Why is it that those we love the most listen to our counsel the least? For over three decades I’ve been privileged by God, as a chaplain and Christian minister, to be a blessing to others in my preaching, writing, and counseling. To be a tool in the hand of God for the healing of others makes life worth living. To know I’ve been an encouragement to other people has compensated for the disappointments and setbacks we’ve faced.
However, there is one area of ministry in which my efforts have been mostly ineffectual and my words have fallen on deaf ears. It’s with those I love the most – my own children. Of my four children, thankfully, two do profess faith in Christ. Their conversions, however, are not the results of my witnessing, but that of others. The other two children are outright unbelievers. And while my kids go to others for counseling for various issues, they rarely listen to me or seek my advice.
Could I have been a better parent? Certainly. A day doesn’t go by without me hanging my head over some parental failure. I am far from the perfect parent. To keep from being consumed by remorse, I console myself by looking at the lack of success other parents have had – including those saints from the Bible who struggled as parents themselves. Consider, for instance, fathers such as Adam, Noah, Moses, Eli, Samuel, David, Hezekiah, Jotham, Josiah, and other men of God whose children rank from less than honorable to utterly depraved.
But the greatest consolation comes from considering the greatest Parent of all – who also has a less than perfect success rate in getting His children to follow the straight and narrow way. I’m talking about God. No one’s parenting has been so viciously attacked as God’s. Over the years, in my utter stupidity, I’ve criticized God as well. “Why does God allow his children to suffer so much, if He really loves them?”
Yet, it’s become quite obvious that no matter what parenting decisions God makes – short of never making us at all – we’d condemn Him for something. If God put a wall of protection around us to shelter us from every, and all, danger, we’d scream bloody murder at Him and demand that He give us our freedom. Just watch, sometime, a toddler try to writhe his body loose from his mother’s grip. If that toddler ever got his way he’d fall to the floor and fracture his skull. But his mother, in tender love, holds tightly to him against his protests.
On the other hand, if God allows us as “free spirits” to overstep our boundaries and we meet with disaster, then we turn on God as the neglectful parent. By our erratic standards, God can’t win.
But nowhere does God’s parenting seem as ineffectual as when his children fail to harken and obey His counsel and advice. If anyone has a right to ask my opening question – “Why is it that those we love the most listen to our counsel the least?” – it’s God. All of creation – excluding Satan his fallen angels – listens to God’s command. The winds and sea obey His voice (Psalm 65:7; 89:9; 107:29; Matthew 8:27). The heavens, earth, and all living things glorify their Creator (Psalm 19:1-6; 98:7-9; Isaiah 55:10-12). From the tiniest atom to the most massive galaxy, this awesome universe heeds and obeys God’s will. Only human beings – those made in God’s image and likeness, upon whom He’s set His deepest love – turn a deaf ear to God.
Could it be that – by allowing our hearts to be bound up in our children only to have those same children break them – God is sharing a little bit of His agony with us? Could that be part of the price of intimacy with the Almighty – that we experience a little of what God endures?
Knowing God personally is the hallmark of the New Covenant which God promised – “they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:34; 1 John 2:12-15). Jesus declared that, “This is eternal life, to know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Paul the apostle declared he had renounced every earthly advantage in order to know Christ better (Philippians 3:7-11). In fact, it is the absence of such a personal relationship with God, showing up at His judgment seat as a stranger, which will condemn us on judgment day (Matthew 7:21-23).
God created us to know Him personally, intimately. But, honestly, what can the infinite and almighty God possibly have in common with such finite and ignorant creatures? He loves us immensely. But there is a massive “knowledge gap” between us and our Heavenly Father. How then can we possibly relate to Him?
But if, in our suffering we discover that He suffers too, then common ground is established and the knowledge gap is narrowed. When we suffer, we are comforted to know that God understands our pain by His own personal experience. And when we suffer, we understand a little more of what God endures. No wonder the apostle Paul spoke of knowing Christ “in the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Suffering brings us into a deeper, more profound fellowship with our Lord. We realize that we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). As Isaiah the prophet declared, “In all their afflictions, God was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9).
Are you a less than perfect parent who grieves over his or her children? God is a perfect parent, who exercises flawless wisdom and skill in leading His children to the path of life. Yet, so few heed His impassioned call. He knows exactly how you feel. And, if your children are breaking your heart, you also know how He feels. It’s the price of friendship with a broken-hearted God. But the joy which flows from such friendship with God makes the price seem small by comparison. “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later” (Romans 8:18, Living Bible).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, I cast myself – and all my concerns for my children – at Your mercy seat. Please accept me through Your holy Son Jesus. Wash me in His blood and clothe me in His righteousness. Please redeem my children and turn their hearts to You in faith and repentance. Please be to them the parent which they need and which I have failed to be. Save them, I pray, and bring them into the safekeeping of Christ. Amen.