This is a guest post by Jessica Thompson and is part of Women of the Word Month, a free 31-day campaign designed to encourage and equip women for transformative Bible study. Learn more or sign up at crossway.org/women.
Help Wanted: Looking for someone to make my children understand and love the Bible. My husband and I have tried everything, from bribery to anger to manipulation and they don’t seemed interested at all. If you can take on three kids, ages 5-10 and instill in them a love for God’s Word. I will pay you $100 per week.
I would never actually put an ad like this on Craigslist, but I have been tempted. It is unbelievably frustrating and hopeless to spend time reading a devotional or the Bible to your children to find out at the end of it that two of the kids were playing rock, scissors, paper under the table and the other one had fallen asleep (that explains why they were so quiet and “attentive”).
As Christian parents, we hope that our children will say with David and with us, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches . . . my soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (Ps. 119:14, 20).
Examining Our Own Hearts
Now stop, read those verses again and ask yourself this question: Do I even do that? I know I personally don’t. There are mornings, weeks, and months when my heart is hard and indifferent to the Bible. There are mornings, weeks, and months when I am distracted and would rather do anything but sit and meditate on the Word of God.
So my question to you is, “Why do we expect our children to be any different than we are?” And yet, we do . . . and then we get angry and depressed when they don’t seem to care. Only a true believer’s heart would want to read or understand the Bible, and, at times, we expect our children—who may not be believer—to act as though they are. Let’s get real honest here: we might even force our children into a charade of sorts, showering them with praise the more they act like they are enjoying their devotional time.
Please hear me: it is good and right to read the Bible with your children; it is good and right to share your love for God’s Word. However, we can’t force our kids into the kingdom of God.
Help from Above
There is One who can fill that “help wanted” ad above. It’s actually his job, not ours.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to make your children love Jesus and love the Bible. And it’s his job to do that in your life, too. You can trust Him to do His work.
But what can we do to make it easier for our kids to love God’s Word, instead of merely forcing it on them?
First and most importantly, pray . . . and not just during devotions. And don’t pray the “guilt prayer” while seated around the table: “God, help these children stop messing around. Help them to sit still because you love kids who listen.” Rather, pray like Paul prayed. Ask God to help your kids come to know his unfathomable love for them and that they would consequently come to love His Word.
Second, don’t make the Bible out to be a book of morality. That isn’t the message of Christianity. The Bible is the story of God’s unrelenting, redeeming love for sinners. Do your children know that? Do you know that? Or have we reduced God’s Word to a bunch rules and regulations?
I know I don’t want to read a list rules. But give me an action-packed story about a good King fighting for his people and I’m hooked.
Last, remember their salvation isn’t up to you. This realization will free you to enjoy them and your devotional time with them, even if they don’t. Their response to the Word doesn’t define you as a parent.
Simply put, trust God when it comes to helping your kids understand and love the Bible. He’s the help you’re looking for.
Jessica Thompson is the author of Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family and the coauthor (with Elyse Fitzpatrick) of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. She is a wife, a mother of three, and a member of an Acts 29 church.