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.
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 troubled adult 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.
Many of our troubled children have lost years of their lives to drug abuse or undiagnosed mental illness, and they need to be the ones who seek to reclaim those years. We can’t do it for them. Neither can we force them to open the eyes of their heart to see a Father who loves them and wants the best for them. But we can provide an environment that could nurture a spiritual awakening in our children.
After all, the big picture of God’s plan should affect everything we do in life, not just what we do on Sundays. How we connect with Jesus every day will impact how we connect with everyone, especially our troubled adult child.
Take a minute to imagine God speaking to you right now: “How much do you want your child to know about Me?”
If your answer to God is, “Nothing is more important to me than having my child love You, walk with You, and serve You,” the best thing you can do is to show your child what a heart for God looks like.
When we love and obey God, it shows in what we do, how we speak, the ways we interact with people, how we spend our time. Our love for God can show in every aspect and every moment of our lives.
Furthermore, God trains us to be who He needs us to be—and He doesn’t need us to be our child’s Savior. That is God’s responsibility.
What God wants from us is to depend on Him: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
As our expert Gardener, God will prune our branches by helping us get untangled from unhealthy dependence. He will free us from trying to rescue and fix our adult children—and we can instead allow Him to rescue and fix us. Our wise and good God wants us to make authentic, heartfelt choices that enable us to experience His truth and love and to actively pursue spiritual growth in ways that affect real life.
As we walk in God’s Word and will, pouring out our heartache to Him, we can find hope, healing, and direction. And we desperately need those blessings as we seek how best to connect with our troubled adult children and help them experience that pushing through their struggles makes them stronger. Our knowing and obeying God’s Word is essential: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 gnt).
We want the Lord to enable us to love our adult children wisely and well with His love.
For more information on the bestselling Setting Boundaries series and her newest book; How to Connect with Your Troubled Adult Children, visit Allison’s website at AllisonBottke.com