“They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.” Nehemiah 9:17
This passage came up in our women’s Bible study group. Our study is about emotional and verbal abuse. Our discussion turned to how sometimes we feel unheard and in appreciated in our roles, as parents, spouses, and even leaders. How sometimes we deal with the stubbornness in others.
As I read this passage, I realized how much our behavior as Christian’s often reflects that of our children. We refuse to listen, just like our children. He tries to direct us away from danger; instead we forge our own paths. We ask for His guidance, but if it doesn’t match our plan or path, we chose not to listen. We do our own thing; yet, act like it’s God’s fault when things go astray.
As parents, we often feel taken for granted. Our kids take a “no” like that is the only word we have ever said. In the moment, they can lead us to feel like as parents we have never done anything good for them. They can easily forget the wondrous deeds we have done for them.
Stubborn, it’s a word often used to describe God’s chose people in the Old Testament. For me personally, my children’s stubbornness rubs against my own stubbornness. A matter of wills, where one party always loses. It is the same with the Lord. We know in our heart that God’s way is the best, but getting past our own stubbornness, our flesh, our will must lose. Only one will can rule.
When we chose our flesh to lead, it takes us back into the slavery that Christ freed us from. It leads to our destruction. As a child, when I lead the way I often found myself with a loss of privilege or grounded. I was a slave to my choices.
So how did God deal with His children when they didn’t listen, took Him for granted, were stubborn and were following a leader back into slavery? Nehemiah gives us a look into God’s parenting of His problem children.
Forgiveness. God is quick to forgive. He doesn’t carry around a list of our failures. For us, on this side of the cross and empty tomb, forgiveness is complete. Our sins are wiped as far as the east is from the west. We have to be willing to forgive our children. Quickly. We can not carry their wrong doings around reminding them or ourselves of the past mistakes.
Gracious. Showing divine grace, help given by God not because we deserve it. God helps us, often in ways we really can’t even imagine. We have to give our children that same grace. We have to be willing to help, to walk along side them as they navigate growing up. Sometimes they will ask, other times we need to go to them, just as God does with us.
Compassionate. Having concern or care for others. God is compassionate towards us. He cares about the little details, even though He is a great big God. We have to show that same compassion to our children. We need to validate the things that are on their minds, the things they care about, even if they aren’t that big to us, they usually are to them. If we don’t show them they can trust us with the little things, we can’t expect them to bring the big things to us.
Abounding in lovingkindness. Abundant tenderness, gentleness, kindness and consideration. Gentleness, kindness, love these are fruit of the Spirt, part of God’s very character. We have to stay connected to Him to be able to respond abounding in lovingkindness towards our children. It is easy to make excuses: they don’t listen if I’m gentle, it is just my personality. However, with God’s help we can respond the same way (it comes easier when you get promoted to grandparent, at least with the grandkids, so it’s possible).
Slow to anger. I am so grateful that God is slow to anger, because I know I have given Him plenty of cause. I know for myself personally, I have to abide in Him to be slow to anger. I can go from zero to one hundred and twenty in the snap of a finger if I do not allow Him to lead. One of the fruit of the Spirit, is self-control. While our children may know how to push our buttons, we are still responsible for being slow to anger. We may need to take a time out for ourselves before getting into a conversation so that we can walk out being slow to anger.
You did not forsake them. Forsake, Abandon. God does not abandon us. He may let us face the consequences of our actions, but He never leaves us. We reach out and He meets us right where we are. He loves us where we are. His love doesn’t change, our access to Him does not change thanks to the finished work of the cross. In a world that preaches tough love, there is an ability as a parent yo set boundaries with our children without abandoning them. We shouldn’t shut our children out of our lives even if we can’t have them in our homes or daily lives.
God has so many examples for us in the Word. It is living and applicable to our lives. As parents we often deal with stubborn, defiant, unappreciative children. God does to. We can try to parent our own way, or we can follow His example and parent problems God’s way. We be quick to forgive, offer grace, be caring about where our children are and what bothers them. We can be gentle and kind, take steps to control our own anger and emotion, and not abandon them even as we set boundaries. Parenting isn’t easy, but with God’s help we can be led by Him.