe the Lord Jesus is leading you in this direction. Explain to the children what the benefits of the change will be. In this example of throwing out the beast, you could start by saying that you will be less hindered in having family Bible time every night, and that you are very excited about that possibility. Your enthusiasm for the change will be contagious. You could go into how they will not have the negative influence of the world affecting their hearts like it was with the beast. Commit to them that you will personally have more time to spend with them. Encourage them that the family will use their time more productively than they did when they were watching the beast. Let them know that you and Mom are looking forward to the elimination of the conflict that was occurring between family members over which TV show to watch.

This is only the beginning of the suggestions I would like to share with you concerning helping your family accept changes that the Lord is directing toward. When these changes affect your children, you would be benefitted to have a plan for how you will approach the situation so that you can bring their hearts happily along with you. Invest the necessary time helping the children understand the reasons for the decisions you are making. I will conclude this discussion next month, but for now I encourage you to consider how you have approached these situations in the past, what has been successful for you, what hasn’t, and what you might do in the future.