Navigating the Parental Crises of Belief
Following is an excerpt of Experiencing God at Home: A Bible Study for Parents, by Tom and Richard Blackaby.
I felt like my role as his father was not to convince him that he should be a minister; it was to simply encourage him to be open to whatever God had in mind. Daniel needed to understand that God might ask him to do something far beyond what he was comfortable, or even good at, doing. If Daniel would accept God's will for his life, he would find, just as every other person throughout Scripture and church history has discovered, that with God, all things are possible.
Sure enough, once Daniel prepared to submit to whatever God asked him to do, he did sense God leading him into some form of Christian ministry. Since that time, he has gone to seminary and has spoken with his father and grandfather in various settings across the country and even internationally. And Daniel has discovered the joy of doing things in God's power that he never would have done on his own.
Because it is impossible to please God unless we live our life with faith in Him (Heb. 11:6), God will regularly provide opportunities for us to trust Him. God has little need to ask us to do things we can do in our own strength and wisdom. That is what we naturally gravitate toward anyway. God invites us to join Him in activities that allow Him to demonstrate His power to a watching world. But that will stretch us. As parents, we must be ready to join God in His activity as He invites our children to join in His activity.
Navigating crises of belief
Parents face a dual role in the home. First, they must help their children navigate the crises of belief they are facing. Second, they must resolve their own crises of belief, as they trust God for their family. Each involves its own unique challenges.
A crisis of belief is a call to action, not reflection. James reminds us, "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:26). Jesus does not ask us to merely believe in Him; He commands us to follow Him (Matt. 16:24).
Helping our children
As we have seen, our children will face moments when they must choose what they believe about God. Whether it is choosing to hold onto their faith in college, or refusing to attend the drunken parties that all the "cool" people are attending in high school, or trusting God to bring someone special into their life, your children must decide what they truly believe about God. Those are critical moments for you as a parent to be walking closely with them.
Determining to keep on believing
Both of us (Tom and Richard) have faced numerous and diverse challenges over the course of our lives, but few undertakings equal the degree of difficulty and complexity that we have faced as parents. For many Christian parents, one of the greatest crises of faith they experience is the question of whether God can work a miracle in their child's life. We know numerous parents who successfully lead a company or achieve renown as a professional, but who suffer continual failure in raising their child.
We know many wonderful Christian couples whose children chose to rebel and reject the Christian faith and values that had been instilled for years. Parents grieved as they watched their precious children throwing away their future, their purity, and their health with reckless abandon. It seemed as if no amount of talks, curfews, incentives, or threats would turn their children back to the Lord.
In times like these, parents face a crisis of belief. What do we believe about God? Do we trust that He hears our prayers? Are we confident He can turn our child's heart back to Him and to us? When our child struggles to find his way educationally or in a career, do we have the inward assurance that God will guide him? If we are filled with worry and despair, we clearly do not.
It may be that our own spiritual Waterloo may come, not through what God is doing in our life but through what is happening with our child. At times it is easier to believe God for our own problems than it is to trust Him to work in the life of our child.
Scripture tells of a man whose son was being cruelly oppressed by an evil spirit. The evil spirit had often "thrown him into fire or water to destroy him" (Mark 9:22). The desperate father had tried for years to find deliverance for his son, but to no avail. He had approached Jesus' disciples and begged them to help, but they could not (Mark 9:18). You would think that by that point the man might have given up and resigned himself to the fact his son would live the remainder of his life in torment. The father faced a crisis of belief. What he did next would determine whether he would experience a miracle.
He approached Jesus and begged Him to do something for his child. Jesus, knowing the man's struggle to believe further, urged him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23, NKJV). In desperation, the weary father declared: "I do believe! Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). He was experiencing a crisis of belief, but determined to keep on believing.
When God works in our life or in the lives of our children, it inevitably leads to a crisis of belief. That's because God's ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9). His ways are higher. He knows the future and how our lives will turn out. We come to the end of our knowledge and power and are forced to trust in the Lord for what comes next. And when we do, we will be right where God wants us to be. But, once we experience a crisis of belief, we'll have to make some major adjustments in our life, and that is what we will address next.