A Story of Parenting by Faith: How God is Teaching One Dad to Trust Him

grumpy child

A few weeks ago, I noticed a certain child of ours was clearly upset with me. They were short and somewhat disrespectful. Initially, I ignored this unusual behavior, but was not pleased. Later in the day, I sensed the attitude again.

Now, as a parent of four kids under the age of 12, I have been down the path of “solving” this issue without considering Jesus at all. I can handle a kid with a bad attitude. I can say, “What’s your problem?” “Get over it.” “Deal with it.” as well as anyone. I can send them straight to their room until they change their sour attitudes. All of these responses are natural to me when I am offended or angry.

But lately, God has been humbling me. In his kindness, he’s shown me areas of my life where I have been parenting with an “I got this” mentality; as if I only need Jesus when it comes to “spiritual” matters.

God is showing me how little control I have in life, especially in parenting. Through that, he is teaching me how much control he has for all of life and how I need him for everything. I’ve been learning that fear, stress, frustration, discouragement, and anxiety are invitations for me to pray and depend on God in the moment, trusting that he will provide all I need at the proper time.

In this particular situation with my grumpy child, God convicted me that I was offended by their attitude, so I would have disciplined out anger and frustration, rather than love. I decided not to engage with my child about their attitude. Instead, I prayed and silently asked God for help.

It wasn’t long until I started to doubt my “praying method.” I thought, “Well, I guess I should’ve addressed their attitude in the moment, now I’ve just been a passive dad.” Thoughts of self-doubt and failure felt like waves lapping over the side of the boat of my soul, and I could feel the storm starting to rage. With faith much smaller than a mustard seed, I kept praying throughout the day—even while replaying the thought that I probably blew this parenting opportunity.

Then something changed. Later that night, I had a few minutes alone with my child. Jesus had calmed the storm of my soul to the point where I was no longer filled with fear and anger. In the peace of his presence, I saw something in my child that I didn’t see before: their disrespect was rooted in anger towards me. This was an epiphany, as at first, I thought they were being disrespectful with no legitimate cause.

In that moment, I was prompted to ask my child, “Hey, some of the things you said to me today made me think that maybe you are angry at me about something. Do you have some bitterness or anger towards me for something that I did to you?” They immediately, but gently, replied, “ya.” “What did I do?,” I asked. “I got that bag of candy as a gift and you just gave a bunch of it away to the neighbors and my siblings without even asking,” my child responded.

I recalled the previous night: we had some neighbors over and I saw a bag of Hershey kisses in the fridge. I assumed the chocolates were fair game. Little did I know my child had put them in there so they wouldn’t melt.

Ahh! So there it was. I had taken something from my child without asking and given it away. They went to bed angry at me, and woke up the next day with a bad attitude. I looked at my child and said, “I had no idea those were yours. I am sorry I took your chocolates without asking, will you forgive me?” My child smiled and said, “ya!”

We had a talk about how we can speak with each other if someone has done something we cannot look past. We spoke about Proverbs 19:11 and Matthew 18.  That night, God taught me that he had a far better plan for my child and me.

In many ways, it was a much harder plan; praying to and trusting God means dying to my self-dependency and desire to control my children. Looking back, however, it was a far greater plan than I could have ever imagined, as God led us by his Spirit to streams of living water.

I am learning that walking—and parenting—by the Spirit means things cannot be planned, controlled, or created; only received by faith—even my weak and doubting faith. Even in writing this, I am filled with doubtful thoughts. And yet, I am sustained and find refuge in the only shelter, Christ himself, and his work on the cross for me. This, not my feelings towards him, are the stable basis of my salvation.

This is one of the innumerable graces and miracles I have in Christ – God with me in it all. Living in the mystery of the Gospel means I can hope for a far better outcome than simple “behavior management” or “getting through the day” with my children. I can expect unity, fruit, beauty, and storm calming power for every day.

The problem: I often don’t believe this. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me parent by faith, not by sight.

Rooted wants to come alongside parents as they disciple their children; with this in mind, we created Rooted Reservoir Family Curriculum. Among the eight courses offered there, you will find “Discipleship Practices With Young Children” and Discipleship Practices With Teenagers” to guide parents through Scripture as well as practical application. 

Joey is married to Jenny (his high school sweetheart) and is a father to four amazing kids. He serves as the Pastor of Missions and Adult Ministries at Patterson Park Church in Beavercreek, OH. Prior to his current role Joey was a Student Ministry Pastor for 9 years. He is a graduate of Cedarville University, has a Master of Arts in Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is currently working towards in M.Div. through Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.

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