Note: This article was originally posted November 21, 2005.
by Pastor David Deets
Most all of us know the lyrics to the well-known nursery rhyme of “Rock a Bye Baby.” However, most of us probably do not know its origin or meaning. It is commonly held that this lullaby actually came from a young pilgrim boy. He had spent much time observing the Native American practice of suspending children from tree branches in cloth and basket cradles. This practice enabled the baby to be rocked while freeing the mother to attend to other matters. While this lullaby is an observation, it also gives us a warning! Be careful what kind of tree branch you hang your child from. As can be seen from this lullaby, there are drastic consequences for hanging your baby from the wrong bough. In modern America today, we have a lot of broken boughs (homes), and we have lots of falling cradles (casualties among children and teens). The problem is that the child does not get to decide which bough he is hung from. He has no choice as to which home he is given to or which parents he has. He simply has to do the best he can with where he is. So the great problem faced by a lot of teens and children today is, “How will I respond to my home situation?”
When we think of “broken homes” today, there are myriads of situations that kids may or may not encounter. Abusive homes (both physically and emotionally) are rampant in America today. Divorced homes are as common as non-divorced homes. Homes today, however, go beyond just the visible and tangible problems. Many things take place in homes that are “good, solid” homes. I can remember one time as a teenager that I was trying to get a job and thought I had found one in the paper. As I was leaving for the interview, my dad said to me something that I have never forgotten. He said, “All that glitters isn’t gold.” At the time, I did the typical teen thing of thinking that my dad did not know what he was talking about. I have now realized that my dad was right on with his observation. We have a lot of teens who are part of “good, solid, faithful church attending” homes who are suffering from the same dysfunctionality as other homes. How does a teenager or a child deal with and handle a situation where there is arguing, fighting, abuse, inconsistency, and the list could go on and on? As with all things, the Bible has the answer to this problem that so many teens are facing today in our Bible-believing churches.
In 1 Samuel 2 and 3, we see an example of a child and young person who was placed into a situation that resembles many homes and situations faced by so many young people today. Most of you would be familiar with the story of Samuel from your days in Sunday school, but let me give you just a little background on this story. Elkanah and his wife, Hannah, greatly desired to have a child. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had sons and daughters, but Hannah had none. The Bible says that Hannah was worried and troubled by this situation. Elkanah especially loved Hannah and the two of them really wanted to have a child. Hannah wanted a child so badly that she made a vow to God. Her vow was that if God would give her a child, she would return the child back to the Lord for a lifetime of service. As the story goes, Hannah eventually became pregnant and gave birth to a little boy named Samuel. Once Samuel was weaned (probably two to three years old), Hannah took him to the temple to offer him for a lifetime of service to God. As a parent, I cannot imagine what this was like to have to give up your young son to the High Priest. The anguish and emotion that was involved must have been incredible.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you are Samuel. Here you have been given up by your family and placed into a “home” that is constantly bustling with people. You have basically been adopted by an old man who has two very wicked sons. Think of what Samuel could have thought. He could have felt bitterness because of his situation. He could have been resentful against his other siblings because they got to grow up in their house with a mom and dad. He could have justified any kind of behavior based upon Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas. He basically could have been as wicked, resentful, bitter, and angry a person as there ever was and probably, in some people’s mind, could have been justified in feeling that way. Samuel had every opportunity to rebel, and he could have had plenty of reason to do so. But that is not the way that Samuel responded to the circumstances that faced him. Instead, we read later on in 1 Samuel that he went on to be a great man of God. He followed God and served God and used his life in profitable service to God. How in the world could he do that, considering the situation he grew up in? The answer is that he couldn’t without the help of God. This is exactly what is true of you as well. You will never be able to survive your home situation apart from the help of God.
This may not seem very comforting to hear. It is one thing to say, “Rely on God’s strength”; it is entirely different to live it. How exactly do we trust in God’s strength, and how exactly do we make it through a home situation that so many in our churches face? The answer is again found in the Bible in the life of Samuel. There are three different aspects to the response we see of Samuel. Samuel survived this situation with the following: trust in the sovereignty of God, service to God, and relationship with God.
The first thing that Samuel had to do was to trust in the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God states that God is in complete and absolute control of all things. Samuel had to come to the realization that God had put him into this position and that God had his best interest in mind. If Samuel could not trust in the sovereignty of God and could not trust that God was in control, there was no way that he was going to believe that God could use him in His service. Samuel had to realize that God was truly working all things according to His perfect will. This is the first thing that a teenager or a child who is in a rough home situation must do—trust God. A young person who does not trust God will never be able to allow God to work His perfect plan in his life. Examples of Joseph and others should flood our minds as we realize that life does not always go the way we think it should, but if we allow God to work all things together, we will soon see that God has our best interest in mind and that all things truly do work together for good.
The second thing that Samuel did that enabled him to survive the situation he was faced with was to stay in faithful service to God. The Bible records in the book of 1 Samuel that Samuel was a faithful follower and servant to God. He remained faithful to God even in the midst of a “trying” situation. Two different times we are told that Samuel remained faithful in service to God. In verse 11 of chapter 2, we see that Samuel ministered faithfully after his parents had left him at the temple with Eli. Also, in verse 18 of chapter 2, we see again that Samuel was a faithful servant of God. Even at a young age, Samuel was faithful to God’s service.
If you are faced with a “difficult” home situation, one of the things that will help you tremendously is to stay faithful in service to God. I know of many teenagers who come from “rough” homes. They have parents who do not encourage them, and some are even abusive in some ways, yet these teens stay faithful to God by being involved. The Bible tells us that God’s grace is sufficient for us. When we allow God to do a wonderful work of grace in our lives, we will be a shining testimony of what God can do. One thing we must realize is that when we are faced with adversity, often times it prepares us for ministry later on in our lives. We see this principle in 2 Corinthians 1:4. This is probably one of the more difficult things to do, but God desires us to stay faithful in our service to Him so He might use us and work through us.
The last thing we see about how Samuel dealt with the situation he was in is found in verse 26 of chapter 2. The Bible says that Samuel grew on and was in favor both with the Lord and also with men. Samuel maintained right relationships with God and others. So often, when people are faced with a difficult home situation, they become “out of control.” They are bitter and enraged and have an attitude that indicates that they really don’t care. They become troublemakers and hostile to any type of structure or authority. This does not have to be the case. In fact, this should not be a response someone has. Samuel stayed faithful to God first and foremost, and he also maintained good relationships with other people as well. If he had not done that, God could not have been able to use him as He wanted to. However, because Samuel had a right relationship with God, stayed faithful in His service, and trusted in God, God was able to make him a great man of God. If you are faced with a difficult home situation, one of the best things that you can do is to maintain right relationships with God and with others. God has put other people into your life to help you and to encourage you. You should thank God for the godly influences that He has put into your lives and remain faithful to God so that He may wonderfully use you in His service.
When we think of the life of Samuel, we think about all of the good that he accomplished for the cause of God. We often do not think about how bad he had it. This is because Samuel took a potentially bad situation and allowed God to work in his life. He trusted in the sovereignty of God, he stayed faithful in service to God, and he maintained right relationships with God and others. What a testimony to the grace of God. Samuel was a great man of God, but had he not responded correctly, the story could have been a lot different for him. How will you respond to the difficulty that you face in your home? Will you become bitter, angry, and resentful, or will you trust in God, stay faithful to Him in service, and maintain a right relationship with Him and others? How we respond tells a lot about what we think of God. The problem is that there are many teenagers and young people who are in “rough” situations. The hope, though, is that they do not have to be a statistic. They can respond, with God’s help, in the right way and trust God and allow Him to use them mightily.
Dave Deets and his wife, Kimberly, are currently on full-time deputation with Baptist World Mission to the country of Italy. Dave spent the last four years as the Assistant Pastor of Grace Baptist Church (Farmington, NM). They left in mid-August to begin deputation.