This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of HomeLife.
It’s been called “the most wonderful time of the year,” and we know the Christmas season certainly can be, especially as parents. Some of our most treasured moments with our children are made around the tree as carols play in the background. We delight to hear them wonder aloud at the beauty of twinkling lights, and nothing warms our hearts more than bedtime tuck-ins accompanied by conversations about the birth of Christ and the meaning of His incarnation. Nostalgic moments like these affirm just how wonderful Christmastime is.
But if we’re honest, we recognize that these are just moments, not the whole of the season. Though they’re meaningful and can have eternal significance, we know that until Christ returns and redeems all things, family time can’t fully be this picturesque. The reality and presence of sin can unfortunately taint even the most wonderful time of the year.
The Challenge of the Season
Though Christmastime is wonderful, I find that parenting during this season can be particularly difficult. Not only are my boys hyper from eating Christmas cookies and sweets, but their extra roughhousing and rowdiness demonstrate just how excited they are for Christmas morning to arrive. This chaos is only compounded by the busyness that comes with the season. Buying gifts, attending parties, and traveling tend to wear down my normal defenses, and very quickly patience for my children grows thin.
As I approach this season, I want to prepare myself for the inevitable temptation toward impatience. Christmas is too special a time to spoil with a harsh voice or unloving correction. Maybe you’d like to experience less impatience with your kids this Christmas season too, and replace it with more peace, joy, and wonder. Here are four ways I’m learning to be more patient with my kids this Christmas.
Desire to Grow in Godliness
The first step toward becoming more patient with our children is to actually want it. Unfortunately during Christmastime though, many of us are just too busy getting things done to worry about fighting sin. Even at a time of year when we’re encouraged to turn our hearts and minds to Christ, it’s just more convenient to push aside that exhortation and keep plowing ahead with our own agendas. It’s not too late to make this year different. Even now in this moment, let’s ask God to give us a desire to honor Him by growing in patience and love toward our kids.
My motivation to grow in patience comes from two places. The first has to do with my vision for motherhood. Being a good mother who honors God is one of my highest goals. Indeed it’s one of the good works the Lord prepared beforehand for me to walk in. (See Eph. 2:10.) Motherhood is important work and giving my children a home saturated with gospel love is one of my highest priorities, both at Christmas and throughout the year. I want them to recognize Christ’s love because they’ve seen and experienced a form of it in our home from their parents. Sadly, my impatience thwarts this vision.
My second motivation to gain patience comes from a desire to walk worthy of Jesus. His sacrifice on the cross compels me to offer Him my best. And the limitless nature of His patience toward me humbles me enough to realize I ought to offer the same to my children. Receiving so much undeserved grace from One so holy leaves me in awe and causes me to want to give my children unmeasured grace as well.
Rely on the Holy Spirit
If you’ve ever tried to become a more patient parent simply by telling yourself to be patient, then you know how ineffective that method is. Patience isn’t something we can produce in our own strength. Without God’s help, we’re unable to better ourselves in this way. That’s because of the sin nature we were born with. Our natural disposition is to be more focused on ourselves rather than loving and serving others. On our own, we tend to live with the assumption that other people should please us, even our own children.
Instead of doing more or working harder to become patient, the Bible teaches us that we will only gain this virtue as we stay connected to Him. Patience comes as an outworking of God’s Spirit inside us as believers. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things” (Gal. 5:22-23).
To demonstrate the fruit of patience toward our kids this Christmas, we must make the choice to walk in the Spirit instead of our flesh. Our children will push our buttons and we will be tempted to respond sinfully. But it’s precisely in those moments we must intentionally turn our hearts to the Lord and decide to obey Him by faith.
My natural instinct is to quickly react in the flesh to my kids’ wrongdoings without giving a thought to the Lord. But in that instance, instead of simply reacting, I must train my heart and mind to turn toward Him and the truths of Scripture. I can pray, God, I want to lean on You in this moment. Help me to mother by Your power, not my own. Your Word says I’m not a slave to sin. Enable me to respond lovingly and patiently to my children.
Forming new thought habits like this takes practice, but as we rely on His Spirit, He will begin to redeem the moments that have typically been dominated by impatience. All things are possible with Him!
Cultivate Compassion for Your Children
By God’s grace, I’ve noticed a pattern with my impatience as a mother over the last several years. My lack of patience is usually traced to times I feel inconvenienced by my children. The interruption they cause by their bickering or noisiness can sometimes be more bothersome to me than the misbehavior itself. This disruption of my plans has become a trigger toward my impatience and sin.
When Jesus was on earth, He encountered many interruptions that could’ve been perceived as inconveniences. But He chose to view them differently. He responded instead with love and compassion.
In Mark 6:31-34, the crowds surrounding Jesus were so dense that He and the disciples barely had time to rest or eat. Even then Jesus wasn’t bothered by the multitudes; rather, He had compassion on them and gave them food.
Jesus demonstrates His special love for children in Mark 10. He welcomed them and said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. … After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them” (vv. 14,16).
We can learn much from Jesus’ heart and example. He looked past any perceived inconveniences and chose to patiently care for others more than Himself. His heart swelled with love and compassion as He saw their neediness. Let’s view our children similarly this season, even as we complete work projects or mail Christmas cards. God has sovereignly and has wisely ordained for us to care for our children. They’re just little people He has placed in our lives who need love, guidance, help, and provision. Let’s determine to love them well, with the same patience and grace of our Savior.
Pray All Day
Since patience, along with the other fruits of the Spirit, comes only from God Himself, we would do well to pray without ceasing. I’m learning the importance of talking to God in the mornings before my feet touch the floor and before my eyes look at social media. The mindset I adopt in those early moments of wakefulness set the course of my attitude and hopefulness for the day ahead.
J.C. Ryle wrote in Call to Prayer, “At the very least, speak with God in the morning, before you speak with the world: and speak with God at night, after you have done with the world. But settle it in your minds, that prayer is one of the great things of every day. Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give it the scraps and parings of your duty. Whatever else you make a business of, make a business of prayer.”
It’s in the presence of God and abiding in Him throughout the day that we will find the power for living patiently. Let’s worship Him in the early mornings amid the glow of the Christmas tree and before the household stirs. Let’s pray with the kids at breakfast, starting them off with a hope-filled heart for the day. In the afternoon when they aren’t getting along, let’s ask God for grace to love patiently. And in the evenings as we lead them through the family’s Advent devotion, let’s pray that God would cover our homes with His peace and make this truly the most wonderful time of the year.
Courtney L. Moore is content writer for Pinelake Church in Brandon, Miss., where her husband, Brent, serves as small groups pastor. They have three children. You can read her devotionals in the current issue of Open Windows magazine. Read even more from Courtney at courtneylmoore.com.