Trusting God with My Unsaved Child

October 31st 2023

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:1–3).

The Anguish

It’s been rightly said that there is no pain that goes so deep as the loss of a child. I would go further to say that there is little that shows the brokenness of this world, the most scarring impacts of the Fall, than that of losing children. There really is something twisted and backwards when a parent must bury their own precious child.

But for the Christian parent, there is also the ever-present weight of our living children's spiritual condition. The anguish and heartache that Paul expresses in Romans 9:1–3 is a deep reality for those of us, as Christian parents, with unsaved children. It’s not a stretch or misapplication to see the link between Paul’s heart for his “kinsmen according to the flesh” and that of our own children.

Paul emphasizes the reality of what he is saying, so emphatically, that he includes the Holy Spirit as a witness to his anguish, and says that this anguish is paired with great sorrow. And note that Paul’s sorrow caused his heart to exceed, in a sense, his knowledge. Remember the context here, as he had just written in Romans 8 that nothing could separate us, or him, from the love of God. He knew his salvation was secure, and yet his heart was so broken for the lostness of his physical brethren, that he would forfeit his own place with Christ for their sake. Such can be the emotional cry for the parent of a lost child. The anguish is real, isn’t it?

God’s Work, God’s Nature

Good news is worth repeating, and in the last few articles, we’ve been looking at the beautiful trustworthiness of our Lord. Who he is makes all the difference, as does his action in all things. When we consider the unsaved, our confidence in the nature of God is profoundly important. The reality that God is a saving God is fundamental to our hope for the unsaved. Trusting that he indeed “saved us” (Titus 3:5), and “made us alive” (Eph 2:5), that his very appetite is to save.

In 2 Peter 3:9, we see the nature of God in “not wishing any to perish”. While the context here leans toward the believer, teaching us that God will accomplish salvation for his elect (see also Matt 18:14), we can also see this heart for the unbeliever and rebel. In Luke 13:34 as Jesus laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus too felt a love toward the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21), even though the young man would turn and walk away.

But there is a reality to confront here: our God is a holy God. Regardless of his disposition toward the unsaved, there is a responsibility that they repent and believe. Without that, there is the grief of eternal loss. Yet, what a comfort to meditate on God’s nature as we pray and lament over an unsaved child. What hope there is to understand our heavenly Father’s disposition even toward those perishing! By abiding and meditating on this, we are presented with a wealth of comfort.

Our Story, Our Hope

Who God is, and what he can do, are key elements of hope for you, my friend. As a parent of one who is rejecting Christ, there is deep empathy for the struggle and the fear. With Paul we can easily say we have great sorrow and unceasing anguish!

But God. In Ephesians chapter two we see a great picture of our own story. We too, as Paul states, were “dead in our sins and transgressions”, walking in, living in, and pursuing this hopeless death (Eph 2:1-3). But then grace and the fervency of God’s love made us alive (v. 4-5)! Obviously, there is a great reminder here for us, for what God accomplished on our behalf. But can’t we also say–if God so saved us, he too can save our children? It is good to remember that we needed him then no differently than our children need him now. Their present deadness reflects our past deadness. Thus, the remembrance of his grace and faithfulness in drawing us, gives us the hope that it might someday be applied in the same course for our kids. In short, if God can save me, he can save them!

Prayerful Trust

Our hope and trust in God is finally and fully placed in his promises. Repeatedly, we are given an invitation to approach our Father in prayer. To seek after him by communicating our needs. Consider David in Psalm 6. This deepest of laments, these cries that would cause his bed to swim, his couch to dissolve with tears—all was with an active trust that God heard. David says, in verses 8–9, that the Lord hears, and accepts, David’s prayer. And this lamenting prayer was communicated to a God of steadfast love (v. 4). Being heard by this Father, this King, this Comforter, all should remind us of hope in the midst of what seems like unbearable fear and loss.

But we must pray according to his will, and according to his promises. It is, as Jesus would say in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). While Scripture gives us specific prophecies concerning Christ’s position in heaven, we have no such prophecy for our children. So, we make our pleas with humility and mystery, seeking for him to seek and save those precious to us. Remember, Christ’s nature cries for the lost. In this, we can model him. And because of his grace and plan, he continues to make alive that which was dead.

A Benediction of Hope

Finally this… many parents don’t live to see their children’s salvation. Yet, I hear the testimonies of lives changed, and new hearts given, after the death of believing parents. And it can happen in a moment. A thief-on-the-cross moment for our children. Pray for that, share the Gospel, and love them with grace and patience. In that, you honor Christ.

Oh Lord, for your glory, due to your goodness, may many of our little ones be drawn to you.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.