Today, we have the privilege of posting an excerpt from Paul David Tripp’s recent book Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, which you can purchase here. Over the years, we have enjoyed working with Paul David Tripp on ROOTED and other projects, and we deeply appreciate how he communicates God’s grace for the daily realities of life. If you are coming to TGC 2017, we hope you’ll join us for a Q&A breakfast with Paul Tripp on Tuesday morning.
If you would ask me what is the most important thing that God has given you as a parent, I wouldn’t say the wisdom principles of his Word. No, I would say, “His grace!” Let me explain why.
Like everything else God calls people to, God doesn’t call people to be parents because they are able. If you read your Bible carefully, you will understand that God doesn’t call able people to do important things. Abraham wasn’t able. Moses wasn’t able. Gideon wasn’t able. David wasn’t able. The disciples weren’t able, and the story goes on.
The reason for this is that there are no able people out there. They just don’t exist. And they surely don’t exist as parents. God did not create human beings to be independently able; he designed us to be dependent. It is not a sign of personal weakness or failure of character to feel unable as a parent. The reason you feel this is because it’s true! None of has the natural storehouse of wisdom, strength, patience, mercy, and perseverance that every parent needs in order to do his job well. Independent ability, like independent righteousness, is a delusion. So quit beating yourself up because you feel inadequate; you feel that way because it’s true!
Why would a God of perfect wisdom ask inadequate people to do such an important job? The answer is so important to grasp. God calls unable people to do important things because ultimately what he’s working on is not your immediate success, but that you would come to know him, to love him, to rest in his grace, and to live for his glory.
Let me put it a different way. God calls unable people to do important things so that he will get the glory and not them. He isn’t working so that your life as a parent would be easy, predictable, and free from struggle. He calls you to do the impossible so that in your search for help, you would find more than help—you would find him.
But there’s something else to be said here. No child really wants to be parented by parents who think that they’re able. “Able” parents tend to be proud and self-assured parents. Because they are proud of their ability, they act too quickly and with too much self-confidence, and because they do, they lack patience and understanding. “Able” parents tend to assume that their children should be able too, so they tend to fail to be tender when the weaknesses of their children get exposed. “Able” parents, who pride themselves in keeping the law, tend to give their children more law than grace and are quicker to judge than to understand. And “able” parents tend to want their children to be their trophies, a public demonstration of their ability. It’s hard to live with people who deny weakness, because people who deny weakness tend not to be patient, loving, and understanding with people who are weak.
Your inability is not the destruction of your parenting, because God meets people who humbly admit their weaknesses and run to him for help. But your judgments of parental ability may be the very reason you find yourself at odds with children who never seem to measure up to your expectations. “Able” parents seem to be upset when children demonstrate over and over again that what they need is to be parented! If you walk down the hallway mad because your children need correction again, you’re mad because at that moment they need what every human being constantly needs: a parent’s care. But if you walk down that hallway confessing your need of the Father’s care, it is more likely that you will embrace the need of your children for the same care, and you’ll be tender as you give it.
God never calls us to a task without giving us what we need to do it. God never sends you into anything without going with you. He never tells you to do something without giving you what you need to do it. This is the story of the whole Bible. This is why God sent his Son to earth. There is only one hero in the Bible; every other character is flawed in some way. God is the hero of every story in the Bible. In fact the Bible is not a collection of stories, but one big story with lots of chapters. It is the story of how God meets weak and failing people with his powerful grace.
What does this have to do with parenting? Everything! It means that if you are God’s child, it is impossible for you to be left to your own limited package of resources. It’s impossible for you to be relegated to whatever is the size of your strength and wisdom. And here’s what you need to remind yourself of every day: God’s greatest and most wonderful gift to you as a parent is himself!
He knows how hard your task is. He knows that it drives you beyond the borders of your patience and wisdom. He knows that there are times when you feel that you have no clue of what you’re doing. He knows there are moments when you wish you could quit and walk away. He knows that there are moments when anger grips you. He knows that your children can get under your skin. He knew what every piece of your struggle would be as a parent, so he knew that the only thing that would help you would be himself.
Read these words carefully: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20–21).
Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you! You read it right. The apostle Paul says that you don’t really understand who you are and what you’ve been given until you understand this amazing thing: that God knew that our calling would be so huge and our weakness so deep that the only thing that would help us was himself. So in an act of incredible grace, he has unbuttoned us and gotten inside of us. Now think about this as a parent. This God who has the ability to do things that are way beyond your ability to conceive, who has perfect wisdom and unlimited strength, right now lives inside of you.
Taken from Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp, © 2016, pp. 35-38. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.