from Jim Elliff’s Comfort for Christian Parents. Commentary by Howard Eames who is guest posting over several days on parenting non-regenerate children.
- 3. God does hear our prayers. Though God has taught us that He chooses all who are His before the foundation of the world, He has also taught us that we should pray, and not only pray, but expect the answers to our prayers. It is true that God is sovereign and it is just as true that He answers prayer. In fact, He could not answer prayer if He were not in control of all things.
Indeed, the sovereign Lord has woven our prayers for our children into the very fabric of His sovereign decree, and He has declared without equivocation that all events (the sovereignty of God in the seasons of life—Ecclesiastes 3) are most beautiful and appropriate in their time.
God does hear our prayers. We dishonor Him if we are not eagerly looking for the return of prayers. And yes, waiting on the Lord is one of the most difficult disciplines in the Christian life. But then the Psalms seem to teach that the entire Christian walk is one of waiting on the Lord. He works patience, trust, peace, humility, and true dependence into our hearts through our waiting.
We are waiting on His converting grace for our children. In God’s providence, we may be parents faced with the bitter experience of a child’s long-term betrayal. But then this very experience affords us an opportunity to learn new and wonderful things about God’s approach to forgiveness. We may need to learn to forgive a self-righteous, blame-shifting, irresponsible, parent-dishonoring and unthankful child, over and over and over again. But then we are probably learning a Christ-like love that we so desperately need—a love that is able to look through the hard outer shell of our unbelieving child and see the desperately needy person inside! That is a great gift, is it not?
Do we really love our children, or do we simply love our ideal of what we wanted them to become? Anyone involved in Christian counseling for any season of time discovers that family members often don’t love each other for who they really are. They love the ideal image they have created of the other person in their mind.
What our children need from parents, even if they are in pain, is the knowledge that they are loved unconditionally. This is the most powerful weapon in the parent’s arsenal, and one that God often uses to touch the hardened conscience of a deeply rebellious spirit (i.e. a child that is running from God, playing games with God).
It has been our experience (often learned the hard way) that we have had to learn to stay out of the way of God’s working, of God’s answering prayer, and to put our lives at His disposal to be used in ways often contrary to our own instincts. We are committed to C. John Miller’s proposal:
Jesus Christ will capture our children, He will free them from their own prison in a way that will most likely highlight their unwillingness to submit to Him and our helplessness in changing them. God will not share His glory with another!
This was what I didn’t want to hear, but what has become a healing balm to my soul over time. Reproof and correction are like that, are they not?
The Lord is often graciously driving you and me to see our total need for Him! This has been so in my own life as a parent. You’ve reached your midnight hour and you are beginning to learn how to beg in prayer (see Luke 11: 5-8). But then God does promise to provide the bread of His Spirit, and He promises to supply that abundantly. That bread might consist of a new wisdom, a new ability to forgive your child, a new perspective on who your child truly is, a new ability to communicate with your child as a young adult, compassion, and desperately needed humility. Is this all bad? Let it never be! You may even be (as I have been) forced to approach your unbelieving child as they have grown into adult years as a non-Christian needing Christ’s help rather than an offending son or daughter. But what growth in grace there is to be had! This is no small victory for a parent in pain. I can surely attest to that.
God may be weaving a web of love around you and your wayward child as we speak. He is answering your prayers, yet in ways that you may not have chosen. A significant part of that web of love may be your humbling as parents. But then this is most necessary, beloved. Repeatedly I have had to get the stuffing kicked out of me in my conflict with my sons. I have had to live year after year with the tension of the battle. But then I have concluded (as we stand on the brink of 2005) that much of that tension was only in my mind.
I have been just as much of a wayward father as my sons have been wayward sons. I have failed so many times. I have been so inconsistent. I have majored on the minors and minored on the majors, and my children have all been the sorry recipients of my botched attempts at parenting them in a godly way. But even if you and I have failed, the power of God’s grace is so much stronger that neither you nor I ever need to despair.
God may be seeking the rebellious father and mother through the rebellious child. I am not saying that this is your case, but it could be, even as it was and is the case with me (I speak for myself and not for my wife). It has become more than obvious that God has wanted to change me right along with my sons. I needed to be rescued just as much as they have needed His rescuing grace! God has worked at this change by sending me a series of humbling defeats that have lasted these many years (about ten to be precise).
This is meant to encourage you! You may be blind to your failures even as I have been blind to mine. God is being gracious to you. He is committed to your being conformed to His image as expressed in perfected human nature, the Lord Jesus Christ.