Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When Parenting Doesn’t Make Sense

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks parents a serious question.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: All children will die at some point, whether it’s before you or after you. The question is, will you have done what you could to prepare them to meet God?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for September 17, 2018.

Parents who love their children are bound to go through some seasons of pain. You invest your life in another person, but sometimes the results aren’t what you expect. Nancy offers hope and perspective to parents in this new series from the first chapter of Job.

But this message isn’t only for parents. It’s for anyone who is facing adversity. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: If you’ve followed Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that I love doing extended series, unpacking whole passages or books of the Bible. We spent weeks on the Lord’s Prayer, we’ve spent weeks on Psalm 23. I think we spent weeks on like the first three verses of the book of Habakkuk, at one point.

We spent months on a series on Titus 2, and the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. I love doing that deep dive into passages of Scripture! But sometimes I really enjoy doing a simple, short reflection—something I’ve been meditating on in the course of my personal devotions—and I don’t want to have to wait to develop a long series on it.

In fact, in the front of my Bible I keep a running list of some of the things I’ve been thinking about, meditating on. They are passages of Scripture that have been speaking to me that may not end up being a big, long, whole series, but just two or three days of reflection. I want to share one of those with you today and tomorrow.

Let me introduce it this way: I have, as I’m sure you do, a lot of friends who are carrying pretty heavy burdens about one or more of their children. I was talking this week with a woman in our area who’s a single mom. Her kids are high school and young adult.

She was saying, “I had no idea that having young adult children would be more difficult than having these children when they were little! It’s difficult in a different sort of way. When they’re little, it’s more physical things, and the care and the energy required. But now,” she said,“it’s big stuff in their lives and decisions they’re making and challenges that they’re facing as a family.”

And so, whether your children are little or or mid-sized or grown—but especially those who may have teenagers or young adult children (and I’m seeing some heads nodding in the room)—there are things that keep you as a mom on your knees! Am I right? Or maybe you’re a grandmom and you’re seeing this with your grandchildren.

Recently, as I was meditating on the first chapter of Job, the Lord just put some thoughts in my heart. I found myself meditating on things in this chapter, a perspective and some wisdom that I think can be helpful for parents, particularly for parents who may lose their children in some way—maybe long-term or maybe just in the short-term.

It may be things that have happened to your children over which you and your children had no control: maybe physical issues, prolonged or chronic sickness, maybe abuse, maybe even the loss of your children’s lives.

It may be something different, emotional or relational struggles or failures that your children have made. Maybe it was choices that they’ve made that were not wise ones, that are now having consequences in their lives.

Maybe you have a prodigal who’s just walked away from the Lord and has no interest in Christ. That pain . . . I don’t know that there’s anything deeper than that! Because more than anything, you want your children to know Jesus!

You want them to love Him. You want them to walk with Him. You want them to experience the blessings of a gospel-centered, Christ-centered life. So we’re going to dive in here to Job 1, but let me say first that this is not just for parents. This is for all of us as we experience adversity, as we face some of the perplexing and sometimes disappointing providences of God.

And we say, “I know that God is sovereign. I know that He is in charge. I know that He loves me. I know that He’s wise. But I don’t get (fill in the blank)! I don’t get this! I don’t understand it; I’m disappointed. It doesn’t seem like the way the God I thought I knew would act!

And so as we look at the book of Job, beginning in verse 1, I want us to see first that Job walked with God. There’s no mistake or question about that. Job chapter 1, verse 1:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and [he was] upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Wow! I mean, what better commendation could be given of someone than what is said of Job?! He was blameless, and he was upright. Now, that doesn’t mean he was sinless; it doesn’t mean he was perfect. But he was godly. He was pious. He was known to be a man of integrity.

It says that he feared God, and he turned away from evil. Proverbs 8:13 tells us that to fear the Lord is to hate evil. God says, “I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech” (CSB). And so, Job’s fear of the Lord and his appropriate reverence and awe for God caused him to hate everything that was not holy, everything that was evil.

What a commendation of this man who was right with God! And his life reflected his faith, because faith is the only way we can be right with God, right? His life reflected that relationship with God. He was a godly example for his family and for others who were in his sphere of influence.

When you get to verse 8 in Job 1, God is speaking to Satan there in this little conversation they have in heaven that Job can’t see or hear. And God calls Job, “my servant”—another commendation!

I mean, would you like to know that if God was talking about you in heaven today, He would say, “Nancy” or “Jennifer” or “Julie” or “Ethel” or “Debbie, my servant. That woman is my servant!” And then God said, “There is none like him on the earth . . . none like him! He’s my servant! There’s nobody like him on the earth!” And so, Job was a man who walked with God.

Now, I think we’ve got to say at the outset: this kind of life is the exception, rather than the rule. Am I right? “It’s a narrow way and few there be that find it” (see Matt. 7:14). These kinds of people are rare! This kind of life is what we’re called to—all of us who know Christ and love Him.

This is what we’re saved for, to have this kind of life, to be able to have this kind of testimony, this kind of commendation. Now, let me just remind us that we are not saved because we are blameless or upright or because we do good things. But we do these things because we have been redeemed.

And so, Job, a man who by faith had a right relationship with God . . . Of course, he didn’t understand the gospel in the way that we do today. But as a pre-Cross believer in God and God’s revelation, he was right with God and that impacted the way he lived. He was a man who walked with God, Number One.

Number Two: We see that Job was greatly blessed. Look at Job 1:2: "There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.” Scripture says that children are a blessing from the Lord, and he had plenty of those blessings! Seven sons and three daughters.

And then he had material blessings and possessions. Verse 3, “He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.” Let’s stop there.

Here’s a man who was prosperous; he was prominent in his community; he was highly esteemed . . . and there’s no sin in any of that. I just want to establish that Job was a righteous man. There’s no sin in being wealthy; there’s no sin in being famous. He was those things and still godly.

But Job knew—and we know—that he couldn’t take any credit for any of those blessings. They were all gifts from a gracious, generous God. These were not his blessings (Job’s blessings). Ultimately, all of this belonged to God, and Job was to serve as a responsible steward, taking care of God’s possessions that were on loan to him.

Job recognized that, because God is the owner, God has the right not only to give but also to take away . . . to give blessings and to take them away. Job acknowledges this later in the chapter when he loses everything that is precious and dear and valuable to him.

So Job walks with God. He’s greatly blessed, but he realizes that those blessings aren’t his to own, they’re his to steward, and they’re God’s to own.

Then I notice in this chapter, beginning in verse 4, that for a season Job’s grown children enjoyed close relationships and, could we say, relatively trouble-free lives? (As far as we know.)

Verse 4, “His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.” So these are grown children now, and apparently this was a close-knit family. They celebrated special occasions together.

These feast days were probably birthdays, and when you have ten kids you have lots of birthdays throughout the year! They enjoyed each other’s company; they would come together; they would celebrate in one another’s homes. And their celebration, their partying, their feasting, is not seen in this passage to be a sinful thing or an indulgent thing.

This is a good thing. There’s no evidence that these were drinking parties, that people were getting drunk, or that they were engaging in sinful behavior. Scripture encourages the people of God to enjoy celebration and feasting and to enjoy one another’s company. This is what you want with your family, isn’t it?

As I read this verse, it reminds me of a family that I’ve been close to for many years. They don’t have ten children, but they have three. I’ve known them ever since their children were born, and we’ve been together on many family occasions.

All those years that I was single, this is one of many families that took me under their wing and would include me in their family celebrations, on holidays, on birthdays . . . together sometimes on vacations.

Well, now those three children are grown and married and they have, I think at last count, thirteen children between them. So that whole clan still gets together for major holidays, for birthdays. (And there are a lot of them! There’s one coming up in just a few days for one of the grandkids who’s turning five this week.)

These are sweet times! I go to as many of them—and Robert and I now go together to as many of those celebrations as we can. They’re sweet! They’re opportunities for nurturing relationships with, now, three generations. I don’t know, maybe we’ll live to see the fourth generation of that clan.

It’s a sweet thing, and those relationships are precious, and there are seasons when things are going really well, when you’re just enjoying each other’s company. Have you had some of those seasons in your family? When it was just sweet and you liked getting together and people had good relationships? Nothing wrong with that.

That’s a good thing, but realize again that God owns it all. And what is true for one season may be very different in another season. Here’s something else I see in this passage, beginning in verse 5, and that is that Job actively sought to influence the spiritual condition of his grown children.

Let’s read in verse 5: “When the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them.” Now, let me just give you another reading from another translation of that part of verse 5.

The CSB says it this way: “Whenever a round of banqueting was over, Job would send for his children and purify them.” “And he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually” (ESV).

Now let’s just unpack that for a moment. I see here a parent, a dad, who was alert. He was tuned to the spiritual condition of his family, even when his children were grown. Certainly, he would have felt the way that the apostle John did when he said in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

Any parent who loves God would feel that same thing—there’s no greater joy! That doesn’t mean they always will walk in the truth, but there’s no greater joy than to hear that your children walk in the truth! So as a parent, as a grandparent, you’re always burdened and concerned in doing whatever you can to influence those young adult children and those older adult children to walk with the Lord.

And notice that Job didn’t wait for a crisis or a major failure among his kids. When he sent for them to purify them, there’s no indication that they were acting in a way that was rebellious or ungodly. There’s no concrete evidence in this passage that his children had sinned, and it’s not evident that Job knew of any particular sin they had committed.

But he knew that all of us are tempted and we’re all prone, like sheep, to go astray, to go to our own way. He knew that they might have been tempted, and he was concerned that they might have yielded to sin in their hearts—if not in their behavior.

So knowing this . . . He knew his own heart, he knew his own challenges and his own temptations and his own propensity to doubt God or to sin against God. So he knew that his children had that same propensity. He was intentional and proactive about his role as a parent. He was proactive about caring for his children’s walk with God.

Now, remember, these are not little kids; these are kids who have their own homes now. They’re grown. Presumably, they have their own families. So he’s not in a position where he can tell them what to do, where he can discipline them, where he can be instructing them in a way parents do when their children are younger. His influence was much more, now, to go to God.

His children knew he was doing this. He involved them in this process, but he couldn’t control the outcome of his children’s lives. As a matter of fact, there’s no time when you can control the outcome of your children’s lives—am I right? . . . no matter how little or big they may be!

But Job cared about his children’s walk with God and he was committed to do everything he could to safeguard their hearts! This was preventive maintenance, heading off issues at the pass. And he was intentional about trying to influence his children’s relationship with God--to intercede for them, to protect them from sin.

This is Job taking his God-given responsibility to serve as the spiritual priest of his family—a responsibility all dads have, but that parents have for their children. Single moms, if you’re a mom or a dad or a grandmom there are ways that you can act as a priest for your children and grandchildren. So he consecrated them, set them apart for God with his prayers, his intercessions and his offering of sacrificial offerings on their behalf.

As I said a moment ago, this is not something that he just did privately. It seems that the children were aware that he was doing this. He would send for them. He would call for them. They knew he was praying. They knew he was offering these sacrifices.

I’m guessing, as I read this passage, that he was urging them to confess any sins they might have committed: to repent of those sins, to cast themselves on God’s mercy, to receive His forgiveness. Even as I’m sharing this, a woman to comes to mind—a cousin of mine who’s now with the Lord.

She had six sons. As those children grew and married and had their own children, she and her husband (but Ruthie was the impetus for this), once a month they would gather their children and their mates (just the grown-ups) and have an evening together. They would talk and would seek the Lord and would pray.

If there was something going on between those kids that she was aware of, she’d bulldog it. She’d say, “You guys need to get this right! You need to talk about this! We need to deal with this.” At her funeral, it was amazing to hear those children—grown kids, now parents themselves—talk about Ruthie’s influence!

Of course, their dad as well, but she was the one. She was the prayer warrior. She was the one who labored in prayer for these kids. And those kids—one of whom had been a prodigal—said, “My mom brought me back to faith by her prayers! She said, ‘I’m not gonna let go until God works in these kids’ lives!’”

Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned” (v. 5). He was more concerned about his kids’ holiness than about any temporal issues. He didn’t care what kind of education they got, what kind of jobs they had compared to the supreme, overarching concern for their holiness. Job realized the seriousness of sin. He worshipped and feared a holy God, and he wanted his children to do the same.

So if his children had sinned or had “cursed God in their hearts,” it says, he wanted to acknowledge that and to advocate for them before the throne of God—to ask God for mercy, to plead for their forgiveness.

“[If they have] cursed God in their hearts . . .” “Cursed” means “to speak evil of, to think lightly of, to dismiss God from their thoughts, to have low thoughts of God, to dishonor God—not to give Him the honor He is due—or to forget Him.”

You say, “Cursing God in your heart, that sounds like a really awful thing they’ve done.” It is an awful thing, but it may not have manifested itself outwardly. He just said, “If my children are not honoring God in the way that He deserves, I want them to be forgiven. I want them to be a holy life.”

“If my children are thinking lightly of God, if they’re having low thoughts of God, if they’re more consumed with things of this earth than they are with thoughts of God, that’s cursing God in their heart.” Wow! He was concerned about what was in their hearts, and so he rose early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for them.

He was concerned that they might have sinned, and he wasn’t just focused on their behavior. He cared about what was in their hearts, their relationship with God. Because, your kids’ and grandkids’ behavior flows out of what’s in their hearts. That’s same with your behavior, same with mine.

What you say, what we do—this comes out of our hearts. That’s why he was concerned about this. And as he offered burnt offerings, sacrifices, he understood, and was teaching his children, that sin had to be atoned for by the death of an innocent substitute.

This foreshadowed and pointed his children to the Savior who would one day, as the sacrificial Lamb of God, satisfy God’s wrath against sin. And the verse says that he did this “continually,” perpetually praying, interceding, ministering to his children.

An old-time commentator said this about this verse:

What a beautiful example is furnished by Job to Christian parents! When your girls are going among strangers and your boys into the great ways or the world, and you are unable to impose your will upon them as in the days of childhood, you can yet pray for them, casting over them the shield of intercession with strong cryings and tears. They are beyond your reach, but by faith, you can move the arm of God on their behalf.

Now, Job had no way of knowing how or when his children would die. I think it’s likely that he assumed, as most parents do, that his children would outlive him.

But while his children were living, Job was preparing them for their death—whenever and however that might come. Their eternal condition mattered supremely to him. Now, all children will die at some point, whether it’s before you or after you. The question is, will you have done what you could to prepare them to meet God?

Robert and I were at an event not too long ago, and we ran into a young man who recognized Robert. They recognized each other. They had met previously. This is a young man who grew up in a ministry family; he had served in a Christian work. Three years earlier he had walked away from the Lord.

During the course of that three years, he got deep into every dark thing imaginable—drugs and many other things. He was a prodigal son. And he began telling us how, just a week earlier before we saw him, he had encountered the Lord in a hotel room. The Lord had brought him to the end of himself, had brought him to repentance.

Here he was at this ministry event giving this amazing testimony. I said to him, “You must have had a praying mother.” And he just brightened up and said, “My mother spent the last three years on her knees!” You think she regrets that? You think she’d do it for three more if she had to? You think she’s stopping now? No way!

Let me just say, and we’ll look at the rest of this passage tomorrow, “Don’t ever stop praying for your children!” Job did this continually . . . continually! Don’t stop praying! But at the same time, you have to put your children into God’s hand, into God’s care. And you have to trust His wisdom, His love and His goodness as it relates to your children, your grandchildren, and others that you love.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at how Job responded to enormous loss, and we’ll see the outcome of his walk with God and his faith in God.

Leslie: What an encouraging perspective Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us from Job chapter 1. We all need the reminder that God can be trusted to love and care for all of His children, even when we find ourselves in difficult or puzzling circumstances.

Erin Davis is a mom who knows this to be true. Erin was not eager to become a mother and didn’t fall into the role naturally. But when she was twelve weeks pregnant with her first child, God used a life-threatening incident that triggered a whole paradigm shift in her life. She learned what it meant to surrender her expectations to the Lord.

Erin writes about her personal journey in her book Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role. This week when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a copy of Erin Davis’ book Beyond Bath Time.

To make a donation you can contact us at 1–800–569–5959 or you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com. Just ask for the book Beyond Bath Time with your gift of any amount.

If you’re discouraged, remember: God is writing a story you can’t see. We’ll discover ways parents can handle pain and uncertainty tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Now Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for speaking to our hearts this day, and I pray that You would encourage moms, grandmoms—maybe some dads who are listening—and any of us who have people that we care about, that we love, that we’re concerned about in our family or beyond that.

I pray that you would help us to care about the things that matter most. I pray that You’d raise up some praying moms and grandmoms who won’t stop interceding, pleading with You, offering sacrifices of faith—believing You to capture the hearts of their children and to prepare those children, those grandchildren, and generations to come to face You and to spend eternity with You. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience the blessings of a Christ-centered life. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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