The Gospel of Cause and Effect
Mothers make the best detectives. Whether we’re investigating the true owner of a lego creation or searching for the cause of a mysterious rash, the habit of looking for answers is one we’ve mastered. Ever since we brought our babies home from the hospital we’ve searched for causes so we can fix the problem. Why isn’t she sleeping? Why does his diaper look like that? Why is she touching her ear? But while we scramble to solve each mystery, our hearts can often be misled by the lie of the gospel of cause and effect.
THE LIES WE BELIEVE
We may not admit to believing in karma, but its roots still sink deep into our minds. We hear it each day in the advice we give to each other. We tell the frazzled mom she should get her kid on a schedule if she wants him to behave. We advise the tight-fisted mom to loosen up or her kids will become too rigid. We make up reasons to explain why it happened to them and more importantly why it won’t happen to us. Perhaps they didn’t discipline very well, do family Bible studies consistently, monitor screen time, or even homeschool. While the Scriptures speak of the wisdom in seeking righteousness and reaping blessings, if we aren’t careful, we can start to see these guide posts as promises. We forget the suffering of righteous Job, or the entire book of Ecclesiastes, which reminds us that godly wisdom is not a how-to manual to achieve our idea of “good” results. Living with wisdom is an act of worship for the sovereign God we love and adore.
In our desire for easy answers, we attempt to insulate ourselves from difficulty by searching for the best ways to protect our families—whether it’s tantrums, sleeping schedules, sickness, or struggles with faith. We chase after the trick that will provide the best outcome, but this fake gospel can lure us into thinking that we can control our own kingdom.
Though this gospel makes us feel safer, it actually destroys us from the inside out. When life goes well, we’re fooled into thinking our successes are our own personal victories. Implementing schedules, healthcare choices, and routines doesn’t automatically mean we don’t trust God, but just as in the garden, it becomes a danger when we seek our own glory instead of God’s. Eventually when our own handmade kingdoms begin to crumble– this false gospel yokes us with the shame of all we’ve done wrong. We’re left with the weight of having to be god for our children, and the bitter realization that we can’t.
THE TRUTH WE NEED
But we don’t hold a gospel based upon our own risk analysis or our own provisions. No, our gospel tips this narrative upside down. It tells of our redemption when we had absolutely nothing to give. It’s the gospel of a father who runs to bring his prodigal son back, accepting the cost upon himself and giving the son an embrace he doesn’t deserve.
While the gospel of cause and effect tells us our choices will save us, the true gospel tells us it’s God alone who rescues. We’re reminded throughout the Bible that God is not contingent on our meager provisions. We see it when the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt before they leavened their bread or “prepared any provisions for themselves” (Ex. 12:39). Yet God supplied what they didn’t. He supplied them with manna, gave them water, and though it was not easy, they had everything they needed because they had God, himself. God took Gideon’s army of thousands and whittled it down to a meager 300 men before they conquered the Midianites to display to his people he did not need their strength or manpower. And we see this truth again as Paul preached to the scholars and the leaders of Athens that the true God needs nothing from the creation he gave life to. 
In the true gospel, we serve a God who has acted on our behalf to bring about his will. He doesn’t look at our child’s sleepless nights, shaking his head because we didn’t figure out we were supposed to change naptime an hour earlier. He’s not caught off guard with a stomach bug because we failed to bring sanitizer to the zoo. He is always on the throne, giving us with grace in the good times and in all of the difficulties we never anticipated. Even when we’ve sinned, the true gospel reminds us we’re forgiven. Our God is still working—redeeming our mistakes, working in our children’s hearts, and using it all to draw us to himself.
We don’t serve a gospel of cause and effect, because we serve a gospel of redemption bought by the true and rightful King of the universe. We must remind ourselves of this gospel each moment as we parent. This is the only gospel that will free us. It frees us from our prideful control and sets us loose from the chains of guilt wrapped around our hearts. When we release ourselves from the twisted promise of karma, we find we aren’t kings in our children’s lives but simply ambassadors for the true King.
As we fix our eyes on this true gospel, the Spirit will continue to work an obedient response to the God who supplied what we could never give. Because of his Spirit, we will seek righteousness and his wisdom to make the best decisions we can for our families, even as we trust the sovereign and good God for the outcome. We can find rest in the gospel that isn’t based on our own works but established in the finished work of Christ on the cross.