We live in a world increasingly opposed to the laws of its Creator. Christians are looking more and more ‘peculiar’. We have to teach our children to be very different. But they don’t like to be ‘different’, especially adolescents.
So how can we as parents prepare our children to face this world? To resist peer group pressure? To live morally? To keep believing the Bible when so much of what they are taught contradicts it? We see offspring from other Christian families made shipwreck. How can we do any better? We see those who have ‘made it’! What is their secret?
Our Creator has provided us with a book of instruction. But where do we find something for struggling parents? Clear guidelines are given in the Old Testament in such places as Genesis 18:19; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 21:18–21; 1 Samuel 2:22–25, 3:11–14, Proverbs, and in the New Testament in Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4. We must keep trying to put these into practice.
Careful examination of Genesis chapters 6–9, where the account of Noah and his family is recorded, reveals some helpful principles for parents as well. (For ease of reading, Noah refers to Noah and his wife (Genesis 2:24))
Tips for traumatized parents
1. Spend time teaching your children about God from His Word.
Noah would have had very little in the way of written records—at most the information contained in Genesis chapters 1–5. But God did communicate directly with him, regarding His intention to ‘blot out man’ (6:7) and the rest of creation. Noah also received very specific instructions for building the vessel which was to save him, his family, and the animals from the Flood.
No doubt he made his three sons very familiar with this information. They were more than likely familiar with clay tablets on which were inscribed details of creation, the Fall, and God’s dealings with their forebears. (The most likely way this information was preserved for the post-diluvian world.)
We have 66 books filled with God’s revelation to us. We have 24 hours in each day just like Noah. We must set aside time each day to teach our children.
2. Demonstrate the total trustworthiness of the Creator.
Shem, Ham and Japheth grew up watching their father build an enormous boat to save them from a flood, which God said was going to happen (6:17). Noah based his life totally on God’s instructions—contrary though they appeared to all those around him. He showed his children by his actions how much he trusted his Creator (Hebrews 11:7).
How much trust do we actually demonstrate to our children? Do we grumble and complain about the economic recession, panic about the possibility of retrenchment, or fret about the moral decline as though these things are beyond the control of our Creator? Our attitudes and actions must match what we teach our children.
3. Tell them the truth about God’s view of this world.
No doubt Noah would have reminded his boys that the world in which they were growing up was ‘corrupt in the sight of God’, and that the violence they viewed was part of that corruption (6:11–12), and not to be emulated as a model of masculinity. He would doubtless have had to forbid them from participating in some things, warning them of God’s certain judgment on corruption, and recognizing that they too had inherited corrupt human nature.
We must help our children examine everything in the light of God’s standards, and encourage them to stand apart where necessary. It may involve forbidding some popular music, books, games, videos, and certain friendships. We owe it to them to protect them from corruption.
We live in such a sin-sick world. We will need to have special courage to insist that our adolescent children conduct their relationships with the opposite sex very differently from most others. None of this is very easy for us, or them, for we have all inherited evil human nature from Adam and Eve.
The world will tell us that we will destroy their self-esteem by such restrictions. But the world lies, because the world is corrupt. Of course our children need encouragement, but we must encourage them to use the gifts God has given them to glorify Him.
4. Help them to test what they are taught by the Word of God.
The friends of Shem and his brothers apparently did not believe that their world was about to be swept away by a flood. Their parents had not taught them this (Matthew 25:38–39). If Noah’s children, like ours, were in the habit of saying ‘but everyone else …’, ‘but no one else …’, then they were speaking a lot more accurately than our children. They had to reject so much of what their friends thought, on the basis of what God had said to their own father.
Yet we are often reluctant to oppose what our children are taught in case we upset them or make it too hard for them at school. We must tell them that the Bible makes it clear that the world was created (Genesis 1), not evolved; that it began ‘cold’, not ‘hot’ (2 Peter 3:5), that it is thousands (Genesis 1–5), not billions, of years old; that processes have not always been the same, because there was once a cataclysmic catastrophe (2 Peter 3:4–6); that it will end by ‘fire’, not by cooling (2 Peter 3:7); that most fossils were laid down in the Flood, not formed over millions of years; that early men were not semi-apes, but intelligent people (Genesis 4)—to mention a few modern ideas that do not stand the scriptural test.
We must equip ourselves for this task—plenty of good literature is available.
5. Remind them of the temporary nature of this world.
Every day Noah demonstrated his belief that the world in which he was raising his children was temporary (6:36–39). He was doing the very physical job of building a wooden boat, his sons knew it was to rescue them when the world was swept away. They would have heard their father warn others of this truth (2 Peter 2:5).
As parents, we need to continually reassess our children’s programs in the light of eternity. Family devotions, attendance at Bible studies, fellowship groups, etc., must be included even if it means reduced proficiency at the piano.
6. We must prepare them to take ridicule or persecution.
For the first 100 years or so of his children’s lives, Noah was building an Ark in a world that had never seen such a flood. This must have brought a lot of ridicule to him and his family. There was no way he could protect them from this without abandoning his project. You can’t hide such a huge vessel under a bushel.
We must encourage our children to take ridicule from their friends. Their Creator can strengthen them to do so, otherwise they will be driven to compromise to avoid it. We must emphasize that ‘those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness’ will be ‘blessed’ because ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:10).
7. We must teach them not to be discouraged by tiny numbers.
Of all the millions on earth in Noah’s day, only eight entered the Ark, in spite of Noah’s preaching (2 Peter 2:5). How could they believe they were right when they were such a minority? Well, circumstances proved they were right!
We must point this out to our children. They must not be discouraged if they find themselves thinking differently to most of their peers. They must be taught from Scripture that the majority is often wrong. We must remind them of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:14, ‘Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’
8. We must help them retain strong ties with family and fellow believers (especially in marriage).
How did Noah and his family manage to withstand the enormous pressure of being alienated from most of their contemporaries? They surely must have supported one another in very close family relationships.
These days we need to work to keep family solidarity. We cannot maintain it if everyone is going ‘every which way’ all the time. Keeping the ‘sabbath day holy’ will give us opportunities for family communication and contact with fellow Christians. These things are essential for spiritual survival. Other things may have to be sacrificed. We must teach our children from the beginning that they may only marry Christian partners (2 Corinthians 6:14). Failure to do this was one of the causes of the terrible moral decay in Noah’s time (6:1–2).
9. Keep looking with them for God’s tender mercies.
Noah had one of the hardest jobs in creation, but there were plenty of signs of God’s mercy in the midst of it all. Each person on board had his marriage partner for comfort, and there were no children to suffer the traumas of the voyage. There was plenty of work to keep them all occupied before, during, and after the Flood.
We must guard our hearts, and our tongues, so our children hear more words of praise from our lips than words of complaint. This is very difficult for corrupt human nature, but we must work on it and teach them by example to notice, appreciate, and give thanks for God’s mercies.
How did Noah do it? How did he prepare his sons to face the world? The key to the whole issue was that he taught them that the world they lived in was only temporary, doomed for destruction because of sin. He had to prepare them to oppose and forsake the doomed world.
So his focus was on the new world after the Flood. That is the world for which he spent his energies preparing them. But that’s Noah—he was more godly than most people, surely?
Not according to Genesis chapter 9. Sadly, he ‘became drunk’ (9:21) from the fermented products of the vineyard he planted in that new world. He had clay feet like us! And did all his children ‘make’ it’? Sadly not! Ham showed his true colours when his father got drunk. His rebellious heart was revealed and reflected too in Noah’s grandson Canaan.
How about about the new world they entered? It was still a fallen world. But the world towards which we are heading and for which we must train our children is ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, where ‘God Himself shall be among them’, and where ‘He shall wipe away every tear’. This world will be inherited by those ‘who overcome’ (Revelation 21:1–7).