From the moment a newborn is placed in our arms, we dream of their future, of who and what they’ll become. Because we control most of what goes on in their young lives outwardly—food choices, bedtimes, what kind of education they’ll receive—we sometimes assume that we can control what goes on inwardly. The hard part comes when our children grow into adolescence and young adulthood and start to make their own choices, choices we can’t control. 

The decision to homeschool our oldest son came with much thought and prayer. I poured a lot of energy into curriculum choices and spent many hours reading aloud such classics as Swiss Family Robinson and The Secret Garden. When he decided he wanted to learn the clarinet, the instrument I played, I was thrilled at the idea of teaching him. But most of all, my husband and I were excited to see him grow in his faith. The night before his baptism, at age 8, this boy who was terrified of going underwater told us he was excited about being baptized because he loved Jesus. As he grew, we saw his faith mature and sought to nurture it as best we could.

But things started to change in high school. He enjoyed his friends and marching in the band, but he began to struggle personally and academically, and we didn’t know how to help him. After graduation, things seemed to get better, but the same struggles only resurfaced as he entered college. The worst part was seeing him lose interest in the faith he had professed to believe.

This oldest child, the one I taught how to read and how to perfect a B flat scale on the clarinet, the one whose face beamed with love for Jesus the night before his baptism, told me and my husband one afternoon on our back porch that he didn’t consider himself a Christian anymore. This precious son confessed to us that when he needed God most, God hadn’t come through for him. He believed God had given up on him.

As my children grew up and I saw their differing abilities and interests, God taught me how to love and accept them for who they were, not what I wanted them to be. But after that fateful day on the back porch, I realized I had more lessons to learn—lessons about patience and enduring love.

Have you ever paid attention to God’s first action after Adam and Eve’s fall? Sometimes, we can get so familiar with a passage of Scripture that we don’t stop to meditate on the details. Stop and dwell on this – here they were, naked and ashamed, grasping for some flimsy leaves to cover themselves. What does God do next? Maybe the better question is this, “What doesn’t God do?”

He doesn’t yell at them.

He doesn’t abandon them. 

He comes near with gentle questions. God wasn’t surprised. He remembered His own warning to them and the consequences that would follow. And he goes on to explain those consequences in Genesis 3:14-19. But embedded in the consequences is a promise – what theologians call the mother promise of Genesis 3:15 – that God has not given up. In the aftermath of the worst choice humans could have made, God’s grace brings hope.

From Genesis 3 onward, the history of mankind and God’s people abounds with bad choices, and yet the thread of God’s promise remains unbroken. Our God will not and cannot lie. As Gabriel Fackre said, “God does not go back on the divine intention. The No of the world cannot turn aside the Yes of the Word. Covenant is for keeps.”

In my own situation, I am continually faced with this question: How will I respond? Will I turn inward and despair, constantly questioning what I did wrong as a parent? No. That has only led to paralysis and fear. Will I look around me and compare myself and my children to others? No. That has only fed a kind of gangrenous envy of the soul. 

The third choice is to respond like my faithful Heavenly Father, who has never given up on His people. By His grace and the power of His Spirit, I will press on, showing the same patience and steadfast love.