Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
The Blessing of Children
Childlessness is a disappointment to the married woman, which grieves and in some measure even brings shame.
Later on, this troubled feeling grows less, when more and more it becomes clear that such is the will of the Lord; and years go on; and no one considers it any longer unnatural to find her without child; and other occupations are sought and found; and God Himself has reconciled her to her childless estate.
But in the first years, first this deferment of hope, and presently the staying away of everything that can prophesy the fulfillment of that hope, is hard.
Many a youthful woman’s heart has suffered bitterly under it. Sometimes after five or more years this bitter grief is taken away. But not always. There are many for whom this sorrow of soul keeps on, and who all their life are bowed down under it.
In that one bitter word of childlessness there is such depth of sorrow.
Almost at once that uneasy feeling regarding the plant on which fruit is sought, but no fruit is found, and what of such a plant has once been said: Why cumbereth it the ground?
Then the void with respect to her own heart and womanly sense. To have a child of one’s own, “flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone,” is a luxury which naturally constitutes the dream of the young married woman.
There the heart went out to. There expectation adapted itself to. What had the impressionable mind not pictured to itself with regard to it. And then the disappointment. Every time again that biding and waiting. And always yet nothing but death within.
A man who marries has no other expectation than that after a year or more a descendant, a continuation of his own family, a child of his own blood, shall be born, a child from her whom he loves, and whose love in that child shall be braided together with his own.
And now month after month passes on, and every time it is evident that such is not the case, and that his hope also is first deferred, and presently dismissed.
And though from love the husband hides this sore grief from his wife, yet she feels, and realizes, that he would be so happy to have it otherwise. And more still than by her own lack she is put to shame by the void in his happiness.
And as a climax of woe there are the others.
Young women, married almost at the same time she was, and who one after the other received the blessing of children from God. And every time it is reported again of one of her friends who had been confined, the old wound smarts anew.
And those other women-friends oftentimes make it yet more painful, by talking about her every time again, and inquire after and of her, whether she is not in expectation.
This is laughed off with a friendly reply. But the wound is opened anew, and the woeful pain of disappointment is suffered afresh.
This sadness of disappointed hope, as it expresses itself with the childlessness of a young married woman, is a witness that has worth.
The voice of nature speaks therein, which is no other than the voice of Him who thus created this womanly nature.
It shows that to receive a child is a blessing of God—one of those richest blessings which He thought out for a woman; something that is hers to make her happiness perfect.
Without child she has not reached her destiny; and only when she may press her infant to her heart and may nurse it with her own mother-milk she feels so deeply that in this respect at least her destiny is reached.
If in this age more and more a demoniac power gains entrance, which seeks to avert the coming of a child by sinful practices, as though children were a curse from which escape is justifiable, that bitter feeling of disappointment with a childless marriage remains in the name of the Lord a protest against this demoniac tendency and a seal to the word of the psalmist that children are an heritage of the Lord.
But this protest also goes out toward another side.
There are many young women who at first were so ardent in their desire after a child, but who, when God increases the number of their little ones, begin to be afraid of what at first is hailed with joy, and with the discovery of new pregnancy are filled with fright and dismay.
There can be a just cause for this.
There can be such a degree of bodily weakness that new pregnancy brings danger with it. Business can be so bad that the increase of her family fills her with concern. It can also be that she does not feel capable to meet the ever-increasing demands, as her already grown-up children need her direction and help.
And much of this can be reverenced.
But there is also a complaint about that “being pregnant again” among women with whom these causes do not exist. With whom it is simply a matter of weariness of the wealth of children. They were bent upon having the joy a child brings. But that want has now been met. And therefore it must end.
For that having children is still something else than a satisfaction of one’s own desire. That there also is a duty in it, a calling on the part of God, such women do not realize.
“Children are an heritage of the Lord,” sings the psalmist, altogether from the fundamental note of revelation, which always presents childlessness as a bitter lot, and numerous little ones as a blessing of the Lord.
Heritage here means that it is God whogives us our children, because He createsthem.
What you obtain by heritage is something that comes to you from someone else; that of yourself you never would have had; in which His work and His power bore fruit; and of which the fruit is now given you.
Even a “portion of inheritance,” not in the sense as though it were an inheritance that lawfully came to you, and to which you could lay some righteous claim; but such an heritage as from an altogether sovereign disposition on the part of the testator is given to whom He wills.
The saying An heritage of the Lord thus implies two things: First, that the child you receive is fruit of the creative power of God, and second, that it is given you fromsovereign free grace.
Yea more still, because it does not say: Children are an heritage of God, but since it reads: Children are an heritage of the LORD, i.e., an heritage that comes to you from Jehovah, the God of the Covenant, this saying at the same time indicates the tie which binds you and your children together and encloses you together in the covenant of grace.
So that “heritage of the Lord” hangs together with the promise of “You and your seed,” and points not merely to the child-joy and child-blessing of this life, but also to the high and glorious calling that a woman on earth may be mother of God’s elect, and from her reins may bear not merely for this world and for the grave, but also for heaven.
Mockery is made of this, indeed, in light-hearted ways, and he who with his many children has difficulty to make ends meet is easily enticed to say recklessly: “A fine kind of a blessing, so many children, when you scarcely have bread for them.” But such words say nothing.
In part such complaints are explainable, because the duty which we have to make good to our children is one of such long duration, one so continuous, and one embracing so much. And not infrequently sickness and adversity and perverseness in the behavior of our children can make the performance of this long-drawn-out duty very burdensome.
But explicable or not, all such sayings are unholy. He who so speaks or complains forsakes his faith and stands at the wrong viewpoint.
You are not in the world to follow your own desire or inclination, but to serve the Lord your God in the work He has given you to do.
What that work is is His, and not yours, to decide, and though He calls you to be nothing more than a drawer of water and hewer of wood, if He calls you to it, you must also in this your divine calling be faithful and happy.
But when this same God calls you to spend your gifts and your powers in the care and training unto eternal life of living beings, of human children, of beings created after His image, of the highest there is on earth, and therefore of beings whom He has elected eternally to glorify His name, then a divine calling is thereby laid upon you which far excels in excellency all other trouble and labor.
Nothing on earth is superior to man. Far above all gold and diamonds a human infant glistens in worth and significance because God created it after His image. And when God the Lord commits to your care not merely one child, but several children, and gives them to you as yourchildren, and thereby builds up your house and generation, who then shall complain, who shall not glory, and feel himself honored of His God?
You receive these children for only a short time.
They are little beings with an eternal destiny. From these your children there shall presently unfold a new generation, and after that a third generation, and so on. And personally, too, these little ones are such wondrous creatures of your God that, while everything passes away, your children are immortal and have an eternity before them.
Of the thousand times thousand years of their existence, they stay with you and thus under your care but for a little while. Sometimes they leave your house before they have fulfilled six times three or less years. And when they stay longer, it is always yet oh so short compared with the eternity that awaits them.
And now they are given to you, in the time of their life in which they are most susceptible and receptive of impressions. The clay is still soft, and easily takes the form which you impress upon it. And for these years they are committed to you, that you should give them a bent toward good, prepare them for the struggle that awaits them in the world, and give them sense and taste for that glorious, that ideal, that spiritual world, which is with God.
Is not this task beautiful? Is not this calling heart uplifting and inspiring? And is it not your heaviness and dullness of spirit that, amidst the multiplicities of life, makes the beauty of this calling to be lost in the weariness of your cares?
Therefore God’s Word is so encouraging and good for you. For when in your faithlessness and infidelity you sometimes complain: “Oh, those children,” it always tells you again in the name of your God: Do not complain, but give thanks, for your children are for you an heritage of the Lord, if you but have the obedience of faith in your children also, to see the costly, sovereign gift of God’s grace.