“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” The Apostle John wrote these words to his friend Gaius almost two thousand years ago. The same words were written to me 25 years ago when my mother-in-law wrote the verse in a Bible she gave me. It seems she and the Apostle John had something in common. Their greatest desire was that their children would continue in the faith.
As my children have reached adulthood, the power of this sentiment has grown on me. There are many things I wish for my children. I wish them physical and emotional health, lives free from pain and anxiety, happiness, as well as joyful relationships with their spouses and their children. I wish them success, recognition in their careers and freedom from financial worry. All of these things are important but they all pale in comparison to my desire for them to know God and walk with Him.
As much as my chidren’s lives of faith bring joy, I can imagine no greater sorrow than watching them walk away from God. It has been my greatest fear since their were born. This hope for faith and fear of falling led me to pray for them ceaselessly, carefully teach them the bith the what and the why of Christian faith, and tried to be a role model. I have worked hard to pass on my faith but that does not take away my fear.
I am not alone in these feelings. In recent years I have witnessed firsthand the heartache of godly parents whose children no longer believe. I know a man who is a church elder who has a son living with his girlfriend. For his son, church no longer matters. A missionary couple who has spent over 30 years working to bring the Christian message to strangers across the globe has shared with me their grief over their atheist son. I have recently been praying for a pastor friend whose son who has angrily rejected the message his father had taught him since childhood. The pain of these parents is real.
While each of our children are in different places in their faith we have one thing in common. We are neither in control of, nor responsible for, the choices our children make. Each person must personally respond to the call of God. No parent can do it for them. As hard as we try, there is no secret recipe or magic formula for passing faith on to our children. No one can take credit for the faith of their children, nor can anyone take the blame for the lack of faith in their children.
Our children choose for themselves. Which may be why their correct choices bring so much joy.