Responding To Children’s Persistence: God and Earthly Parents…
Getting ready for work this morning and my four year old daughter asked me for candy. Hmmm. I looked at her like, “Are you serious–do you realize how early it is?” (it’s a good thing we didn’t serve her pancakes and syrup this morning–that basically IS candy for breakfast!) But instead I replied, “Sweetheart, we don’t eat candy this early in the morning. No candy right now. I love you!”
Well, she didn’t give up that easily. She soon asked again (and by soon I mean five seconds later). Instead of telling her “no” again, I didn’t respond. I decided to make it a game (in my head I began counting the number of times she asked, “May I have a piece of candy?”) because I learned many years ago that trying to ignore/block out the voice of a persistent four year old is impossible–children ALWAYS defeat parents in a siege war! Needless to say, I lost track of the total number of times that she asked, but it was DEFINITELY close to one hundred times. Yes, 100 times…over the next fifteen minutes. That’s about once every nine seconds. To her credit, she asked sweetly, saying the exact same thing every time (a consistent drip, drip, drip erodes even the biggest mountains!).
Now here’s how parents sometimes respond to a persistent four year old–we often do/say one of these four things:
1. Please Stop Asking. In a calm voice, we often ask them not to ask anymore.
2. STOP ASKING OR ELSE!!! In a much less-calm voice, we sometimes scream and/or threaten them to stop asking.
3. We Walk Away (or ask them to leave the room). We separate our presence from theirs because our patience is starting to wear thin (this is a much better response than #2 above, though!).
4. We Reluctantly Give In and Give Them What They Want (in an effort to get them to stop irritating us, even if what they want isn’t good for them).
As I later drove to work (still hearing the haunting echoes of my four year old in my head–I thought she might actually be in the car with me!!!), I thought about this more. Interestingly enough, when we persistently ask God for something through prayer, He doesn’t respond to us His children in ANY of the four ways that earthly parents often respond to their children!
1. God Encourages Us To KEEP Asking Him!!! In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells His followers a story to encourage them to pray and NEVER stop (this passage, commonly called “the parable of the persistent widow,” could EASILY be called “the parable of the persistent four year old”)! While we are often annoyed when our children keep asking us for stuff, He is delighted when we keep asking Him because doing so strengthens our faith in Him, doing so brings us into His presence more and more, doing so strengthens our friendship with Him, and doing so gives God more of an opportunity to (over time) change what we ask for to line up with what HE wants for US!!!
2. God Doesn’t Scream Or Threaten Us!!! God does sometimes get angry, but not in the sinful ways that humans do. God NEVER flies off the handle, He is always patient with us (Psalm 103:8), His discipline to us is always just right to build us up (not tear us down). Jesus, for all His power to create the universe, keep it going, and defeat death itself, describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-30). What an amazing God…
3. God Doesn’t Walk Away From Us (or kick us out of His presence)! He created us to be in relationship with Him (John 15:15)–He wants us close to Him, not far away! He doesn’t need a break from us–He longs to gather us close to Him the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! (Matthew 23:37) And even if we DID annoy/irritate God, He wouldn’t abandon us even for a moment! He promises to be with us FOREVER! (Matthew 28:20)
4. God Doesn’t Reluctantly Give In To Us (He is strong enough to give/offer us the good we don’t want and to not give us the bad that we do want)!
-if He wants us to wait for something, He will calmly make us wait until His timing is perfect.
-If He wants us to have something, He will joyfully give it when the time is right.
-If He never wants us to have something (usually because we don’t realize that actually getting that thing would do us more harm than good in the long-run), no amount of pressuring on our part will change His mind.*
I am so thankful that my heavenly Father does NOT parent me the way I sometimes parent my own children!
So let’s continue to cry out to God, coming into His presence in prayer throughout each day, trusting that He delights in our persistence and will reward us–whether with candy or an increased appreciation for oatmeal–if we don’t give up. 🙂
*In 1 Samuel 8 (please click HERE), over and over again God’s people request to have an earthly king. Even though God warns them of the problems they will face with an earthly king, even though God does not want them to have one–He is all the King they need!–God eventually gives them what they want. However, this is not to “shut them up” or to “get them off His back” so He can go back to reading the sports section in peace. God gives them what they want with the long-term goal of teaching them a powerful lesson–that He truly is all the King they need.