A Spiritual Battle for Our Children’s Hearts

I did it. Everyone told me not to, but I did it anyway. I blinked. You remember meeting the older lady in the grocery store; you have a new baby, you’re definitely not getting enough sleep, and she tells you how quickly the years go. Don’t blink. You might miss it.

In only a few days, my husband and I will give away our fourth daughter in marriage. It all went so fast, except when it didn’t. It’s so easy to remember the day she was born. Or when she was two-years-old, and we couldn’t wait for that little bundle of joy to wake up and fill our days with joy. But what about those days when she tested every bit of our patience? What about when those days spill into months, maybe even years of sorrow and blatant rebellion? You wish you could blink, and this phase would be over.

As I look back at those difficult and, at times, dark days, weeks, and months, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to us, to her, and how we were propelled to our knees in prayer. No matter what we tried or did, we came to a place of emptiness and desperation, which was exactly where the Lord wanted us to be.

I am a determined, focused woman. I follow checklists. We did family devotions—check. We homeschooled—check. We did Scripture memorization, prayed at bedtime, and attended church and youth group—triple-check. Something I didn’t have on my checklist was daily engaging in spiritual warfare for the hearts of my children.

Faithful parenting engages us in a spiritual battle for our children’s hearts, which must be undergirded by faith-fueled prayer. This is war, and I can’t do it in my own strength, with my own determination, focus, and fancy checklist. But I can listen to Paul in Ephesians 6:10–18. You need to go get your Bible and read this for yourself—I’ll wait for you.

The first thing Paul tells us is to be strengthened! As with any war, we will need strength to engage and endure. He’s not asking us to find inner strength—I already checked that off my checklist. The command is to receive strength, which means finding this strength outside of ourselves—from the Lord and his vast strength (v. 10). This is exactly what we need! The Lord provides the strength to fight our sins, defend ourselves from Satan’s darts, and raise our children according to God’s desires. We can be dependent because he provides everything we need to be faithful parents.

We can find strength in the Lord by putting on HIS armor. Not ours but God’s. I often find myself looking for strength and protection in non-God sources. These are often found in “if I only” statements. “If I only send the girls to the right school. If I have them in the right programs. If I spank. If I don’t spank. If I only always show compassion and restraint.” The list is endless! But when we put our hope in anything other than the Lord, we are looking to something else for protection.

We need God’s armor to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11b–12) because he is our true enemy. If you’re familiar with the Bible, this comes as no surprise. We are introduced to slick Satan in the Garden of Eden. Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). In the heat of parenting, we are tempted to believe lies about ourselves and our precious little blessings from Jesus. “You’re a bad parent; this is all your fault.” “You can’t keep going. Nothing you do matters.” Slick Satan will also tempt you to believe lies about your children—“They’re awful!” “They will never listen.” But the worst lie of all is “There is no hope.” He wants you to lose hope and quit looking to Christ for strength and protection. We need God’s armor and strength to stand against his schemes.

But practically speaking, how do we stand against Satan? We have to take up the full armor of God. I’m sure you’ve been eagerly waiting to know what this means. What IS the full armor of God? It’s a sash, a chest plate, and cute sandals. This ensemble is made complete with a shield and helmet that would make Coco Channel cringe. But remember, this is WAR! And each piece has a purpose. This belt is truth, truth of the gospel. Then we have the armor of righteousness, our feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:14–17).

When Satan tempts you to believe that parenting your rebellious teenager, whiny toddler, or hormonal tween is hopeless and that they will never respond, remember the glorious gospel of grace. The shield of faith will remind you to think rightly. If God can save and change us, he can save and change our children. Repeat that to yourself often; it’s your mantra. Hope in God!

We prepare for the battle against Satan by engaging in wartime activities: reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. Personal devotions are a wartime activity that prepares us for this battle. There is no shortcut to this. You must be in his word. I know, you don’t have time. Honestly, who does? But if I told you that committing to one habit would truly change your life, you would do it! You MUST spend time reading God’s word and praying. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. Start in the New Testament. Start with 10 minutes. Start small and simple. The goal is to know God’s character and the promises in his word. He can be known!

Lastly, we must pray. Actually, this needs to be our constant wartime activity. This is how we are strengthened in the Lord as we draw near to him in our time of need. We are in a battle for the hearts of our children. We pray before we speak in anger—oh, the frustration! We pray before we discipline. We are helpless to parent in our own strength, so we pray at all times. 

As I think about #4 and all the turmoil we all experienced, I look back with awe and amazement. Not in her, although her story IS a miracle. I am in awe of God, his power, and his faithfulness because no matter what happens in our lives, he never changes. Friends, hope in God, find strength in him, put on his armor, and of course, don’t blink.

Reaching Your Childs Heart frontcover

Reaching Your Child’s heart

Raising children can feel overwhelming as you try to navigate the many voices telling you what to do and not to do, but God has already given you everything you need to be faithful parents! In Reaching Your Child’s Heart, Juan and Jeanine Sanchez encourage parents from their gospel-shaped perspective that children don’t need perfect parents—they need a perfect Savior.  

About the author

Jeanine Sanchez

Jeanine Sanchez teaches English and writing to children and teaches the Bible to women. When not in the classroom, Jeanine enjoys reading, hospitality, watching Florida football, and spending time with her adult children and her grandchildren. She is the coauthor of Reaching Your Child’s Heart.

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