Parenting is a tough job. What encouragement can God's Word give me?

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psalm 127:3)

It is an easy thing for most Christians to understand and quote, "The free gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23 NASB). We revel in that gift. It is God's greatest gift to us, packaged in His Son. The gift of eternal life was wrapped up in His death and resurrection. None of us who know Him would deny how meaningful the gift is to us.

In the middle of the night as a young parent wearily walks the floor with a red-faced, arched-back, tight-fisted, screaming infant who refuses to settle down, it is almost inconceivable to this dad or mom that the Bible calls this tiny bundle a gift. God calls this a reward? A reward for what, you wonder?

At that exhausting, frustrating moment the parent wonders where Customer Service is so he can complain that the gift didn't come wrapped as expected. A responsibility? No doubt. A gift? He isn't so sure.

Parents remember when they wondered if they'd ever sleep through the night again. They remember the childish spills at meals, especially at restaurants and with company. We remember the earaches. The tantrums. The embarrassing moments.

At such times, it is not so easy to see children as gifts.

Inconvenient, yes. Frustrations, yes. Gifts, no. But God--who calls Himself Father and puts up with us--sees tiny babies, "terrible-twoers," freckle-faced awkward adolescents, stumbling high schoolers, and assertive, yet insecure college students as gifts.

Hannah certainly saw her little boy as a gift. She understood that her long-awaited son was both a gift and a stewardship. We know the story of God's blessing her with a little boy named Samuel. She kept her promise and gave him to the Lord after he was weaned. She took him to the temple and reminded the priest of her vow that this little one would belong in a unique way to the Lord. Hannah knew she was a steward of the marvelous gift named Samuel.

In the same way, we need to see ourselves as stewards of our gifts.

They are loaned to us for such a short time, but the stewardship is a privilege. Just imagine, you are temporarily in charge of an eternal being!

Never refer to your children as surprises or mistakes. They were in God's mind in eternity past, and He is not the least bit surprised at their appearance into your life. You would do well to memorize these verses. They are powerful in describing each child's uniqueness:

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

In these verses there is no hint of a child's being a mistake or surprise. Sometimes the ultimate test of the parents' view of the sovereignty of God is when natural family planning is overruled by God's supernatural family planning.

If we see our children as gifts and see our responsibility as stewards of these wonderful presents, how do we practically go about this?

Let me say this at the very start. I understand all children are different. What gets one child's attention may not necessarily get another's. As James Dobson said, some children come out of the womb shaking their fists. Their agenda is not whether they will someday be in charge but when. As family lecturer Gary Smalley said, they grow up letting you live in your house. You know kids like that?

Children are unique. Parents complain, "I don't understand why Pete didn't turn out. I raised him exactly the way I raised Rosie and Freddy." That may be part of the problem. The verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6), is not the catchall verse we want it to be. It is a precious promise, but we need to cling not to just the last half of the verse. The first part tells us we need to train up a child in the way he should go, that is, toward the bent of his personality. In the case just mentioned, we need to say gently to the parents, "Pete is Pete. Rosie is Rosie. Freddy is Freddy."

We've got to give up cookie-cutter parenting. No more general practitioner approach; we need to specialize. We need to carefully study each child's unique personality from the moment we receive the gift. That will keep us on our toes--and our knees.

God, the giver of good gifts, understands the awesome responsibility and time commitment attached to His gift. And although He does not include a money-back guarantee or a warranty, He does include an instruction Manual, the Bible. And the more familiar we are with the Manual, the more effective we will become in our parenting.

IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc.
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