Before my first son was born, I consumed parenting resources and pursued mom friends for their best advice. But I still wasn’t prepared for some of the practical challenges of motherhood in a fallen world. Aspects that I assumed would come naturally—didn’t. My emergency C-section wasn’t “natural.” Breast-feeding a tongue-tied baby didn’t come “naturally.” And by the time I was a mom with two young boys and a third on the way, I knew that love didn’t come naturally to me either.
What came naturally was anger over spilled Cheerios and impatience about my son’s slow obedience. Exasperation, unrealistic expectations, sinful comparison (of myself to other moms and my kids to other kids), complaining, and an intense craving for me-time came naturally to me.
What I needed in those intense, early days of parenting small children—and what I continue to need daily as a mom of now five children ages 3 to 14—is something supernatural. I need something that offers hope to all moms in a fallen world.
That something is God’s love.
It was at that pivotal parenting moment, my transition from two to three children, that I wrote Loving My Children: Embracing Biblical Motherhood. This book was born out of an awareness that my natural resources were insufficient to love my children the way I ought and a desire to understand what it means to love my children biblically.
One thing I’ve learned in my fourteen years of motherhood is this: loving our children biblically is inextricably linked to our relationship with God and his love for us. Even when we struggle to love our children, our main problem isn’t that we don’t love them enough but that we ought to love God more.
The instruction that Paul gives Titus to “train the young women to love their husbands and children” is rooted in God’s redemptive love (Titus 2:4). We see this in Titus 2:14 where it says that our Savior Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us,” a sacrifice that Romans 5:8 tells us is a demonstration of God’s love for us.
The call to love our children is found in the context of God’s great love for us. Not only that, but when we obey God and love our families, we adorn the gospel. We show the world that the gospel impacts the details of our daily lives and makes a difference in our closest relationships.
How This Plays out in Real Life
When we’re harsh, rude, or critical of our children, it isn’t just a parenting problem. It’s primarily a heart problem. In that moment, we forget how loving, gentle, patient, and kind God is with us. We forget how he forgives us. We lose sight of the gospel.
For example, if I speak harshly to my child, my words and tone reveal the sinful anger in my heart. Not only that, but my behavior indicates that I don’t take the command “in your anger, do not sin” seriously (Ephesians 4:26). In that moment, I either forget or don’t believe God really sees and cares whether or not I treat my child with gentleness. I also don’t perceive the offense of my sin towards my child or God.
The solution to anger isn’t found in trying harder not to sin. It doesn’t look like a couple days of holding our tongues before the bitterness builds up and anger bursts again. Our hope isn’t in our own good intentions and attempts to be better people.
Only God changes hearts. While methods may help, if our malady is a heart issue, our cure is found in Christ. It’s found in confessing sin and acknowledging dependence on our Savior. We ask him to become bigger in our eyes and for his priorities to become our priorities. We tell Jesus we need more of him in our lives. We want more of his Spirit and the fruit of his Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We seek grace to grow in our knowledge of and trust in him.
Each time we sin, God’s mercies are new and available. We repent, and he forgives. Over and over again. Our appreciation for his grace grows, and as true repentance works in our hearts, we become like the woman in the New Testament who loved much because she was forgiven much (Luke 7:47).
God’s Love Overflows to our Children
By God’s design, the more we know and experience God’s love for us in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we overflow with love to those closest to us, including our children. Not perfectly, and maybe not immediately, but we start loving our families more biblically. We grow in gratitude for all that God has given to and done for us; we confess and forgive more quickly; and we set aside more of our own interests and consider the needs of others.
True love for our children expands. A love that’s deep and wide. One that’s willing to fight sin and not one another. One that’s willing to serve and discipline and let go and give and trust. One that’s patient and kind. One that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
We will never love our children—or anybody—enough, just as we will never love God enough. As Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” But the good news is that God loved us enough. He loved us enough to save us from our sin and to change our hearts. As God’s love transforms us, we love him, our families, and others with his supernatural love.