Parenting isn't for cowards. That sentence was used in a book title years ago and there's much truth in it. Yet, as challenging as parenting may be, the blessings of God through being allowed to parent His image-bearers are innumerable.
As a pastor I hear many stories from friends and church members related to heartbreak and pain connected to the sins of their children. My wife and I are not immune to these feelings either, so I must say I was pleasantly and uncomfortably jarred this morning while reading a book on biblical parenting.
The book is The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family by Martha Peace and Stuart Scott. For a good review of the book by The Gospel Coalition, click here.
Knowing the truth and doing what God desires are not always the same thing. After years of struggling with personal angst regarding some family issues with a child, Peace and Scott's writing revealed something I have been holding within. Through the words of Ephesians 4:31-32, God revealed that I had allowed bitterness to solidify within my heart.
The section I was reading is titled "When Things Don't Go As Planned" and is focused on Christian parents who raise rebellious, unsaved, unrepentant children and wonder "How did this happen?" I share Peace and Scott's words on this here (from pages 180-181):
Instead of being angry and bitter, we are to trust and be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. We are to go the extra mile (Matt. 5:41), return good for evil (Rom. 12:21), and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). If we do not obey these commands we may find ourselves doing ridiculous things such as sharing the gospel in anger or using anger to try to change the heart.
For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. (James 1:20)
Bitterness can be hard to see in ourselves because we're so busy rehearsing why we didn't deserve what has happened to us. Ask yourself these questions to help evaluate whether you're bitter.
- Am I withdrawing my love and commitment to my child or God?
- Am I shocked and appalled that my child would sin against me?
- Do I wonder how God could do/allow this to happen to me?
- Am I not willing (or finding it very difficult) to do good to my child or for God?
- Do I feel I deserve to be treated better by God?
- Do I find myself avoiding my child?
- Do I secretly delight in his misfortune?
- Do I see his sin as the "log" and mine as the "speck" before God?
Repent of any bitterness that you have! Make glorifying God your focus instead of dwelling on how you're being treated.
Bitterness is a deadly thing. It's like a cancer that seeps in unknown, but infects all areas - especially attitude. Is this just about me? No. I know many parents who have faced the very same feelings. Somewhere in the midst of "log" and "speck" analysis, anger, hurt, frustration, and pain become all that is known.
And the Enemy wins a small battle.
Nowhere in this section is sin minimized - the sin of the child (speck or log) or the sin of the parent (speck or log), but the strategy of the Enemy is clear. Bitterness leads to sin and ineffective Christian living. Sin hurts. It always does.
Our Perfect Father knows how this feels. Read Isaiah 1:2-4 for details.
Peace and Scott remind us...
He knows what it is like to be rejected by those whom he has loved and cared for. He knows what it is like to see a loved one headed for disaster. He knows what it is to long for his children to return to their senses (Matt. 23:37). He knows what it is to have anguish over his own, although they may cause it. Rest assured, God the Father is able to sympathize with you and knows how to work with the wayward.
Trust him. Remember, grace is enough.