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Parenting difficult grown-up children

Exasperated by your adult children? The Bible says to respond in love.

There's no guarantees how your children are going to turn out. With that in mind, Tim White shares his thoughts on how to respond when your children have drifted from the path you worked hard to set them on. 

As a pastor and counselor, I am also a parent with an adult son and other difficult family situations. For reaching our families, we seek the Scriptures for principles in the difficult task of demonstrating the Christ-life in family life. This can often be the most challenging task for a believer.

Although there are no biblical promises that you can claim which guarantee your family members will follow you to Christ, there are some powerful practices and approaches that God can use to reach them.

1. Determine that your role is to pray for them

The Bible tells us that despite what we can see or observe, prayer coming from a cleansed heart is our most powerful tool (James 5:16). There is a spiritual war going on above, around and within your loved-ones that if could be seen by the natural eye, it would frighten us to paralysis. Sometimes we can see the negative effects of this spiritual warfare and it is discouraging.

This is why the Bible tells us to walk by faith and engage a frightening enemy at the spiritual level (Ephesians 6:10-12). We are given assurances that we "...have already overcome them, for He who is in you us greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

2. Just love them

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). This assurance reminds us that we do not have to live as perfected believers. But it does mean that we cannot allow the symptoms of the spiritual warfare (the things your family members do and say) to cause us to react in the fleshly, natural way. We are engaging in the war at a much deeper level through prayer and love.

To love means to admit your mistakes readily, asking for forgiveness, while not allowing their offensive behavior or statements to push you away. It means to accept the pain from painful behavior and words of others as your investment into their eternal destiny (Mark 15:39), without responding in like manner. We have the most beautiful model for this in our Savior:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:20-24

3. Allow family members to see an ever-changing life

That is the most powerful message we have. We know that the testimony of our mouths can be contrived and embellished. People with false beliefs can spin beautiful arguments which will fail in eternity but pass inspection on earth. Even non-believers recognize this.

However, the one type of testimony that cannot be refuted is the witness of a changing life. As you become more like Christ and that change is seen in the most difficult of situations, family and friends alike will wonder about your strength and the peace you have in the midst of the storm. They will long for that peace. The message of a changing, growing life never puts other people off and never offends. But it does attract (Matthew 5:11-16).

4. Expect God to be working

Expect him to be working through the circumstances of life to move your loved-ones into a position to be saved. It is so encouraging to know that God loves your family even more than you can. He longs for their souls and will work situations into their lives that will draw them to Himself.

God's constant promise is that if we lift up the Savior (in our lives), He will draw people to Him (John 12:32). God can use the crises in your life and in the lives of your family members to lift Christ up. Your family can be won without a word from you by their observance of you exalting Christ in situations in which you once would have protected yourself, reacted in anger, acted impatient, gave up and walked away, pulled away to sulk, or whatever your fleshly pattern has been.

Article originally published on www.blogos.org

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