Hebrews 11:1, one of those definitional descriptions of faith in the Bible, says that, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” In the context, the writer is talking about our faith in who God is and the plans that God will accomplish. But how does this translate into parenting?
Put another way – it’s commonly said today that parents can do everything right, and still have children who fall away or rebel. “‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’ is a parable, not a promise,” people tell us.
On the level of experience – fine. I can see that great parenting doesn’t always produce great children. But then where does faith fit into my parenting? Where does my belief in a sovereign, good, loving God who wants what’s best for me and for my children fit into this enormous uncertainty? In fact, what good even is faith, when so much of the future seems uncertain? What does it look like to have assurance and conviction, in light of so many questions?
Here are two starting points for parenting from a position of faith.
Our faith gives us a foundation and assurance to plea with God on behalf of our children. That type of faith is rooted in who God is, and is very different from a faith which says our actions will produce certain results. Biblical faith is founded in who God is, not in what we’re doing.
You can judge the depth of your faith-filled parenting by the amount of time you spend praying for your children.
Perhaps the most challenging account of faith-filled parenting in Scripture is King David’s actions in II Samuel 12:15-23. Because of an egregious sin, God tells David that his infant son will die – a devastating pronouncement. David pleads with God – he fasts and prays and weeps on the floor for seven days.
Tragically, the son dies on the seventh day and upon hearing, David washes himself and begins to eat. His reasoning? “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast?”
Does David further mourn for the child? Of course. He describes his heart as ‘broken and contrite’ (Psalm 51:17). His world has been upturned. But David’s faith is firmly rooted in what God will do – and that’s reflected in his fervent prayer. David’s faith-filled parenting drove him to his knees in prayer because he recognized the true change agent for his child was God.
Faith fills our parenting through prayer, but it also drives us to action. Perhaps we too easily think about faith like a remote control – something that allows us to sit on the couch while the change happens magically. “If I have faith, I just need to trust, not do. God will do it!”
But faith is more like a rock-climbing harness. It’s a tether that allows us to climb to new heights, confident in our safety despite the danger. Faith enables action, it doesn’t hinder it!
In Scripture, Hannah – the mother of Samuel in I Samuel 1 – is an example of parenting from a faith-fueled posture. She’s barren, and desperately desires a child. But her faith doesn’t cause her to passively wait for God to do something – instead, she intentionally goes to the temple and weeps before God, promising and pledging the life of her child to God’s service. And later, when God grants her request, she boldly follows through on her pledge, giving Samuel to life-long service in the temple. She prays, “for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” (I Samuel 2:3). For Hannah, her faith in God drove her to almost reckless action on behalf of her child.
Our faith, rooted in the person of God, does not guarentees that things will go the way we expect them; rather, our faith reminds us that things will go the way God wills. It drives us to prayer, and fuels faithful action.
What about you? How has your faith affected your parenting?