Do you ever wish the Bible was just a tad more specific when it comes to parenting a troubled teenager? Like an exact how-to for each and every narcissistic, smarty-pants, head-butting, know-it-all episode?
Boy, I sure do!
Some time ago, I had some pretty severe issues with my youngest son, then 17. Despite being raised in a Christian home, he was, by his own definition, agnostic. He exhibited major anger, disrespect, defiance, rebellion … you know the drill.
I felt like I was in a war, fighting for my home and family. Always trying to stay one step ahead. Trying to outsmart the enemy. Trying to outsmart my son. Constantly reminding myself just who the real enemy was.
It was exhausting.
Despite all the tears and anxiety, God was ever faithful with words of encouragement and promise.
Well, most of the time He was encouraging. He also read me the riot act when I needed it and taught me a thing or two.
Let me share with you two of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned.
Don’t let your emotions be the springboard from which you launch your words.
These are words I need to hear often! As parents, we typically know what’s about to happen with our kids, don’t we? We can see down the road, if you will. It’s so easy to completely freak out and vomit out our words when we see our kids making wrong choices, when they spew at us first or when they once again misplace their brains.
For single parents, it’s especially difficult. We carry shame from the simple fact that we are parenting alone. We’re almost constantly terrified that our kids will make the same mistakes we did. We feel desolate and clueless. We let our emotions get the best of us, and our words fly without us first thinking them through.
We give in to fear.
But our emotions and fears must not cloud the voice of reason or drown out what the Holy Spirit would say in the moment. It is vital that we submit our snarky words to the Lord and take our fearful thoughts captive. It’s a battle for sure, but it’s necessary in order to position our hearts to hear what God wants to say about the situation.
It’s not about you.
Well, now, this lesson certainly was a hard one to swallow! I wasn’t very happy with God the day He showed me this truth. I think I actually pouted a little.
I don’t remember the why of it all; I just remember how I felt that day. I was completely overwhelmed, disheartened, tired of the fighting, scared to death for my son’s future.
I knew that God was working because He reminded me often that He was. I took Him at His word, but still, I was tired.
I read that day in the first chapter of Philippians where Paul basically said his imprisonment and consequential suffering was no big deal because it had helped to spread the Gospel.
And then God said, “It’s not about you.”
Despite how my heart feels during this season, the journey that my son is on and the place God is taking him is all about him, not me. The deep work that is happening is not necessarily for me to see just yet, and that’s okay.
God reminded me that our job as parents is not exclusively to enforce the rules, but also to show and teach love in the process.
Don’t lose sight of this!
I remember thinking that if my son is hanging around all the wrong people these days, where is he seeing Jesus? The answer is still in me. I had to ask myself, Am I showing my son the love of God despite the rebellion and sassy mouth he’s showing me?
We are to do everything, parenting especially, “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23) and “for His glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Instead of whining, I once again surrendered my son and the consequences of his bad decisions to God, and I chose to not lose sight of love.
One morning, when loving my son was an especially painful experience, God stepped in and made my heavy heart laugh. I just love it when He shows me His humorous side.
I was praying for my son, flipping through the Bible looking for comfort and hope, and desperately searching for solutions.
God led me to 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT), “Be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I had never thought about this Scripture in the context of parenting, but wow, it really fit! I snickered a little.
The next scripture made me giggle a little more. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NLT), “Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.”
Can any of you parents relate? I certainly can!
The last Scripture He gave me made me laugh out loud.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT), “We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God.”
This summed up exactly what I was feeling! Think about it for a moment. That’s parenting a troubled teenager in a nutshell!
By this time, I was rolling with laughter and overwhelmed with the love and encouragement God was showing to me in such an incredibly personal, deep and profound way! And He knew my heart needed a good laugh!
Parents, take heart today! Learn to rely not on yourself, but on God. No matter what the circumstance looks like, trust that God is working. Trust that He is pursuing your wayward children. He will never stop. He loves your kids more than you do!
And He loves you! He sees the pain and confusion. He knows the sorrow.
He has children, too, remember?