My father once admitted to me, “When you were growing up, I was gone a lot.”
I don’t remember that. Besides working his full-time job, he was gone some evenings to direct choir practice at church, and he occasionally traveled for a week or two with a men’s quartet. But for all the significant (and many small) moments of my life—he was there.
For instance, when I was 8, I had a tiny part in an afternoon play at school. All the mothers came, but only one dad—mine. In many little ways, he has always let my sisters and me know that we are important to him and that he loves us. And seeing him tenderly caring for my mom in the last few years of her life taught me exactly what unselfish love looks like. Dad isn’t perfect, but he’s always been a dad who gives me a good glimpse of my heavenly Father. And ideally, that’s what a Christian dad should do.
At times earthly fathers disappoint or hurt their children. But our Father in heaven is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8). When a dad who loves the Lord corrects, comforts, instructs, and provides for the needs of his children, he models for them our perfect Father in heaven.
A phrase on many parenting websites says, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” Instead of trying to remove all obstacles and pave the way for the children in our life, we should instead equip them to deal with the difficulties they encounter on the road ahead.
The psalmist wrote, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the
Think of the powerful spiritual impact others had on us through what they said and how they lived. Their conversation and demonstration captured our attention and kindled a fire in us to follow Jesus just as they did.
It’s a wonderful privilege and responsibility to share God’s Word and His plan for our lives with the next generation and the generations to come. No matter what lies ahead on their road through life, we want them to be prepared and equipped to face it in the strength of the Lord.
I enjoy watching relay races. The physical strength, speed, skill, and endurance required of the athletes amaze me. But one crucial point of the race always gets my special attention and makes me anxious. It is the moment the baton is passed to the next athlete. One moment of delay, one slip, and the race could be lost.
In a sense, Christians are in a relay race, carrying the baton of faith and the knowledge of the Lord and of His Word. And the Bible tells us about our need to pass this baton from one generation to another. In Psalm 78, Asaph declares: “I will utter . . . things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us . . . . We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the
Moses said something similar to the Israelites: “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deut. 4:9).
For generations to come, we are called to lovingly and courageously do whatever we can to pass along “the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
When my daughter described a problem she was having in the school lunchroom, I immediately wondered how I could fix the issue for her. But then another thought occurred. Maybe God had allowed the problem so she could see Him at work and get to know Him better. Instead of running to the rescue, I decided to pray with her. The trouble cleared up without any help from me!
This situation showed my little one that God cares for her, that He listens when she prays, and that He answers prayers. The Bible says there’s something significant about learning these lessons early in life. If we “start children off on the way they should go, . . .when they are old they will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6). When we start kids off with an awareness of Jesus and His power, we are giving them a place to return to if they wander and a foundation for spiritual growth throughout their lives.
Consider how you might foster faith in a child. Point out God’s design in nature, tell a story about how He has helped you, or invite a little one to thank God with you when things go right. God can work through you to tell of His goodness throughout all generations.
When we were going through a particularly challenging time with our son, a friend pulled me aside after a church meeting. “I want you to know that I pray for you and your son every day,” he said. Then he added: “I feel so guilty.”
“Why?” I asked. “Because I’ve never had to deal with prodigal children,” he said. “My kids pretty much played by the rules. But it wasn’t because of anything I did or didn’t do. Kids,” he shrugged, “make their own choices.”
I wanted to hug him. His compassion was a reminder, a gift from God, communicating to me the Father’s understanding for my struggle with my son.
No one understands the struggle with prodigals better than our heavenly Father. The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is our story and God’s. Jesus told it on behalf of all sinners who so desperately need to come home to their Creator and discover the warmth of a loving relationship with Him.
Jesus is God in the flesh seeing us in the distance and looking on us with compassion. He is God running to us and throwing His arms around us. He is heaven’s kiss welcoming the repentant sinner home (v. 20).
God hasn’t just left the porch light on for us. He’s out on the front porch watching, waiting, calling us home.
My father was critically injured when he took a bullet in the leg as a second lieutenant leading his men on Hill 609 in North Africa during World War II. Dad was never again 100 percent physically. I was born several years after this, and when I was young I didn’t even know he had been wounded. I found out later when someone told me. Although he felt constant pain in his leg, my dad never complained about it, and he never used it as an excuse for not providing for our family.
My parents loved the Savior and raised us to love, trust, and serve Him. Through good times and bad, they simply trusted God, worked hard, and loved us unconditionally. Proverbs 14:26 says that “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (niv). My dad did that for our family. No matter what difficulties he faced, he provided a safe place for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
We parents can provide a safe haven for our families with the help of our perfect heavenly Father, whose love for His children is deep and eternal.
It may seem surprising when children don’t follow their parents’ example of faith in God. Equally unexpected is a person with a deep commitment to Christ who emerges from a family where faith was not present. In every generation, each person has a choice.