Today’s devotional is adapted from my brand-new book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.
Every human being who has ever lived has asked this question: “Where is my meaning and purpose in life to be found?”
The way you answer that question will determine how you speak to and treat the people in your life. For parents, it specifically impacts the way you interact with your children.
The Bible says that there are only two places for you and me to look for meaning and purpose (or identity). One place to look is vertically from God—from his love and acceptance, his forgiving grace, his constant presence, his power and his promises, and the glory of all of these that he’s showered down on us.
But if you’re not resting in your vertical identity, you will look horizontally, searching to find your reason for living in something in the created world. That could be your possessions, your accomplishments, your career or the people in your life—namely, your spouse and your children.
The problem with this horizontal identity quest is that created things were never designed to give you meaning and purpose. They were never designed to satisfy your heart and give you peace. On the contrary, every good thing in creation is designed to point you to the One who created them and who alone can satisfy.
There are three things that need to be said about trying to get your identity from your children:
- It is a very natural thing to do, and a very hard thing to fight. In fact, probably every parent falls into this trap in some way, most times without even knowing it.
- Parenting is a miserable place to look for identity. Think about it: You are parenting lost, rebellious, foolish, blind, self-ruling sinners. I’m not picking on your children. I have just described every fallen human being born into God’s world.
- It’s a crushing burden for your children to have to get up every morning and carry the heavy load of your identity and all the expectations and demands that flow from it. No child will carry that load well.
Be honest today. How often do you ride the up-and-down roller coaster of their compliance or resistance? How badly do you want them to be successful, not for them, but for you? How personally do you take it when your kid acts like a kid in front of your peers? How frequently do you compare them with other kids?
You see, when we look to our children to give us what we already have in Jesus, we try to make them our trophy children. We push them to succeed, and to look good, and to behave well, not simply because we know it’s best for them, but because we need their success to feel good about ourselves and to give us a reason to get up in the morning.
Parents, this is an exhausting and discouraging way to live. Your children can’t give you life, sturdy hope, worth and peace of heart. They can’t supply the strength to go on, or confidence and courage in the middle of a trial. They can’t give you that ultimate, heart-satisfying love that you long for.
Jesus is your life, and this frees you and your children from the burden of asking them to give you what your Savior has already given. We can do better because of the presence, promises and power of Jesus that have been lavished on us by grace!
To discover the other 13 gospel principles that can radically change your family, visit PaulTripp.com/Parenting.