The desire of any believing parent is to accurately portray God to the children He has entrusted to them.
God is multi-faceted. We can (and will) spend our entire lives searching out and, in turn, communicating the character of God.
Teaching our children what the Bible says is incredibly important, since it reveals God’s will and character. But there is also another, powerful way to help them know their Creator.
As a parent, my child learns more about God by the life I actually lead than by the truth I teach.
My interactions with my son and daughter are absorbed into their hearts and minds and reflected back in their behavior. It’s true when they say, “A child becomes what he beholds.”
My children learn about God by the way I discipline them, the way I speak to them, what I require of them, whether I prioritize the rules over our relationship, and whether they feel safe to be honest with me.
Here are six important things we must teach our kids about who God is, in order for their faith to grow and flourish.
1. God is merciful and tender.
There is no expiration date on God’s mercy toward you. With the dawn of each day comes a new batch of compassion made freshly available.
For that harsh word you spoke. For that wicked thought. For the suffering you’ll endure.
Repeatedly, His light breaks through the darkness and His mercy overcomes your troubles. His mercy is ready to forgive. Because of His great love, you are not consumed. He is for you, not against you!
When you live in this place of receiving mercy, you can then show mercy to your child.
Because God has tenderly interacted with you, you can put aside your agenda and desires and meet your child where she is. Even if she’s asking a question for the 50th time in the span of an hour!
2. God is gracious and kind.
Satan accuses you before the Father – pointing out your weakness, judging, criticizing and condemning.
But, as we read in I John 2, Jesus advocates on behalf of believers over and over again. He points out your true identity and worth, covering your guilt and shame with His blood.
Jesus is your defender and redeemer. He supports you and fights for you.
When you recognize God is gracious and kind towards you, you can advocate for your child instead of focusing on his faults or quirks.
Because God sees you as a new creation in Christ and remembers your sins no more, you can look past your child’s behavior, attitude, and personality to his heart.
You can see him as an image-bearer of God. You can see him as a sinner in need of redemption.
Ultimately, you can show your child grace even (and especially) when he makes mistakes.
3. God is slow to anger.
The Christian life will never be one of constant upward growth. There are times when we struggle with the same issues and can’t seem to get past them. There are moments when we slide backwards in our walk.
And God knows that. He expects our humanness. He’s not disappointed or angry when we fail, yet again.
No, He is always there to pick us up. To hold our hand. To catch our tears.
To encourage us to try one more time. To love us. To accept our frailty.
When you know your humanity is accepted, you too can expect failure from your child without letting it impact your love for her.
Kids are going to mess up every day (or even hour!) Spills, messes, meltdowns, defiance, selfishness, lack of respect, whining, complaining – all of these are normal, human deeds.
Anger over these situations occurs when you focus on how such things impact you, instead of how they can be used to lead your children to Jesus.
When we respond angrily to our child’s behavior, we miss an opportunity for godly discipleship, and add an unhelpful distraction from her own sin.
4. God is close to the broken-hearted.
God’s immense love and compassion are constant. Not just when there is real, actual suffering, but when your broken heart is caused by something that you knew was wrong and did anyway.
God draws close to you even when you’re upset because you didn’t get your way, or when you’re hurt over something petty or superficial.
God never tells you to simply get over it. He never trivializes your hurt. He doesn’t roll His eyes and sigh at how silly you’re being. He doesn’t send you away until you can compose yourself.
No, He comes close and comforts you.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
When you realize God’s immense love for you when you’re hurt, you can care about what concerns your child, even if it seems insignificant to you.
Being close to your broken-hearted child means entering his world, acknowledging his pain without trivializing it and being present with him in it.
Sometimes this looks like holding your sobbing child while he mourns the loss of his favorite pet, or when a friend moves away. Sometimes this looks like simply recognizing his disappointment over not getting picked for the team or his frustration over a challenging school assignment.
5. God never gives up on us.
God never quits pursuing you. He never stops coming alongside you to offer help.
Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father shows us a picture of God – seeking, embracing, accepting, welcoming, helping.
You don’t have to try harder, or confess over and over again to clear the air. You don’t have to grovel at His feet. No matter what you do, He never grows weary of you. He never reaches His limit.
When you understand God’s relentless pursuit of His children, you can then take the initiative to reach out and help your child.
Think about the sense of relief you feel when someone steps in to help you. Children need this same relief – maybe even more than adults.
Navigating toddlerhood or the teenage years can be overwhelming. There is a myriad of emotions, responsibilities, desires and physical changes bombarding kids throughout each day.
You can be their breath of fresh air! They can learn to depend on your help, knowing you will never stop reaching out to them.
6. God is just.
While God is merciful and gracious, He is also righteous and holy. And a perfect and just God demands that there be a penalty for sin.
Either Jesus takes the punishment for our sins because we’ve repented and placed our trust in Him, or we bear the wrath of God ourselves if we reject the gift of salvation.
However, that doesn’t mean we just get to do whatever we want without consequences. If we’re His children, God will correct and discipline us.
We are promised that this discipline “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
When you accept God’s loving correction as a necessary part of your Christian walk, you will correct your child when she is wrong.
While the rod of correction cannot save our kids without the attendant grace of Jesus, it does play a part in showing them their need for Christ. By learning that there are consequences for their behavior, they learn responsibility and respect.
By learning to obey you, because they understand you have their best interests in mind, they ultimately learn to obey their Heavenly Father who loves them even more.
There’s a saying that “more is caught than taught.” When I recognize all of these truths about God, my heart is changed. I am conformed more into Christ’s image, and His character qualities take hold in my own life.
When I’m filled with them, they can’t help but spill over and influence my child. I can then display God’s character to my kids, and walk the walk instead of just talk the talk.
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