No greater joy…

by Mrs. Steve Castleberry

III John 4 says,

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

I am an older mom of eight children – the oldest is thirty and the youngest is eleven –  and I can testify to the accuracy of that verse.  As a young mom, there is so much joy surrounding you every day.  There is the deep and new joy when you hold your precious gift from God in your arms for the very first time; later, when that baby looks into your eyes adoringly and smiles; and still later when it learns to say “Mama” and reaches out chubby little hands toward you.  And those things are just a few of the untold joys that each day of being a mother of little ones holds, as many of you know.

There is tremendous joy when your child decides to follow Jesus and give his life to Him.  As you see them grow spiritually, you will have joy.  But the greatest and most lasting joy is when you see your adult children walk in truth.  It is true joy to know that they are continuing to live for Him, even after they have become adults, through every circumstance and trial of life.

I am writing to those of you who are enjoying the joys of young motherhood, and yet are wondering if you will enjoy the years to come.  Wondering if you will truly see your children walk in truth once they are grown.

What should we as mothers do to raise our children so that they will walk in truth as adults?  First, we have to remember that only Jesus can save them.  We are His instruments, to be used for His purpose in their lives, turning our children’s hearts to Him, teaching and training and praying and correcting – but we are not their Saviour. We must trust in Him, and point them to Him.  As our children grow older, they stop looking at us with adoring eyes.  They see our failings and our sins, and they find that we aren’t really worthy of adoration.  But there is One Who is Worthy, One Who never sins, One Who never fails, and Jesus Christ is His Name.

our children (graphic by Chantel Brankshire)

We need to point our children to their worthy Saviour in many ways throughout the years we are blessed to have them with us.  Pray for your children as the Word of God tells us, “continuing instant in prayer.” As you rock your baby, and you see a sweet smile on his face, pray that he might bring a smile to the face of Jesus by his obedient life.  When your baby cries for you and reaches out his little arms to you, pick him up, cuddle him close, and pray that he might someday desire the Saviour even more than he desires you now.  As you help your toddler on with his shoes, pray that the Lord will always guide his footsteps in the narrow way.  Throughout your children’s lives, let everyday circumstances and occurrences cause you to pray for them, as well as praying for immediate needs and concerns.  Know the Word of God, and try to spend time in it each day, even if the time is short.  Ask the Lord to remind you of verses, and then turn those verses into prayers for your children as the Holy Spirit prompts you.

Demonstrate the love of Christ to your child, and do it consistently.  This encompasses so much that at times it may seem overwhelming to you, especially when the task is multiplied by a number of children.  But God never asks us to do more than we can do, and He has promised Himself to be our strength.   He gives us His Holy Spirit to empower us to do each task that He gives us.  Demonstrating the love of Christ includes meeting your children’s physical needs: feeding them when they are hungry, keeping them warm and clothed, making sure they have plenty of sleep – even those very basic things can demonstrate Christ’s love.  But how much more a Christian mother can do to demonstrate the love of Christ!

Comforting your child when he is hurt, frightened, sick, or lonely can teach him in a real and tangible way many of God’s truths.  “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” can be really lived out before your child.  Think of Isaiah’s prophecy, “…the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…”  You can bind up the brokenhearted by taking your child in your arms and comforting him, no matter what his age or what the hurt may be.  Take a three-year-old in your arms now, and when she is twenty-something, she will seek your comfort and counsel when her heart is truly broken.

Make sure you always have time for your child when he truly needs you, never pushing him away or putting off meeting his needs because there are things you would rather do.  That means that many things will have to drop out of your life while your children are at home, especially as you are blessed with more children.  Demonstrate “he who comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.”  We aren’t Jesus, and those verses belong first to His relationship to us, but we have been placed by the Lord Jesus in a position to show our children in human form what it means to belong to Him.  You are the human the Lord is using most in your child’s life today to represent Him.  That is a privilege, and it is also a responsibility.

And here I am going to take a moment to get “on my soapbox.”  Moms, there is no meeting at church, no outing with friends, no telephone call to your sister that is worth putting your wants ahead of your child’s needs.  I have known Christian moms who will dose up a sick child with Tylenol to take them along to whatever activity the mom or other children don’t want to miss.  A sick child needs his bed, a blanket, a rocker and your arms, sleep, warmth, rest, quiet.  He does not need noise, commotion, a carseat, and impatience with the fact that he doesn’t feel good.  You are the grown-up.  You are the one setting the example of Christ, who laid down His life for us.  Lay down your life for your children, in whatever ways the Lord asks you to do so.  And there will be many, many ways over the years that you are asked to do so.  “He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.”  How can we think that we would be able to do anything “big” for our Saviour if we are not willing to stay home with a sick child?

Teach your child the things of Christ. Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs us,

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Many of us have that verse memorized, either by purpose or by simply hearing it so many times. But we must do more than recite it, we must live it. Talk with your children, read the Word of God to them, use Scripture in explaining the reasons for how we are to live. And pray with them. We can solve so many of life’s issues by praying together first. If you truly love the Lord yourself, and you are wholeheartedly trying to follow Him in all of life, your children will know it. You can’t fool them. You will fail sometimes, but they will still know you are His if you daily live for Him in sincerity

Forgiveness. What a beautiful way to demonstrate God’s love to our children. The truth that a broken and contrite heart He will not despise, is waiting for you to teach your child when he is disobedient or disrespectful. Point the way to the broken and contrite heart, and then forgive fully. Demonstrate daily “be ye kind, one to another, forgiving one another, just as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Forgiveness can never begin with us, because we are fallen and sinful creatures. It must begin and end with Christ’s atoning blood. Your children will sin against you, and you will sin against them. We are together at the foot of the cross, needing forgiveness from the Lord and from each other, and you must lead the way. My children have heard me say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” many more times than I wish they had to hear it. But it will need to be said, whether you want to admit it or not. They will know you need to say it, and if you refuse to ask their forgiveness out of pride, how will they have the strength to admit their own sin?

God's love...

As mothers, we also have the duty to chastise, to correct, to rebuke.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 2:15)

God has put us in our homes, in a place in our children’s lives where we continually see and hear and know so much about them. My mother, who is eighty-eight and has not lived with me for thirty-two years, still knows me so well! Parents know their children. We know what that tone of voice, that toss of the head, that slight hesitation in answer, most likely means. And we are to follow God’s commands to bring our children into subjection and teach them what is right. So many times you will weary of it, you will wish to ignore it, because it is work and it is not fun.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

You will not regret that you addressed that issue, instead of hoping it would go away. You will not regret the years you pour into your children — and it is a continuous pouring out. There is a day coming when they will rise up and call you blessed if you are faithful. That day may be quite awhile in coming. But God is faithful and His Word is true, and if you are faithful to what He has called you to do, that day will come. Praise the Lord, I can testify to that!

And last, have you seen that billboard with a picture of Winston Churchill on it? Below his picture is a quote from him: “Never, never, never, never, never give up.” Although that quote came from the time of World War II, it is also for you and every other parent. Never give up. No matter what. You know, there are times when I have thought to myself, “Oh, if only I could have been the perfect mother! If only I weren’t so sinful myself. If only I hadn’t made mistakes. Then my children would have been perfect.” Never let yourself fall into that trap. That thought is not from the Lord. Reality check: Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

There are no perfect parents. None. There are no perfect children. Many times I have met some mom that I thought was perfect, only to find over time that she, too, had feet of clay. Every last one of them. Every parent, every child, is much less than perfect. That is why we need a Saviour. Pride has no place in us when we continually remember just how much we and our children need Jesus the Saviour. Your children will remind you many times over the years, in many ways, that you are less than perfect. Let that knowledge pull you to the foot of the cross, taking your children with you. And never, never, never give up.

Susie Castleberry, the mother of eight, raises kids and cows on a Wisconsin farm. 


  1. I am so thankful that my parents brought us up in the knowledge of Christ. I am so thankful they taught us, disciplined us, corrected us and encouraged us to seek God in our lives.
    No, my parents aren’t perfect but they are perfect for me because they are mine and I am theirs 🙂
    I am thankful for forgiveness and how it goes both ways. I have had to ask for forgiveness from my parents but also had to extend it to them.

    “Parents know their children. We know what that tone of voice, that toss of the head, that slight hesitation in answer, most likely means.”

    That is very true!

    Thank you for your advice; it’s a blessing!

  2. Yes, well said Natasha! I am following your family blog, Mrs.Castleberry. I haven’t gotten to reading all your posts, but the ones I’ve read so far were great!

  3. Beautiful advice. Thank you, Mrs. Castleberry! Even for those of us without children, these are timeless truths than can be applied to our interactions with all those around us.

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