We Always Have a Choice
After reading the first three posts about God’s parenting, some may still ask, “Why didn’t God stop my abuser?” “Isn’t abusing a child behavior that is ‘completely out of line?” While child abuse is completely contrary to God’s desire for humanity, He does not always step in and prevent the abuse. As I wrote in the last post, there are consequences for the choices that we make. The key, however, is even in this, freedom remains. God guides us but does not demand or actively direct us. Rather, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “God keeps the faith, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your powers, but when a test comes he will at the same time provide a way out, by enabling you to sustain it.” Using perfect parental guidance, God provides a way out but does not remove the freedom to choose. He allows us to make the choice to accept the way out or remain where we are, just like the person caught in a flood who cried out to God, “Save me, Lord.” A boat came, but the person refused, saying, “God will save me.” He climbed to the roof where a helicopter came, but the person refused, saying, “God will save me.” Finally, when the person drowned, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God replied, “I sent a boat and a helicopter.” Often we want God to act as the Helicopter Parent, swooping in dramatically to save the day. Instead, He provides the tools we need to escape. He behaves like a good parent to direct us, rather than forcing His will upon us. When we are aware of God’s providential care, our confidence, and faith increase because we know that “in everything, he cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
However, as Cline and Fay point out, parents should step in, “When our children know they are in a situation, they can’t handle by themselves…it is not a destructive message because everyone is aware of the child’s inability to handle the situation.” Oden reminds us that God is capable of “transcending the very order that God has created.” Just as a parent takes control when a child finds himself in a situation outside their ability to comprehend, God can intervene when our choices place us in circumstances we do not have the capacity to understand. When faced with the insurmountable, God’s absolute power can override his ordered power to perform miracles and pull us out of the fire.
God Gets the Blame
While people may blame God for everything that is wrong with the world and fail to grasp how a loving God would allow hurt, death and chaos among his creation, accepted styles of sound parental guidance demonstrate that God’s interaction with humanity fits the good parenting model very well. Throughout history, humanity has struggled, rebelled, been tempted and revolted with and against God, much like a child interacts with their parents. Through all of these actions, God consistently models proper parental guidance. In His perfect goodness, He does what He instructs human parents to do. Anything less would not follow God’s perfect goodness. If a parent who allows their child to face the consequences of poor choices is not a bad parent, why would we believe God is unloving because He makes it possible to cope with the consequences of our poor choices rather than swooping in to save us? How could a truly loving God, permit his creation to run wildly without guidance? He would not. Through his perfect goodness, God guides us toward His plan for us just as a human parent desires to guide their child toward adulthood. God demonstrates all the characteristics of good parental guidance through His providential care of humanity. In contrast, he exhibits no features of the Helicopter Parent, the Drill Sergeant Parent or the Laissez-Faire Parent. He makes us face the consequences of our choices. He attempts to protect us by putting obstacles in our way. He guides our steps when we are out of line. Finally, He directs us toward the plan he has for us by opening doors and closing others.
How does God’s parental guidance apply to the parent who abuses or neglects their child? The child does not make a bad choice, but still endures the consequences of their parents’ bad choice. I think God anguishes when a parent’s choice harms a child. Even though God did not sweep in and stop my family from abusing me, He was a constant presence in my life. Sometimes I was unaware of the presence but I know He was present. He kept me sane. He protected my soul and He guided me toward the promise of freedom. I did not understand why He did not just stand between me and my family. For years I was angry and afraid because I did not trust Him to protect me, but as I learned more about God’s character, I realized that He will not break His own laws. My parents will face the consequences or their choices. I do not have to worry about their fate. I am not responsible for their actions. I realize God is a good parent and He loves all of His creation.
 Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992),159.
 Foster Cline; Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition: 2014-02-01), Kindle Locations 856-860.
 Oden., 53.