As any parent knows, it’s often a struggle to have family devotions. Yes, there are those fortunate lives that seem to be almost fairy tales when it comes to organization, but for most of us, that’s exactly what it is. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, ESV)
As a working man, I’ve been forced to adopt the Deuteronomical method of family devotions because of my busy life. If you’ve been able or prone to use the modern structure of dedicating, say, 8:00 pm as devotion time each day, that’s fine too. What may still be missing from your devotions may surprise you.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that since your child has been able to speak, their primary means of obtaining knowledge has been through questions. Sure, you have given instructions to them, but as far as their own curiosity goes, they’ve satisfied it with their own questions.
There is a stage they go through that epitomizes that urge and constantly tries our patience. It is the “why” stage.
“Why does this? Why do that? Why do I? Why daddy? Why mommy? Why, why, why!?!”
Well, looking back, it’s kind of cute. But for the parent stuck in the middle of ‘why’, it ain’t too fun.
Sometime, as they mature, they stop asking “why.” Why? Maybe they sense our aggravation. Maybe they alter their way of understanding. It’s unclear why they stop asking why. They do not stop because they have stopped wondering though. Internally the question remains, although it’s context evolves.
Why take a bath or why brush my teeth become other, more philosophical queries. As children mature their interests and curiosity changes to become more like ours. We laugh at the surprising questions that fill their little heads because it amazes us that they, apart from our encouragement, have marveled at things like physics, metaphysics, or teleology. Their inquisitive minds begin to reveal to us more evidence of their being made in the image of God. The Imago Dei is truly more than baby fat, fragility, and coos. It is revealed in human desire, emotion, will, knowledge, and understanding. Unfortunately, these are also the areas that the corruption left to us by our federal head Adam, has had its most damaging effect. These are also God’s workbench when it comes to His regenerating and sanctifying grace, and parent-you are his tool!
That’s the long way around to my point, but you need to understand that your role as the answer giver is important when it comes to your child and “why.” You are the highway as it were, that your child travels (by the power of the Holy Spirit) to the proper knowledge of God.
Why? Because that is God’s ordained means within His institution of family.
Some of the “whys” become startlingly more meaningful as your children mature.
Don’t be surprised if your child is thinking about things like the relationship of time and God, predestination and God’s omniscience, or God’s omnipotence/sovereignty and evil. Although they may not work through these questions quite like an adult, that doesn’t mean that their minds don’t attempt to solve these or other difficulties.
Don’t become distressed if you find that your child calls into question the things that you assume they hold to with certainty. Consider it a blessing if you’re allowed to participate in their journey to knowing and understanding the truth.
So here are some helpful hints to help you propagate your children’s “why” and at the same time give them the tools to answer the questions that matter most.
It goes without saying that your relationship with your child begins with your relationship with your Father and that begins with prayer. Parents often have a fervent prayer life when it comes to their children, but most of it centers around our concern for their physical well-being and eternal security.
Praying for your child should include begging God for what Jesus defined as eternal life for your child. Jesus turned our presuppositions of the afterlife on its head when he said that eternal life is knowing God.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV)
Wow! So if eternal life is knowing God, and Jesus died so that those who believe would have eternal life, then Jesus died so that believers would know God.
Jesus didn’t say that eternal life was an emotional experience with God or a journey in which you seek Gods secret will for your life. He said that eternal life is knowing God.
I know that may sound kind of heady to some of you, but it’s not my suggestion…
Pray for discernment to recognize your children’s inquisitions and for wisdom to guide your children to the answers.
I would never presume that any answer to the “why” question when it comes to the things that matter most should ever begin anywhere other than the Word of God.
God’s Word is his specific revelation of himself and the words that contain life are in it.
Much more than that, God’s Word is an accurate guide to truth. We find the truth about who Jesus is and what he did in it. We find the truth about ourselves revealed there. There are listed within God’s Word, a treasure trove of commands that are both spiritually relevant and practically beneficial to us. It answers much of what we can’t and exposes all of what we won’t.
The Bible is not the only source of truth, but it is our primary source of truth and the final authority of faith and practice.
Let our rule of faith, our touch-stone of all teaching, be the written Word of God.
J. C. Ryle
Unfortunately, reading the Bible and praying is where even the most faithful parents stop when it comes to devotions, although a few of those may include memorization. Let me just say that that’s not enough.
The Bible is simply understood in its story of salvation, but there are many other things in the Bible that aren’t so easily gleaned, much of which has to be understood implicitly. Many of the doctrines of what is called Classical Christianity are like this and simply reading the Bible won’t always get you to Christianity 101.
That’s why parents need a basic understanding of systematic theology.
Systematic theology seeks to understand the whole of Scripture by placing it inside of a way or system of thinking about it. It is an understanding of all of Scripture from a distance. If that sounds like it may introduce imperfect bias and presupposition to a perfect text, it sometimes does.
What it doesn’t usually do though is mislead us on the most basic theological ideas, usually referred to as orthodoxy.
The attributes of God, the condition of man, the person and work of Jesus, and the doctrines of salvation are just some of the basic doctrines understood more completely and more precisely using systematic theology.
It has been said that everyone is a theologian. The choice you have is whether or not you’re going to be a good one.
Make it about apologetics
Apologetics does the job of defending the Faith. Sometimes the challenges come from outside, sometimes they come from within. Regardless, it is the job of apologetics to answer the “why,” no matter its origin.
If you are doing devo’s with your children, teaching them the Scriptures, exposing them to good theology, then “why” is a regular part of your children’s thoughts. It’s inescapable really. They are bound to have questions.
Encourage that behavior. To discourage it would be harmful to their faith in the long run and disobedient to God in the now.
And if they won’t ask questions, ask them to answer the questions you may have. As you read and study, you are bound to have your own questions or “whys.” Exposing your kids to your questions helps them see that its normal to question God, it’s alright to ask them out loud, and trains them early to do the task of apologetics.
If you’re worried about whether or not you’ll be able to give an answer, get an apologetics reference like Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, J Warner Wallace’ God’s Crime Scene, Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, RC Sproul’s Defending Your Faith, or Baker’s Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
These are each great apologetics self-helps of their various types, but each one can be a valuable resource and are easily accessible tools on a popular level.
Make it fun
Not knowing “why” can be stressful, especially if you feel the weight of responsibility on your parental shoulders. Don’t let it get to you though. Like I said, God can handle it and by the way, it’s not up to you ultimately. Remember, you are just the tool he has in his hand to accomplish his will.
That should free you up to have fun. And if you’re having fun, your child will too. If they sense an absence of stress in you along with the calm, cool faith that God is more than capable to answer your questions, then they will relax and have a good time too.
Make it that way. Make it fun.
Who knows? Their “why” may turn into worship for all of you.