The past 20 years in college campus ministry has given me much opportunity to observe the choices made by recently graduated newlywed couples. Most of these couples live in that interesting stage of life commonly called “Married-With-No-Kids.”
Sure, some couples make the choice to immediately start having kids after they get married. And some start the adoption process early into their marriage. But from what I’ve seen, a lot of married Christian couples wait anywhere between one to six years before pressing questions about children enter the picture. My wife and I waited around five years before we had our first daughter. Most of the couple friends around our age waited about the same time.
Putting it off longer
What I’ve noticed more recently, however, are the increasing number of couples who wait longer before having kids. And many decide against having children altogether. These decisions are considered for various reasons as couples ask these kinds of questions:
- Kids will ruin our social life. Why would we want that?
- Should I have to quit my job or significantly cut back on my time at work just to take care of a screaming baby all day?
- Why should we sacrifice our freedom and income for children?
- Isn’t it better to save more money and give more money away with all that we’ll earn and keep by not having kids?
- When I see parents out in public with their kids, it stresses me out. Who needs that kind of pressure in their lives?
And on and on it can go. I know I’ve asked these kinds of questions in the past. There are tons of Christians with strong opinions on both sides of this conversation/argument who enjoy chiming in with their two cents. So I wanted to contribute to that in a healthy way that is biblical and hopefully God-honoring.
Here are a few things to consider as you and your spouse begin to ask the question, “Should we have kids … and when?”
1. God gave people a command to be fruitful and multiply.
Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Now, this doesn’t mean absolutely everyone should marry or everyone should have kids. But God did plan from the beginning that this should be the norm.
The Lord is wise and good. So if we are going to opt out of the norm of filling the earth by having children, we should be really sure that in the end we can give a good account to God. It’s not enough to just say, “It wasn’t my preference,” or something like that. God’s plan is to fill the earth with image-bearers of his glory, and it is a glorious thing to participate in that.
2. The most joyful experiences of your life will come as a parent.
I have two daughters. I like to say that being the dad of two girls is kind of like when you were a kid jumping with a group of other children on a trampoline. Eventually you’re going to fall down and the other kids are going to keep jumping, knocking you around, stepping on your hands, and causing you all sorts of confusion. It’s chaotic and painful and crazy…but hey, you’re on a trampoline with other people, so it’s also fantastic.
I have never laughed more in my life than when I’m with my kids. The most powerful memories of my life are from beautiful moments with my children. When they do something, understand something, say something, or act out something in a way that surprises and delights me. And right now, they’re only in elementary school! I still have many years of surprises ahead of me with them. What a God-given joy it is to be a parent.
3. God uses children to grow our character.
Psalm 127:3 promises us, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Despite the fact that your future kids might break your heart in many ways, this Scripture is still true.
God doesn’t promise us lives of parental ease and comfort. He promises good reward. And sometimes rewards come only through the medium of sorrow and suffering. To be a parent is to sacrificially suffer, because to authentically love is to sacrificially suffer. When you love someone, you give of yourself so that they might benefit. That, by definition, is sacrificial.
Many of us look at parents with screaming kids in the cereal aisle and think, I’m glad I’m not that parent. In reality though, when God ushers parental self-sacrifice into our lives so that we might be part of shepherding the soul of a child, He is ushering in his grace. It’s tough to see selfish, whiney children as grace, but they are.
There are no shortcuts on the road to character. God uses parenthood to graciously grow our character. To say “no” to God’s instruments of sanctification just because it looks scary–or publicly humiliating when you’d rather just pick out your Cheerios– is to reject one of God’s greatest potential methods of molding you into the image of Christ.
The gospel is about sacrifice (Christ’s sacrifice and suffering for our benefit). The gospel’s message is the greatest message of love ever communicated. To parent is to understand sacrifice and suffering in a way that identifies with Christ on a whole new level—one that rewards us both now and on into eternity.
4. You have no idea how having children will increase your intimacy in marriage.
Matthew 19:19 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And Ephesians 5: 28-30 doubles down on this principle by saying, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
In other words, husbands, when you are loving your wife, you are loving yourself. You two are one flesh. She is you. John Piper once said, “When she becomes joyful in motherhood, this joy will be your joy, because she is you. Her joy is your joy. What a fatherly pleasure it is to see a woman become a mother. If you want overflowing joy, then make your body, that is your wife, a joyful mother of children.”
I have seen joy in the life of my wife unlike any other time than in the joy of raising our kids. Sure, the lows are low, but man, the highs are unlike any other high I’ve ever seen in the lives of both my wife and myself. What a gift it is to me to see the gift my children are to my wife. She is a mother because of what God did through her and I together. It has been such a delight to love her as myself by giving her the gift of motherhood.
* * *
There are many more thoughts I could share that could add to this list. But for now, I think we’ll stop here. And again, not everyone is called to marriage or having kids. So don’t think this is blanketed exhortation to absolutely everyone.
However, what I’ve both personally experienced and witnessed in others is that having children by birth, adoption, fostering, or marrying someone with kids is welcoming the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives in a way that nothing else can compare.
The calling of having kids is to enter into the joy of your Master, and not only refine your soul, but sanctify your life, grow in depth of character, and identify with Christ unlike ever before.
Copyright © 2019 Shelby Abbott. All rights reserved.
Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States and author the books Jacked, I Am A Tool (To Help With Your Dating Life), and Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress (New Growth Press). He and his wife Rachael have two daughters and reside in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Instagram/Twitter: @shelbyabbott, Web: shelbyabbott.com