For many years, Patrick and Ruth Schwenk have faithfully encouraged and equipped parents to pass on faith to their children. Today, they are living with an even greater sense of urgency. Over the past two years they have helped their kids walk through the scariest time in their lives with Patrick’s unimaginable cancer diagnosis. This has only fueled their desire to help parents pass on their faith in order to prepare them for whatever they may face in life. With their newest devotional, Faith Forward Family, Patrick and Ruth help families nourish a faith that lasts a lifetime. It is a grace to welcome Patrick and Ruth to the farm’s front porch today….
January 17th, 2018 transformed our lives.
We had just picked up our oldest son from school, when Patrick’s cell phone rang.
We were waiting for the results of lab work ordered the previous week.
“Would you spell that for me?” I (Patrick) asked. I began scribbling a word I had never heard of and couldn’t spell on the only piece of paper I could find in our car.
Sensing my confusion and wanting to break the awkward silence, the nurse on the other end finally said, “It’s a kind of blood cancer. I’m so sorry.”
The word “cancer” bounced around my head like a pinball, ricocheting off of everything in its path, looking for a place to land. And when it finally came to rest, it exploded.
Deep and dark sadness.
All of it, and more, hit us – leaving its mark.
January 17th, 2018 changed our lives, thrusting us into a world we desperately did not want to live in.
But it was also a turning point for us.
We began to wrestle with how God wanted us to walk through our new normal.
How do we faithfully and humbly trust God in the midst of this?
And with four kids, who at the time were 15, 13, 11, and 9, how do we model an honest faith, one marked by trust, hope, and obedience?
Several days after the diagnosis, we gathered our kids in our family room for the hardest conversation we’ve ever had with them. We hugged them and reminded them of our love for them.
We told them to watch the church – watch how God’s people take care of us through this time. And finally we told them that God is good and faithful – no matter what.
We know everyone suffers in a unique way. And so like us, you know just how disorienting trials can be – not only for us, but also for our kids.
What we need, and what our kids need, is the truth that our current reality is not our final reality.
Because of Jesus, we have hope.
And because of Jesus, we have a future.
In 1888, J.C. Ryle, the English writer, pastor, and father of five, wrote a sermon called “The Duties of Parents.” It was a 17-point sermon on Proverbs 22:6. These were his closing words to his church that day:
“Train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth, and train well for heaven; train them for God, train them for Christ, and train them for eternity. Amen.”
Though this sermon has many great biblical insights, encouragements, and reminders, there is one phrase that has both stuck out, and stuck with us.
It is the phrase, “train them for eternity.” To put it simply, Ryle is reminding Christian parents to teach and train children for what really matters.
As parents, we want to “train for eternity” by parenting with the right perspective.
We want to always keep in front of our kids the truth that God has given us a promise.
And it’s a promise that has the power to sustain us in the midst of life’s deepest disappointments and pain.
It is the promise that we have a future – a promise given to us in the very last book of the Bible.
Everything that is wrong with the world is going to be made right one day.
All the hurt. The brokenness. The pain. It’s going to be fixed when God makes everything new!
This is the picture, the dream, that Jesus gave John. John was one of Jesus’ oldest followers, and he was living on an island called Patmos. He had been sent there as punishment for telling others about Jesus. But there Jesus showed John an amazing picture—a dream. God’s dream for His creation.
He saw Jesus dressed like a Warrior, riding a horse. He saw Satan being defeated once and for all. He saw a big and beautiful city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. And he heard a voice saying:
Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people. . . . They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, Jesus, seated like a King on His throne, said,
“I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Hope and joy exploded in John’s heart. This news, this picture, this hope was so good that all John could say at the very end of the Bible was, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
This is our future. This is the future of God’s creation.
Jesus is going to put an end to pain, suffering, tears, and death.
One day we will finally be home, with God and with one another, forever!
Our kids need to know that no matter how disorienting the present is, we have a future. They need us as parents to pass our faith forward.
They need us to teach them and model for them a faith that trusts God no matter what.
By God’s grace, Patrick’s cancer is now in remission.
Our kids have seen the kindness of Jesus in His healing and offer of hope.
They have heard us talk more now than we ever have about our future.
So in the words of Ryle, let’s train our kids well for this life.
But let’s not forget to also train them for eternity.
Together, let’s not only press on in our faith, let’s pass on our faith.
Patrick Schwenk (D. Min Talbot School of Theology) is a pastor of nearly twenty years and the co-author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House. Ruth Schwenk is the founder of the popular blog, TheBetterMom.com, and along with Patrick, RootlikeFaith.com and FortheFamily.org. She is the trusted author of several books with Harper Collins Christian, including Settle My Soul, Pressing Pause, The Better Mom Book and Devotional and For Better or For Kids.
For many years, Patrick and Ruth have helped parents grow and learn to pass on their faith. But their newest devotional is near and dear to their heart as they have helped their kids walk through the scariest time of their lives putting into practice the very message of Faith Forward.
In Faith Forward Family Devotional, Patrick and Ruth help you pass on your faith with devotions you can do at your own pace as a family. Each devotion features a Bible passage, a teaching that’s applicable for kids of any age, key ideas to learn about God and His character, questions to spark family discussion, and a prayer. Whatever season of parenting you are in, sharing this devotional time together will help your children nourish a faith that lasts a lifetime.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]