The Wayward Child

By David Crank

Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Proverbs 27:1

As parents we desire to see ALL of our children walking closely with the Lord, being submissive to parents and being fine examples of Christian young people (and later Christian adults). But alas, not every child of good Christian parents turns out that way or is that way at all times! For those of us, thus far blessed with model children, it can be easy to think that that we have been better parents that those with one or more wayward children. But it isn't necessarily so!

None of us are perfect parents - we are all learning. Though we may think we are “good” parents and have done many things right, yet we know we have not done everything right! We have made mistakes and omitted many very good things we could have done. And some of the good things we now do with our children, we have not done always. Other good things we did formerly, we later let lapse. Some things we tolerated/allowed earlier, we now wish we had not. Other things we were once strict about, now we are not so concerned about. I doubt if any of us have been as consistent as we would like. Have we always done what we knew we should? Have we always avoided doing what we knew we should not? When you look closely, even the best of parents have failings!

Some parents have had more challenges to overcome than others. Some began child rearing before they became Christians. Others were Christian but were babes and were following worldly ways and values during some of their childrearing. The older the child was before the parents came to Christ or learned wiser ways, the harder to redirect the child to a good course. With other parents, there has been crisis to deal with - perhaps the death of one parent, a divorce, a serious and prolonged illness, etc. Though someone widowed or divorced may remarry and attempt to build a strong Christian home, there may be a lot of damage already done. Divorce is always devastating. Death or serious illness risks planting the seeds of bitterness. And during the crisis period, the parent(s) may be suffering a lot themselves and finding it hard to minister to the needs of their children. Any of these conditions can increase the risk of a child turning rebellious or rejecting the teachings of his parents (even many years later).

Still other parents adopt children, providing a wonderful Christian home to children whose parents have died, rejected them, or been too immersed in sin to be able to care for them. But how much more challenging to raise a child who may have feelings of rejection or shame concerning his birth parents or may have suffered much abuse or neglect before adoption! These things potentially leave deep scars and bitterness to deal with for years to come. Nor do the adoptive parents have the degree of understanding and insight into the adoptive child as natural parents have, with recognizing many things in their children similar to themselves. If we understand the challenges adoptive parents often face, we should be very slow to criticize them for children that turn out less than perfect.

And let us not judge our brethren who have a wayward child. Rather show mercy instead! Be an encouragement, pray for them, and offer help where you can. In humility offer wise counsel. Be encouraging, not criticizing or condemning your brethren! If correction is truly needed in some area, offer it gently - in wholesome words, good for edification, according to the need of the moment (Eph 4:29).

And beware judging the decisions others make in child raising or dealing with a problem child. Don’t be offended if your advice is not taken! Don't judge and condemn your brethren for decisions made in good conscience, attempting to do what was right and best. How do you know that you really understand the situation and that your solution was truly best? Who are you to judge the servant of another? They are stewards to God of their children, He will judge.

Even God, the perfect father, had wayward children of a sort in Adam & Eve. God chooses to give us free wills, the opportunity to chose to love and serve Him willingly, or the opportunity to choose to serve ourselves and rebel. So let us neither boast of our success in parenting nor condemn the parenting of our brethren who have a wayward child!

Volume 1 Issue 2: July / August 2000, Unless The Lord ... Magazine