I have seen it happen. Sincere Christian parents have conscientiously raised their children in love and in return have been loved and honored by their children. But then something happened. The children grew up and left homes. . .and parents’ lives fell apart. They quarreled with each other; they ceased visiting in the church; they were depressed; they felt lonesome and useless any longer in this world. They seemed to have nothing more to live for.
The effects on their children varied. Some, still single, moved back home out of pity, concern, and sometimes guilt combined. Some, married, spent so much time at home that they could well-nigh have moved back in. Some resented the change and became estranged from their parents. But on all the children — grown-up children, now — of such situations, there was a tremendous strain.
And no wonder! For in effect, the parents in these situations have suddenly renounced all the prior training given their children. Throughout the years of training, the parents have taught their children: “God is our help and strength. He is our life. He is all we need.’’ But now they have suddenly in action said, “No, God is not enough. We didn’t raise our children just for God; we raised you for ourselves. We need you for ourselves!’’
Now, it is not questioned that the proper parent-child relationship will and should continue for life. The parent will always have a special supervisory interest in the child and the child must always have a heart which loves and honors his parents so that he is responsive to them. But the years of training must come to an end. The special joys of daily fellowship between parent and child give place to the adult needs of the child. And while the joys of fellowship between parents and children do not cease — in some ways they become increasingly stronger — they take on new dimensions, with the parent recognizing that the child must have new relationships and priorities as an adult.
I suspect that this breaking of the childhood tie of a parent and child is usually a struggle even where there has been a right relationship in the home. How can it be easy to give up the deep and natural blood-ties which are so much stronger when joined to a spiritual fellowship and likeness? Only the expectancy of greater joys through this division can make it a possibility at all.
For the parent, this means putting his child’s life over and above his own. God has given the parent years of a special, uniquely joyful relationship with children, but he must now be willing to give up a portion of this joy in order that his child may now live a full and rich life independently of him.
And actually, being willing to forego the selfish aspect of his joy is the only way in which the parent can in any way at all maintain a joyful relationship. His joy must always be that his children are walking in God’s ways, in fellowship with God. If he forbids the child to mature in godliness, then he is denying God’s will for his child and is himself walking in disobedience. There can be no joy in a walk contrary to God’s ways.
Rather than lose joy as his child grows and leaves home, the parent should instead find his own walk of faith deepening in a new direction. He now has more time to spend on the things of God and God’s Kingdom. The essence of all joy is our fellowship with God and God now draws near to us in a new and special way. In these years, God provides more time for prayer, more time for meditation on His Word, more time for service in His church, more time for visiting those who are sick and lonely and in other special needs, more time for studying out even questions and problems of the grownup children, so as to give wise counsel. These things all draw us closer and closer to the Father.
And ultimately, finally, really, is not this the desire of sanctified hearts? Above all else, do we not desire the fellowship of our covenant God? Is not this our all-consuming need? Is not fellowship with God our ultimate joy. the core also of all other joys in this life?
And so, throughout all of our lives, in each life differently, the Father draws His children to Himself until they are fully fit to live with Him eternally in His place prepared for them. For each of His children, the Father has prepared a place in eternity as a special reward for all the toils of this life, endured in faith by His grace. For each, the essence of this reward will be His love, His favor, His eternal, “Well done, my child. As you have been faithful in life by my grace, I will now graciously give you the eternal life which Christ earned for you.’’
And that reward, that eternal life, that eternal love of His surrounding me, will be all the joy my heart could possibly endure. God is the essence of all things. . .and He loves me completely! What more joy can there be?
That joy is the ultimate reward also of all fathers and mothers in Israel. Be faithful, be diligent, even when the sorrows press hard. God will give joys along the way to encourage you. And then, at the last, He will receive you to Himself forever. Let that joy always shine bright to encourage us until the day it becomes an eternal reality. God is our eternal joy!