It seems reasonable to presume that God’s plan for parents is ideal. Yet many Christian parents aren’t parenting God’s way. Why is that, and how can parents shift from what they’re doing to what God wants them to do?
Before considering God’s plan for parents, we should recognize that parenting God’s way isn’t natural. In a world dominated by the explainable and obvious, parenting typically relies on common sense and practical strategies.
What naturally guides and drives most parents is what we want and how we want to do it. We rely on our instincts, judgement and intuition. We establish and shape our families’ ideals, standards and expectations as we see fit. Our normal tendency is to do what’s obvious and feels right. And we usually ignore God because, if we’re truthful, it’s easier to parent without Him.
An overwhelming problem.
Many Christians are parenting with an overwhelming problem. We’re predisposed to look at the world around us and take our parenting cues from what others are doing. Yet, if we’re honest, we know that common-sense parenting is inadequate. Even when we add biblical principles and sentiments to our common-sense parenting, something still feels wrong.
Shifting to God’s plan.
Is your parenting approach a mix of different strategies? How’s it working for you? “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 14:12. Blending secular and sacred parenting leads to heartbreak.You must help your children consider and live their lives according to a biblical worldview. Click To Tweet
God’s plan for parents is supernatural, not natural. You can’t cobble together methods from different world views. If God’s going to use you to cultivate the image of Jesus in your children, you must help them consider and live their lives according to a biblical worldview. Your parenting must, therefore, be fully informed and directed, not by you, but by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:17).
Christian parenting is orientating everything to God’s purpose. It’s being His agent by drawing on His power and wisdom to fulfil His plans and purposes for His children in His way. Personal interests, preferences, or perceptions should never direct Christian parenting. Self-interest must be uprooted. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10. As pastor and author Paul Tripp says, “Parenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.”
Grappling with reality.
Because of our shortcomings, we still come up short. The trouble is, even when our parenting is supernaturally persuaded, we’re still naturally inclined.
Despite Christ and His Word directing us, we don’t always value what we should. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” Romans 7:19. It’s a catch-22. Good parenting intentions aren’t good enough. As the Evangelist said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” Matthew 26:41.
Tapping into God’s grace.
God wants parents to tap into His grace. To do this, we must humbly admit we can’t parent without Him. Are you willing to relinquish your way of parenting? Parenting should never be a self-governing enterprise. You must let go of your plans to lay hold of God’s plan. While it’s counterintuitive, when we willingly acknowledge our incapacity and insufficiency, God gives us the help we need.To tap into God's grace, we must humbly admit we can't parent without Him. Click To Tweet
Do you trust yourself and exercise control over your life? Do you know your strengths and weakness and have a favourable view of yourself? Contrary to popular opinion, self-confidence doesn’t help; it hinders parenting. Don’t deny your shortcomings. You and your children have similar struggles. If you downgrade your parenting to the limit of your ability, your children will be limited by your inability.
God’s given you a brilliant parenting gift – Himself! The bedrock of Christian parenting is knowing we can do nothing without Jesus. This makes parenthood possible: God is with us every moment of every day! What our children need isn’t more of us; it’s more of Him. And what we need as parents isn’t more self-sufficiency; it’s more grace.
The Christian parenting role is to be a conduit of God’s grace. Do you want your children to survive or thrive? If you want them to thrive, you must invite God to work in and through you. This is the redeeming and restoring reality: To parent well, Jesus must become greater, and we must become less (cf. John 3:30).
Making it practical.
It’s impossible to drain God’s grace. Are you struggling, exasperated, or weighed down by the faults and failings of your children? Do you sometimes feel at your wits end? There’s no parenting task too big for Jesus. God’s divine favour and mercy provide everything you need to be a good parent. His grace is sufficient for you. His power is made perfect in your weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).God's divine favour and mercy provide everything you need to be a good parent. Click To Tweet
Christian parenting isn’t about being a perfect parent; it’s about tapping into the perfect God. God hasn’t given us the responsibility of parenting because we’re up to the task. We’re not! None of us are competent enough to do what God wants. That’s because He didn’t intend for us to parent without Him. God designed us to rely on Him. This is why we feel inadequate and incapable when we peel away our self-assurance. So, as we parent our children, we must ask the Father to parent us.
The bottom line is that our parenting happens while we’re being sanctified. We’re growing in grace – not yet all that God’s planned for us to be. While we nurture our children’s faith, God is nurturing our faith. And while we’re confessing our sins, receiving His forgiveness, and crying out for His help, God enables us to invite our children to acknowledge their sins, believe in Jesus and commit their lives to Him.
God’s grace is multi-faceted. As we welcome Jesus into our homes, His grace is more than enough for our family’s needs. So, let’s parent our children as sinners who need His grace. And let’s thank Jesus for being in us and with us. For, in so doing, Jesus will do through us what we can’t do without Him.
© Scripture Union, 2023