Dependence in Child Rearing
Very often we as parents find the example of Eli more 'real-to-life' than some of the directives of Solomon. I examine my own labours as a parent, and see … so many shortcomings. I observe others, speak with others, and know that they conclude the same for themselves. The directives of Solomon: that's the ideal, the norm. But the harsh reality is exposed by the example of Eli … If, then, the Lord would deal with me according to the example I provide, I should expect my children to become like Hophni and Phinehas.
Lest we despair in the face of our task as parents of God's covenant children, I use this editorial to encourage a sense of dependence on the Lord.
The reality as we find it in our midst is that not all children, though brought up in the way of the Lord, actually make profession of the faith and stay faithful to the Lord. In the one family there's none who turns his back to the Lord and His service, but in another there's one, two, three or even more. That leaves great pain with the parents, and a sense of failure in their task of parenting.
I need to emphasize first of all that disobedience in a child must definitely prompt parents to self-examination, to acknowledgement of failure and sin, to seek the Lord's forgiveness with a broken and humble heart. On the basis of a text from God's Word as Proverbs 22:6, and its supporting Scriptural evidence, one cannot get around that conclusion.
Yet even as I say this, I hasten to add that there is not one of us who can stand proud before God or man on account of the way we have raised God's covenant children. Every last one of us has failed, failed so very miserably in being for God's covenant children the parents God wants us to be. That in itself means that we are not to get ourselves hung up on the question of why young people leave the church; we're instead to marvel that young people remain! For the parents to whom God has entrusted His child are sinful, inclined to every evil. And the child is sinful too. That mix – sinful parents and sinful children – is a deadly brew! Shall we honestly expect sinful parents to bring up sinful children to be Godly adults?! If God does not show mercy, if He does not bless, if He does not graciously forgive the sins of the parents and twist our crooked sticks so that they strike a straight stroke, our children shall never learn to know the riches God has given to them in His covenant of grace.
The point is, then, that we are desperately dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ! Our sins stand in the way of God's blessing on our children. Those sins, then, need to be confessed, forgiven. Those sins: that includes our broken labours as parents. More: it includes our entire manner of service to God. Humility, acknowledgement of sin, confession of dependence on God: that's the attitude God wants on the part of His people, parents first of all! With empty hands before the throne of God's grace: that's where we belong. With empty hands pleading on God's promises, also His promises about our children: that's what God promises to bless. Clinging to God's promises, trusting His Word with unhypocritical faith, laying those promises before our children in the midst of our ugly sinfulness: that's what the Lord promises to bless into coming generations too. For yes, His promises do stand fixed: He blesses, blesses the children also.
No, not that God necessarily blesses straightaway. Not for nothing has the Lord moved Solomon to speak in Proverbs 22 of "when he is old.” That in turn means that we parents need to be patient. And meanwhile: keep trusting God's promises, and therefore keep praying in the face of the disappointments we have in our children. Keep trusting, keep praying, and do not give up. As James' writes:
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.James 5:16
There is much I do not understand. I have my questions about how it was possible for Cain to harden himself in sin. I have my questions about Esau, and I wonder what I am to think about the effects of God's predestination in Isaac's family. And I know too that parents' hearts cry out for their children who have gone to the world, and I cry with you. I have so many questions … But this I read in Scripture:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.Deuteronomy 29:29
There are so many things here I need to leave with my faithful God. It is for me to believe His Word, and to keep on working with His unchanging promises.