Over the years Angela and I have interacted with so many parents of teenagers and young adults who are experiencing excruciating pain. I was reminded of that again this weekend (Easter weekend) as I prayed with several whose experience of pain in relation to their children overshadows even the joy of celebrating the resurrection of Christ. When your teenager or adult child rebels, disconnects, or experiences seemingly unexplainable brokenness, it hurts and it feels like there is nothing a parent can do. No fix for the problem. No salve for the pain.
We understand. Once, when seeking counsel from a trusted older friend, we received some wisdom that helped. It didn’t fix everything but it brought clarity. “In the relationships which you invest the most and love the most, you also experience the most pain.” Family is usually that place where love is real and sometimes painful.
This is true, even of God, the perfect Father. How many times have His children denied Him, rebelled against Him, sinned against Him and even worshipped other gods besides Him. Understanding this actually helps me realize, as one of God’s wayward kids, how perfect the love of our Father really is toward His children. It also serves as an example of how to love in the midst of our pain. What can we learn from God for parenting the ones who cause us pain?
- God loves steadfastly. We can too. That means we continue to connect. We continue to love.
- God offers grace, forgiveness, and sonship or daughterhood to the repentant prodigal. We can too.
- God never enables sin. We shouldn’t either.
- Sometimes, God allows His children to live in their folly. He literally gives us over to ourselves for a time that we might experience consequence and eventually conviction. We would never do that totally with our younger children, but with our adult children, there are seasons we may also have to give them over to themselves while we pray.
But what of the pain? How do we survive parental pain that makes our very bones ache? There is no magic formula or substitute for a consistent walk with the Lord and the help of a tight knit community of believers to help us bear the burden. The pain is real but it is evidence of love. Don’t numb the pain; lean into it, go to God with it, tell others about it, and keep loving, even though it causes suffering. The next generation is worth it.