Welcome guest blogger Kelly Mikhailiuk.
Life is full of expectations. When a woman is pregnant, we say she is “expecting.” We watch weather forecasts so we can learn what to expect and prepare accordingly. We struggle under the weight of others’ expectations of us or suffer disappointment when our expectations aren’t met. Whether we admit it or not, we expect certain things of our children. Our expectations may be high or low, realistic or unreasonable—but we all have them, and they affect the way we live.
What do you expect from your kids? What do they expect of themselves? Where do those expectations come from? How do they affect the choices you make? The Bible teaches us four things to expect of our kids (and ourselves)!
#1: THEY WILL SIN.
Our babies may be beautiful, naive, and unsullied by the evils of this world, but their hearts are bent toward sin and self. Like every human being, the default mode of a child’s heart is to put himself—not God—at the center of his universe and put his own desires first. Our children’s sin should grieve us, but it shouldn’t shock us. Every heart turns away from God like a sheep gone astray—there are no exceptions, “not even one” (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:10).
Help your kids recognize sin in their own hearts. Grieve with your kids over the effects of sin in the world. Guide your children to respond to their own sin with repentance. Model what it looks like to humbly confess your sin, believing that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us” (1 John 1:9).
#2: THEY WILL BE LOVED AND CARED FOR.
We love our kids. They depend on us, and we feel the weight of our role in their lives. It’s a glorious weight, but it can be a fearful one. If we’re honest, our love and care often falls short. In those moments, we need to be reminded that God loves our children more than we ever could, and His love never fails.
These precious kids are His, but He has given them to us for a time and He uses us to show them His great love. But when we fail, He is faithful. God is the only perfect Parent, and He is completely trustworthy. He loves our kids—and us—with a love that “surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19). If He loves us enough to offer up His own Son, will He not also “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”? (Rom. 8:32; Phil. 4:19).
#3: THEY WILL SUFFER.
We instinctively want to protect our children. If we could, we would shield them from all fear, pain, sadness, hardship, and disappointment. But we can’t. We can only trust God’s wisdom and love for our children (and ourselves). Jesus told His followers to expect “suffering in this world,” but to “be courageous” because He has “conquered the world” (John 16:33). Our comfort is in Christ (2 Cor. 1:5), and that goes for our children too. When our children suffer and when we suffer, we also experience the brokenness of this world, the sting of sin and death that pierced our hearts and tore through the entire creation.
But Christ took this sting of sin and death in his body (1 Cor. 15:54-57). He bore our sorrows, spoken and unspoken (Isa. 53:4-5). He wept with His friends and paid with His life to redeem His children and His creation from death (John 11:33-36; Rom. 8:18-21). He triumphed over evil, and we can find comfort in His victory (2 Thess. 1:5-7). One day God will wipe every tear from the eyes of His dear children, and all sin, suffering, and sorrow will be no more (Rev. 21:3-5).
#4: THEY WILL GROW AND MATURE.
We expect children to grow physically, and we want to make sure they get what they need to mature. Just like physical growth, spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that starts at the new birth and continues throughout life. We all grow in various ways and on different timelines, but God doesn’t let any of us stay the same for long. We can’t make our kids grow, but we can guide them to the nutrients they need (Scripture, prayer, fellowship with believers). We also can challenge them to exercise their faith through obedient service and worship, remembering that “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7).
Even if a child is not a believer, God is still at work, and we should be faithful in pointing every child to God’s love and righteousness, repentance from sin, and faith in Christ. It is God who produces saving faith and its fruits in our lives. So, whether our children are followers of Christ or not, we can be encouraged that God faithfully cares for us and for those He has entrusted to our love and our gospel witness.
Adopting gospel-based expectations for our children and ourselves is both humbling and liberating. When we bring the gospel into our everyday language, teaching, and discipline, we create a safe space where—together with our children—we can take a hard look at sin, then lift our eyes in great expectation to the abundant grace of God in Christ.
Kelly Mikhailiuk is a stay-at-home mom and editorial freelancer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Taras, and their four young children.
A version of this article first appeared in the June 2016 issue of ParentLife. To order, visit HERE.