The Gracious Providence of Godly Parents

 Today the words of John Flavel (1628-1691) have once again brought forth a great ocean of sweet thoughts to bless my heart and elicit prayers of thanksgiving to our great God.  As you read the following excerpt from Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence, may your heart swell to greater heights of gratitude, whether by the grace of God you are in the first or the fiftieth generation of a family of faithful believers.

O, it is no common mercy to descend from pious parents. Some of us do not only owe our natural life to them, as instruments of our beings, but our spiritual and eternal life also. It was no small mercy to Timothy to be descended from such progenitors (2 Tim. 1. 5), nor to Augustine that he had such a mother as Monica, who planted in his mind the precepts of life with her words, watered them with her tears, and nourished them with her example. We will a little more particularly inspect this mercy, and in so doing we shall find manifold mercies contained in it.

What a mercy was it to us to have parents that prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy, when we could not pray for ourselves? Thus did Abraham (Gen. 15. 2) and Hannah (1 Sam. 1. 10, 11), and probably some here are the fruits and returns of their parents’ prayers. This was that holy course they continued all their days for you, carrying all your concerns, especially your eternal ones, before the Lord with their own; and pouring out their souls to God so affectionately for you, when their eye-strings and heart-strings were breaking. O put a value upon such mercies, for they are precious. It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents than from the loins of nobles. See Job’s pious practice (1. 5).

What a special mercy was it to us to have the excrescences of corruption nipped in the bud by their pious and careful discipline! We now understand what a critical and dangerous season youth is, the wonderful proclivity of that age to every thing that is evil. Why else are they called youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2. 22)? When David asks: ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?’ it is plainly enough implied in the very question that the way he takes lies through the pollutions of the world in his youth (Ps. 119. 9). When you find a David praying that God would ‘not remember the sins of my youth’ (Ps. 25. 7), and a Job bitterly complaining that God ‘made me to possess the iniquities of my youth’ (13. 26), surely you cannot but reflect with a very thankful heart upon those happy means by which the corruption of your nature was happily prevented, or restrained in your youth.

And how great a mercy was it that we had parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge of God into our souls in our tender years? How diligent was Abraham in this duty (Gen. 18. 19), and David (1 Chron. 28. 9)! We have some of us had parents who might say to us, as the apostle: ‘My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you’ (Gal. 4. 19). As they longed for us before they had us and rejoiced in us when they had us, so they could not endure to think that when they could have us no more, the devil should. As they thought no pains, care or cost too much for our bodies, to feed them, clothe and heal them; so did they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much for our souls, that they might be saved. They knew a parting time would come between them and us, and did strive to make it as easy and comfortable to them as they could, by leaving us in Christ and within the blessed bond of His covenant.

They were not glad that we had health and indifferent whether we had grace. They felt the miseries of our souls as much as of our bodies; and nothing was more desirable to them than that they might say in the great day: ‘Lord, here am I and the children which thou hast given me.’

And was it not a special favour to us to have parents that went before us as patterns of holiness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their examples? They could say to us: ‘those things ye have heard and seen in me, do’ (Phil. 4. 9); and ‘be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11. 1). The parents’ life is the child’s copy. O. it is no common mercy to have a fair copy set before us, especially in the moulding age; we saw what they did, as well as heard what they said. It was Abraham’s commendation, ‘that he commanded his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord.’ And such mercies some of us have had also....

If any shall say this was not their case, they had little help heavenward from their parents, so such I reply as follows.

If you had little furtherance, yet own it as a special providence that you had no hindrance; or, if you had opposition, yet admire the grace of God in plucking you out by a wonderful distinguishing hand of mercy from among them and keeping alive the languishing sparks of grace amidst the floods of opposition. And learn from hence, if God give you a posterity of your own, to be so much the more strict and careful of family duties, by how much you have acutely felt the want of it in yourselves....

Should you wish to read more, Flavel’s work is available online at

What Do I Do When I Don’t Feel Close to God?

Recently, I was asked to share what I do when I do not feel close to God.   In the hope that you may be encouraged (as I was as I formed my answer), here is how I responded.

When I find myself not feeling close to God…

First, I remind myself that this is a frailty common to man, and while it should not be treated lightly, it is not unexpected.   God will work this, too, for my good!

Next, I thank God for making me aware of this lack of closeness and causing me to care about it (because I know there are many who are not close to Him and do not even realize it or care much).   As I pray, I recall former times when there was a sweet intimacy and I ask Him to work in my heart, pulling me away from whatever is currently usurping or disturbing my affections, and again moving my heart toward Him.

I read works written by people who know/knew God well.  I find many Puritan works especially helpful, such as those by John Bunyan, John Flavel and Jeremiah Burroughs.

I spend time meditating on the greatness of God–          

  • His sovereignty
  • His power
  • His love for His people
  • Etc.

I tell someone close to me, such as my husband, how I am feeling and ask him to pray for me (sometimes I will ask a few others as well).

I review all I’ve learned from the psalmists who felt far away from God.  I read and reread psalms such as Psalm 73, 77 and 88 and review the notes I made when I first studied and wrote lessons on these psalms.

Finally, I wait on God.  Intimacy with God is not just something I can wish into being or produce on my own . . . as with everything else, it is a gift from God.  I know He is faithful and will bring me into greater intimacy with Himself in His own timing.  So, as I thankfully and expectantly wait,  I do the things I know to do which foster intimacy (Bible reading and study, prayer, meditation, confession, talking about God with others, etc.) and I constantly remind myself that even though I do not feel close to God, He is close . . . and my lack of feeling does nothing to diminish the reality of His care and love for me.


The Family Tree

I’ve been crisscrossing the southeast on road trips this spring.  What beautiful drives - tree lined roads, hills…I love it! 

To pass the time, I sometimes listen to talks that I’ve downloaded to CDs, and I’ve listened to some of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s Henry Forums.  Recently, I enjoyed hearing “Out of Africa: Biblical Christianity in Zambia” by Conrad Mbewe.  During the first part of this talk, Mbewe highlights how the gospel first came to his region of Africa and how Christianity spread there throughout the last couple hundred years.  Often, he describes how one individual specifically impacted the life of another, who in turn had an impact on another person or group, and so on.

This got me thinking about the importance of geneaologies.  Just as people often want to fill in their biological heritage (learning that their great great grandfather was the first settler of a town, etc.) I think it is perhaps even more important to consider one’s spiritual heritage in not only general but also specific terms. 

It encouraged me to hear how the Lord specifically worked through the everyday lives of individual believers in Africa through many years to do what has developed into a great work.  It is so encouraging to consider the many saints that have taught and discipled me personally, and think of those believers earlier this century that blessed, exhorted and strengthened them, and then of those earlier believers who taught, wrote, sang, discipled and loved that generation…and so on… 

Throughout history, God has ever continued to work through His people.  And, by His grace, He will continue to work through me.  When I think of the larger picture of this “family tree” that He is growing up on this earth it spurs me on to continue pursuing Kingdom purposes even through the hard, difficult or seemingly fruitless times.  The tree is not fruitless.  The tree is growing.  The tree has deep roots.