As parents, nothing could give us more pleasure and satisfaction than to see our children develop a close and loving relationship with their Father in heaven. But how can we make God real to them? What steps can we as parents take to help them know God is real and come to know Him?
In the last issue of Beyond Today (July-August 2023) we covered four ways parents can help make God real to their children. Now we’ll examine three more important approaches you can apply in fulfilling this crucial and rewarding responsibility.
1. Show them God is part of your family.
I asked my daughter Sarah recently how she would answer the question, “How did your parents make God real to you?” We were taking a walk, and I was mulling this article over and over again in my mind, so I asked for her thoughts. She was quiet for a moment, and then she simply said, “He was never absent.”
Keep the Lord your God present in your home at all times—no absences. Make Him a seat at the table, a place in the car, a space in the bed for them to snuggle up to. Fill their earliest memories with who He is and the love He has for them.
In James 4:8 we are told, “Come near to God and He will come near to you” (New International Version).
Include God in every aspect of your life. Treat Him as the guiding member of your family. As you go through your days, “remember” Him in your conversations with your children. It doesn’t have to be formal or handled like a school lesson. Simply allow Him to always be there. Just as you would share your thoughts with your children, share their Heavenly Father’s thoughts with them. If He is always present, then He will never be absent.
My son Isaac, age six, said to me recently, “Mom, I have two dads.” Curious to see where he was going with this statement, I asked him what he meant. “I have two dads,” he said again. “God and Daddy.” Hearing him say this, I let out the breath I was holding and whispered a silent “Thank you!”—grateful that even at six years old he realizes that God loves him and that He’s a loving Father.
2. Help them see God through you.
At the very beginning of the Bible, we are told that mankind was made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 tells us:“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them” (NIV).
We were made for God’s glory. In Isaiah 43:7 God speaks of“everyone who is called by my name, whomIcreatedformyglory, whom I formed and made” (English Standard Version).
We were made in the image of God, created for His glory. We are to strive to reﬂect Him in all that we do and say. As parents, our children’s ﬁrst contact with God will most likely be through us. We can read them His Word, help them to memorize Scripture and pray with them every night, but if we are not striving to walk out our faith and reﬂect God in all that we do and say, then all our teaching will come to nothing. We have to walk the walk.
In Exodus 20:16 we are told, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (ESV). What is false witness? We often simplify it down to telling a lie, but it’s more than that. To “bear false witness” is to misrepresent someone. It’s conveying a different story about who they are. Those looking at them see something other than the truth because of the deception.
Do we do this with God?
Could we possibly be living in a way that’s contrary to what we say we believe? Might we go home from church services and speak poorly about the pastor or other members? Or perhaps set our Bible aside and not get it out for another week? Yes, it’s possible for us to “bear false witness” against our Creator.
Our children are always watching. What are they seeing?
Do our children see that our lives mirror what we teach them we believe? Do they see that we strive to do the best we can to live out our faith? When we fall or fail, do we repent, apologize and get back up to continue onward? As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12,“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus” (Christian Standard Bible).
The weight we carry as parents is immense, but we are not left to do it alone. We have the very Spirit of God to support us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26, New Revised Standard Version).
3. Welcome their questions.
When our children are small, and they ask us for the 10th time, “Why?” we often find ourselves resorting to the phrase so many parents before us have said in exasperation, “Because I said so!”
That may work when our kids are small, but as they grow they will begin to question more deeply, especially when it comes to God. For a parent, this can be terrifying. We might fear that if they’re asking questions they are perhaps doubting God. We might think that if they question or doubt what we’ve taught them about God, that could lead to abandonment of the faith we’ve tried so hard to instill in them.
But rather than fearing the questions, we should welcome them. Let them learn to ask their questions at home and see that you will do your best to answer them. You may not always have a ready answer, and that is okay. When those moments come, be honest. Let them know that you will need to study to better answer them. Seek help from others. The ministry in God’s Church is there to help serve as shepherds to both you and your children.
Show your children that we are to be praying for answers. As Jesus taught: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
The great patriarchs of faith Abraham and Moses both questioned God when they didn’t understand His decisions. At times, they “contended” with God. They agonized over questions they presented to Him. Rather than that destroying their faith, their faith was strengthened.
Questions have the potential of helping our children form their faith, as they learn to “prove all things” and “hold fast that which good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, King James Version).
As parents, we want our homes to be a safe haven in which our children can sharpen their spiritual muscles. Let them ask. Be prepared to answer, and welcome the dialogue. In time, you will both be stronger for it.
Putting the pieces together
For years I have told my children that they have been issued the most priceless of invitations, an invitation into the family of God. They have been issued this invitation because of God’s Holy Spirit that abides in their parents as a result of being baptized into the Body of Christ (see Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 7:14).
They have been offered this precious invitation through us, but we cannot accept it for them. We can teach them about it and display its beauty to them, but we can’t accept it on their behalf. They will have to choose to one day accept it or deny it. We can’t take this step for them.
What we can do is lay the groundwork while they are young to make the invitation as accessible as possible. We can help them learn to hear their Father’s voice, love His Word and talk with Him in prayer every day. We can point out His faithfulness, reflect God in our example and welcome their questions when they come. By doing these things, we will help our children be well on their way to knowing God, seeing Him as real in their lives!