Helping your Child with Assurance of Salvation
As a family pastor, I am often confronted with the topic of parenting. Parenting is very challenging. We are called by God to shepherd our children’s hearts and this is rarely easy. If you and your spouse are saved you know that God has given you the responsibility of leading your child to Christ. This is a Christian parents’ highest calling in life. We work so hard to lead our kids to Christ that in my observation the temptation is that when they finally make a profession of faith, we exhale, and the tendency is to move on to the next child.
But what should we do when, months or years later, our child, who made a profession of faith in the past begins to wonder in their tweenage, teenage, or early twenties, if they were genuinely saved as a child? They have lost their assurance and are desperately trying to get it back. Perhaps they are struggling with a particular sin. Perhaps, something tragic happened and they are questioning God’s goodness that leads to a lack of assurance. Perhaps they are years removed from their childhood profession of faith and they simply cannot remember the facts surrounding the event. Whatever situation you find yourself in as a parent, you are now facing a son or daughter who lacks assurance. So, what should you do? I have seen this situation handled in a biblical way and in a non-biblical way.
The non-biblical way is to dismiss your child’s concern and point them to a spiritual experience in their past like their first profession of faith or their baptism. We are walking through 1 John right now as a church which speaks about ways we can know if we are saved or not. According to John, the evidence that a person is saved is their present walk with Christ, not a past spiritual experience. Consider 1 John 2:4 which says, “And by this, we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” Present obedience is the sign that someone has been saved. True salvation always yields fruit. One of the fruits on the tree of salvation is present obedience to Christ’s commands. So often I have seen the mistake parents make of dismissing their child’s concern of false assurance by counseling them to cling to a past decision rather than present evidence.
The next reason you, as a parent, should not dismiss your child’s concern is that they may be lost. As painful as this may be parents, you may be making an eternal mistake to dismiss this as a real possibility. What if your child is lost and your response is, “O no sweetie I was there when you got saved so don’t worry.” Giving your child assurance of salvation when there is no present evidence of their claim is more than unwise parenting. It could be a fatal mistake.
That being said, another way to poorly handle your child’s lack of assurance is to quickly jump to the conclusion that they are lost and tell them so! The point I am making is that you don’t know either way. All you know is that they are spiritually unhealthy at best or lost at worst because they have expressed to you that they lack assurance.
Yet another reason dismissing your child’s concern for their lack of assurance is unwise is because this does not teach them how to walk through hard situations in life. God wants us to be honest with each other when we are experiencing times of doubt so that other stronger Christians can help us. Burying your child’s lack of assurance with the shovel of a past experience is not teaching them how to biblically handle life’s problems. This is particularly problematic with the issue of assurance. By dismissing their concern, you are not only teaching them to dismiss future doubts (which are sure to come in life), you are teaching them what to say to someone else who is struggling with a lack of assurance. What if the person they counsel one day is really lost and they give bad, unbiblical advice, because of the advice you gave them? My fear is that parents are using band-aids where stitches are required. Parents tend to look for a quick solution rather than a lasting one because parents do not want their child to experience the pain of a possible long process of seeking assurance. In my 10 plus years of observing parents with youth and children, I have seen the quick fix to often cripple the child leaving him or her without the spiritual tools to walk through hard times.
So how should parents handle this situation? A Christian parent should mirror their child’s concern and help their child walk through the evidence of salvation found in Scripture. My advice to you is to let your child work through this season of doubt. Let them struggle. When they struggle through the Scriptures that teach the doctrine of assurance the result will either be strong assurance of salvation or salvation itself! By dismissing their lack of assurance, you are missing out on an opportunity to talk to your child about the Bible!
When you take the time to obey 2 Cor. 13:5 and walk through the examination process with your child you are teaching the child that answers to their spiritual problems are found in the Bible. This teaches them to go to the Bible every time they have a problem in life. What will your child do when they grow up and leave your house if you have never taken the time to show them how to handle their problems biblically? A parent’s job is to equip their children with the tools they need to follow God when they leave home.
Parents carry their babies but when they become toddlers a good parent lets them try to walk and is even willing to endure the screams and blood from all those bumps and bruises because they know they must let their child figure it out (with their help of course) if they want to see their child walk sometime before the age of 10! A parent that is willing to let their child fall and cry will also notice and clearly perceive growth and strength in their child’s legs that they would not have noticed if the parent carried their child too long. Parents, point your children to the Word and watch God increase their faith and strengthen their assurance over time. The fruit of this hard season will be assurance of salvation that is deeply rooted in God’s Word and clearly perceived by you and your child. They will thank you for it later. God bless you church!