The Encourager

The Encourager

“Help! I'm Struggling as a Parent! - Jeff Curtis”

“Help! I’m Struggling as a Parent!”

By Jeff Curtis


A distressed mother kept repeating the saying, “First you have them on your hands, then you have them on your heart.” The improper conduct of her grown, wayward children had added a burden to her already heavy heart.


Countless parents share her feelings. With all their other struggles, they are also carrying a burden of guilt concerning their children. Many parents believe themselves to be failures.


Quite likely, some of these feelings are valid; no parents are perfect. Failings in parenting skills can be caused by stubbornness, ignorance or selfishness.


An even sadder situation exists when children have moved away from the parents’ sphere of influence. The parents may have a strong desire to turn their children to the Lord but see little they can do to change their situations.


How does a struggling parent cope? Is it possible to learn to live with seeming failure? Is it possible to overcome past problems? God may have had struggling parents in mind when He led the inspired writer to record the story of Eli.


Eli was a father who failed. By today’s standards, Eli was highly successful in his profession. He was God’s judge and high priest, highly respected by the people. The biblical account shows Eli achieved a lot, but it also shows that he failed as a father. His mistakes and their causes are a profitable study for modern parents.


A man of ability and character, Eli was the first high priest to come from the lineage of Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron. Before him, all the priests had come from the line of Eleazar, Aaron’s third son. The selection of Eli from Aaron’s family shows his ability to lead God’s people.


As a man of devoted to God and His service, Eli showed great concern for the tabernacle and its use in service to God. His priorities are seen by his sleeping in the house of God (1Samuel 3:3-5).


Eli’s devotion is also evident in his last action on earth. He was greatly saddened when he heard the distressing news about the war with the Philistines and the deaths of his two sons. However, when a messenger mentioned that the ark of God had been captured, “Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died…” (1Samuel 4:18).


Being religious doesn’t guarantee that we will be successful as parents. No one could have exceeded Eli in his outward devotion to God. This wasn’t enough, because it is possible to be religious without being righteous. We would hope that Eli’s devotion to the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were more than just outward expressions of his devotion to God, but this may not have been the case.


Even casual observer can find religious parents who have failed for the same reasons Eli did. Eli didn’t base his family life on his relationship with God. No one can successfully substitute a few hours of worship a week for a week of righteous living.


Too often this lack of righteousness is rationalized. Some will say, “I’m not spending much time with my family, but I’m still going to church.” Eli could have said, “I’m not doing too well with my sons, but I’m busy at the tabernacle.” One’s religion cannot be valid if it neglects any of life’s great responsibilities, including parenting.


“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).