Don’t Try This at Home (Parenting without the help of the Holy Spirit)


We’ve all experienced this. Someone does some crazy feat followed by the message; “Don’t try this at home.” The warning is meant to protect those who foolishly think they can do the same thing on their own without meeting with disaster.

The Pharisee’s thought they could be good enough by obeying the letter of the law without respect to the power of sin that deceived them. Similarly, we will meet with disaster when we try to obey God’s commands apart from His power and wisdom.

The truth is that most of us are way too confident in our ability to live righteously, believing we will become holy merely by trying harder.  God, in His mercy, allows us to meet with frustration, failure, and despair, sometimes even letting things “blow up in our face.”  But that  is only so we’ll see when we’re failing to depend on the power of His gospel.

Only when we begin to glimpse God’s holiness can we begin to see our sin for what it really is: unbelief, idolatry, selfishness-grievous offenses against Almighty God . In turn, we begin to see that Jesus came, not only to save us from sin’s penalty, but from the power it has over us!  With increased understanding of gospel grace, we begin learning to walk by faith in the finished work of Christ, finding increasing victory and joy.

Nevertheless, sanctification feels excruciatingly slow for all of us.  We want to love and obey Christ, yet we find our flesh wars against the spirit of Christ within us. In His goodness, God uses various tools of sanctification to train us, but I can think of few more effective than raising children! In the mystery of God’s wisdom He commands us to teach little sinners what we grown up sinners are still learning for ourselves. Surely He knows that this has all the makings for disaster!

Thankfully, God does not leave us on our own but gives us His Word and Spirit to guide us in this fearsome job, increasingly showing us how much we need Him. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day.

The first thing we notice (if we’re honest), is that our children tend to show us a reflection of our own hearts. Like them, our wills are prone to resist authority.  By nature, we too want to say, “That’s mine!” (because we don’t really like sharing with others). Words come out of our mouths that we never thought we’d say. We get impatient (claiming we were very patient until we had children), angry, frustrated, and complain, convinced that our problem is other people, or our circumstances, rather than our own sin.

But it’s there, right in the midst of meltdowns, mommy fatigue, and teenage rebellion that God’s mercy breaks through, reminding us we are not alone and it’s not all up to us. Gospel grace is ours for the receiving.

The gospel shows us that our true need is for more than a nap, our children to grow out of a stage, or for our husband to love us as we want.  Our greatest need is for more of Christ so that we can overcome our sin in the midst of life’s pressures and hardships and bring glory to His Name.

Deuteronomy 6 commands us to love God more than anyone or anything else and, with the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, to “tell the next generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might, and the wonders He has done…that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78).

In the few short years we have with our children, our most important job is helping them know and fear God, to see their sin (and thus their need for a Savior), and to experience the peace and joy of being reconciled to God through Christ.

If nothing we do is more important than this, then why do we find it so hard? Why are we prone to find time for everything else, yet neglect time in God’s Word and prayer? How have we come to live as though our child’s greatest needs are to be prepared for sports, school, and succeeding in this life rather than being prepared to face eternity?

Of course, there are many reasons but I think, essentially, it goes back to where we started. Deep down we believe we can pour ourselves into all the good things the world offers, throw in a dash of Awana Clubs, a cup of Sunday School (when it doesn’t conflict with something else), some bedtime prayer, and we will end up with good, happy, successful adults who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We trust in our children and ourselves way too much. And we trust and depend on God way too little. Until things blow up.

The amazing thing about the gospel is that, until God closes the books on this glorious age of grace, Jesus still welcomes sinners who repent of trying to live in pursuit of worldly happiness rather than holiness. To that end, He brings little “wake up” calls into our lives; daily hardships, difficult children, sickness, financial burdens, marriage struggles, and trials of every kind, so that we will go running to Him.

The gospel alone helps us live a life that’s pleasing to God. It is our only hope for raising children and grandchildren who love Him. We have no power to change or incline sinful hearts toward God; this is a miracle of grace, yet He graciously allows us to participate in His saving work.

The good news is it’s never too late, even if our children are grown and have walked away from the Lord. While there may be painful consequences as a result of past choices we or our children have made, we have a God who delights in displaying His power through broken and repentant sinners.

But it’s also never too early to get serious about single-minded allegiance to Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s never too soon to start praying and proclaiming the gospel boldly to our children. Yes, it will mean saying no to good things when they distract us from the One we love most. It will mean saying yes to God even when it makes us different from everyone else. And it will mean accepting and submitting to God’s will day by day, simply because He is worthy.

For those who are currently in the trenches of parenting, it can be tempting to compare yourself to others, leading to envy or a critical spirit. Let us be slow to speak and quick to encourage those striving to raise godly children. While the choices others make may be different than yours, they may be exactly what God’s Spirit has directed them to do as they parent the children He has given them. Remember that biblical convictions and personal preferences are two very different things.

So let us pray for one another and be sure that our words and actions are driven by love rather than fear or envy. Let us ask God to help us be careful in our use of Facebook and other forms of social media, remembering that we will give account for every word, whether spoken or written.

As I look back, while it’s tempting to dwell on the mistakes I’ve made,  I can’t help but be amazed at God’s faithfulness. And although I have some regrets, I’ve never wished I had spent less time in prayer or God’s Word. I’ve never been sorry that we made church attendance a priority in our home or invested our resources in God’s eternal work. God has blessed every choice we made to worship and serve Him above other things.

Be assured, however, that there are no formulas or guarantees that if we do all the “right” things our children will love God. In the end, we are each responsible for our response to the gospel. We are simply called to obey, trusting God with what only He can do.

If life has “blown up” in your face, don’t give up. And if God has entrusted you with a difficult child, marriage, singleness, or challenges that seem beyond your ability to handle, don’t despair. Walk by faith, trusting God to redeem even that which seems beyond hope. One day we will see how He wove even our failures and brokenness into His redemption story, that all may praise and glorify His Name.

God will supply all that we need when we look to Him for everything, including raising children who love Him.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,

Linda Green




2 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home (Parenting without the help of the Holy Spirit)

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