The Gut-Wrenching Pain of Letting Go and Trusting God with Your Children

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Take no heavier lift of your children, than your Lord alloweth; give them room beside your heart, but not in the yolk of your heart, where Christ should be; for then they are your idols, not your bairns [children]. — Samuel Rutherford

I am a daddy of two daughters—a four-year-old and a three-year-old. Because I love my children so much, it has been all too easy to make them into idols. I do not say that lightly or throw that term around.  It goes deep, and I did not realize it until recently. I have worried and experienced tremendous anxiety over their safety.

I came across a quote from Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor/theologian from the 1600s. As I read this, the Spirit of God exposed some unreached areas of my heart, proving to be the “divine missionary” who transcends deep into the dark unreached parts of human hearts. The quote reads,

Take no heavier lift of your children, than your Lord alloweth; give them room beside your heart, but not in the yolk of your heart, where Christ should be; for then they are your idols, not your bairns [children]. If your Lord take any of them home to his house before the storm come on, take it well, the owner of the orchard may take down two or three apples off his own trees, before midsummer, and ere they get the harvest sun; and it would not be seemly that his servant, the gardener, should chide him for it. Let our Lord pluck his own fruit at any season he pleaseth; they are not lost to you. they are laid up so well, as that they are coffered in heaven, where our Lord’s best jewels lie.” [1]

In short, Rutherford is saying that our kids can either become idols we cling to or gifts from God that we entrust to him as the giver of all gifts. As I read and reread the quote, I felt I had a bull’s-eye on my chest. In the crosshairs of the divine judge was a weak man guilty of idolatry. You want to know how sure I was of my guilt? After reading the quote, the questions that arose in my heart were, “Am I willing to trust God with my girls? Do I really believe that God is good?” The sad and exposing result was that I doubted that God was good enough to trust with my kids. I thought if I entrusted my precious girls to him, he would take them away from me.

In the context of the Rutherford quote, my girls had taken place in the yolk of my heart rather than beside my heart. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:22-23,

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

I had chosen to worship my girls instead of God, plain and simple. That hurts. It is really hard to be honest about our lack of trust. Outside of God’s divine intervention, I am worthy of wrath and have no hope inside of myself.

This is where the good news of the gospel comes in, and not only to declare forgiveness to idolaters like me. The gospel also thrusts Christ to his proper place on the throne of my heart. Paul’s answer for idolaters who know they are guilty is found just a couple of pages later in Romans 3:22-25. He writes,

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Paul is lumping all people into the category of idolater and painting a picture of all that sin of idolatry being washed away. It was Christ’s wrath-bearing sacrifice that washed away my sin (Rom. 3:21-26), and it was because of his perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) that the Father declares my works to be perfectly pleasing to him.

To know deep down that God the Father did not withhold his most precious Son—and he was raised from the dead—now gives me assurance that I can entrust my kids to him. Yes, I can love them relentlessly, but I can also have great confidence that their Creator and Sustainer is worthy of having my heart—and their hearts as well.

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Wes Van Fleet is editor-at-large for Beautiful Christian Life. This article was originally published on February 6, 2018.


Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

[1] Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ, pg. 34-35.

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