Brian was a bright, happy, able man. Successful at university, musically gifted, financially responsible, a friendly, outgoing person.
His Christian parents, Bruce and Di, had always found great joy and pride in him and in his achievements. He had been a pleasure to raise: full of life and enthusiasm, keen to learn, a warm, affectionate, loving boy.
Bruce and Di had found their years of raising teenage children easier than their friends. Brian had been an active member of the youth group, and professed faith in Christ Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. After university he settled into adult life, found a lovely wife, married and had two beautiful children. They bought a house not all that far from Bruce and Di.
With the advent of grandparent status, Bruce and Di felt their parenting work had come to an end in happy fulfilment. They could look with pleasure at the blessings of God in their family life.
But in his 30s, Brian’s life fell apart. A bout of sickness led to depression. His ability to fulfil his responsibilities collapsed. He no longer wished to be involved in the Christian ministries that were so much part of his life. He stopped attending church and questioned whether he was a Christian. He was no longer keen to see his parents and felt unable to talk to them about his struggles.
Brian and Di stood by helpless. They saw a man whom they loved intensely and for whom they had devoted their life wallowing in hopelessness and unwilling or unable to receive any help from them. They turned within themselves to ask those usually unhelpful questions parents ask—Were we too hard? Should we give them more space? Are we doing enough?
When we start our families we think of ourselves as adults no longer dependent upon our parents, able to stand on our own two feet. We therefore assume that one day our children will be independent and free from our responsibility. It is as if there is a graduation for parents: the 21st birthday party; or the wedding day; or sometime in the future when the work is done and finished.
But such a day never comes. Once a parent always a parent. We may not go on changing nappies or bearing financial responsibility, but a parent’s concern never ceases.
Being an older parent, watching and unable to help your children as they cope with the pains of life, is just as hard, if not harder, than the physically tough years of attending to sick babies in the middle of the night.
For Bruce and Di, there has been the wonderful comfort of Christ. The knowledge that God understands the pain of being a father and that he cares for Brian and listens to their prayers.
Remember how Jesus described the devotion of the father of the prodigal son, “his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).
Not all troubles parents face come from wilfulness. More often it is [word missing] unemployment, heartache—but the compassion and love of the parents is the same.
Names and identifying details have been changed.