A recent conversation with a friend here in Georgia prompted me to ask a question that has often come to mind ever since I was a youth group leader about 30 years ago. Is there any guarantee that a child raised in a Christian home will pass through life as a believer in Christ? Many of us have asked this question, about our own children or about the many young people who have crossed our paths through the years.
The spiritual growth and health of children is of great importance to us, and I have been keen to observe and listen to the experiences of others. In my friend’s case, his children have continued in the faith long into their adulthood, but found adversity in broken marriages. Pari and I have four children – three teenagers and one ten-year-old; and there are many young people that we have known and prayed for, hoping that they would carry on in a life-long devotion to God. We do have some reason for concern, as there is much in society to keep children from knowing God during their growing years. (But wisdom and growth is from God, so we have also great reason for hope and courage.)
Pari and my response to all this, is that we have sought to give the children our time and a Sabbath free from distraction. My daughter recently described the Sabbath as having a “different atmosphere”. “The Sabbath is peace,” she said and a time when, “I can learn about God”. After six days of labor, activity, and schooling amidst a society that would corrupt their tender souls at every turn, we can come closer to our children, and to God. Rarely does anything intrude on this day that would spoil our purpose of peaceful communion. A day of rest each week may not help them prepare for a coming test or a basketball state championship, but we know that it will help prepare them for life.
In this way, the Sabbath is very much like a protective sheepfold. Sheep pass through seasons of untold dangers in search of good pasture. They encounter dangerous terrain, parasites, and wild animals. But after the journey is over, the shepherd brings them home to their fold. The dangers are left outside, and the sheep come under his special care and management. In a similar way, our children pass through a busy week seeking to grow in healthy ways but they encounter temptations, peer pressures, and the continual press of school studies. Yet no matter what has happened during the week or what the future week may hold, they enter the protective shelter of the Sabbath. Within the “Sabbath fold”, the weekday trials are shut out and the children come under our special care.
The Sabbath is a precious opportunity for our children to become acquainted with the Good Shepherd. In our fast-paced modern society, weekends are full of activity and these two days are often the best time to catch up with shopping, cleaning, yard work, and studies. School and communities find these to be prime days for competitive sports. The Sabbath can easily become a very busy day and keeping the Sabbath may seem an impractical or even unachievable ideal. These trends in society are all the more reason to “steal away” to the Sabbath and become better acquainted with the spiritual health of our children.
The verses below say much about the Sabbath that applies to old and young alike, and suggest that God places a great value on this day – “Above all, My Sabbaths ye shall keep.” They provide lessons that we hope our children are learning.
Thou shalt not do any work. Exodus 20:8-11
There is great freedom and delight when a child yields his will and desires to obey God’s commands.
On the seventh day, he rested and was refreshed. Exodus 31:17
Children need rest and the Sabbath affords opportunity to find pause from the pace of the week, where each needs it most. For Joshua it is sleep soundly and late Sabbath morning and for Rebekah it is getting up early to make breakfast for the family with her mom.
There should be no burden brought in on the Sabbath day. Nehemiah 13:19-22
Rebekah is a very serious student and is known in our house to be studying late at night and up early in the morning to do more. By carrying no burden into the Sabbath day, she is better able to take care of the burdens of the week.
Call the Sabbath a delight Isaiah. 58:13
They can learn to delight in good and healthy activities and habits. This can be challenging, but they can gain an appetite for good things, provided that distractions are put aside. Given the choice, it is often better to choose and activity that will bring a child and their parents together in a meaningful way and one that builds good qualities.
It was on the Sabbath day when Jesus made clay and opened his eyes. John 9:14
Jason, particularly is a deep thinker and has questions and observations about life, but his sharing is almost always when we are alone together. There is plenty of time on this day for Pari and I to talk with the children one-on-one. Children have many questions whether they ask them or not and long walks and family activities afford us the chance of listening to what’s on their hearts, such as struggles they may be facing at school and questions about God.
A sign…that you may know that I am Jehovah. Exodus 31:13
This is the heart of the matter, they must know the Good Shepherd for themselves. Learning to know the Good Shepherd, to hear His voice, and follow Him is an opportunity that a day without distractions more easily affords.
We can be certain that raising children is not a matter of simply cloistering them within a sheltered or structured setting. The struggle of the week and even the temptations that come their way are as needful for their spiritual growth as the weekly Sabbath. God uses both, skillfully and wisely, that they may become acquainted with the voice of the Good Shepherd and learn to delight in obeying Him. And when children have known His voice and learned to yield to His Word, we can trust God with the future, whatever trials may come.
Today, let us enter the Sabbath fold with our families and grow under the care of the Good Shepherd.