How do you react when your children fail – when they disobey in some way? What is your reaction? This is one way to judge whether you are relying on God’s grace or on your own efforts as a parent. Fitzpatrick and Thompson write this:
If you are angry, frustrated, or despairing because you work so hard and they aren’t responding, then you’re working (at least in part) for the wrong reasons. Conversely, if you’re proud when your children obey and you get those desired kudos–Oh! your kids are so good!–you should suspect your motives. Both pride and despair grow in the self-reliant heart.
It’s very easy to make an idol out of good, obedient, well-behaved children. Isn’t that our goal, to have good kids? The problem seems to lie in basing our efforts on the quality of our plan, our program, and our parenting. Our effort becomes the means to the end, and when we fail either we become fearful or demanding. “When we see our failures, we will be overcome with fear… When we see their failures, we’ll be overly demanding.” We elevate our work and effort above God’s work in the lives of our children. But “[o]ur idolatry is a symptom of a deeper problem: unbelief… We have far too high a view of our ability to shape our children and far too low a view of God’s love and trustworthiness.”
Chapter 3 in Give them Grace focuses on the truth that it is only the work of God that causes heart change in our children. Do we believe that God can work in the hearts of our children? We may believe in our minds, but our actions betray that we often trust more in ourselves than in God. Our main task is to believe. The authors point to John 6:28-29 as a key passage in this regard. “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28–29 ESV)
It’s not that we are to give up, to ‘let go and let God.’ No, God requires work, effort, and faithfulness. But we must not work as if it depends on us, but in a way that we acknowledge that it only depends upon God. Let me close with this quote.
We are always to do our best, striving to be obedient and to love, nurture, and discipline them. But we are to do it with faith in the Lord’s ability to transform hearts, not in our ability to be consistent or faithful. Seeking to be faithfully obedient parents is our responsibility; granting faith to our children is his. Freedom to love and enjoy our children flows out of the knowledge that God saves them in spite of our best efforts, not because of them. Salvation is of the Lord.