How to Cultivate Love for God in Your Child’s Heart
TODAY, it is a real challenge for a person to cultivate a close relationship with Jehovah God. (Psalm 16:8) True to prophecy, we live in “critical times hard to deal with.” Most people are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Yes, genuine love for God is truly rare in the world today.
The development of love for God in a child’s heart cannot rightly be left to chance. Love for Jehovah God must be cultivated in the hearts of our children. How can we do this?
We can cultivate love for God in the hearts of our children if our own heart is filled with love for him. (Luke 6:40) The Bible indicates this when it says: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son.”—Deuteronomy 6:4-7.
How can we cultivate love for God in the heart of our child? First, we must discern what is in our child’s heart. Second, we must reveal what is in our own heart.
On the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples, Jesus Christ first encouraged the disciples to express their hopes and fears. Only after listening to them for some time did Jesus correct their thinking by explaining the Scriptures. Later they commented: “Were not our hearts burning as he was speaking to us?” That conversation was an example of heart-to-heart communication. (Luke 24:15-32) How can we perceive our child’s feelings?
Recently, some parents whose children are now adults or are reaching adulthood and are examples of faith were asked about heart-to-heart communication. For instance, Glen, in Mexico, has four grown children. * He observes: “Comfortable communication between parents and children doesn’t just happen. My wife and I set aside less important things to spend time with the children. When they were in their teens, we would sometimes sit all evening with them, talking about whatever came into their minds. Similarly at mealtimes, by listening to their conversation, we would discern problems and gently correct a tendency, often without their realizing it.”
Heart-to-heart communication also involves revealing what is in our own heart. Jesus said: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart, . . . for out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Toshiki, whose three children are full-time ministers in Japan, says: “I told them many times why I came to have faith in Jehovah—how I came to believe with all my heart in his existence and how my own experience in life has convinced me that the Bible is true and is the best guide in life.” In Mexico, Cindy says: “My husband always prayed with the children. When they heard his heartfelt expressions, they knew that Jehovah was not make-believe.”
The Power of Our Example
Even more powerful than words is our way of life, for it shows our children how much we love God. By noting Jesus Christ’s obedience to Jehovah, people could discern the depth of his love for God. “In order for the world to know that I love the Father,” said Jesus, “even as the Father has given me commandment to do, so I am doing.”—John 14:31.
Gareth, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Wales, comments: “Our children must see that we love Jehovah and that we try to do things his way. For instance, my children see that in obedience to what God tells us, I admit my mistakes. Now my children try to act in that way.”
Greg, an Australian, says: “We wanted our children to see that we center our life on the truth. When we make decisions about work or play, we first consider how our Christian duties will be affected. It is a pleasure for us to observe that our 19-year-old daughter has adopted this attitude in her auxiliary pioneer service.”
Helping Our Children Understand God
We cannot love or trust someone whom we do not understand. When the apostle Paul wanted Christians in Philippi to grow in their love for Jehovah, he wrote: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.” (Philippians 1:9) Falconerio, who is raising four children in Peru, states: “Regularly reading and studying the Bible with them builds up their faith. Sometimes I neglected to study with them, and I saw their love for God weaken.” Gary, from Australia, says: “I often show my children evidence that Bible prophecies are coming true. I also point out the benefits of applying Bible principles. The regularity of our family Bible study has been the key to building their faith.”
Knowledge will best reach a child’s heart in a relaxed though respectful atmosphere in which learning is a joy. (James 3:18) “During the family Bible study, we tried not to scold our children, even if they got a bit boisterous,” say Shawn and Pauline of Britain, who have four children. “We varied how we conducted the study. Sometimes we invited the children to choose the subject. We used the videos that Jehovah’s organization has produced. Sometimes we replayed a section or paused the video to allow for discussion.” Also from Britain, a mother named Kim says: “I prepare for the family study carefully so that I can ask questions that will make my children think. We enjoy studying. We laugh a lot.”
Love for Jehovah and appreciation for true worship can best flourish in our children if they are surrounded by people who are friends of God. Arranging for companions whom our children can beneficially talk to and play with may take effort. But doing so is worth it! Moreover, it is worthwhile to make opportunities for our children to meet Jehovah’s Witnesses who have taken up the full-time ministry as their career in life. Many who have chosen that course did so because of associating with zealous servants of God. A sister who became a missionary says: “My parents invited pioneers for a meal on numerous occasions. They were obviously so happy in their ministry that I wanted to serve God in the same way.”
Of course, our children’s attitudes can be influenced both for good and for bad. The dangers of bad associations therefore challenge our skills as parents. (1 Corinthians 15:33) It is an art to teach youngsters how to avoid socializing with those who neither love Jehovah nor know him. (Proverbs 13:20) Shawn, quoted earlier, says: “We taught our youngsters to have friendly working relationships with schoolmates but to leave those relationships there—at school. Our children understood why they should not share in extracurricular activities or school sports events.”
The Value of Training
By training our children to explain their faith, we help them to enjoy expressing their love for God. Says Mark, who lives in the United States: “We wanted our boys to feel that they could enjoy sharing their faith with others at any time, not just when they dress up to share formally in our public ministry. So when we go somewhere for recreation, such as to a park, the beach, or a forest, we take Bibles and Bible literature with us, and we talk to people there about the things we believe. The boys really enjoy witnessing informally with us in that way. They join in the discussions and speak about their faith.”
The aged apostle John helped many people to grow in their love for God. Concerning them, he wrote: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my [spiritual] children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) If we cultivate love for God in our children’s hearts, we will surely have the same joy.
^ par. 8 Some of the names have been changed.
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Heart-to-heart talk about matters of faith does not happen by accident
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Train your children to express their love for God
Courtesy of Green Chimneys Farm