We face a regular diet of school fees (even though our children have gone to public school), clothing and food bills, summer camp and church retreat costs, and on and on. Like most people on a budget, we look out for sales and coupons, visit Goodwill and other resale shops when we can, and rely on hand-me-downs whenever possible. Raising kids is a cause for fervent prayer — especially with the cost of our daily bread going up all the time.

In fact, despite the challenges, Christine and I look on our decision to start a family at all as an act of faith, as an expression of confidence in the future. We had wanted to begin earlier than we did, but the finances never seemed to add up. At some point, however, we decided to trust God not only to provide us with children, but to provide what we need to raise them. And despite this lousy economy and a string of expensive (but not serious) health issues in our family, the Lord has amply provided. By his grace we are sending our oldest off to an excellent private college in a couple of weeks — a year early and sans loans. Who says miracles can’t happen?

Though it might seem fun for childfree aficionados to extend the freedom and flexibility of childhood well into old age, something precious is lost: It’s called adulthood. And what does it say about a culture when the most basic and natural desire that people have always had — to reproduce — is shunted aside as an exotic and impractical “choice”? And what does it say about a nation’s demographic future?

Yet I don’t want those who have decided against kids to have them out of a sense of duty or guilt. They have decided that life is, in the final analysis, about them; about what they can get, not what they can give; about today, not tomorrow. That’s fine; such people should not have children. In fact, please don’t!

Children, you see, are every bit as difficult to have and to raise as the most ardent childfree folks fear. Kids require everything you have — time, money, and emotional and physical energy. They probably won’t say “thank you” (at least ‘til later in life). They’ll cause you to take multiple trips to the emergency room. They’ll argue with you for hours on end (if you let them). They’ll spend your money like it’s going out of style. They’ll repay your best efforts with a shrug. They’ll prefer “friends” who don’t have their best interests at heart to you. They’ll steal your privacy. They’ll even tell you how bad a parent you are and confidently assert how they won’t make the same mistakes. If you don’t want to be inconvenienced, why would you ever have children?

I’ll tell you why — because life isn’t about convenience. It’s not about fun, or career, or money, either. Raising children, you see, isn’t about you, and it isn’t even about them. It’s about Him — our heavenly Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:15). We have children because we are made in His image, in the likeness of him who told us to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). We create because we are like our Creator. Among other good things, it is what we normally are called to do in this world, barring a special calling from God.

Although children are a profound inconvenience — how could anything so precious not be? — they are also a profound glory, an incredible joy. The same children who have so stressed and frustrated me by their ingratitude and constant bickering have also, by God’s grace, begun growing into young adults who, day by day, are becoming beautiful reflections of our heavenly Father. They cause me to cry, but also to laugh; they drive me to my knees in prayer, but they also encourage me spiritually; they take time from my friends, but they also are becoming my friends; though they have at times broken my heart, they have also filled it with love, joy, and mirth. While exposing my sinfulness, they have caused me to draw closer to Christ.

No, there are no guarantees of success or happiness when raising children, and many people live good and fulfilling lives without them. But excluding kids as mere inconveniences betrays a poverty of imagination and faith, one we all can be glad that our own parents didn’t share.

The childfree folks are seeking to “have it all” because a culture increasingly hostile to children tells them that life is all about self. But they fail to see that real life is found in living for others. As Jesus said in another context, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33). While raising kids can be exhausting, frustrating, and inconvenient, it teaches this lesson better than anything else I know.

“Having it all,” after all, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Stan Guthrie is author of the new book A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know. Stan blogs at http://stanguthrie.com.

Publication date: August 15, 2013