Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Throughout the years I have served in pastoral ministry, I have encountered parents who would quote this beloved proverb as a promise that their “wayward” child would resume church attendance or abandon whatever embarrassing phase they might be currently going through at the moment. I don’t blame them. It’s the inerrant word of God and we are supposed to trust it. However, since coming to serve at Adult & Teen Challenge, when I hear parents cling to this verse, there is a heightened sense of urgency unlike anything I have ever experienced. For them, it becomes their only hope that their child will not die in their addiction.
So, what is Solomon getting at? Can you trust God to bring your child back to his “raising” or not? His proverb is built upon the Abrahamic covenant that instructed parents to teach their children the ways of God—when they rise, when they go to bed and virtually every other time in between. Teaching was to be done in the place where children are most influenced—the home. The idea that a Sunday School teacher, pastor, youth leader, or—heaven forbid—their schoolteacher was to “pick up the slack” on teaching the ways of God was a foreign concept to Scripture.
Yet, many of us do only what was modeled before us as parents. Does this mean that those who fail to meet the strict criteria of Scripture have no place to anchor their hope? Absolutely not! The sovereignty of God and His love for our children is never diminished by ANY of our shortcomings. To the contrary, “the fervent prayer of the righteous” has brought many a child home from their place of desperation. The point is that there are many situations in life that are too important to merely “grab a verse” and say, “Jesus take the wheel.” I have never witnessed a near-hopeless situation where God did not work His Romans 8:28 promise in the lives of BOTH the parent and the child to deepen their understanding of His grace.
It will all be worth it when God brings them home!