When Family Devotions Can Actually Hurt

Family Devotions Can Hurt

“Somebody please hit me!” These are the words I thought while witnessing my four-year-old daughter sling The Jesus Story Book Bible across the room. Ballet lessons… Really? I’m thinking more like a quarterback on the football field at this point. The heavy book was destined to hit one of the three sitting ducks on the couch, and sure enough, it soon found its target: directly in the face of my six-year-old son. Ouch! Insert screaming, yelling, fury, and a near riot…

Exhausted from a long day, I would normally continue to plow through the Bible story. But on this particular night, my husband—being the gentle “shepherd” that he is—tucked our convulsing son into his arms and made sure that his head was not bleeding (why didn’t I think of that?). Once the room calmed a bit, my husband said, “Son, sometimes you just need to get knocked in the face with the Word of God.”

Haha, yes! And sometimes the Word of God hurts. For us, the flying Bible and the black eye to follow are symbolic of a deeper reality—family devotions can hurt. Often our family devotion time feels like a trip to the dentist… I know we should do it, but something always goes wrong.

Once, when I was passionately reading the account of Jesus pulling Peter up out of the water, I realized that my daughter’s hair was literally being pulled out of her head by her big brother. Another time, I was gently teaching my children about the importance of “loving one another” when one of them screamed, “I HATE YOU,” across the room at their sister. Of course, there have been more successful occasions… Sometimes my children are quiet and still, and just when I think they’re really soaking in the Gospel and becoming little theologians, one of them asks, “Why is poop brown?” From loud laughs, to bodily functions, and even a hyperventilation or two, maybe you can relate.

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If so, have you ever wondered, “What’s the point?” Why do we sit our children down and open up the Bible? Is it so that we can check something off of our list? Do we read the Bible to our little arrows so that we can feel good about ourselves? Sometimes. I know I do this often.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit places another desire in my heart, and I long for them to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our prayer as parents—that they may know the abounding, unrelenting, unconditional, rescuing love of Jesus Christ. And we can rest in the truth that the Word of God does not return void. We need to remind ourselves that God hasn’t called us to be successful in training our children to know Him; He’s simply called us to be faithful.

Only God can change the hearts of our little ones. We can read them the Bible until the cows come home. We can push them into church every time the doors open. We can even make them memorize John 3:16 in New Testament Greek. But if the love of God doesn’t open their eyes, they will never come.

I don’t know about you, but this is incredibly liberating to me! Thank God my children’s relationship with Him is not contingent upon my parenting skills, but rests upon the free mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.

So parents: keep reading them the Word. Continue sowing Gospel seeds, even if it seems like those seeds are falling on hard, little hearts at the time. Through it all, pray for them every day. Pray that the same God, who knit them together in your womb, would someday soon (if He hasn’t already) recreate their hearts to beat for Jesus and His glory. When that day comes, surely all the painful family devotions will be worth it.


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