Growing Old and the Challenges of Parenthood

Growing Old and the Challenges of Parenthood

Getting old can be hard. As Batman, the Dark Knight, wisely puts it, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” These words resonate with the reality that a long life has the power to change how people perceive us. In the biblical narrative, we find an example of this in the life of Samuel, a figure whose journey offers insights into aging, parenting, and the responsibility we carry. Samuel’s story, recounted in the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 8, paints a picture of the challenges that come with longevity and the impact of parental choices on the lives of adult children.

Samuel’s Longevity and Parenting Struggles

“And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of the firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba” (1 Samuel 8:1, NASB1995)

In the later stages of life, Samuel found himself confronted by a scenario that mirrored the wisdom of Batman’s adage. As he aged, he appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, as judges over Israel (1 Samuel 8:1). However, despite Samuel’s noble intentions, his sons deviated from the righteous path. Instead of following their father’s ways, they pursued dishonest gain, accepted bribes, and twisted justice (1 Samuel 8:3). Samuel’s heart must have been heavy as he witnessed his sons straying from the values he held dear.

The Unconventional Upbringing

Samuel’s own upbringing was unique, setting him apart from the norm. Though he had living parents, he was entrusted to the care of a Levite named Eli due to a promise his mother made to God. Samuel’s mother, grappling with infertility, promised to dedicate her future child to the service of God. This promise led to Samuel’s upbringing in a less-than-ideal environment, surrounded by the dysfunction of Eli’s household. Despite this challenging upbringing, Samuel answered God’s call and served faithfully. However, his own parenting journey took an unexpected turn.

When Parenting Adults Fails

Samuel’s experience illustrates the heart-wrenching truth that even those who have dedicated their lives to serving God can face struggles within their families. Despite his commitment to God’s work, Samuel’s sons went astray, pursuing dishonest gain, taking bribes, and perverting justice. This disheartening reality prompts reflection on the weight of parental influence. Samuel’s actions in appointing his sons as judges – much like Eli’s misguided choices – played a role in enabling their misconduct. The responsibility of nurturing and guiding our children doesn’t diminish as they reach adulthood; instead, it transforms into a new phase of influence.

Impact on the Larger Narrative

Moreover, Samuel’s children’s actions contributed to a larger problem: the growing rebellion against God’s authority. The people’s request for a king was partly fueled by Samuel’s sons’ behavior, as their corruption eroded the people’s trust in leadership. This serves as a powerful reminder that our actions, even as parents, can have ripple effects on the lives of those around us.

The Balance of Responsibility

The question arises: How responsible are parents for the actions of their adult children? In the ancient Jewish culture, a boy became a man at the age of 13, assuming greater responsibilities. Samuel’s sons were adults when their misconduct occurred, yet Samuel had appointed them as judges. This decision paralleled the choices of his own guardian, Eli, who similarly placed his ill-suited sons in positions of authority. This pattern highlights the importance of placing individuals in roles that align with their character and abilities.

Lessons for Modern Parenthood

Samuel’s story offers valuable lessons for contemporary parents. It underscores the significance of raising children who understand and embrace a godly way of life. While Samuel’s actions were not directly responsible for his sons’ choices, his decision to grant them positions of authority played a role in their downfall. As parents, we are called to provide guidance, nurture, and support while also ensuring that our children grow into responsible and righteous adults.

The Struggle of Every Parent

Samuel’s struggle is relatable to every parent who has witnessed their grown children make choices contrary to their upbringing. The great prophet, who once discerned God’s voice in the early hours, stumbled in his role as a father. This experience underscores the truth that our actions as parents can impact the decisions our adult children make. Though they bear individual responsibility, our guidance and examples significantly shape their paths.

A Legacy of Responsibility

Samuel’s legacy extends beyond his prophetic ministry. His sons’ names are etched into Scripture as a sobering reminder of the importance of raising children who revere and honor the Lord. As our children transition into adulthood, our duty to uphold our beliefs remains steadfast. This includes withholding support for decisions that contradict our values, even if it brings us pain. Samuel’s story encourages us to stand firm, trusting that our faithfulness as parents can influence the trajectories of our children’s lives.

Lessons for Parents of Minor Children

  1. Lead by Example: Show your children the importance of a godly life through your actions.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.— Proverbs 22:6 (NASB1995)

  1. Discern Roles: Recognize and nurture your children’s strengths and weaknesses, guiding them towards suitable paths.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. — 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB1995)

  1. Hold Firm: When faced with difficult decisions, stand strong in your beliefs and do not support actions contrary to your values.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? — 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB1995)

  1. Pray for Guidance: Seek God’s wisdom in parenting decisions, knowing that He is the ultimate source of direction.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. — James 1:5 (NASB1995)

Lessons for Parents of Adult Children

  1. Continual Guidance: Just as Samuel’s commitment to God persisted through his life, remain steadfast in your own faith journey.

Psalm 71:18 reminds us, “Even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation.”

  1. Prudent Decisions: Learn from Samuel’s negative choice to entrust authority to his sons.

Proverbs 22:6 implores, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

  1. Consistent Values: Maintain your values across generations, showing unwavering commitment to God’s principles.

Joshua 24:15 encourages, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

  1. Discerning Support: Withhold support from ungodly decisions.

2 Corinthians 6:14 advises, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”

In the end, Samuel’s life reminds us that growing old comes with its challenges, including navigating the complexities of parenthood. His story offers hope and guidance, emphasizing the importance of raising children who walk in the ways of the Lord. While we may not have control over every decision our children make, we can influence their paths by providing a foundation of faith, love, and wisdom. Just as Samuel’s legacy was not defined solely by his parenting struggles, our own legacies can be shaped by our dedication to instilling godly values in the next generation.

About The Author

Jesse Velez

Although Jesse Velez will forever carry the essence of a Native New Yorker, he currently calls the sun-soaked city of Miami, Florida, his home. Celebrating a marriage of 31+ years to Eusebia, he proudly embraces his role as the father of five grown children. Jesse has cultivated a profound grasp of the Bible over the span of 40+ years, dedicated to following and serving Jesus while engaging in extensive reading and in-depth study of the scriptures.