Last night after church I received a text message on my phone. It was from my son-in-law, Bryan Webster. A year ago he and Ashley moved to Houston to start his career as a firefighter. We miss them terribly, but know they are in God’s will and for that, we are glad.
His text was brief, but brought tears to my eyes. Here is what it said, “Ashley shared in Sunday School this morning about when you didn’t get a check from the church and God provided groceries from people. Thanks for allowing her to learn how big God is and to trust God from a young age. Love you.”
Bryan’s sincerity and thoughtfulness to express his gratitude meant much to me. During those days I sure didn’t see much benefit in them, but it was designed by God to bless my children, in spite of my limited perspective.
Our attitude toward life has a powerful effect on our approach to parenting. And the way we parent influences the approach our children have toward life. A grateful spirit and a good attitude always go together; where you find an ungrateful heart you will find a negative attitude.
I have always been fascinated by the record in the Bible of Joseph. He overcame so many obstacles in his life, but never became cynical or ungrateful. One of the ways you see this is in the names he gave to this children.
“And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came…and Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50-52)
He could have chosen to become bitter, but his gratitude allowed his sons to grow up in an environment of joy, peace, and happiness.
In the Scripture above, it is important to note the meanings of a few words. Joseph mentioned that he had experienced “toil” and “affliction”. This is significant as it shows the severity of the trials he experienced.
The word “toil” means “to be worn down in body and mind; it carries the idea of misery and sorrow from bad circumstances”. He had experienced hatred and betrayal from his brothers, being falsely accused, imprisonment, and unfulfilled promises made to him. This, and more, happened over a thirteen year period. There were times when he felt that God had forgotten about him.
The word “affliction” means “depression”. His disappointment gradually became discouragement, then despair and ultimately depression. We cannot pretend our problems do not exist and just refuse to think about them when they are knocking on the door of our mind every day.
In spite of a difficult past, Joseph named his sons “Manasseh” and “Ephraim”. Respectively, their names mean “to cause to forget” and “to bear double fruit”. Because of God’s grace he was able to forget the trials and be much more effective, not in spite of the trouble, but because of it.
Parents, it’s so important that we not allow our adversity to bleed over on to our spouse or children. God can enable us to be grateful realizing that our “toil” and “affliction” is but a stepping stone to a better life and ministry. We can remember God’s faithfulness and forget the hurts.
Contrast the spirit of Joseph with Naomi and her reaction as she went through severe trials. With a negative and bitter heart she named her sons, “Mahlon” and “Chilion” (Ruth 1:2). Their names mean “sick” and “weak”. How about growing up with names like that knowing how your mother felt about you?
Our pain can spill out on those we love the most. Joseph was able to not allow his past to conquer his spirit and cause him to discourage his children; Naomi didn’t do so and, interestingly, her sons died at a young age. (The good news is that Naomi did overcome her hurts later in her life!)
It’s a terrible thing to live in a home led by an ungrateful, bitter, angry father or mother. Our children shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of our past or present pains, things for which they are not responsible.
If we continue soaking in our hurts we will inevitable end up in a long-term emotional pity party that no one wants to attend but us. We are given to bless and help our children, not that they might be there to support us emotionally (II Corinthians 12:14).
Many years ago I was visiting a home and two of the sons followed me out the front door and asked me to pray for them. They said, “It’s so hard being around our father. He is always so negative. He’s just like grandpa now”. The father had become what his father was and had emotionally alienated his children from him. I know he didn’t want to do that, but his lack of gratitude caused him to be that way.
John Maxwell said, “It’s a problem when those who know you best like you the least and those who know you the least like you the best”.
I remember a time when our church was experiencing some serious financial difficulties and our family had left for a few days of vacation. I called home and learned that the offering on Sunday had been very low. I told Paula to take the kids to the pool for a while that I needed to think for a while.
My heart was greatly discouraged and I was so tired of trying my best and not seeing the light. I sat there for about ten minutes, not feeling like doing anything fun with the family. I began to pour my heart out to the Lord and plead for His help and a solution to my needs.
God responded to my prayer, but it wasn’t to fix my problem. I sensed Him speaking to me that my time with my children at this age would be gone very soon and they didn’t need a discouraged and moody father. My fears and emotional weariness would have brought a cloud over everything we did and that was unfair to Paula and the kids.
At that point I purposed to change my attitude and to be thankful for God’s faithfulness. It was His church and He promised to care for it. I left the room with a new spirit and though my problems didn’t have a clear resolution my family had a husband and father that would not drag them down. We made some great memories those days. I’m glad I allowed God to change my spirit.
Are you bitter and angry over something that has happened in the past? Your parents’
divorce, your own divorce, abuse, rejection, a lack of genuine love – the list can go on and on. The real issue isn’t your problem, but what you decide to do with it.
Don’t allow Satan to rob you of the joy of the present by continually bringing up the past. Resentment, fear, and worry will keep you from enjoying the sweet times with your family. Someone wrote, “A chip on the shoulder can get to be a heavy load”.
Are you allowing the negativity of you parents to influence the way you treat your children? Someone has to break the destructive cycle. Why not you? You will be happier and so will your children. It’s your choice. Remember that your choice will not only affect you, but those around you, especially your spouse and children.