God’s Heart For Hurting Parents

Max Lucado.jpg

I don’t care how tough you are. You may be a Navy Seal who specializes in high altitude skydiving behind enemy lines. You might spend each day making million-dollar, split-second stock market decisions. Doesn’t matter. Every parent melts the moment he or she feels the full force of parenthood.

The semi truck of parenting comes loaded with fears. We fear failing the child, forgetting the child. Will we have enough money? Enough answers? Enough diapers? Vaccinations. Education. Homework. Homecoming. It’s enough to keep a parent awake at night.

Fear distilleries concoct a high-octane brew for parents, a primal, gut-wrenching, pulse-stilling dose. Whether Mom and Dad keep vigil outside a neonatal unit, make weekly visits to a juvenile prison or hear the crunch of a bike and cry of a child in the driveway, their reaction is the same: “I’ve got to do something.” No parent can sit still while his child suffers.

As a parent and a pastor, I look to the Bible for stories of parenting. One man written about in the New Testament, Jairus, he couldn’t sit still.

“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying” (Luke 8:40-42).

Jairus was a Capernaum community leader, a synagogue ruler. Mayor, bishop and ombudsman, all in one. The kind of man a city would send to welcome a celebrity. But when Jairus approached Jesus on the Galilean shoreline, he wasn’t representing his village; he was pleading on behalf of his child.

Jairus isn’t the only parent to run onto Gospel pages on behalf of a child.

The Canaanite mother. The father of the epileptic boy. Jairus. These three parents form an unwitting New Testament society: struggling parents of stricken children. They held the end of their rope in one hand and reached toward Christ with the other. In each case, Jesus responded. Deliberately. Quickly. Decisively.

Note to all panicking parents: Jesus never turned one away. In the story of Jairus, Jesus made the father’s prayer his top priority. He heeded the concern in the parent’s heart.

He will do the same for ours. After all, our kids were His kids first. “Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” (Psalm 127:3, MSG). When you look at your children, you look at God’s most generous endowment. They upstage any divine grace He gives. Before they were yours, they were His. Even as they are yours, they are still His.

We tend to forget this fact, regarding our children as “our” children, as though we have the final say in their health and welfare. We don’t. All people are God’s people, including the small people who sit at our tables. Wise are the parents who regularly give their children back to God.

Parents, we can do this. We can be loyal advocates, stubborn intercessors. We can take our parenting fears to Christ. In fact, if we don’t, we’ll take our fears out on our kids. Fear turns some parents into paranoid prison guards who monitor every minute, check the background of every friend. They stifle growth and communicate distrust. A family with no breathing room suffocates a child.

On the other hand, fear can create permissive parents. For fear that their child will feel too confined or fenced in, they lower all boundaries. High on hugs and low on discipline. They don’t realize that appropriate discipline is an expression of love. Permissive parents. Paranoid parents. How can we avoid the extremes? We pray.

Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool. Jesus says so little about parenting — no comments about spanking, breastfeeding, sibling rivalry or schooling. Yet His actions speak volumes about prayer. Each time a parent prays, Christ responds. His big message to moms and dads? Bring your children to Me. Raise them in a greenhouse of prayer.

When you send them off for the day, do so with a blessing. When you tell them goodnight, cover them in prayer. Pray that your children have a profound sense of place in this world and a heavenly place in the next.

Parents, we can’t protect children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of life. We can entrust our kids to Christ. Even then, however, our shoreline appeals might be followed by a difficult choice.

As Jairus led Jesus through the crowded streets, “someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore.’ Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’” (Luke 8:49-50).

The hard reality of parenting reads something like this: You can do your best and still stand where Jairus stood. We need to know what Jesus will do when we entrust our kids to Him.

He unites the household. Jesus includes the mother. Up until this point, she has been, for whatever reason, out of the picture. But here, Christ unites them. He wants Mom and Dad to stand together in the struggle.

And He banishes unbelief: “Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said ‘Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.’ And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside” (Luke 8:52-54, NKJV).

God has a heart for hurting parents. Should we be surprised? After all, God himself is a father. What parental emotion has He not felt? Do you find yourself wanting to spare your child from all the hurt in the world? God did. And yet, He “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). “All things” must include courage and hope.

Some of you find the story of Jairus difficult to hear. You prayed the same prayer he did; yet, you found yourself in a cemetery facing every parent’s darkest night. What hope does the story of Jairus offer to you? Jesus resurrected his child; why didn’t He save yours?

God understands your question. He buried a child, too. Death wasn’t a part of His plan, and He hates it more than you do. God resurrected His precious one and will do the same with yours. Your child may not be in your arms, but your child is safely in His.

Others of you have been standing where Jairus stood for a long time. You’ve long since left the water’s edge of offered prayer, yet haven’t arrived at the household of answered prayer. At times, you’ve felt like a breakthrough was nearing, that Christ was following you to your house. But you’re not so sure anymore. You find yourself alone on the path, wondering if Christ has forgotten you and your child.

He hasn’t. He never dismisses a parent’s prayer. Keep giving your child to God, and in the right time and the right way, God will give your child back to you.

© Max Lucado (excerpted from Fearless, Thomas Nelson 2009)

September 17
Peter and John before the Council
The priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus — Act_4:1, Act_4:2, Act_4:13
Miracle and Sermon Distasteful to the Rulers
An old writer has said that a miracle was like the bell before the sermon, it caught the attention of the people and brought them together for the preaching of the Word. Now that was true of the miracle at the Gate Beautiful. As with the summons of some clear-toned bell, it brought a vast congregation to the disciples. And in the closing part of the third chapter, we have the sermon that Peter preached to them. But the miracle and the discourse which followed it were very abhorrent to the ruling powers. They thought that they had triumphed over Jesus, and here was His cause more visible than ever. Peter and John were apprehended instantly. They were going to the Temple and were taken to prison instead. I think that Peter and John sang hymns that night as lustily as Paul and Silas did at Philippi. Then in the morning they were led before the rulers. The council of state was set, and they were stationed in the midst of it. And they were asked (as if the questioners did not know) by what authority or name they had done this. Peter, briefly, respectfully, and manfully, declared that the power had been the power of Jesus. He showed his auditors how prophecy was fulfilled. He declared that there was no salvation out of Christ. And though to the hearers this was hateful doctrine and though they would willingly have silenced it forever, yet there was the lame man— lame no more— among them, and that was an argument not to be gainsaid. What could be done? Was there no help for it? Could none devise means for stopping the rising tide? That most august and venerable council revealed their impotence in the course they took. They laid a charge on Peter and on John that the name of Jesus was not to pass their lips. They might as well have charged the breaking sea to cease its thundering when the tempest blew. Peter and John were bound to disobey. Even as Jews, must they not be loyal to God? So they were loosed, and being loosed, they went (as we all do) to their own company (Act_4:23).
Ready to Envy Others’ Influence
Now the first thing that arrests us here is this, how ready we are to envy others’ influence. You would have thought that the Pharisees and priests, having the interests of their land at heart, would have been heartily glad to get a lame man healed. You would have thought that they might have argued like this, “Whoever did it is a secondary matter; the great thing is that suffering has been ended, so let us all give thanks to God for that.” Instead of that we read that they were grieved. They were heart-harassed; they were quite sick with envy. If one of their own rank had wrought the miracle, it had been well. But it was all wrong when Peter and John did it. Do you think that that spirit has quite died away? Sometimes we call that spirit party-spirit, but in its essence it is nothing less than envy. It would have been sweet if we could have done this or that, but—someone else has done it and it is torture. We must remember that God has many instruments. We must pray and struggle for a new humility. We must take as our spiritual motto that “God fulfils Himself in many ways.”
You Can Tell Who Has Been with Jesus
The next thing that we observe is this, there is no mistaking one who has been with Jesus. When they saw the boldness of Peter and of John, they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. That is not the mere statement of a fact of history. It does not mean that it dawned on the council then that these men had been in Jesus’ company. John was on friendly terms with the authorities, and I fancy that all of them had heard of Peter. It means that when they saw the boldness of the two, they recognized the spirit of Jesus Christ. Like a flash, the demeanor of Christ upon His trial rose up before them; it was He who spoke through the two prisoners. There is no mistaking one who has been with Jesus. He may speak out as Simon Peter did, or like John he may not open his lips, but the world has an instinct for the Master’s presence and can tell when a man has truly been with Christ. I dare say you have all heard the eastern story of the lump of clay that exhaled an exquisite fragrance. And when someone asked it how it smelled so sweet, it replied that it had been lying near a muskrose for days. There is an unmistakable fragrance in a life that dwells continually near the Rose of Sharon.
Loyalty to God Our First Duty
Again this noble truth breaks from these verses, that loyalty to God is our first duty. It must have been hard for Peter to disobey the council. I think it would be harder still for John. They were both Jews both steeped in Jewish feeling, nor had they lost their reverence for Jewish rule. Now comes the moment of crisis in their history. They are faced by the greatest choice to which a man is called. On the one hand is the past— the world— authority. On the other hand is the clear will of God. We know what Peter and John chose in that hour. It was very simply and very quietly done. Yet the future would have been far different for them both, and the story of Christendom would have been altered, had they swerved from the will of God in that decision. We can never tell the issues of our choices. They reach far further than we ever dream. We only know that when we choose as Peter did, we may leave the future with John’s and Peter’s Lord. The scene reminds us of Luther at the Diet, refusing to comply or to retract, and saying “Here stand I. I can do nought else. God help me. Amen.”
Factual Demonstration of the Resurrection
Lastly, we mark this in the story, the great arguments for a risen Christ are facts. It was not the preaching of Peter that silenced the council. It was the presence of the man who had been healed. It was a man, touched by the power of heaven, who was the sure witness of an ascended Lord. It is by facts that we prove the resurrection. It is by the long history of Christendom. It is by the experiences of countless hearts that are inexplicable save for a living Christ. Men may deny that rising from the dead. They may think it is but an idle tale. But when they behold the man who has been healed, like the Jews they can say nothing against it.