Anticipation simply means waiting with confidence, or assurance. All parents anticipate quite a lot from their kids: the temper tantrum that's coming when you take away the TV, the eye roll associated with the plate of perfectly cooked asparagus, and the subtle groan when cheerfully asking, "So, do you have any homework tonight?" In ways, our kids are quite predictable!
But there's a different sort of anticipation that needs to live deep in the heart of the parent. This type of anticipation will create a faith-based posture that will both inform how we pray, serve and lead our children as well as guard our hearts through the inevitable ups and downs of parenting.
We need to be anticipating God's work and faithfulness in the lives of our children.
We can approach parenting with two different attitudes towards God's involvement with our children: either we will hope and wish, weakly, for God's presence and faithfulness, without confidence or assurance, or we will expect and wait patiently for God's faithfulness. Scripture clearly says we should parent from the latter.
The Psalms and writings are spattered with verses encouraging us to anticipate God's action - to wait expectantly for it:
Micah 7:7: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
Psalm 37:7: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Psalm 62:5: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 130:5: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
God is going to move and he is going to be faithful to the promises he has given his people in his own time and in his own way. The question for us to wrestle with is whether or not we anticipate God's faithfulness and expect it for our children. If we do, this anticipation will bring two blessing to the heart of the parent: it provides security, and it will change how we act.
First, if our hope for our children is based only or primarily on our ability to disciple them or to point them towards the Gospel and not on God's overwhelming faithfulness, our heart will find no rest and will waver in fear and insecurity. This heart attitude is easiest to see when our children face trials or struggles. During the difficult moments, are you filled with fear and anxiety? Are you worried of your children falling away, or displaying false faith? It's likely that you don't anticipate God's faithfulness! But, if you anticipate God's continual work in their life, you'll approach challenges, struggles and trials with confidence and peace.
Secondly, though, if we are filled with the confidence in God's action and involvement in the lives of our children, it will allow us to parent with open hands and eager action. It will fuel radical prayers for our children, and we will face trials alongside our children with confidence. In anticipation of God's work, we will even wisely encourage our children into situations where God's work can be boldly seen in their lives. As our kids grow and look for ways to trust God and serve him, we won't be cowed into fear or passivity, but will gladly see them follow and leave for God. Instead of passively and fearfully watching our children grow, we will look for ways to help them live out God's faithfulness.
A wonderful example of this expectant, anticipatory parenting is Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses. God had promised the deliverance of his people, but the edict from Pharaoh in Exodus 1 was devastating - all children boys of the Israelites were to be put to death.
When Jochebed gave birth to a boy, in defiance of the King's orders, she hid him for three months. But then she and Amram were faced with a choice - how to best protect their child? Hebrews 11:23 says that this decision came down to faith - the overwhelming faith of Amram and Jochebed that God would preserve and would protect and would allow their child to flourish. They overwhelmingly anticipated God's faithfulness in the life of Moses - and they placed him in a basket and floated him in the Nile.
Consider that moment for Jochebed as she bundled her precious 3 month old son and left him to float among the reeds. There was room for fear and anxiety, but Hebrews is clear that this was a decision made in confidence and boldness. Jochebed faced this almost impossible moment fully anticipating that God's faithfulness would protect her child - and she was right.
Anticipating God's faithfulness did not lead to passivity or weakness, but rather to bold, radical action on behalf of her child. Would that our attitude be the same.
Father, thank you so much that you are forever faithful - your plans will never fail. This is true for your grand cosmic plans, and for the plans so important to me and close to home: your plans for the lives of my children. This is such an incredible promise - but it's so easy for me to forget or ignore.
I confess that far too often, I parent or I approach prayer from a fear that your promises won't come true, or that you won't be faithful. I don't anticipate your faithfulness in the way that I should, and so I find myself parenting from fear or worry, rather than from confidence and hope.
Fix my eyes on your son, Jesus. Remind me that he never doubted your faithfulness, but always anticipated what was to come - even in the Garden, as he prepared to die, he anticipated your faithfulness. Help me to parent in the same way - no matter the trials, challenges or difficulties. You will be faithful.
Questions for Growth:
- What trials have you seen your children go through recently? During those moments, were your anticipating God's faithfulness, or fearfully fretting about their future?
- Do you feel peace or anxiety when you consider your children's relationship with God? What about their future?
- How have you anticipated God's faithfulness towards your children?
- Has true anticipation for God's faithfulness led you action and radical living, or has it lulled you into passivity? How can you change or grow as a parent in this are? Where might you have seen parents be lulled into passivity in parenting their children?
- Are your prayers for your children rooted in the anticipation of God's faithfulness, or in fear of the unknown?
- How could you prayer life for your children better reflect anticipation of God's faithfulness?
Reading for Further Study
- Exodus 1-2: Put yourself in the shoes of Amram and Jochebed (Moses' parents - not mentioned by name). What emotions, fear or confidences did they have; what would you have?
- Micah 7: This is a dire chapter, but filled with hope and confidence as well. There's fear and clear acknowledgement of wrongdoing, but a consistent hope in the faithfulness of God.
- Psalm 37: A resounding call from David to trust in our God.