We haven’t forgotten about good ol’ J.C. Ryle and his paper “The Duties of Parents,” which we’ve been slowly working through.
In his thirteenth section of the paper, Ryle tells parents, “train them remembering continually how God trains his children.”
This is a fascinating section, in which Ryle notes several ways that Scripture speaks of God dealing with His children, urging us as parents to take our cues from the heavenly Father as we consider how to parent.
Consider a few ways that God leads as the Father–ways that might seem surprising or even inappropriate to some in our culture. First, God “withholds from His children.” Think of Moses and God withholding the Promised Land from him as a means of discipline…Yet how desperately do some of us seek to give our children everything their heart desires? Second, God “leads His people by ways which seem dark and mysterious to our eyes.” He has His children go down unusual or unexpected roads and into deep valleys of the soul–places that seem confusing or strange to us at the time, yet profit us greatly in due time. Third, He “chastens His people with trial and affliction.” He brings sickness, poverty, and persecution. Think of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” that God left despite Paul’s persistent pleas for its removal.
Yet, God is wise and caring and is the Greatest Possible Parent! Is He not?!
Ryle’s words are worth quoting at length here as he considers the implications for us as human parents:
I ask you to lay to your heart the lesson which God’s dealings with His people is meant to teach you. Fear not to withhold from your child anything you think will do him harm, whatever his own wishes may be. This is God’s plan. Hesitate not to lay on him commands, of which he may not at present see the wisdom, and to guide him in ways which may not now seem reasonable to his mind. This is God’s plan.
Shrink not from chastising and correcting him whenever you see his soul’s health requires it, however painful it may be to your feelings….This is God’s plan.
And be not afraid, above all, that such a plan of training will make your child unhappy. I warn you against this delusion. Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than always having our own way. To have our wills checked and denied is a blessed thing for us; it makes us value enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is the way to be made selfish; and selfish people and spoiled children, believe me, are seldom happy.
Reader, be not wiser than God; — train your children as He trains His.