A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a dad and mom at a homeschool conference. They were sharing about some difficulties with their son. They admitted making many mistakes. As a result, they had a very rebellious son on their hands. This couple was at the point of wanting to give up on the child, letting him go his own way.
I also met a precious mommy who had a very young child stretched across her lap. I commented about how peaceful the resting child looked. She told me that her baby had a fatal disease that caused him to be so limp. I watched her lovingly use a suction bulb to clear her son’s throat and then give him something to eat through a feeding syringe.
My heart broke as I learned they had lost other children to the same disease. There was not a trace of bitterness in her voice, just a tenderness that was the result of a suffering heart submitted to the Potter’s knowing touch. Undoubtedly, the family would continue to minister to this child until the Father took him home too.
In Mark 9:14-29, we read an account of a man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed. A mute spirit possessed the son and would attempt to destroy the child by casting him into the fire or water. It would have been a terrible situation for the parents because the son’s life depended on their keeping vigilant watch to protect him. There were likely many times that the father or mother had to react quickly to save their son from destruction.
Think about it. What hope did that father have of his son ever being cured and living a normal life? There was no hope! It would have been reasonable for the father to have despaired, forsaking the child. Even if that father had access to today’s medical technology, it would have been of no benefit in dealing with a demon-possessed son.
As some read this, a child of yours may be in a grave situation. Others may be like the Maxwells. While we have no rebellious or terminally ill children, at any given time we have issues with some of our children for which we don’t have solutions. These issues aren’t life threatening, but they would hinder a child from being all that God intends him to be. For example, we have a child who is struggling in a particular area of his schoolwork. We have tried many different remedies, and none have worked. At times it has seemed hopeless. It has been extremely frustrating for the child, for Teri, and for me.
With others of our children there are often areas that weigh on our hearts. Character issues of varying degrees are common for us to wrestle. It would be most pleasant if there weren’t ever problems in our home, but that has yet to happen. I suspect that the source of our difficulty is that both parents in the Maxwell home are sinners (saved by grace, but still sinners) who are committed to raising men and women of God. To make things even more challenging, each of our children is a sinner (saved by grace, but still a sinner).
Homeschooling moms should be the most content, joy-filled moms on the face of this earth. Why? Because they are being obedient to their Lord as they invest themselves in the lives of their children. Unfortunately, it can be a very difficult road to walk. Why? Because they are face to face with the rough areas of their children all day long. (Other moms may not see their children in the same light, most likely because someone else is spending most of the day with their children.)
Homeschooling moms see their children when they are being slothful, irresponsible, argumentative, and even deceitful. This is like an arrow to the mom’s heart because she is pouring her life into her children. She desires that they become men and women of God. Raising children is a long-term project, and it is often difficult to see the forest through the trees. It is easy for Mom to come to the point where she asks, “Why try? This is the same problem we have been battling forever, and it is no better!”
However, dads don’t usually have the same “opportunity” to observe their children’s sin all day long. Therefore, we may tend not to view it as seriously as Mom does. We can reassure our wives that it is okay, and after all they are just children, but that is not going to solve anything. In fact, that kind of response could lead to a situation where the parents wake up one day and ask themselves how they raised a rebellious teenager. So what is the answer?
First, I must communicate with my wife. I need to foster a relationship with Teri where she wants to share her struggles with me and can trust me with what she says. I’m ashamed to say that there have been times when I was not attentive to her words, or I did not take them seriously.
When Teri sees that I have taken responsibility for finding a solution, it is like a weight is lifted from her. That is the way it must be, as she is the one yoked to me. I am to bear the weight of her yoke in the same way the Lord bears the weight of my yoke.
In order to take responsibility for finding solutions to difficulties in our children’s lives, we can start by praying. As Teri listens to my prayers, she will sense the urgency of my soul communicating the need to my Lord. If I fully own the responsibility, it will be the prayer on my heart during the day. That also means I’m likely to have questions for her about possible solutions or areas in which I need clarification.
When the need is the prayer of my heart, I’m like the father in Mark 9. He could have told his wife that he was busy taking care of the crops and didn’t have time to take his son to Jesus. If he did take the child to Jesus, they might not have enough to eat. Back then, just providing for a family was difficult enough. Isn’t it easy to rationalize that it is a man’s job to provide for the family, and the wife’s to take care of the children? That father knew he was ultimately responsible for his child. He was going to do whatever it took to find help for him.
We must be tenacious. The father in Mark 9 wasn’t satisfied after the disciples couldn’t free the son. He sought to get close to the Lord as soon as Christ came down the mountain. He did not leave with his son when the disciples weren’t successful. He probably saw Jesus as his son’s only hope. That is true for us as well. Christ is our only hope of true solutions in the home.
When Jesus was now involved, He did a curious thing in verse 21. “And he asked the father, How long is it ago since this came unto him?” Why did the Lord ask him how long the son was like this? The Lord knows everything and didn’t need to ask him. He could have quickly cast out the demon and gone on to the next, but He didn’t.
The Lord drew the father into a conversation. The Lord had a target that was as important as healing the son. The father replied, “. . . Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us” (Mark 9:21-22). Christ now had revealed what He wanted exposed—the father’s lack of faith.
We would be wise to realize that many of the struggles in our home are for our spiritual benefit. We have as much to gain from the situation as the child with the problem.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). The father has now responded from his heart with obvious emotion as he proclaimed what faith he had and asked the Lord to help him have greater faith. Dads, are we owning the needs of our family with the willingness for the Lord to work first in our lives? He desires to use every difficulty and trial we encounter as opportunity for building our faith and trust in Him. Will we let Him?
We may be tempted to see these problems as nuisances and hindrances to our getting along with life when, in fact, they are stepping stones to growth in Christ. It is easy to miss the blessings that God intends for us in properly resolving these issues. Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” He said that he knew how to be abased and hungry. I’m sure there are many stories Paul could share with us as to how he suffered. Yet, we read in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” That is the prize held out to us if we are but willing to receive the process as well.
Dads, it is good to suffer under the weight of family struggles if we will bring them to our Lord. He wants us to own them and bear them to Him. We need to be willing to be abased as we lead our family and be willing to suffer. We must not give up just because we can’t handle the difficulties. We can’t resolve them ourselves, and it is our lack of faith that causes us to think we can figure it out alone.
Just like that precious mommy with the failing child, we must let Christ work in our lives. Those parents are in God’s crucible, and their faith is being refined. If they let Him, He will purify and polish their faith to a luster that will reflect the light of Christ. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).
Dads, are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to own the difficulties of raising men and women of God for our Lord? Are we willing to let Him work first in our own lives? My prayer is that we are. God bless, dear brothers. May we be found faithful.