Many years ago when I was a young mom with an intense and challenging preschooler, I was getting coffee at Bible study next to an older, well-respected woman in the church. She had heard through the church grapevine that I was having trouble with my son, and she casually said to me, out of nowhere, “Isn’t it great, Rebekah, that we can get all the parenting help we need right there in the Bible?”
That out-of-the-blue comment really threw me. Even though I was a fairly new Christian, I was pretty sure there was not a lot of direct parenting advice in the Bible that dealt with my specific issues with my young son. I honestly didn’t have a clue what she was even talking about. Feeling awkward, I smiled and nodded, and she went on her way, never mentioning it again.
To be honest, I didn’t take her comment very well. Her well-meaning advice had no follow-through, so it felt a little like I’d been the victim of a hit-and-run. But as the years went by, and I grew in spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge, I found that God did indeed offer parenting hope and help to me in his Word. I just needed to learn how to recognize it.
Parenting advice in unexpected (Bible) places
When I was pregnant with my first, I read a lot of parenting books, some of which were Christian in focus. The overall gist of many of these books was that if I could just learn to parent according to the author’s “perfect” plan, I could raise a nearly-flawless child. This is laughable now, but I had no real-life role models to lean on so I was looking for help wherever I could find it. I soon found, though, that I was making parenting mistakes left and right. As the years went by, I continued to make mistakes and pretty soon I began wondering if my clearly not-flawless parenting was hurting my kids.
By the time my oldest was nearly a teen, I had begun reading my Bible a little differently, and I discovered a few golden nuggets of biblical parenting wisdom that never mentioned “parent” or “child” at all. In the hopes of encouraging other not-flawless parents, I want to share the path I followed in the Bible that gave me great hope regarding the mistakes I’d made (and continued to make) with my kids:
Golden Nugget #1: Take a look at these verses you most often hear at weddings—and read them instead in regard to your children:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
This is love, God’s way. Here’s what I started asking myself when I read these verses in light of motherhood: Am I ever impatient with my children? Unkind? Arrogant, even rude? Do I ever insist on my own way with my children even if it really doesn’t matter or they’re actually old enough to decide for themselves (that would be provoking or exasperating them, as we’re told not to do in Ephesians 6:4)? Am I ever irritable with them? Resentful of the time and energy they require? Or resentful of the messes they make, over and over and over?
Paul tells us earlier in this chapter that without love, we are nothing. All of our talents, abilities, skills, and accomplishments are dust. We’re to do our best to love one another as God loves us. That’s a tall order—why are the standards so high? This question led me to…
Golden Nugget #2:In Proverbs 10:12, there’s an answer to why God’s standards are so high: “Love covers all offenses” (or “all sins,” NKJV). When we sin, we make mistakes—even huge mistakes—that affect others, including our children. But love covers all sins. What this means is that if our children are assured and confident of our love, then our relationships with them will survive, and they (and we) will thrive despite sins and mistakes. That’s good news for flawed parents like you and me, whether our mistakes are due to ignorance or our own sinful behavior.
But there’s more …
Golden Nugget #3: Even better news is that God’s love—his grace—covers all, including our kids from our everyday sins and mistakes. Have faith that God will cover your gaps and errors with your children. This isn’t to say that our mistakes won’t sometimes have consequences. Often they will. It’s not that God looks the other way when we sin, or that he promises to make everything all better, but that our love toward our children, in imitation of his love toward us, can preserve and protect. Even if damage is done, it can be repented of (to God and to your children), forgiven, and overcome. That is God’s grace working in the lives of you and your children.
Remember: God loves your children even more than you do
It’s easy when they’re small to believe that we’re everything to our children! So it’s natural that as they grow, we often feel guilt and sorrow over our mistakes, and maybe even feel that we’ve caused irreparable harm to our children in some way.
That’s the time to ask yourself, does God cover you in grace? (Yes.) Does his love cover all sins? (Yes.) He will do the same for your child. I find it very comforting to remind myself that God loves my children even more than I do. His promises to me are his promises to my children, too (Acts 2:39). My sins and mistakes are nothing compared to the love of God.
Many times over the years, I’ve had to just turn it over to him. I simply pray, “God, this child is your beloved. I am doing the best I can, but I know that this child is in your hands. Please cover my mistakes with your love.” I’ve prayed this prayer silently over a sleeping child … while standing at the kitchen sink in tears … aloud with other moms in a prayer group … and in countless other circumstances.
As much as we want to be “all” for our children, and do everything right by them, with each passing year we see that only God can fulfill their deepest longings and needs. If we could be all they need, they wouldn’t need Jesus.