“What do you think about when you have nothing else to think about?”
Sinclair Ferguson asks his pastoral candidates this insightful question as a heart diagnostic. This question is beneficial to every Christian. This isn’t a question for the idle with nothing better to do than day dream. This is a question for busy, overwhelmed parents.
Children need their parents to daily know the grace and peace of Christ. But where’s the time for that? Too often we are drowning in our daily responsibilities. Many times, we do not have a spare hour in our schedules, let alone an hour where it is quiet and we can focus intently on prayer and the Word. Despite the demands of life on our every waking moment, we must not lose hope. I believe we have the perfect times for drawing nearer to God built into every day, but often fail to recognize them.
Ask yourself: when is it that your imagination drifts? When are your temptations and fears meeting the permissive fields of your unguarded thoughts? When are you self-medicating your internal struggles? When do you most often internally move toward frustration, sadness, bitterness, envy, despair, lust, self-loathing, or self-worship? Is it doing the dishes, the laundry, or while stuck in the traffic of your daily commute? Is it walking the dog, grocery shopping, or waiting in line? Is it in the bathroom or the computer room? Is it late at night before bed, or is it 3 a.m. when you cannot get back to sleep?
These are the moments throughout our days where our families need us to flourish and lead, not wither and retreat. I believe it is in these moments that we can win some of our greatest spiritual battles and experience the peace and growth we were made for. These are divine appointments to bring our hearts before God where He will heal our wounds and conform us to His image.
God has declared repeatedly throughout His Word that the healthy rhythm of life we were made for, the peace that surpasses all understanding, the joy, love, endurance, patience, wisdom, and discipleship we long for, are all regularly experienced and nurtured through prayer and the Word. We are called to pray without ceasing, to tell God everything, to ask Him all things, and to give Him thanks in all circumstances. We are called to let the Word dwell richly in us, and to encourage each other and build each other up with the Word (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 5: 11, 16-18). We are never to let the Word of God depart from our lips. We are supposed to hide it in our hearts, and to teach it to our children (Josh 1:8, Deut 6: 6-9, Psalm 119). Jesus calls His words the Words of Life (John 6:63), and tells us that all He commands of us is ultimately for our joy in Him (John 15: 10-11).
The in-between moments of our days are our windows of opportunity to come before God with all we think and feel and submit it to Him. The perfect prayer times are rare for parents, but opportunities for praying openly and honestly and without ceasing present themselves daily and regularly.
These are the exact moments to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts and bring all of our supplications and thanksgiving to God. Even the topics are readily available. Do you feel unloved or insignificant? Are you stressed about finances? Are you exhausted? Are you worried about your children? Wherever your thoughts are drifting, anchor them to the truth of Christ in prayer. Search out one Scripture that speaks to your thoughts, and practice in those moments to recall it from memory. Do this until that treasure from God takes root in your heart. Then pick another one.
Moments where we once festered in anger over a child’s disobedience or a spouse’s selfishness become the moments where we feast on the mercy we know in Christ, mercy that we can now extend to others because we remember what we have been forgiven.
Moments where we were once overwhelmed with anxiety about finances are now moments where we rejoice that we know God cares for us more than the birds of the heavens or the lilies of the field, who lack nothing.
Moments where we were sinking in the waters of despair for a child who is not walking with Christ become moments of intercessory prayer and resting in God’s sovereign grace.
As we take our thoughts captive to Christ, He conforms us to His truth and His image. As we cultivate our hearts with the ways God has given us, in the moments He has given us, the fruit of the Spirit will abound.
God is for you and not against you. Remember the price Christ paid for your redemption and the promises He has made to you. Know that you are not alone in these moments. You are not abandoned to manage everything, put out all the fires, and work out all the solutions on yourown. God delights to meet the needs of His children. That means you and your children.
As you serve your family and strive to meet their needs because you love them, Christ is infinitely and perfectly doing the same. The work set before us as parents is hard and constant, but it is good. Even the difficulty of parenting is given to us as a shadowy reflection of the image of God’s constant love and attention He promises us. Remember, Christ dwells in you through the Holy Spirit at all times. Rejoice in living out that truth. No moment of life is set aside for you to handle alone; they are all yours to live out with the Spirit of God.
When we seek to redeem the time in-between, we are not making do with the leftovers. We are rejecting the lie that we don’t have a life that allows us to grow through prayer and the Word. We are rejecting the lie that God has given us a defective life and ineffective means of drawing close to Him. Trust in the moments and the means God has given you. He is sovereign and trustworthy.