The greatest need your adult children have is the need for an intimate relationship with the Lord and His Presence in their lives. They need Him more than they need you. Keep in mind that if you really love them, you will not seek to be their ‘savior’, but you will always point them to the One Who is their Savior—the One Who will never leave or forsake them, Who loves them perfectly, and Who knows them best and loves them the most!
Model to your adult children what it means to have a close, personal relationship with God. In order to model such a relationship with God, you must have such a relationship, which is only gained by spending time with Him. Time studying and meditating upon His Word, time in prayer with Him, and time in fellowship with others who encourage you in your faith. ‘You can’t give away what you don’t have’. We as parents of children of all ages must put the Lord above every other relationship we have—otherwise those other relationships are idols in our lives. I often see parents who put their relationship with their children above their relationship with the Lord, and when they do, they not only dishonor God, but they also are modeling idolatry to them. The best thing you can do if you love your children is to first love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, for it is only then that you truly will be able to love your children unselfishly and as they need to be loved by you.
Below are some things you also should do if you love your adult children:
1) Pray! First, pray that God will give you the grace and wisdom to parent your adult children in the way that He desires and to put on your heart what He wants you to pray for them. Secondly, diligently pray for them, regardless of whether they are walking with the Lord or not. Either way, they need Him and His Presence in their lives! Some things you may wish to pray for them include: praying that they will live for God’s glory and pleasure by walking by the Spirit so they will not gratify the desires of their flesh (Isaiah 43:7; Galatians 5:16); pray that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Who He is, that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened so they would know the hope to which He has called them, and know the riches of His glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe (Ephesians 1: 17-19); and pray that they would have the faith to comprehend how high, wide, deep and long is their Heavenly Father’s love for them, and that they be filled with the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19). Do not ‘worry’ about them, but ‘cast all of your cares upon the Lord’. (Psalm 55: 22; 1st Peter 5:7)
2) Trust the Lord with your children’s care. Remember, although entrusted to you for their care, your children are first and foremost ‘God’s’. You can ‘trust the Man Who died for them’ with their lives (Romans 8:32). As you ‘release them to Him’, BELIEVE that He is able to do ‘exceedingly and abundantly beyond what you could hope or imagine’ with them (Ephesians 3:20). Praise God that He has them in His hands and look to see Him at work in their lives as you truly surrender them to Him. I often derive comfort from knowing that not only does God love my children because they are His, but I also am confident that His love for me extends to my children– since I am precious to Him and they are precious to me– they also are precious to Him! I derive comfort from the scriptures that tell us that God’s faithfulness, covenant and steadfast love extends to those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Exodus 20:6; 34:7)
3) Confess your sins before your children. If you have been convicted that you did not parent in the way that God’s word commands when your children were young—whether you were too harsh and unloving in your disciplining of them, or too permissive and failed to instruct them and mete out consequences for their disobedience– then I strongly encourage you to not only confess your sin before the Lord, but to go before your adult children and humbly confess your sin to them. Share the insights you have gained from God’s word, that you wish you had known and applied that truth when you were raising them. Your children need to see authentic Christianity demonstrated by you; that alone can open the door to you having a closer relationship with them, and more importantly, help them to see that God is merciful and willing to forgive sins when we choose to humble ourselves and confess our sin (1 John 1:9). Share with them that He longs for us to walk in truth and righteousness for our sake, and that every command He has given is not to restrict our freedo, but to ensure our freedom from the bondage of sin. The recently released movie and true story ‘I Can Only Imagine’ is a great example of how God can restore a fractured parent-child relationship when a father confesses his sin to his son and asks for his forgiveness. We should always model true Christianity by being willing to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness from our children when we have misrepresented their Heavenly Father to them.
4) Listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading regarding how you can interact with your children to foster a closer relationship with them, and how you can help to foster their relationship with the Lord. Demonstrate your love for your children by truly listening to them and responding to them in a way that reveals God’s truth as well as His heart of love for them. For your adult children who do love the Lord and walk in His truth, your role is to continue to disciple them in the knowledge of God’s truth and to encourage them in their faith and ‘spur them on to love and good deeds’.(Hebrews 10:24) If your children are not walking with the Lord, you certainly cannot force them to have a relationship with Him. However, you can be a stumbling block to them wanting to have such a relationship by: never or rarely saying anything positive about the Lord and what He means to you; by leading a hypocritical life before them; or ‘by shoving Him down their throats’. Jesus never forces anyone to be His disciple; He always gives us a choice regarding whether we will choose to follow Him. He lets us know what it costs to follow Him, and what it costs not to choose Him. If your children are not walking with the Lord, in a Spirit of love and humility you should let them know that you respect that is their choice—but also let them know that there is a cost both here on earth and for all eternity for not choosing Him. You can show love for your children without condoning their poor or sinful choices. Reach out and give them a word of encouragement when you can sincerely do so, express interest in them and their lives, and engage them in meaningful conversations about the purpose of life, their relationships, and their work in which you ask them questions without putting them on the defensive. Do not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they profess to believe if it is contrary to your belief in Jesus, and ask them what caused them to fall away from the faith if they once professed to be a believer. As you respectfully listen to them—even when their views differ from yours and God’s word, you earn the right to speak truth into their lives. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit regarding what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. And, be obedient to Him when He does tell you to speak.
5) Confront your child in truth and in love if he or she is choosing a lifestyle of sin. I am heartbroken every time I read through the bible and come to the part where Eli the priest did not rebuke his adult sons, and he and they suffered the consequences of their sin, as did generations to come. King David failed to admonish his sons Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, which led to rape, murder, and the bloodshed of many ‘innocents’. Both Eli and David enabled the sinful behavior of their sons by remaining silent. Do you know of anyone who is enabling his or her adult children’s sinful lifestyle by saying nothing, or even indicating approval of their sinful behavior? I am heartbroken when I hear parents who state they can’t ‘do anything’ because their child is an adult, and yet, they have remained silent about their child’s sinful choices. For example, I know of many parents who have a child who is living with someone outside of marriage and they say, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” And when I ask them if they have said anything to the child they most often say, “No, it wouldn’t do any good to say anything because they’re going to do what they want to do anyway.” It may or may not change their adult child’s heart or their behavior. But you cannot remain silent because what is at stake is too great—it is the life of your child that has been entrusted to you! If we as parents humbly speak to our adult children and confront them with their sin in love, and the child continues in the sin, then the sin is ‘on their head’. If we, however, disregard our parental role of warning our children of their sin and its consequences, then we are sinning by omission and failing in our parental duty. You cannot force your adult child to do what is right, but you are to share the truth in a spirit of humility and love and to sound the warning that sin—unchecked and un-confessed– always has negative consequences. If we truly love our children as Christ—Who is ‘Truth’—has loved us, we will confront them with the truth of God’s Word regarding their specific sin, assuring them of our and God’s love, yet letting them know because of our love for them that we cannot condone their sin. If we really understand the nature of sin, we will know that it always is destructive by its very nature; if we love our children, why would we allow them to be on the path of destruction? There’s two reasons and both stem from self-love: we love ourselves more than we love God, for we fear our children’s rejection more than we revere God and His Word; and we love ourselves more than we love our children or we would be willing to risk their rejection in order to keep them from harm. God tells us clearly that if we love anything more than we love Him —including our family members and ourselves– we are not fit to be His disciples (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). We have been called to rebuke and admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ when appropriate for their sake. Should we not be even more willing to rebuke and admonish our own children whose care has been entrusted to us, and for whom our love should be so great that we will always desire that they know and live by ‘the truth that saves’? (Matthew 18:15; Colossians 3:16; 1Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:15) There’s an expression you may have heard, ‘if you care, you have to share’, and that is certainly applicable when it comes to a parent sharing the truth of God’s Word with their adult children who are choosing to live a lifestyle of sin.
Lord, I am completely inadequate on my own to be a parent, and I ask you to give me the grace, strength, courage, boldness and wisdom to parent my children in righteousness, truth, and love, as You parent me! Amen
Written by Julie Van Gorp