For the next few posts I am reposting an article written by by friend and fellow Christian, Howard Eames. Howard is a Christian Educator in the Classical Tradition and the father of 3 children. He has a “trench view” on the important topic of parenting unregenerated children. I pray his words will encourage you, and help you struggling parents to see that you are truly not alone.
There are few events in the Christian life that can be more disturbing and cause more anguish of heart than to see your children become young adults while continuing to evidence a spiritual disposition that seems to betray that these most precious gifts from God remain strangers to His grace. Yes, they may think that they are believers, but there is no love for His Word, no desire to be with His people, and no desire to live for the glory of God. The fixed disposition of a true believer in Jesus Christ simply is not there. And so the search for comfort begins—the journey begins in earnest.
Naturally, all believers are convinced that true comfort comes from God speaking through His Word, and through the perspective and worldview that can be inferred from Scripture. My wife and I have done a great deal of reading! We have three children, ages seventeen, twenty, and twenty-three. Only one of them has become “a joint heir of the grace of life.” The other two remain in the “far country,” although their journey as prodigal sons has not been quite as riotous as the one recorded for us in the Gospels.
Recently my wife Donna and I were greatly encouraged by reading Jim Elliff’s Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children, a brief summary of biblical perspective predicated on biblical authority. What follows is my effort to expand what Jim related in ten concise points—the ten points of comfort for Christian parents of unconverted children, if you will. You might think of the commentary and exposition below like decorating a Christmas tree. What Jim wrote is the Christmas tree. The ornaments and decorations we supply come from our own reading, enhanced by our personal experience as parents seeking comfort.
Several years ago, my wife and I sought to provide a venue for parents of teenagers, having become parents of three teens ourselves, and having experienced both the joys and unbelievable difficulties of being parents. Paul David Tripp had adapted his most excellent book, Age of Opportunity: a Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, for a nine-message video series. We have to this date had opportunity to screen this series for church and school parents (we are Christian educators) several times. These sessions never cease to be profitable.
While greatly profitable for others, the level of comfort I would personally receive from going through the videos and reacquainting myself with the written materials seemed to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. The measures I was attempting to implement in my own home were not achieving the results anticipated. Our boys were beginning to respond to our shaping influences in negative ways, and we began to see their hearts drift even farther into the “far country.” Meanwhile, other seriously detrimental influences caught their attention, and we found ourselves in the same place with many others who have taught and shepherded and prayed—parents in pain. May God be pleased to bless Jim Elliff’s Comfort for Christian Parents to the hearts of many. And may He also be pleased to somehow add His blessing to our efforts of enhancement and personalizing of his thoughts.
“All Christian parents wish that God would show us something to do that would secure our child’s salvation, and then ‘we’d do it with all our might’ because we love our child so much. Yet, God has not made salvation the effect of somebody else’s faith; our son or daughter must come to Christ on his or her own. John shows us that all Christians are born into God’s family, ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man (that is, somebody else’s will) but of God.’ (John 1:13).
I have often thought about this. I have searched the Scriptures to see if I could find an ironclad promise from the Lord that I could claim. But then I always seem to return to the same conclusion. Even if there were a clear and unmistakable promise given to parents that their children would assuredly be converted if they would consistently do this or do that, and be sure to do it all in a particular fashion with prayers undergirding all of their efforts, I could never take personal comfort in such a promise. My inconsistencies and sinful failures as a parent would cause such a promise to fall to the ground.
Thankfully, the Bible does not reveal a doctrine of works righteousness in our parenting any more than it does concerning the remainder of our Christian walk. God is merciful to the most inconsistent and undeserving parents. He often blesses them in spite of sinful failures and inconsistencies in raising their children. We live in a fallen world where sin has unhinged everything, even our parenting.