By Joel Ryan, Crosswalk.com
There are many questions that come with being a new dad. When your child is born, people will often ask how the baby is doing, how the mom is feeling, if you need anything, and things of that nature. But how are you doing? When’s the last time someone asked you or any dad how they’re doing in their role as the family shepherd of their home?
To be fair, most dads would rightly redirect attention back to their recovering wife and newborn. Good men are taught to give of themselves for the good of their families and quietly get the job done, and most men, if they’re anything like me, are good at downplaying their needs and struggles, and that doesn’t change the moment we became fathers.
However, there is nothing easy about being a new dad. No matter how confident or prepared we may be, every stage of our child’s life comes with unannounced challenges that force us to rely on God’s wisdom and strength when ours is spent. Dad needs encouragement and support as much as anyone. Thankfully, God the Father offers both through His Word. With the support and encouragement of fellow dads, new dads will be better equipped to lead their children in righteousness and train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
Here then, are five encouraging reminders for dads with newborns.
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1. You Are a Dad by God’s Design
Despite the differences that exist between dads, there is one thing that all dads have in common. Whether you chose to be a dad or not, regardless of the circumstances of how you got here, you are a dad by God’s design.
Does that mean that every circumstance leading to fatherhood is good or God-honoring? Of course not. God has provided clear standards for sexuality and parenting in the context of marriage that we are called to abide by. And yet, despite our failures, we should never underestimate God’s ability to turn even our biggest mistakes and most broken circumstances around for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).
In the Psalms, the psalmist writes that “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalms 139:13-14)
God also reminded the prophet Jeremiah that, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5)
These verses are often quoted in the context of our children and the hand of God at work in their lives. However, they also apply to God’s plan and design for dads. As God told Jeremiah, “before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Never forget, therefore, that God chose you to be the father of the newborn you now hold in your arms. He entrusted (and appointed) you to be his or her protector, provider, teacher, and spiritual trainer. Being a dad is part of God’s plan for your life and the life of your child; it is also a chapter He is writing in your story, a story He’s been writing since before you were born. You may not feel equipped, ready, or prepared to be a dad, but God has nonetheless designed you for this role. Through His Word, He will equip you and will supply all of your needs for the work ahead (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
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2. God Knows and Loves Your Child More Than You Do
Fear and the feeling of failure come with the territory of being a new dad. We want to get things right, and when we make mistakes, not only do we feel unfit for the task, we are hit with feelings of failure or disappointment.
There are a million “what ifs” and “what abouts” that can easily discourage dads at every stage of their child’s life. Thankfully, in His grace, Jesus anticipated our fears and worries, telling His disciples not to worry about tomorrow or what we will eat or wear, “for each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). The same can be true of the concerns we have regarding our children.
Whether it’s their safety, their education, their provision, or their future, Jesus reminded us that God our Father cares for our children too (Matthew 6:25-34). He knows the plans He has for then because He was the one who made them, and we can trust that those plans are good (Jeremiah 29:11).
Even our most legitimate worries can turn into crippling fears when we put the focus on the world around us or our strengths rather than God’s. Thankfully, being a dad regularly pushes us beyond our limits, reminding us that when we are weakest, God is strongest (2 Corinthians 9:9-10)
Every stage of being dad comes with challenges, but the antidote to fear and worry is trusting that our children were God’s kids before they were ours. Even still, God loves our children far more than we ever could. Only by trusting in His love and plan for our children will we ever find peace.
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3. Responsibility Is Not to Be Feared or Avoided
It’s no secret that recent data trends declining birthrates in many parts of the as more and more young adults have put off or even abandoned getting married and having children altogether. There are many reasons for this, but as a society, we’ve gone from seeing children as a blessing from God (Psalms 127:3-5) to one where many people now view children as an inconvenience or threat to their personal happiness or goals in life.
Today, responsibility of any kind is something most people are taught to avoid. If it’s uncomfortable, get rid of it. If we can’t have it our way and have it right away, it’s not worth pursuing. If something gets in the way of our happiness, we are told to focus on ourselves and look out for number one.
Contrary to the wisdom of Scripture, which teaches us to act in humility and look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4), we’ve instead become a pride-filled generation of self-loving narcissists allergic to any form of inconvenience, delayed gratification, or responsibility.
However, responsibility as a father is not something to be feared or avoided. Rather, we must return to seeing responsibility as God’s way of strengthening and sanctifying us as men (2 Kings 2:2; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
It will take time out of your day, sleep out of your night, money out of your wallet, and energy out of your goals to raise a child. As a dad, you will be required to sacrifice and give of yourself for the good of your family. However, where the world sees responsibility as an obstacle to personal happiness, you must learn to see your responsibility as a father as a pathway to finding true meaning and purpose in life.
In a time when countless men are lost, hopeless, and without purpose, embracing the responsibilities of fatherhood is something dads can celebrate.
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4. Your Priorities and Interests May Change and That’s Okay
No dad is ever truly prepared for all that comes with being a dad; however, one of the common changes that occur in many new dads is that they slowly begin to lose interest in things they once enjoyed. I know this was true for me early on, so much so that I started to wonder if this was a sign of some sort of depression creeping into my life. It took time for me to realize that I wasn’t depressed. What had changed were my priorities, and with this shift came a change in my interests and desires. From the men I surrounded myself with, to the things I purchased, the music I listened to, the movies I watched, and the way I managed my time, everything became secondary to the needs of my growing family.
As a new dad, I had lost interest in former things because I was no longer the same man. My role had changed, and so had I. In the same way my interests changed when I got married, being a dad shifted my priorities once again. It was an exchange God was using to grow and mature me as a man (1 Corinthians 13:11). These changes weren’t something I had to regret or be afraid of. Instead, I can now rejoice that God, in His love for me, cares enough to cause my interests to change and to shift my priorities and desires to align more with His plan for my life and the life of my child.
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5. Newborn Hardships Are Often Seasonal and Temporary
Beyond sleep deprivation and the obvious fatigue of having a newborn, being a dad often comes with other hardships, few dads are ever prepared for or warned about. For example, as a sleep-deprived, stressed-out new dad, who didn’t want to leave his wife and newborn for too long, I took meals where he could get them and rarely found time to exercise, get out, or go to the gym. The result? My body suffered the obvious consequences, which included a fair amount of weight gain.
Yes, these changes were temporary, but they could become more permanent unless I made a more conscious effort to eat better, manage my stress, and partner with my wife to ensure we got better sleep and exercise. Thankfully, once we worked together to prioritize our physical health, we both became much healthier and even more energized to take care of our children.
Furthermore, having other men in my life, especially other dads, to hold me accountable and offer encouragement became essential. It’s not always easy to make time for outside friendships, but fighting isolation and maintaining fellowship with godly men, especially other dads who’ve been there, are there, and who are fighting the same battles as you are, can be life-preserving and sanity-saving.
Of course, another change that comes with parenting that few men are ever really prepared for involves the lack of physical intimacy following the birth of our children. For obvious reasons, most new moms have very little interest (or even ability) to be physically intimate with their husbands during their recovery and often beyond. And yet, despite the challenges and frustrations of temporary marital abstinence, God calls upon new dads to again “give up themselves” by shifting their focus from their physical desires to the needs of their newborn and wife.
Very few times in a marriage will a man have an opportunity to serve his wife like the weeks and months after she gives birth. Furthermore, in the absence of physical intimacy, many new dads will grow in their love for their wives by learning to serve and care for them in different ways when sex is off the table. Here, a season of abstinence becomes another way God challenges and sanctifies new dads.
Everything with children comes in seasons, and when it comes to the struggles and hardships you are facing right now, they will likely pass and give birth to new ones tomorrow Learn, therefore, to rely on the daily strength, patience, and peace of the Father. If you haven’t figured it out already, you have limits. God, however, does not. So my encouragement to you, new dad, is to enjoy the moments you have with your newborn right now. They may be difficult and uncertain, but our Father, in His love for you, chose you to be a dad to bless you, strengthen you, and introduce you to an aspect of His love as a Father that you can now appreciate more fully as you delight in your love for your child.