As a children's pastor, I have seen it a hundred times: the frustrated look on a mother's face as she is called out of the worship service by the nursery to calm her screaming infant; the frantic dad in the sanctuary, trying to get a squirmy toddler to be still long enough that the parents can spend some time worshipping.
There is so much joy and love in being a parent, but let's face it: there is also stretching and struggle. The plain truth is that with all there is to do for the kids, there is not always a lot of time for ourselves, especially when it comes to finding moments for personal time with the Lord. Many people struggle with feelings of guilt and fear over this; guilt because they feel that they are not investing enough time in their relationship with God and fear that they will not get what they need from God.
Well, take heart, precious parent. There is hope. God has not destined you to run dry of His joy and strength. Remind yourself of this guiding principle: It's not as important how much time you've got to give yourself to the Lord, as much as it is how much of yourself you give to the Lord in the time that you've got.
Although it is important to make time with God a priority, He understands the restrictions placed on us by parenting small children. He is not mad when you miss a morning quiet time because you were up most of the night with a colicky baby. He is also not restricted from meeting your needs when you only get five or 10 minutes in your day to read and study your Bible.
Here is the way to get the most out of the time you have.
First, give what you have to God.
Remember in John chapter 6, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? He and His disciples were surrounded by a crowd of hungry people. Jesus did not fret; He simply asked His followers to inventory what was at hand. I often wonder if Andrew was not being a bit sarcastic when he answered, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?" (John 6:9). If you have read the story you know that Jesus took what was available and used it to feed the multitude, with an abundance left over! In the same way, as long as you are in this season, give to Jesus the small slices of time that you have. He will take them and abundantly fill your needs.
Second, give yourself wholeheartedly.
God doesn't measure things in the same way that we do. In Mark 12 and Luke 21 we read that Jesus stood at the temple and watched the people bring their offerings. He chose the poor widow's small offering and assessed it as the greatest gift, not due to the market value of the coins, but due to the comparative value of the heart attitude. God values heart attitude over gift appraisal. In 1 Samuel 15:22 the prophet declares to Saul, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams." Bring your whole heart to God in the moments that you do have. He will honor that regardless of the amount of time you have to spend.
Finally, expect God to meet your needs.
Earlier in 1 Samuel we read about a time when King Saul's son Jonathan decided to attack an entire company of Philistines with only himself and one other man. Read what he told the armor-bearer who was serving him:
Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6).
Jonathan had faith that God was not released by nor restricted by the circumstances around him. He wasn't then and He isn't now in your life.
As you navigate your way through the challenges of parenting, remember that God understands and He will miraculously provide for your spiritual needs if you will trust Him and serve Him wholeheartedly.