8/23/11

Think Biblically about Having Children

In July, I just missed the opportunity to meet one of my favorite television families, the Duggars. I was interviewing someone at exactly the same time the Duggars had their press conference concerning their new book, A Love That Multiplies.

They appear on TLC's hit show, "19 Kids & Counting." Michelle and Jim Bob share their homespun tips for raising children, strategically dropping in truth from the Bible.

To some, the Duggar family is an oddity. Others are critical about their standards and choices. One blogger wrote in "The Duggars Make Me Sick" that she was really annoyed by this family. Not only was she annoyed that there were so many children and that their names all start with the letter "J," but also that "everything, EVERYTHING, they do and say in life is about their belief in God." [That's exactly what I like about them!]

What seemed to bother the blogger the most in her scathing article is that they were too restrictive in their teachings on sexual purity and abstinence, but seemed to not know how to "abstain" from sex themselves.

The Duggar's daughter-in-law, Anna, wrote on their website a statement that sounds much like ones I've heard from Michelle, the matriarch of the family. Young Anna wrote: "The decision to trust God with our family size is based on our desire to serve God with every decision of our life." Talk about a strong foundation for choices!

But this made me think. I wonder how many people actually pray about God's will regarding the size of their family.

In the booklet "Turning the Tide: Having More Children Who Follow Christ" author Holly Elliff ~ who wrote the booklet with her husband Bill ~ shares the scriptural truth and principles God used to help her think through this personal issue.

She quotes statistics that show America's birth rates are hovering just below replacement levels. Whereas in the late 1700s, there were almost eight children per woman, now the number of women who have had no children by the end of their child-bearing age is clearly on the rise. Then she urges readers to consider the far-reaching impact of what happens in a culture when believers choose to have fewer children (or no children).

"Benjamin Franklin once wrote that children swarmed across the countryside like a wave of locusts," Elliff wrote. "Now, in our nation, our children are outnumbered by the television sets in our homes...."

Elliff grieves that Christians have forgotten that children are "gifts" and a "reward" from God (Psalm 127:3-5), and that the Father's plan has a "generational nature" (Psalm 78:6-8)

She writes, "As believers, we are to be intentional about thinking biblically. That requires making choices 'so that no advantage [will] be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes' (2 Corinthians 2:11)."

Satan's priority, she says, is "to stop man from living out God's priorities." Biblical priorities for the family include a husband and wife committed in covenant marriage who receive God's gift of children and raise them to love God in order that His redemptive plan can continue to be proclaimed throughout the world in every generation.

Not everyone will agree with Elliff's conclusions, I expect, but she makes a powerful point. "Since the enemy couldn't stop Christ at Calvary, he had to resort to other strategies for making headway in his plans. What better way to subvert God's design than for Satan to weave his agenda into the fabric of our lives?

"So, he [Satan] promotes a philosophy that 'smaller is better' when it comes to family size," she said, "in order to eliminate potential challengers to his kingdom before they are even born." (all emphasis in italics, mine)

Elliff gives some practical advice when considering God's unique plan for individual families. But first, she says, pray and seek God's direction.

"The issue is coming to grips with God's right to be sovereign over every aspect of life," she says. "How tragic if you were to spend more time doing research about the flat-screen plasma television you're thinking of buying than you spend seeking God's plan for your family!"

She offers these questions for thinking through this important issue:

  1. Spell out what your belief system is in regard to children has been.
  2. Think through this list, and consider ways your thinking may have been more influenced by tradition, selfishness, this world system, or the enemy than by the Word of God.
  3. Answer the question, "Have I ever really studied this topic in Scripture? Why or why not?
  4. Write out the battle in your mind and the concerns in your heart.
  5. Write a brief prayer expressing what you believe the Lord is saying to you.
Elliff urges care and patience if a mate does not agree ~ speaking the truth in love, praying, and giving God time to work. She adds, "Releasing this area to the Lord does not automatically guarantee that you will actually have more children." Praying about having children also doesn't mean you'll end up with 19 or 20 or more children (like the Duggars) ... unless that is His will for you ~ and God's will is always a good thing, even if it is difficult at times.

"Only the Father knows how many children your family should include," Elliff says, "But the question to ask yourself is, 'Do I have the mind of Christ in this critical area of my life?'"

The rest of the Elliffs' booklet is dedicated to the legacy of motherhood and ten tips for raising godly children... so much truth in a 30-page booklet!

I wish that I had read her book years ago, when my husband I planned our family. To be honest, I really didn't ask God for HIS plan (and I don't know whether my husband did, either). I originally wanted five children, and I wonder where that desire got side-tracked. Was I listening to the voices in the culture, well-meaning friends, or even my own selfish thoughts, instead of the voice of God? Did I operate out of fear or faith? Unfortunately, this is one of those decisions where I can't get a "do-over."

I'm not trying to manipulate people's thinking here, or even to suggest there is a one-size-fits-all philosophy for having children (even for Christians), but I do think that more Christians need to take time to listen for God speaking to their hearts in this important issue.

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