We just celebrated my seventh child’s birthday. Benjamin was Jacob’s last child, and my Benny is my last, but not the least. Benjamin means, “Son of my right hand.” I am so thankful to the Lord for the blessing that this young man is to me. He truly is the son of my right hand. How often does he ask, “Dad, do you need my help?” Bringing in groceries, putting them away, assisting with copying and stapling papers, always accompanying me in any labor outside the home, working hard and late without complaint – all this not because he has to, but because he wants to. He is a cheerful giver, never wanting to be a burden, always wanting to be a help. He is bright, witty, tender, and full of loyalty and affection for his parents. I cannot imagine life without him.
I remember a conversation I had years ago with a pastor when my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, Josiah. He counselled me that I should consider doing something to make this fourth child our last because to have any more might curtail my ministry. At the same time, another minister told my wife that we should name this fourth child, “Omega” (meaning the end.) Obviously, we did not take the advice offered us, letting instead the Lord plan our family. To our joy, He had three more little ones up His sleeve: Bethany, Nathaniel and Benjamin, which at least according to today’s standards put our family into the category of large.
We live in a day when large is generally a good thing. We supersize our fries, we go for the Super Big Gulps, we preachers love a healthy crowd on Sundays, but when it comes to family size we become quite small minded. I suppose there are many reasons that people have for limiting their family size. Whether it has to do with finances, or the amount of love and attention that can be spread about, the time that couples can have for each other, or for us ministers, the impact and influence we have for God, the basic idea seems to hinge on whether one can afford a large family. The cost might outweigh the benefits.
What it really boils down to is not whether we will have all the resources we need, in ourselves, to provide for a large family, it is whether God will show Himself strong on our behalf and His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.
I have to admit that there are indeed increased costs involved in having a large family. When I go to the supermarket the cashiers ask me if I’m feeding an army. One time when the cashier was gawking and asked me whether I was throwing a party I said, “Well, I do have seven children and a couple of extra relatives in the house as well.” As is usual here in New York, she said, “God bless you. God bless you.” I laughed and said, “Well, compared to the Duggars, I have a small family.” At that, the cashier next to us in an agitated tone suddenly blurted out: “Don’t get me started about those people! It is so wrong for them to have that many kids. How can they possibly love and care for them all?” I replied: “Well, there are some people who are stressed out and screaming at their one child. If God can give the Duggars all they need for twenty, more power to them!” She said nothing in return.
What it really boils down to is not whether we will have all the resources we need, in ourselves, to provide for a large family, it is whether God will show Himself strong on our behalf and His strength will be made perfect in our weakness. One time when things were getting a little crazy in the house with this one fighting with that one and battle fronts breaking out in multiple directions, I bunkered down with the Lord in my prayer closet and got very honest with Him. I said, “Lord, I think You chose the wrong person to give seven children to, because I don’t have the patience for it.” Immediately, I heard that still, small voice answering: “That’s why I’ve given you seven children, to work greater patience in you.” I bowed my head and once again gave thanks to a God who knows what He’s doing better than I do.
Having a large family has put on my shoulders more responsibility, but it has been the vehicle through which God has taught me to depend on Him for every resource my family needs. I have never been forsaken and my children have never had to beg for bread. God has not always supplied our wants, but He has always supplied our needs. We have done without some things, but if having them would have come at the cost of not having my Benjamin or Bethany or Nathaniel, I am so willing to have suffered their loss. As far as ministry is concerned, my children are my first and greatest ministry, and it is through learning how to rule my own home well that I have become more equipped to minister in the house of God. My ministry has not suffered or been diminished by having more children, it has been enlarged and expanded in many ways.
Trusting God to plan one’s family is one of the greatest ways that a believer can be a light that reproves a world that doesn’t believe that God should be entrusted with the control of their lives.
To the question, “Can I afford a large family?” I answer, “I cannot afford to be without anything my God wants me to have.” Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and children are not a burden, they are the greatest of gifts and blessings to us. God uses them to teach us so much. We grow through the experience of knowing and raising each one. We are not impoverished by their presence in our lives, we are wonderfully enriched. But we live in a day when truth has fallen into the street and man believes he knows better than God. While that is the attitude of the world, should it be the attitude of God’s people? Why do we feel we know better than our God where our blessing lies? Why do we reserve the right to “control” this area of our life while wanting to call Him Lord everywhere else? Whether we want to believe it or not: if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
Trusting God to plan one’s family is one of the greatest ways that a believer can be a light that reproves a world that doesn’t believe that God should be entrusted with the control of their lives. People of the world like being in control, that’s why “birth control” is a very good idea to them. They like making their own plans without taking God into consideration, that’s why “family planning” is attractive to them. They are their own people, who have to look to themselves in order to survive in this world. They pride themselves on being self-sufficient. They deem themselves to be prudent and forward thinking, using their common sense to not get into any situations where they will be in want. Everything is about securing for themselves the best life possible and protecting themselves from being too “stretched thin” down the line. Little do they know that this is the very thing God uses so we can depend on Him and discover His provisions. In trying to save their lives, the world loses the life they could have had with God.
The truth is we are far more in control of our lives than we like to believe. We have far less trust in the Lord than we think we have.
Why is the question of family size even on the table for a believer? Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a subtle “conformity,” even among those in church leadership, to the world’s way of thinking in this area. The truth is we are far more in control of our lives than we like to believe. We have far less trust in the Lord than we think we have. Why do we presume to know what will happen if we “don’t do anything,” as though conceiving a child is as simple as turning on a light switch? Some people who want children and have been trying for years can’t. Others who suddenly decide it’s time to have a child, find out that God opens and closes the womb and they can’t snap their fingers and get Him to cooperate when they’re ready. God has ways to teach us that He is God.
The real issue here is this: will we let God be God? If God wants you to have a small family, or if you have no children, so be it. If you have entrusted this area of your life into His hands, then you can rest in the knowledge that He will plan the size of your family according to His purposes. It’s not a matter of everyone doing what works for them, it’s a matter of believing that God knows better than we do. He knows you, your spouse, your situation, what He wants to teach you, how much He wants to “stretch” you, how He wants to bless you and the world around you through the children that come into the world through you, and most of all, how He wants to glorify His name through your life.
Can you afford to let God be in total control? Jesus told us to count the cost. Being a believer means bearing the loss of many things. True disciples indeed go without plenty that the world lives and dies for. But if we are not willing to lose all for His name we are not worthy of Him. And for anything we lose in this world, the Lord has a far, far better treasure for us, not only in this life, but for all eternity.
The real issue here is this: will we let God be God?
Was letting God plan my family worth it for me? Have I been able to afford such a large family? Having Benjamin at my right hand each and every day is just one of the many reasons I can answer those questions with a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, I cannot afford to be without the son of my right hand. I would be an infinitely poorer man.
“There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7)