Below is a great interchange in which C.J. Mahaney responds to a father’s email on being to hard on his children, so hard he worries that he will be a barrier to them seeing God’s love through him. I encourage you to read it for growth and practical ways to not be a barrier.
Thanks for your message from Jude on Sunday. It is always a privilege to hear God’s Word through you. I am reminded of His grace to me through the truths preached by you over decades now.
When you noted how we often have hard thoughts of God and fail to appreciate His initiating love, I immediately thought of my example and communication about God to my kids. And when you asked at the end, “What are you most worried about?”, I think it is that I will hinder my children from knowing that God not only rightly expects their obedience and submission—a bar they cannot possibly reach—but also that he loves them as a Father so deeply that He sent His son for them.
I am afraid they do have hard thoughts of God and that’s largely because of my own sinfulness (anger, impatience, anxiety), which I am eager to continue killing by the Spirit. But apart from that, the question I have is, how do we as parents insist that our children obey us in the Lord without cultivating hard thoughts of Him?
Grateful for any thoughts you would have on this.
This a great question that I can’t possibly cover fully in one email. But here are a few thoughts that I hope are helpful.
You have the privilege of introducing them to God the Father and describing the ways in which he is different from you, different from all sinful fathers, and how in any way you are like him it’s only because of grace that you reflect him. See Luke 11:11–13.
- Your honest confession of your sin to your children will protect them from having hard thoughts about you or God.
- Communicating your affection for them—and joy when you are with them—promotes both good and accurate thoughts about God.
- Initiate time with them at both planned and spontaneous times. Don’t leave them with the impression that they get most of your attention when they disobey. Let them know you are so grateful for them and love being with them as much as possible.
- Bless your children with many gifts in many forms! See Luke 11 again. Study your children in order to discern what gifts would genuinely bless them and then purpose to surprise them as often as possible.
- Requiring appropriate obedience does not promote hard thoughts about God. This only happens when we do so in self-righteousness or anger. See point 2 again.
- Frequently preach the gospel to them (and not at them). Reveal to your children just how far God has gone to show his love for sinners like us.
My friend, if you follow the example of our gracious God, your children will not have hard thoughts about him. They will have accurate thoughts about him—and a deep love for you.
I hope these brief thoughts help, John.