We get many calls to our counseling center from distraught moms who are seeking counseling for their teen or young adult daughters. Many have been dealing with the drama and heartache of a rebellious child for years before they call us, and they are at the end of their rope. They have done everything they know of to love and teach this child, but she is rebellious, worldly, and not interested in changing. The roller coaster of emotions has got them frazzled and exhausted, and they want help for their daughter. These prodigals are rarely ready to sit down with a biblical counselor to talk about their sin and their need for repentance. If they are forced to come in, they are usually sullen and barely responsive, with crossed arms and an angry countenance.
In these cases, the best thing a mom can do for her wayward daughter is to get counseling for herself. She needs to understand that she cannot change her daughter, and she shouldn’t try. She needs to understand the truth about the situation and her part in it. Today, I’d like to share with you three things for a mom to remember when her teen or young adult daughter is in open rebellion.
Remember who God is.
One of the temptations for a mom who is dealing with a rebellious young adult child is to doubt the character of God. She might be tempted to ask, “If God is good, then why is he allowing this to happen? If God is loving, then why is He putting me through this? If God is all-powerful, then how can he allow my daughter to sin against me and our family in these ways?” These questions are common and understandable, but they reveal a fatal flaw in the theology of the one who asks them. They show that the asker is basing her view of God on her circumstances, and not on the Bible.
If I base my view of God on my circumstances, then that means that the character of God is ever-changing. If things are going well for me, then God is good and He loves me. If things are going badly, then God must be evil or unloving or some other characteristic that is far from describing the God of the Bible. But Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:27; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17 and many other Scriptures inform us that God does not change. So, as your daughter goes up and down on her roller coaster of emotions, behaviors, and disruptions, you can rest assured that your God has not joined her in that. Don’t you join her, either. Rest and put your hope in the one and only God of the Universe who doesn’t change like shifting shadows.
Remember who your daughter is.
Like all of us, your daughter is a sinner who needs a savior. Perhaps she made a profession of faith—even seemed to be bearing fruit earlier in her life–but now you’re just not sure whether she is truly saved. Maybe she firmly insists that she is saved, but her attitudes and behaviors do not bear witness of the Holy Spirit working in her life. Even if she is regenerate, she is still being saved, in the sense of sanctification, so she still needs a savior.
Your daughter is an image bearer of God, created by Him for His glory. His deepest desire for her life is that she would bring glory to His name. So, as you struggle with her behavior, attitudes, and actions, you must remember that you also were created for the glory of God. You can manage your own emotional response, by confronting yourself like this: “You were created to glorify God. How are you doing right now?” Your answer to that question will inform your next step. If your response is biblical and God-glorifying, bravo! Keep it up! But if it is not, repent and ask the Lord to change your heart so that you can respond biblically.
Remember what brings glory to God.
As believing moms, we do long to glorify God in our parenting. But when a child is rebellious, disrespectful, and mired in unrepentant sin, it is hard to know what the God-glorifying response is. So let’s just take it down to three responses that we know for sure are always glorifying to God.
Psalm 86:9, 12; Psalm 29:1-2; Isaiah 24:14-15, and countless other verses teach us that the worship and praise of God bring Him glory. When you feel angry, sad, rejected, and hurt by your daughter, let that be a reminder to you to worship the One who is able to change her heart. Pour out your heart in lament to Him. Christian song writer Michael Card says, “Lament…encompasses pain, hurt, confusion, anger, betrayal, despair, and injustice. It goes beyond your personal relationships to consider how all creation groans to be restored to God. Jesus understood that lament was the only true response of faith to the brokenness and fallenness of the world. It provides the only trustworthy bridge to God across the deep seismic quaking of our lives.”[i] Worship God as you travel that bridge to seek His face in your deepest heartache.
Regardless of what your daughter is doing, you are accountable to God for your response to it. If you are sinning in your response to her sin, all you are doing is multiplying sin! How does that bring glory to God? The best thing you can do is to seek the Lord, walk in obedience to Him, and trust that He will strengthen you to do so. What does obedience look like in this case? For the answer to that question, we must look to Jesus. He walked among a rebellious people while he was here on the earth. He loved them, taught them by both word and example, and welcomed but never forced them to follow Him. He never tolerated sin, but lovingly and firmly rebuked and corrected it. And, when they would not listen, he let them go their way.[ii]
This one doesn’t need too much explanation, other than to say that if you don’t want to pray or think it’s a waste of time, then you yourself are in serious rebellion against God. Have you given up praying for your child because you “tried that and it didn’t work?” Are you angry about the way your child seems to have turned out? Are you disappointed in God, feeling like He let you down? My dear sister, these are dangerous thoughts that will only lead you to despair and bitterness. Turn from this kind of thinking now, and cry out to God in prayer and repentance. As you do so, you will find that you are worshiping Him, and this will lead you to walk in obedience no matter what your daughter is up to.
Seeing our children grow up and walk away from our beliefs and practices is heartbreaking, to say the least. I personally know this heartache every single day. But our children’s choices do not have to determine our own. God is who He says He is no matter what is happening in our lives. When your child screams at you and slams her door, God is still good. When she chooses the world over Him, He is still faithful. Even if she walks away, leaving your home and disappearing from your life, He loves you. He loves you with an everlasting love that never fails, never leaves, never loses patience. Cling to Him in your darkest times.