Children of Christian Parents - When they DO depart
When they DO depart
What parent has not looked for comfort and encouragement in Proverbs 22:6? “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” But this verse also generates a lot of anxiety in a parentʼs heart, especially among us who are older. A recent one-liner from the father of a young man whom I was counseling illustrates what I mean. “Hope you can make up for all my bad parenting!”
The enemy, even though defeated by Christ, often insinuates that bad parenting is behind every poor choice adult kids make. And just as he used Scripture to tempt the Savior he'll use texts like this one to put us on a guilt trip
Unalterable promise or general principle
Take a closer look at Proverbs 22:6. We often project into Godʼs Word our own desires; then blame the Almighty for not doing as He says. Just two verses earlier youʼll find, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” (vs.4) Does this teach that all who are humble and who fear the Lord will prosper financially? Do we not know very humble and sincere disciples of Jesus who live in poverty? On the other hand, there are folk with little heart for things godly who have riches and honor and life?
It is helpful to remember that a proverb is a general principle, not a formula that guarantees a particular result. When all is said and done, he who follows the Lord is better off than he who doesnʼt. That “all” is the significant word here. It includes all that God knows, all events and circumstances both past and future, all the passage of time. Obviously, we are not privy to all that is in “all.” That in itself is humbling.
Back to Proverbs 22:6. Since its a general principle, not a promise, is there no encouragement in it for the worried parent? On the contrary. Properly applied, it fills us with hope and drives us to the cross. Every disciple of Jesus has lived and spoken good stuff in front of his kids. Of course, we have all failed in many ways also, and some do better than others. But whatever of the gospel truth has been communicated sticks in the soul of the growing child. He canʼt shake it. Heʼs been imprinted with the gospel. Either he will, by Godʼs grace, respond to the truth so early learned or he will suffer the consequences of ignoring the same truth. But he cannot get away from it.
I hear some cry "brain washing!" No, I speak of a phenomena analogous to picking up good manners and proper English from our parents. I grew up in South America and never had an English class until High School. My folks spoke flawless English, so despite growing up in a foreign culture, I speak English gooder than most of yous! (Oh well, occasionally I slip up!)
Remember that we are not privy to all that God is doing. Among those things hidden in the Almightyʼs secret counsel is the workings of his Spirit on the human soul. Yes, we see certain outward signs but not nearly all that is transpiring. Of one thing, Iʼm certain. While God visits the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation...he shows steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love him. (Exodus 20:5,6) In other words, God is more inclined to extend his mercy than to pour out his wrath. So weʼre driven to our knees to praise his sovereign grace and to implore his love upon our kids. We'd be in good company. One of the practices that marked Job out as an honorable and godly man was his intercession for his kids.
What to do
1.Of course, if your children are young and still under your roof, do everything you can to model and to speak the gospel to them. They are watching, especially in how its playing out between you and your spouse. Get them to Sunday School and youth group. Yes, they will learn Godʼs Word, but more importantly, they will develop friendships with peers and adults that will help them grasp the gospel. For that to happen, youʼll want them to be there regularly, not just when its convenient.
2.What exactly do we model before our kids? Perfection? No way. Many parents are satisfied with doing the best they can and expect God to do his part. But that carries a subtle implication: that if I do the best I can, God will make my kids turn out OK. Whereʼs the gospel in that? No, we model the gospel by applying it to our sins and failures. That child knows the gospel who sees his mom and dad humble themselves, confessing their sins and gratefully receiving forgiveness from God, and from each other."
3.What now to do? Pray! Accept! Enjoy! Trust! Pray that God will draw your childʼs heart to himself. Accept that God may have some tough times ahead for both you and your child. Heʼll do whatever it takes. Such is his persistent love. Enjoy your child for all heʼs worth. Whatever you do, donʼt badger him to conform to your expectations. God is bigger than your most noble desires. Trust the outcome to God whose ways are perfect and loving.
When they do depart. I know it's hard. Often it is God's temporary and necessary means of drawing them to himself for good and of testing their parent's faith.