Its probably the wrong question, but there is no question that every parent who hurts because a child is living a completely different life than what they were taught to live. There are tons of ways it can happen. Some hurt because a child has physical or mental problems. What a disappointment when a young couple has planned and prayed for a healthy child and they are born with some debilitating disease. It is equally or worse when the child doesn’t survive birth or dies in early childhood.

A whole different kind of pain is there when a child rebels against everything that has been stressed to the child. Some times this means getting involved with a gang or with some group of out of control youths that turn a child into a monster more interested in pleasing their crowd than God or their parents. Others have headed down the road of drug and alcohol addiction and have allowed the drugs to take over their lives. They live to get high and will steal, lie, cheat or whatever else it may take to get the drugs. Often this leads to immoral living, sometimes for money to get more drugs and other times its just that the immoral behavior goes with having ones inhibitions smothered in the drugs so that there is no care for what is right or wrong.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference what means is used to depart from God and from the right way of living it has the same result of breaking a parents heart and causing them to question everything about their own faith and about how they have brought the child up.

What is a parent to do when their pain won’t go away and they don’t know what to do anymore to try to help the situation? Few things in this world will destroy a parents confidence or assurance that they are good parents doing the best they know how like a rebellious  child. Every time they hear a sermon on being a good parent or sit in a class and hear someone make the comment if a child had been raised right they would have stayed right it feels like someone has given you a sucker punch in the gut. It doesn’t matter that you did the very best you knew, that you loved the child more than your own life, the outcome seems to be all that matters. Whatever sacrifices we may have made for our child it still feels like you didn’t do enough and the guilt is horrible.  Its like the judgment of a teacher because a student hasn’t learned without putting any responsibility on the child to try.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. There are lots of faithful parents who have tried extremely hard and prayed for
God’s blessings and guidance every day. But the child still chose to go away from God.

What should we do especially in those times when the child is now grown and on their own but still going in the wrong way?

First, keep praying. But accept the fact what you can do to bring up a child to live for God and good is very limited. I can teach what is right and live the right life before them but no one, not even a parent can make the choices of life for another person. God made us all with the ability to choose for ourselves how we will live. Stop blaming yourself and put the responsibility where it belongs on the child. When you stop feeling guilty and allowing the child to put you in a place where you feel you have no choices but to blame yourself it will be better for everyone. You taught the right way. But each person chooses for themselves how they will live. We’ve all known those who came out of horrible backgrounds who went on to be a great example for good and God. Allow a child to feel the guilt of their own sins. Don’t run to rescue them every time they get into a bind. We encourage the wrong life style when we bail them out of every problem.

Second, pray that God will put both obstacles and opportunities before them that might bring them to their senses to return to a way of right thinking and doing. It is often the case that real changes are only made when problems and difficulties come along.  I’ve seen many make real changes in jail where they had lots of time to think about what has gotten them to this place.  The worst thing that could have happened would be for someone to bail them out.  Too often as parents of a child gone astray we fear what others will think or feel shame that our child is in such a situation.  In such times we need to remember the principle of you reaping what you sow and not try to stop the process.  God is able to make all kind of good come out of the worst of situations.

Third affirm your undying love for the child even while you hate the sin in their life.  In our anger at what is going on we are tempted to react with hateful words and give the impression of them that we no longer love them.  When a child feels abandoned by her parents it becomes all the more an excuse for poor behavior.  Just like God with us we can love the sinner while hating the sin that is destroying them.

Fourth, stop swimming in the sea of denial.  Often we do everything to hide what is obvious pretending to ourselves that it really isn’t what I think it is.  Certainly if a child is involved in drugs, alcohol or destructive behavior they are going to deny it.  They will accuse you of being too intrusive in their lives and scream “you just don’t trust me.”  Face the fact they have a problem.  You can’t trust them.  When a person gets into drugs there is a sure sign when they are lying to you.  It is when they open their mouth to speak.  Until we face reality there is nothing that can be done to help them or ourselves.

Fifth talk to other parents who have been there and understand what is going on.  It may help to talk to a counselor or preacher.  But we found much more help from other parents that had been there and were going through the same things.  It fits the concept of “Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)  When the word is out and you fell no obligation to keep things quiet or to yourself it frees you from being a slave to the problem.

Finally become one that other parents in the same condition can talk to about it.  As in all other kinds of challenges and difficulties it is best to start thinking of others.  You aren’t any where near the only one going through such problems.  If you have been in it for some time you have seen enough and tried enough things that didn’t work and a few that have to help someone else.  You will gain courage, prospective and comfort from being one who helps someone else.  It may well become an opportunity to lead someone or some family to God.

One of the worst things about church life is that we don’t tend to be open and honest with each other.  We pretend that we have everything together and don’t have any real problems in our life.  The result is that others going through the same thing feel like no one understands what they are going through.  Often the result is they leave the church because they don’t think they are like the others there.  When you read the Bible it is clear that God didn’t sanitize the lives or problems of the people he told us about.  It details the sins of David, the weakness of Peter, the horrible past of Paul and even the fall of Demas and Judas.  When people around you know what you are dealing with there is more empathy, more opportunity for both being helped and helping someone else.  Church isn’t a museum for saints.  Its the emergency room, the trauma center for broken and contrite people.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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