YOU CAN CHANGE… LESS THAN YOU THINK
After recently reading through Paul David Tripp’s “Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family,” one of his principles has continued to stick out to me: Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting. Tripp particularly focuses in on one of our core challenges for all (parents and non-parents alike): our inability to change others. Much peace and sanity can be gained by the simple realization and reminder that we cannot really change others. We can resort to shame and manipulation, fear and passive-aggressiveness, and yet we fail (and will fail) to bring about true heart change that leads someone to respond wholly to God.
Now it is true that we can influence others. Words and actions can truly affect people to lead them to greater comfort and encouragement or greater frustration and sadness. God can and does use fallible people to accomplish his good, wise, powerful plan. We are responsible to be active in the lives of others, influencing them for good. And yet, we cannot change another person.
But there’s good news: the change you cannot bring about in others (or even yourself!), God is able. The brother who is making ungodly and unwise decisions; sure you can guilt him for that, but only God can change his heart to love what is right. The child who is rebellious and angry; maybe you could manipulate through rewards or discipline, but only God
can extinguish the hostility. The controlling parent; maybe you could control them through avoidance or giving in, but only God can bring true contentment.
“Parenting is not about exercising power for change in your children. Parenting is about your humble faithfulness to participate in God’s work of change for the sake of your children.” We are instruments in the Redeemer’s hands, not the Redeemer himself. We are tools in the Maker’s hands, but we have no power to shape apart from his working. That should encourage us to use our words to influence, but not to control. He has got to be the one to change their heart.
Most deeply, this should lead us to be a praying people. As we enter into a new year, join me in committing yourself to seeking out the one who can truly change others, change our world, and even, change ourselves, that his goodness and his peace would be seen in all and through all.
[1Thessalonians 5:23-24] Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.