Parenting by Faith and Promise, Not by Sight

Parenting by Faith and Promise, Not by Sight

What does it mean to live by faith and not by sight? It means that we live with our eyes lifted to heaven, trusting in the sovereign hand of a loving Father to guide and direct our steps. It means that we labor each day knowing that He is the One Who guides and directs us through His Word. It means that we are ones whose hope is in the Lord and our eternal home that awaits us; we do not simply look at the “day to day” of life as all that there is. We live by faith in the Lord’s promises for this life and the next. It makes a difference in how we approach life and difficulties.

Why is it then that when it comes to parenting, we slide into the pattern and belief that it is all on us as to how our children turn out? All on us to make sure that they get what they need moving forward into life?

Years ago some friends that I ministered with used to quote this adage to me and others who worked with youth and had children of our own: we parent by faith and not by sight. As I have moved along as a parent, I have seen the truth of this each day. We as parents can get down on ourselves as we look at the progress, or at times the apparent lack of progress, of our children in the area of godliness. When they fail, we can take it as a personal failure on our part as parents. When they succeed, we can also wrongly take too much credit for this too. We look at the day to day lives of our children and can be overwhelmed by what we don’t see. We want them to love the Lord, to love others, and to grow in compassion and hard work. When we move along day after day, hearing the petty fights they have with their siblings or when they refuse to pick up after themselves in the bathroom or constantly forget to feed the dog, we can be discouraged and wonder, “Is anything good happening in them? Am I completely failing as a parent?” When our children fail, we think that we have failed. When our children aren’t growing at the pace we want them to grow, we reason that it is that we are not doing enough. When we look around and see, from the outside, other people’s children that seem to have mastered the basics of table manners or extend kindness toward others, it can stand in sharp contrast to what we don’t see in our children. When this happens, we sometimes simply try to pick ourselves up, jump back in, and try harder to be “good” parents. This is parenting by sight, and it is exhausting and frustrating and ultimately, futile.

As parents who know and love the Lord, we are not meant to parent in our own strength or from our own wisdom, just as we as believers are not meant to live life in our power and intellect. We are creatures, created for a relationship with our Heavenly Father, dependent upon Him for life and godliness. We need Him each day to guide and direct our steps from His Word toward those “good works He created in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10) When we walk by faith each day, we labor in His strength toward His purposes. As parents given temporary custody of His children, we need to parent not simply by what we see because we cannot see all that there is going on with and in our children. We do not always know what the Lord is doing in and through them.

Perhaps an even more focused way of saying it is that we don’t parent by sight but by promise. God has made promises to parents who have children in the covenant. He has promised to be God to the parents and to love the children in a special way. We need to hold on to the precious promises of the Lord that He indeed is at work in them. We have to be faithful to teach and correct and love, but we do this in faith and with a reliance on the Lord. This should not breed a lazy attitude toward parenting but instead a more joyful, focused and rich parenting, knowing that the results are not in our hands ultimately and neither are our children. They belong to a Heavenly Father that loves them far more than we ever can.

Well that is great for the day to day mistakes and sin of our children, but what about when they really mess up? What about drug use or the shop lifting charge or the unmarried pregnancy? Even more comfort is given in these circumstances, understanding that our children have a will of their own and will make mistakes, some that deeply grieve us. We hold on to the Lord’s promises even tighter, knowing that they truly are in His loving grip. Pray often, love harder and hold on to the Lord.  We are not guaranteed “perfect” children if we parent “perfectly”. Both are impossible this side of heaven. We as parents can follow hard after the Lord, parent by faith and by promise, and our children can and will still make choices on their own. We can do what the Scriptures tell us to do, however imperfectly, and our children can still make willful, sinful choices. These too are in the hands of a Sovereign and loving God. He is over all, including the wrong choices of our kids. Has He not been sovereign over your wrong choices, some far deeper and more destructive than your children? Has He not been gracious and faithful to bring you along the way to where you are now?  And He will bring you even further in the coming years.  The same God, the same love and grace through Jesus Christ is available to your children as is to you. Pray that your children would respond to light correction but if it does require more direct and difficult chastening, believe that this too is in the hands of a loving and sovereign God and Father.  We as parents should pray also for ourselves that we would “not be like the horse or mule, which have not understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle” (Psalm 32:9) but rather let us and our children be those who have an undivided heart, praising and glorifying God forever (Psalm 86:11-12).