In our continuing series on Parents' Groans Over Their Ungodly Children, the author endeavors to “show the greatness of this calamity, by comparing it with other troubles and showing how this exceeds them.” Under usual circumstances, “my sorrow is worse than yours” isn’t something I normally recommend. It can be divisive, harsh, and needlessly antagonistic. But the following quotes are part of the book and so I've included them.
Before I continue, I do want to offer a preface: these are the thoughts of a Christian father, one who is grappling with profound pain. It’s useless to read him through, say, an atheistic worldview. Lawrence’s world was one of plague, disease, war, all crammed within a very brief lifespan. For him, life was temporary and often sorrowful, with death as the ultimate exit from this world into another where either heaven or hell await. He wrote of a literal God, a literal Savior, and a literal enemy of our souls. Reading him apart from these core beliefs is to misinterpret and mischaracterize what he meant to say. I’ll explain a bit more in the sections that follow.
A Greater Calamity Than Childlessness
Childlessness is an unspeakable sorrow. Full stop. Lawrence’s purpose here is not to diminish that pain, but to show it in consideration of another. It is one thing to dream of the love of a child, to yearn with empty arms after someone the Lord will never grant. But it is quite another to have one’s child jeeringly, publicly, reject those open arms. To experience the hatred, the vindictive cruelty, of a child so desperately loved… I can’t find the words to describe that kind of calamity.
A Greater Misery Than Terminally Ill Children
“This indeed is a sore affliction”, writes Lawrence, “but this is not so grievous as to have wicked children.” He goes on to make the point that physical disabilities in no way impede the soul’s walk with Christ, “for they that are most diseased and uncomely are often called to be the blessed and glorious children and heirs of God and the amiable and beautiful bride and spouse of Christ”. Wicked children are and unless they repent, will always be the children of the devil.
More Grievous Than Death of a Believing Child
Deep, unspeakable sorrow attends those who live to see the death of their children. But as Scripture compassionately reminds us, it is a sorrow shot through with hope. Parting is temporary and heavenly reunions are eternal.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NASB95)
With unsaved children, it is not so. “But wicked children are constant troubles to their parents and cause them say with the Psalmist, ‘My days are spent with grief, and my years with sighing’ (Psalm 31:10).
Worse Than Persecution from Wicked Men
I could write a book on the persecution, taunts, threats, and the verbal ban set upon us by our former pastor and his new staff in the church. It was painful—excruciating in fact, yet still it was nothing compared to the pain of prodigal children. Here again is Lawrence:
“It is a sad case to be smitten and wounded in our names by lying and slanderous tongues: David, and Christ in him, tells us that reproach hath “broken” his heart (Psalm 69:20). It is sad for the jewels of God to be accounted and used as the [cesspools and outhouses] of the world, to have our estates wasted and spoiled, to be exposed to beggary and want, to be dragged from our healthful and pleasant habitations and families, to be cast among rogues and thieves into nasty and loathsome prisons, and to have our innocent and precious blood shed by barbarous men; but all this is not so grievous as to be tormented by wicked children! For in that case we are distressed by the sins of our enemies, and if so, as David speaks, “We could have borne it” (Psa 55:12). Yet in this case, we are afflicted by the sins of our own children and may say with David, when he was reviled by Shimei, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it?” (2 Samuel 16:11). It is a far greater torment to have the children of our own bowels tear and break our hearts than to be destroyed by merciless enemies.”