Pastor John, here’s a common question we hear on Bible reading, and it comes from a mom: “Pastor John, I am a busy mom with three kids at home. How am I supposed to find time to read the Bible alone?”
Here is the way I want to approach this. If you are a wife in this situation, not a single mom — that is another challenge that I will mention in a minute — but a wife who has a husband living with her, would you turn this podcast off and go get your husband? Because I am going to ask him to take responsibility for this question. You do have some responsibility. Yes, you do. And maybe I will say a word about that in just a minute. But God’s idea for marriage and parenting is two parents. That is his ideal. And one of the reasons for this is so that one can cover for the other and make sure that both are connecting with God through Jesus in the word every day.
Calling All Husbands
Okay, good. So is he there? I am talking to the husband: Hello, husband. Your wife wants to know how she is supposed to find time to read the Bible alone when these kids are needing her attention all the time. Here is how I think you, Mr. Husband, can help her:
1. Bring your children under your authority.
Set a tone of discipline and order in the home so that children are not running wild but are submissive and obedient and self-controlled. Partner with her in getting these kids under control. This calls for serious, close attention from the time they can bite her nipple. It is possible to show them: “Don’t do that. That is not allowed here.” So naps and bedtimes and mealtimes are ordered times around which days can be built.
“Dad, step up. Partner with your wife in establishing routines, and expect obedience.”
My impression is that way too many parents today think their children should be allowed to control the atmosphere of the house. That is a big mistake on a lot of levels. So, dad, step up. Partner with your wife in establishing routines and expect obedience — expect submission to her and to your authority. That is number one: the whole atmosphere of the house has to be brought under the parental order.
2. Play with your kids every day.
Establish a play time with the kids every day. It will obviously change with the ages but give your whole attention to these kids every day at some point during which time she is free.
For us, that was right after supper for about an hour for many, many years. We ate at 5:30, we were done by 6. From 6 to 7, I played with all the kids, managing myself — Noël had done it all day. I can do it for an hour, and she can do whatever she wants. And if it is time to read the Bible, there she has it.
3. Build in frequent, short retreats for mom and dad.
Build retreats into your life and your wife’s life so that she gets a half a day or a day every now and then. You figure out how often when you arrange for the children. You take them on Saturday morning, or you pay someone to do it, but both of you are getting these periodic, extended retreat times where you can really kick back and deal with the living God.
4. Pursue God in his word.
Lead your wife in the word so that her desire never wavers because of your example of pursuing treasure and sweetness in the word with her.
5. Make room for meaningful conversations as a couple.
Give her adult conversation about important things, including things from the Scriptures, so that she doesn’t lose perspective on what all this kid time is for.
6. Pray for your wife.
And, finally, pray for her — for her motivation and her discipline and her enjoyment of the word.
Time with God
And I’ll say a closing word to mom. You may not have a husband with that kind of a heart. Well, then, you must do it yourself, and God will help you. Yes, he will. No temptation or trial is going to fall on you that God won’t give you the grace to endure (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). So, you might try reading the story of Susannah Wesley, the mother of Charles and John Wesley. She had nineteen children. Nine of them died in infancy. That left ten. She promised the Lord she would spend time in prayer and the word every day, and at one point, her strategy was this: She taught the older children and the younger children that the younger ones were responsible to the older. And, when you see mom with an apron over her head at the table, don’t bother her. Keep the kids quiet. That is my time with God.
So train your children with that kind of rigor. Expect obedience. Find your apron or your closet. But, dad, I am looking to you for the major support.