My husband hates it when people tell us how fast our children will grow up. Just give him the good ole “children don’t keep” line and he’ll have a hard time trusting you ever again. While I find it comical to watch him squirm in these scenarios, I understand both parties. Scripture proclaims children are a blessing, but we must remember the context in which the Psalmist is writing.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5
Children are a gift from God precisely because they are an investment. This isn't because parents should expect something in return from their kids, but because as one participates in raising children, it produces something of worth. Faithful motherhood or fatherhood is one way God instills significance. The Psalmist confirms that a man in his grown age will not be intimidated by his enemies when he has persevered as a parent. This verse is not only about the blessing of children but about the actual process of parenting. Childrearing produces a confident legacy for faithful moms and dads. Therefore, we should make note that parenting should take time and effort, especially if it should one day produce something of value. To remind parents of young children that this stage won’t last forever is likened to the way one forcibly reminds Christians that they should have joy amidst trial. While it is a true statement, those who remind parents of this miss an opportunity to dispense true comfort amidst real hardship.
Hope in heaven.
There is something sweet about each stage of a child’s life. From the coo of a newborn baby to the innocence of the toddler waddle to the hilariousness of a kid’s perspective, every stage presents new challenges and new joys. When we are tired of doing daily “parent things,” we must be encouraged that our hope isn’t in this season ending or in the results of how good a parent we are. Our hope is in heaven. This kind of hope reminds me of John Stam, a missionary martyred in China. (You can read his story here). On the way to his death, someone asked Stam where he was going. “We do not know where they are going, but we are going to heaven,” he answered. Stam didn’t think of his life as an ending. Instead, he had a hopeful, eternal perspective that comforted him no matter the circumstance. Stam truly grasped that his hardships on earth were not going to last forever. The truth that Jesus awaits us in heaven should help us grow in patience as we endure daily hardships on earth (Phil 3:20). This includes parenting.
Joy in Christ is better than joy in kids.
In an appropriate manner, I love my kids more than any other kids on the planet. Right now, I have a 6-year-old who sings and dances 100% of the time, a 2.5-year-old who is cooler than I am and a 6-month-old who has smiled at me more than any one other person I’ve ever known. Although this season of life is a challenge, the joy my kids bring is beyond what I could have imagined. When people remind parents to be thankful for their little kids, they miss out on the opportunity to point to the kind of hope that will be there when my kids are grown, gone, and no longer coo at me. In the middle of parenting hardship, I don’t want to be reminded that best parts will one day dissipate. Instead, I need to be reminded that even though my little children will one day be grown, joy in Jesus is possible now, will be possible then, and will be fully complete in heaven forever (Ps 16:11).
Being thankful but real.
While this season will “be over before we know it,” I still need to be real about the adversity involved. It’s the hard parts of parenting that make the good parts of parenting all the better. Instead of focusing on this particular season, whether in hardship or in joy, I need my gaze to be pointed towards the beauty of a God who is always working and always doing something good. Knowing that God is involved makes me thankful, but it also makes me honest. God created us to have more than one emotion at a time. When James tells us to have joy amidst trials, he doesn't just tell us to be thankful, he acknowledges that both joy and suffering should coincide (James 1:2-4). There is a bigger picture filled with hope that should bring joy. James doesn’t belittle suffering or hardships; he recognizes it while pointing to something actually helpful: complete joy in Christ.
Dear parents of small children, this season will indeed come to an end, but so will your time on earth. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thess 5:23-24). Children are a blessing to be sure; they are a blessing because they are one means by which God develops faithfulness within weary parents.