October 22, 2021

The Painful Truth a Parent Must Bear

Proverbs 22:6 “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.”

One Sunday Mez preached a banger of a sermon that left me both encouraged to keep pressing on and devastated at the same time. How can one sermon do two opposite things at once? I was encouraged by the glimpse of God’s glory we see in the transfiguration and the promised eternity with Him, but I was also devastated at the truth that now, in this moment, my kids would spend eternity in hell.

The Pain of Parenthood

People ask me all the time, How are your kids? and I don’t know how to answer that. From a worldly perspective, they are active members in society who work hard and earn a living. They make sensible choices about the environment, their carbon footprint and sustainability. They save for a rainy day. They aren’t in trouble with the police and don’t take drugs.

So, I suppose they are doing ‘alright’ as far as the world is concerned. But when it comes to eternity, they are in dire straights.  In one breath, I long for the return of Christ, and yet I dread it at the same time. How much time do my kids have? What if it happens this moment and it’s too late for them? They are lost for eternity. I love my kids would absolutely be the mammy bear, seeking to protect them against anything. I’d give up my life sacrificially for them, and have done so many times. Even in my head as I write this I pray “Lord, please…”

The Prayers of Parenthood

This isn’t new thinking for me (I know many mums feel the same – I’ve prayed for and with them). On Thursday mornings, I pray with Fontaine Selway—the women’s worker at Gracemount—and without fail every week we pray for our kids, often praying similar prayers. Our prayers for our kids are painful, heart-breaking and urgent.

I was thinking about this the other day. I’m going through the book of Romans in my quiet time and was reading Romans 9. I heard the desperation and love in Paul’s prayer in Romans 9, and I uttered a hearty ‘amen’ after reading it. I understood the passion, the desperation, the pleading, the love. 

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race,the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises.Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (Rom. 9:3–5)

Before everyone starts commenting, I know I can’t forfeit my salvation for my kid’s salvation any more than Paul could for the Jewish nation. But it’s the depth of my emotions I’m thinking about here. And I think that was Paul’s point as he wrote it, too. MacArthur, speaking of this passage, says:

“No one, of course, knew better than Paul that salvation is a believer’s most precious treasure and that only Christ’s sacrificial death has the power to save. But here he was speaking emotionally, not theologically, and there is no reason to doubt that his awesome statement of self-sacrifice was the expression of a completely honest heart. Paul felt such love that he was willing to relinquish his own salvation and spend eternity in hell if somehow that could bring His fellow Jews to faith in Christ!”

John MacArthur

I get it! If there was anything that I could do that would change my kid’s hearts, I would.

A Parent’s Job: Proclamation

I remember visiting a partner church one time in the states and this woman started chatting to me. Going through all the usual polite topics of conversation, we eventually hit on our families. “Are your children Christians?” she asked. I simply said “No.”  She was absolutely appalled. I could hear it in her voice as she said: “What? Didn’t you teach them the gospel?” Her hurtful comment stung. If I could drag them kicking and screaming into the kingdom I would, but it’s not my job. My job is to faithfully proclaim. It’s the Lord who saves whom He chooses.

I don’t know why he chooses some and not others. I don’t know why I’m the only one in my family saved and the others face eternity without Him. This doesn’t make me think of God as unloving or uncaring – the fact that He saves any of us from hell, knowing the state of our hearts, melts my head. We all deserve to be tossed like chaff in the wind. As Christians, we get what we don't deserve and don't get what we do—grace poured out abundantly (1 Tim. 1:14) and mercy which pardons our sins (1 Tim. 1:16)."

Many of us have kids who aren’t Christians. As adults they are living lives devoid of God. Living lives that look very different from our own. We can’t hold our adult children to our moral biblical compass—we serve different masters. They think the things of God are foolish (1 Cor. 2:14). But we love and yearn for them to know Jesus.

One of my favourite moments in church is watching a parent get to be involved in their child’s believer’s baptism. The look of sheer joy on their face is simply exquisite. I smile and pray, “Please, lord…” Where there’s breath, there’s hope. My intent in writing this blog is simply to say to the countless other parents who find themselves in the same boat: “I know, I hear you, me too!”  Keep on, and keep:

  • Faithfully praying and earnestly seeking God’s mercy. Only God can soften and turn their hearts.
  • Boldly proclaiming the truth because their very life depends on it (the cost is too great to faff about being fearful)
  • Exampling Christ’s love, compassion, and mercy. 1 Peter 3:1 and James 1:22 remind us that our actions speak volumes.
  • Believing that God can and does save the lost. God can save even them—trust Him.   

I remember the moment I truly dedicated and surrendered my kids into the hands of God. It wasn’t at a service or a special ceremonial (even though we had one) – I was crossing a bridge heading north out of the city praying for them as I drove. I remind myself of this moment when I want to give into despair – I remind myself that they are in the hands of a just, loving and righteous God who can and does all things according to His will. It’s not my job to save them, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to do – I keep on praying, proclaiming, exampling, and believing. I keep on hoping! Whilst there’s breath, there’s hope….

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

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