A female listener who wishes to remain anonymous writes in to say this: “Pastor John and Tony, thank you for the blessings you provide through desiringGod and APJ. My husband and I have been happily married for 10 years. When we were married, I knew he did not desire children, but for the past couple years, my desire for children has grown significantly. Many friends have prayed for us and we have prayed together, but continue to strongly disagree — his lack of desire; my growing desire for the blessing of children. He’s a strong spiritual leader of our home and seeks joy in Jesus daily. Pastor John, do you have any biblical or experiential advice for us in resolving this difficult situation?”
Yes, go get your husband or just email him the app or the program, because I am going to talk to him — and I know his heart can change, because my heart changed. We had four kids. I wanted four kids. I loved them and we were done, I thought. And then along comes the adoption possibility of Talitha at age 50. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness. I am too old. This will never work.” And God did a great work in my heart. And so, here are ten reasons — I will try to go quick — that a man, a husband, should want to be a father.
1) God created man with this mandate. Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Now, I am not saying every man must marry or every man must have children. I am saying that God planned that this would be the norm. And God is wise and God is good. And if we are going to opt out of the norm of filling the earth by having children, we should be really sure that we can give a good account to the Lord and not 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. That is number one.
“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) Not surprisingly, therefore, God says in Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage,” or an inheritance — “from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Now, the immediate application of that truth in Psalm 127 is the fact that lots of sons will keep you safe when your enemies are against you. The fact that that is the immediate application does not limit the truth of the statement. And I would say that this is true even if every one of your children breaks your heart. It is still true. God does not promise us easy fatherhood. He promises us good reward. And that may be through much sorrow. There are rewards that can only come through fatherly sorrow.
3) There is a glory in having children and grandchildren, and there is a glory in having a father. There is glory both ways, having children — having a father. Listen to this from Proverbs 17:6: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” That is a very, very provocative proverb. Grandfathers have a crown in their grandchildren. And the children, this middle generation, have a crown in their fathers. And the point is, fathering children is a glorious affair in both directions.
4) Have you ever considered how amazing it is and how full of significance it is that God, the Creator of the universe, has revealed himself as a heavenly Father? This is astonishing. It could have been another way. It can mean nothing less — it can be more, but nothing less — than the glory and the wonder and God-like role of fatherhood. God didn’t look around the world to find some analogy, like fatherhood. “Oh, there is a father. I will call myself a Father because then they can relate to that.” It is the other way around. He created the world with fatherhood in it so that we would experience what he is like in his fatherhood-ness.
5) One of the most compelling reasons for a man to become a father is that in doing so he makes a woman a mother. Of course, he could say it the other way around, that in becoming a mother she makes him a father. But that is not the angle right now. We are talking about the glories of fatherhood. There are glories of motherhood, another time. In having children, a man discovers he is married to a mother, which he wasn’t before. This is a glorious thing to be married to a mother. You now get to be married not only to a wife, but to a life-bearer, a mother with all of her years of motherhood in front of her. If motherhood is a beautiful thing — and it is — how beautiful it is to participate in the making of a mother.
6) This man that we are talking to right now — I don’t know his name — is married to a woman who deeply longs to have children — a God-blessed, natural, beautiful, longing in her heart. What does love mean for this man? Here is Ephesians 5:28–30: “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.”
Now, that text is an application of the Golden Rule to marriage. The Golden Rule says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 7:12; 19:19). Only it is stronger here. This says: When you love this neighbor who sleeps with you every night, you are loving yourself. In loving her, you are loving yourself. For she is your own flesh. You are one flesh. Therefore, not only does love say: Treat her as you would like to be treated if you were in her place, longing for children as she does. But love also says: 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.
7) In giving his wife children, he loves her in another way as well. Proverbs 31:28 says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” There is a great blessing in being a woman with children who grow up and finally realize — because adolescents aren’t all that thankful all the time — they finally realize the preciousness of motherhood and call her — they write home from college, having awakened to the reality of all of those years of sacrifice and gifting — they wake up and they write home and they bless her. They bless her. This is a gift that every husband should be happily willing to give his wife.
8) As I watched my wife’s womb grow with four sons conceived in our home, I was stunned repeatedly at the thought that a human life has come into being that never existed before and now will live forever. And we, this woman and I, we were God’s instruments of creation. God just created an everlasting human being by our seed. What a wonder. What a calling. What an honor.
“Think of having children not as a way of burdening the world, but shaping the world.”
9) I remember back in the 70s, just before we were having kids, people were discouraging larger families because of overpopulation. I never bought it. Not only because of the math. I didn’t buy it because of the math. There was another reason way more basic, since I didn’t know about the math. But rather I reasoned like this. No, God’s calling is not about numbers, but about kinds of people. And I said to myself: I aim — and God will decide whether I succeed — but I am to raise children who will not burden the world, but bless the world. They will not eat the portion of another; they will create portions for others. They will be part of world solutions, not world problems. So, my challenge to husbands is: Think of having children not as a way of burdening the world, but shaping the world.
10) In having children, expect to know God as you never knew him before. And expect to be made more humble, more holy, more mature, more loving, more alive, more far-seeing, more seriously joyful than you could be any other way