Healthy boundaries—particularly healthy spiritual boundaries—define who we are and influence all areas of our lives. In fact, it is when we establish spiritual boundaries that we learn some of the most critical life lessons.
How can we set healthy boundaries, replace destructive habits, and undo damage that’s been done to our spirits? How can our lives come to be characterized by compassion, mercy, justice, and love when these feelings and traits are often buried deep under emotional pain and heartache?
Quite simply, we can’t. We can’t make these radical changes on our own. Our human limitations prevent that. Only with God’s help—only with His Spirit’s transforming work—can we receive a new nature. Only by reorganizing our priorities, putting God first, understanding our identity in Christ, and making time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study can our lives begin to reflect the character of Christ.
In their book How People Grow, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend explained the necessity of spiritual growth this way:
When people came to us for counseling, we wanted them to understand that the issues they were working on were not growth issues or counseling issues, but spiritual growth issues. Spiritual growth, in our mind, was the answer to everything… Spiritual growth should affect relationship problems, emotional problems, and all other problems of life. There is no such thing as our “spiritual life” and then our “real life.” It is all one.
…We wanted people who were growing to know not only how to grow, but that their growth was biblical growth. We wanted them to understand that “if you are getting better, it is because you are growing spiritually. You are doing what the Bible says to do.” People need not only to grow, but also to understand where that growth fits into a larger picture of God’s plan for them and his plan of redemption. It is good to know that their growth is for him.[i]
Maintaining healthy spiritual boundaries is an integral part of spiritual growth and walking in obedience to God. That’s why constructing boundaries around our relationship with God is healthy. These boundaries protect our daily time with the Lord, time that we spend reading the Word, praying, praising, and worshipping God, time that He uses to make us more like Jesus.
I’m not sure I would have survived these six decades were it not for my relationship with God and the wisdom and guidance He pours into my parched soul on a daily basis through His Word and His Spirit. Learning to view my journey through a lens of faith in Almighty God truly saved my life.
Sadly, many of our children are not viewing life through a lens of faith. Or if they are, their perspective is often distorted by a skewed perception of who God is and how He works to grow us and shape our character. Learning to reorganize their priorities, put God first, understand their identity in Christ, and make time for fundamental spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study are spiritual disciplines our children desperately need to incorporate in their lives, yet we cannot force them to act.
If we want to make a difference and connect with our troubled kids in a way that just might, over time, plant a seed or light a spark in their bruised, broken, and sometimes blackened hearts, these kids need to see the face of God. After all, who knows more about pain than Jesus? Our kids need to experience the character of Christ and witness the fruit that comes when people live with the Holy Spirit as their strength and their guide.
“Well, that sounds great, Allison,” you might say, “but who exactly is this saintly instructor, this spiritual role model?”
In a word? You.
It’s time to stop telling our kids why they need Jesus and instead show them Jesus. Consistently. We show them by being parents who walk the talk. Parents who celebrate the freedom that comes with godly control of our actions and a willingness to accept the consequences of our wrong choices. Parents who don’t always have all the answers but are connected to and dependent on Jesus as a daily part of life. Parents who are willing to go through whatever pain life might bring and ask God, “What do You want me to learn from this?” And parents who understand that God grows us through pain and that when we learn the biblical lesson He has for us, we come out on the other side a changed—and better—person.
For more information on Allison’s books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries series, visit her website at AllisonBottke.com
 Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 21-22.
[i] Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 21-22.