“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” (Ps 127:1)
Whilst this Bible verse clearly speaks to building and estate management, there are at least two good reasons for relating it to family building as well. Firstly, Psalm 127 was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew words for “builders” and “children” are very similar, differing in only one vowel (bonim and banim respectively).
Secondly, and one does not need to know Hebrew to appreciate this, verses 3 and 4 explicitly describe children as being the Lord’s blessing for parents. Psalm 127 has only four verses, and if two of the four verses speak about children, and the first verse rhymes with the word for “children”, it makes sense to apply the opening theological principle of the Psalm to the area of children. And what is that opening theological principle?
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”
This principle speaks to couples who are anxiously and actively “working” to have children and build a family. It is a worthy and godly goal, but Psalm 127 advises such couples to relax and be less anxious. Pray for children, and try to have children, but trust in the timing and will of the Lord.
The principle speaks also to those already blessed with children. The blessing comes with accompanying burdens. As I write, many parents are stressed for their young ones sitting for their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). By the time you read this November issue of Methodist Message, parents will be feeling the stress and anxiety as their older children sit for their O- and A-Level exams. We worry when our newborn babies eat too much, or too little; sleep too much, or too little. The anxiety caused when our children are teenagers, or go through National Service, or fall ill, or cannot find work, or find work too oppressive, et cetera. Parenting brings one worry after another.
How can we cope? What can we do? We can, and should, do whatever we can. We pray, and we give thanks for the gift of children. And we trust in the loving will of God. For “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”
The Rev Dr Gordon Wong was re-elected President of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) in 2016 for a second quadrennial term, but is primarily grateful to God for the gift of his wife Lai Foon and two children Deborah and Jeremy.
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