Thoughts on Applying 1 Thessalonians to Parenting By Janel Thompson

My daughter-in-law, Janel Thompson, sent the family an email sharing what God revealed to her about parenting while studying the Book of 1 Thessalonians in the Bible. Read 1 Thessalonians yourself and then enjoy and reflect on what God might be telling you about your parenting or grandparenting. I would love to hear your comments. Janel writes:

I’ve been reading 1 Thessalonians with a different perspective. In the past, I’ve read it as Paul’s letter to the church. I’ve also read it as if I were part of the church Paul was writing to and how I could apply his words to my life. But this time, I read it with the eyes of a parent writing it to our kids, and it took on a whole new meaning. I don’t intend to change what Scripture says or make it say something it doesn’t, but I believe the Bible is living and active and God speaks to us in different ways at different times to teach us what we need at different seasons.
I want to share this with you because it was so fresh to me: encouraging, inspiring, and humbling. Oh my, I can truly say like Paul that I have not obtained any of these things, but I have a vision into what the future as a parent can be like.

Starting in 1 Thessalonians 1, it struck me that Paul wrote this letter to the church as both a “brother in Christ” and a parent. Parents all hope to be, “brothers in Christ” with our kids, but we’ve walked ahead of them in life and are called to lead and guide them to a personal relationship and walk with God. As Christians, I believe parenthood becomes our ministry and mission for the rest of our lives. The way we guide and influence our kids changes, but our call to love, encourage, guide, and care for them never goes away. They will move away, but like Paul, we’re never without an important role in their lives.

The following verses and thoughts came to mind as I read the first 3 chapters of 1 Thessalonians. I hope that you are encouraged and inspired as I was.
The parallel between Paul’s writing and parenting started with reading the end of 1:5 and the beginning of vs. 6, We lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” The word imitators made me think of how kids pick up many behaviors and attitudes from their parents. I find myself doing things my mom did and I see our kids mimic ways of coping and acting that my husband and I do. It’s scary that our kids imitate us! When I read this verse, I thought, God, please allow our kids to imitate only what will draw them closer to You. I know they’ll pick up many of our bad habits and attitudes, but by God’s grace may we also be able to model for them ways to live that please the Lord.
As my mind turned to our kids, I went back and read vs. 4, For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” I thought: We need to cement in our kids’ minds that they are loved and chosen by God! We love them, but God’s love is perfect; and when our kids feel let down and disappointed by us, they can know that God’s love is perfect.

Paul continues talking to the church about the things they watched Paul, and the others with him, go through. Paul lived with the people of the church for a time so they saw how he dealt with struggles, which provided a model for coping with their own struggles. Again, I saw the way this parallels parenthood. We can’t hide our struggles from our kids. Even though they may not know the details, they see how we react to stress. As our kids get older and mature, we should be open with them, because they’ll face “adult” decisions and struggles, and by talking to them about how we’re seeking God’s direction and wisdom processing through decisions, we can equip them to not be surprised by struggles they’ll face as adults.

Chapter 2:4 says Paul and the others were “men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” As parents, it’s empowering and humbling to think that we as a couple are approved by God and entrusted to parent our kids and guide them to Christ. In verses 7,8,11,12, Paul says they loved the church so much they enjoyed sharing their lives together. They were gentle as a mother caring for a young child and dealt with them as a father. They encouraged, comforted, and urged the people to live lives worthy of God who calls them.

Then I came to two different verses that I pray can be true about each of our kids.
“We also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19-20).

Chapter 3 talks about a time when Paul was no longer with the church, but he still cared about their wellbeing and sent Timothy to “strengthen and encourage” them in their faith (vs. 2). This is similar to when our kids are no longer home all the time with us: in sports, school, Sunday school, and youth group. Even though we aren’t the only input in our kids’ lives, we still can influence who impacts them and expose them to other kids with a strong faith, so they can learn from others as well.

Paul expresses such intense feelings for the people he is writing to. “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” (1Thess. 3:9). This is just the kind of thing we would want to say about our adult children. My husband and I went through a class at church that talked about having a “deparenting plan”. A plan as to how we will slowly help our kids become adults so they need less and less of our “parenting” and can rely more and more on their relationship with God to help them make wise decisions. This verse expresses how we will feel to see our kids as growing adults wise and walking with God.

Then I love the last verses in chapter 3 because as a mom, I never want to lose touch with our kids. I never want them to be out of touch with them. Paul had these same feelings for the church when he wrote. “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you” (1 Thess. 3:10-11).

In closing, Paul’s prayer in verse 13 is a prayer I will pray for each one of our kids, “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”

We are far from being perfect parents—we scream and lose our minds and screw up—but reading these verses gave me a vision for how it can be as parents of grown children, as well as prayers to pray for God’s grace and guidance.

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