Ask a man how he is doing and frequently the reply is: “Stressed!”
Our lives are filled with all kinds of pressures that can easily produce anxiety. Fathers are especially vulnerable to fears and worries.
Amy and I have been blessed with seven children, and one grandchild. The eldest two are married, and the next two are in university. I find the pre-university “launch years” to be especially stressful. Do they have the exam scores they need? Can we cope with the rising costs of tuition? Does my son or daughter have any sense of purpose or direction in life? Do we have a healthy family relationship?
What Jesus Says to Us About Worry
For the past year, God has been continually turning my attention to Jesus’ teaching on the subject of worry and anxiety. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)
But I am anxious about these things! I get stressed over issues such as my children’s education, sports, friends, finances, and relationships.
The conclusion of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, however, has been proving transformational for me as a father:
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Here, Jesus affirms that we need the practical things of life such as food, clothing, employment, and friendships. But what is the path to having our earthly needs met? He instructs us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
This leads to the question that I have been wrestling with—as a father and grandfather, do I believe Jesus’ teaching? The easy answer is: “Well, of course I believe Jesus.”
That said, if I truly believe these words of Jesus, they will radically transform the focus of my fatherhood.
God Will Take Care of Our Children
Jesus says that if our children will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, our heavenly Father will take care of every single one of their practical needs. He will take care of their education and career. He will guide them to their future spouses. Most importantly, He will lead them to most effectively serve Him.
Are you stressed about your children’s education? Then give your best attention to helping your son or daughter grow in righteousness.
Are you anxious about finances? Then encourage your children to focus on seeking first the kingdom of God.
Are you worried about your children’s future? Do all in your power, then, to help them love God above all else.
On the Same Journey
However, we cannot lead the kids in a different direction from their parents. The vision here is not that I must be a perfect Christian dad in order to “produce” perfect Christian children. Rather, I am to continue to grow in childlike faith, and invite my children to join me in that journey.
Last week, I was reading the biography of John Paton, who was a missionary in the late 1800s to the New Hebrides Islands, an island group in the South Pacific Ocean. He wrote about growing up in Scotland and about his father’s faith. In the centre of their little home was a small room, with a bed, table, and single chair. They called it the closet. It was his father’s prayer closet. He wrote:
This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home. After each meal, we saw our father retire, and shut the door; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place.
We occasionally heard a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy moment. The outside world might not know, but we knew, the happy light that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived.
Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those moments, hearing those prayers, and I would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, “My father walked with God, why may not I?”
Fathers, let us walk with God in His love, forgiveness, mercy, and hope. Let us lead in prayer and with open Bibles in our homes, so that all of our children and grandchildren may say: “My father walked with God, why may not I?”