I remember walking into church, and an older woman caught up to me. I could tell she was upset. She told me that she and her husband had their oldest daughter over to the house, and the visit didn’t go so well. They tried to talk to her about family, her career, the grandkids—anything to get her to open up about her life.
Nothing seemed to work.
She looked at me and said, “I don’t know how to have a relationship with my daughter, and it’s killing me.”
There’s not a day that goes by that a parent doesn’t think about his or her children. Many of the parents I encounter know this isn’t always the healthiest situation, but sometimes they can’t help but mentally carry the weight of their children’s burdens.
What about you? In what ways are you concerned about your child right now? How heavy is the weight you are carrying for your son or daughter? A dad shared in one seminar, “My wife and I were so worried when our kids hit the adolescence stage. It was tough. There were a lot of arguments and a lot of things we did wrong as parents. But now that our kids are grown, we actually find it way more difficult trying to relate because neither of our kids wants anything to do with God.”
What an intense burden for a parent to carry—to be so troubled by the spiritual condition of an adult child.
However, despite the burden you may currently be facing with your millennial, take courage in the words of Jesus given to Paul while he faced extreme hardship: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).
No doubt you have looked to this verse for comfort in your own Christian walk. But do you remember what Paul said after Jesus told him His grace was sufficient?
Paul responded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones
Paul stated, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3, NIV). Paul didn’t create stumbling blocks with those he ministered to —he made stepping stones in his ministry. Paul knew that to reach the Corinthians with the gospel, he had to be extra careful in setting a good example. Likewise, parents must be both sensitive and intentional in being the role models their children need, especially as they get older. They may not take your advice all the time, but they certainly look at your example all the time.
Parents are called by God to be the anchor. They are called to be solid models of truthfulness, honesty, integrity, honor, accountability, and patience. Imagine the impact on a child when his or her father is a walking contradiction. Could your millennial think that about you? Maybe you haven’t always set the best example. Rather than beat yourself up or get defensive, look for a way to start becoming a better example for your children.
Allow me to give you three helpful tips that will improve your relationship with your young adult child.
1. Accept Responsibility
If you want to start bridging the gap with your millennial, first recognize the obstacles in front of you and take full responsibility for any stumbling blocks you put there. Then trust that God will turn them into stepping stones to a better relationship with your child. Too often, parents take their focus off God because they are caught up in the web of lies, insults, and endless meandering of their children. But no matter how hard the situation may be with a child, be content in the midst of it, as Paul was. God will turn your weakness into strength.
2. Be Patient and Listen
Accepting responsibility is one thing, but finding the patience and willingness to listen in the midst of conflict is quite another. Every argument, every conflict, and every divided family signals a lack of patience. In Proverbs 25:15, Solomon said, “Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses” (MSG). The persistence of patience will overcome any insistent defiance. That’s how powerful patience is.
Parents who are the most impatient happen to also be defensive and argumentative. Whenever one of their children questions or challenges their authority, they lose it. They get defensive and turn everything into an argument. Before you know it, all the family members are arguing with each other. Why? Because the parents in that family lack patience.
If you find yourself struggling with impatience, then you need to desperately seek what the Word of God has to say about patience and allow the Holy Spirit to empower you with the self-control needed to overcome anger and bitterness (see Proverbs 19:2; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2-3). Impatience will never lead you to peace. It will only bring more strife and anger. However, when you live out patience, it will produce joy and peace in your life.
The more patient and open you are to listening to your millennial, the more biblical, thoughtful, and diplomatic you will become when dealing with your adult child (see Galatians 6: 1-5). Remember, you can’t always take control of their bad behavior, but you certainly can control your own behavior.
3. Call Sin Out
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul recalls how frightened he was to have to be the one to confront the Corinthians in their sin. But instead of growing impatient with them, he chose to be long-suffering toward the Corinthians.
How true is this with parents?
Parents are constantly dealing with sin-related issues with their children. Parents are tired, scared, and often so overwhelmed that they want to give up. Even the apostle Paul felt this way. But he didn’t let his doubts get the best of him. Instead, Paul’s attitude was to face whatever he needed to face. And if the Corinthians were participating in sin, then he would not overlook it but rather confront the sin and offer a love that (he hoped) would restore them to God.
The same applies for you, mom and dad. Part of bridging the gap with your millennial is to confront his or her sin, but also to make sure you suffer along with your son or daughter. This is certainly never easy, and it requires a lot of prayer and fasting.
To help you navigate this journey, here are four biblical truths to embolden you.
• Pray for wisdom (Proverbs 2:3-6; James 1:5).
• Show compassion (Psalm 77:9; Colossians 3:12-16).
• Express understanding (Proverbs 3:5; Romans 3:23).
• Take the yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:29-30).
I promise you that if you seek to apply these biblical truths in your daily life, you will see some amazing results. Not only will your approach and demeanor start changing (for the better), but your son or daughter will notice as well.
And that’s a good thing.
Adapted from Abandoned Faith by Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
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