“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. … These commands … repeat them … to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are gettin up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NLT)

 

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.
Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home
and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.
(Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NLT)

 

​ THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING GODLY CHARACTER

 

Have you ever felt so trapped by your chronic illness that you can’t model the godly character you wish to instill in your kids? It can be devastating to see other parents bustling about volunteering, serving, or even just doing the every day chores of life, and knowing you’re unable to do the same. Thankfully, we can cast our cares on an amazing God of grace who will lift us up in hope.

Practice what you preach. Walk the talk.”  These sayings are tried, true, and oh-so-helpful as you guide your children in accepting, learning, and desiring your hopes for their character. However, your words don’t mean a thing if your behavior and attitude don’t match up.

Patience, generosity, obedience, humility, kindness, and self-control — there are so many character qualities we long to instill in our children. Our hope lies in sowing the seeds while they are young and watching them bloom as they mature through practice, observation, and prayer.

 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE WITH INTENTIONAL PARENTING

 

Intentional parenting is key to building character. There are many amazing resources that provide creative and practical ideas for leading by example, such as volunteering, serving in your church or leading a small group. However, there are fewer tools and activities available when you are confined by chronic illness.

Whether you deal with a physical ailment or a mental health struggle, your choices become limited. The amount of energy you have may be minuscule or your pain tolerance can only get you up and around for a few short hours. Perhaps you are bed-bound or reliant on a mobility aid. Such obstacles can make even the most determined parent feel overwhelmed and powerless, even guilty.

 

BREAKING THE BONDS OF PARENTING GUILT

 

Shame and guilt are not of God and have no place in our homes or hearts. A loving God who convicts and guides through the Holy Spirit is not the voice we hear that says “You aren’t trying hard enough,” “You’re messing up your children,” and “You’re a failure.”

The first step to implementing practical parenting within your limitations is to shake off that guilt. We need to root ourselves in truth, pulling out Scripture to block those lies popping into our minds. Scripture really is a sword, cutting away the lies the way a surgeon cuts away flesh.

We also need prayer — consistent and fervent prayer. We cannot hope to achieve anything without engulfing our days in prayer. You may be someone crippled with chronic illness, but if Jesus is your Lord, your identity lies in Him. Verses 4, 11, and 14 of Ephesians 1 will flood your soul with affirmation of who God says you are, calling you “chosen,” “heirs,” and “His own.” Jesus sets us free.

 

DISPLAYING SPIRITUAL FRUIT IN EVERYDAY LIFE

 

Now that we’ve shed the lies and fears holding us down, how do we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in practical ways? While the words we speak bring life and are essential to training up our children in the ways of the Lord, our kids need to see physical examples to help bridge the head to heart connection, from knowledge to true understanding and then to action.

First, always bring everything to God in prayer and ask Him for wisdom. He and He alone knows every cell in your body and understands your abilities and limitations. Ask for His guidance for your unique situation, and then look for useful tools. Here are examples of ways to demonstrate three character qualities:

 

MODELING GODLY CHARACTER

 

Modeling Patience:

Living every day with chronic illness requires an enormous amount of patience.

  • Patience is not the act of simply waiting for something. It is the behavior and attitude you display while you wait. Your child will see how you respond to your limitations. Be aware of your body language. Smile and be positive while you wait for help or assistance. They will also see your patience when you are understanding and kind with someone who makes a hurtful comment or judgement about your condition.
  • Bring your child with you to a doctor’s appointment. Explain that waiting is part of life and we can choose to be bitter and complain, or we can be creative, perhaps by drawing pictures or writing in a journal or playing games together (“I Spy” never gets old!).
  • Patience can require putting other people before yourself or denying something you want. This can be shown in everyday actions. Let an older person take the first spot on the elevator, offer to be the last to be served, or say no to something you’ve talked about buying. Practicing delayed gratification is crucial to developing patience.

Modeling Generosity:

Being generous doesn’t have to be a grand gesture with bells and whistles. It is the sincerity behind the act that will work in our children’s hearts.

  • Cookies don’t have to be homemade to be shared. Pick some up during a grocery run and make an activity of putting them into bags or containers, then sending them to school with your kids for their classmates or teachers.
  • Even if you are bed-bound or in an extra hard season, try to say “yes” to the little things as much as possible. Give an extra hug, read another book, ask the extra questions, let a friend come over. Showing generosity with your time will not go unnoticed.
  • Take the $20 gift you received in the mail, and put it into a card to pass on to someone else. Remind your kids that we are blessed to bless others. The gift of someone thinking of you was more than enough.

Modeling Obedience:

The Bible tells us to obey God in all circumstances, and instructs children to obey their parents. We hope that through learning obedience to us, our children will also learn to obey God.

  • Just as your children have homework assigned by a teacher, you have work assigned by a doctor. You take medication at certain times and do exercises or treatments they prescribe. Be open with your children about what is expected of you and the need for you to listen and do what you’re told, which is what we expect from them.
  • Model good listening and responding skills. If you’re asked to please pass the potatoes, put on a smile and say “Of course!” You may not have been asked to specifically obey, but you are showing the right attitude and response that you desire from your children.
  • Don’t let your health discourage you from being able to connect with God. Your body or mind may have many limitations but God will provide ways to go deeper with him. For example, with modern technology, we can join our church gatherings from our homes. You also can serve by sharing your story or by interceding for others in prayer. Not allowing illness to steal Jesus as the love of your life will speak volumes to your child. That kind of obedience cannot be taught. It is lived.

 SURRENDERING OUR CHILDREN

Parenting and raising children to love the Lord is not an equation where we punch in certain variables to create godly adults. It is an intense, humbling, never-ending journey that needs to be rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ and surrendered to God. In the end, even our best intentional parenting is not what will bring our children to Christ; only the Holy Spirit can accomplish this. My fellow parents, remember that we are living in the law of love, which comes with abounding grace. As we strive together to raise our children to be men and women of godly character, let us praise God for giving us all we need to achieve His will, no matter our limitations.

*This is Part 1 of the Godly Character series.

Erin Burkhardt

Erin Burkhardt

Chronic Joy® Content Writer and Prayer Team Member

Erin is a grateful follower of Jesus, navigating the different stages of life through the eyes of chronic illness. She has a passion for empowering others by encouraging them to trust God in even the most difficult of circumstances. Erin and her husband (along with their two young boys) are purposeful and passionate in living out their faith and loving their neighbors. Her other passions include freelance writing, loom knitting, and fishing!

For A Mother's Soul

May God shower His blessings on all mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, mothers-in-law, and mother-like figures in the world. May He give grace and strength for all your days.

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