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Editor’s Note: I asked Diana Juergens, author of Wife of a Soldier, A Journey of Faith, to share with me her thoughts on parenting during deployment. Rich and Diana are the parents of eight daughters and had completed their sixth (or was it seventh?) deployment. This devotion has been so popular that we are delighted to re-post it.
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” —John 7:38
Parenting well during a deployment begins with our faith—which begins with belief in the truth of Scripture. Being “plugged in” to our source of faith, the Lord Jesus, allows us to be full of “living water” (the Holy Spirit) which will then flow through us to our children. To put it another way—as Jesus tells us in John 15:5—we are to “abide in the vine.” “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” God is making it very clear when He describes Himself as the vine and His people as the branches that the branches must abide (remain in, stay) in the vine to bear fruit. Without the vine, the branch is nothing. Both of these verses quoted point to the most important source for parenting—Jesus Christ. He is the provider of our strength, joy, wisdom, and discernment (the fruit of abiding) to care for and train up our children while our husbands are gone.
Our family just experienced a 15 month separation. As I look back, I can point to seven truths to share about parenting during deployment:
1. Your relationship with God must be a priority.
I made my time with God the first thing I did every morning. Even if I went to bed late, I chose to rise before my children in order to have time with God. I knew that extra hour of sleep would not make up for the kind of strength I would need as a geographical single parent.
2. Remember that you are setting an example for your children.
I was humbled when my oldest daughter told me, “Watching you respond through difficult times, knowing your heart was hurting, has demonstrated to me that your source of peace is God. By your example, I know Him to be my only source, too.” Sometimes I think that our children learn more by watching than they do by listening! Here are some questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you reading your Bible and praying? Are you being their example of faith to draw near to God (James 4:8), to allow God to be your refuge (Psalm 141:8), and to allow Him to be your source of joy (Habakkuk 3:18) in spite of your circumstances? Your Godly example will impact their journey of faith and their everyday life.
3. Make sure that you teach your children about the sovereignty of God.
The verse I read with my children is Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Knowing that God has chosen this time apart can give you the assurance that it is what is absolutely best for your lives. God loves us, and His Word confirms that He is good (Nahum 1:7). He uses all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This deployment separation is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children how to trust God by embracing the new work which he wants to do in and through your family.
As parents, we are to be shepherding our children according to God’s heart and with His knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). The children and I begin the day in prayer and devotional time together—the keys to parenting during a long separation include daily prayer and time in God’s Word as a family. And during our times separated as a family, due to the calling placed on our soldier, we have learned to run to God when our hearts are hurting, afraid and overwhelmed. We stop what we are doing and let the tears fall as we cry out to God for His comfort and peace. He has intervened every time and provided exactly what we have needed. God has used these painful times to draw us each closer to Him. Each deployment has provided the circumstances that have taught our family life lessons of faith. We also use our devotional time as an opportunity to pray for the safety of our soldier and his unit, our nation’s president and those in leadership, and for the people within the nation to which my husband is deployed.
5. Discuss God’s purpose for this deployment.
We must encourage our children with examples from God’s Word, to believe that God knows exactly what He is doing. His goal is to always use our circumstances to increase our faith and trust in Him, while using us to touch other’s lives with His love. Memorizing Deuteronomy 32:4a (“He is the Rock, His work is perfect.”) will help you stay focused on the call placed on your lives, to be separated as a family for such a time as this (Esther 4:14b). You can make this even more real by locating the country to which your husband is deployed in an atlas and learning all you can about it and its people. Find an organization, like Voice of the Martyrs that will help you send care packages to the hurting people within that nation. You can also give your children a vision for the time apart by teaching them to serve others who are experiencing deployment and need help. Look for ways to use the gifts and talents within your family to reach out and be a blessing to others. There is no room for a sorrowful heart when you are serving and encouraging others. Many years ago my wise husband designated Matthew 5:16 as our family verse, and we seek to let our “light shine” to the glory of God.
6. Journal what God is doing in your family’s life.
Our family (including my husband while he is away) keeps a record of all God is doing in us and through us by journaling. An inspiration for this was Jeremiah 30:2. It has been a wonderful encouragement to our family as we read our entries and reread ones already written. Each entry is a new testimony of God’s plan and faithfulness.
7. Actually this one should be first—prepare your hearts in prayer before the deployment.
There is much to do to prepare for deployment, but don’t forget to pray that God will prepare your hearts, as a family, for what He will do while you are separated. Begin to pray for new opportunities to arise which will allow your family light to shine, to bring glory to God. Remember, He who has called you to this time apart is faithful. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Questions to Share:
1. How can you implement the seven points above with your family during deployment?
2. Pray for God’s guidance to teach, lead, and love your children with grace and compassion—and wisdom—during this time of separation.