A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the regrets that I experience, now that my children have grown up and left our home. I heard from quite a few of you about that post, and learned that I am definitely not alone in looking back on those child rearing days with a few tears. What I also heard from many of you is that those tears continue to run fresh at times, as our children make foolish choices in their adult years. So today, I’d like to talk about how we can deal with our emotions as we watch our children make these choices; and how we can honor God with our response to the difficult circumstances our children find themselves in, after they have chosen a wrong path.

Beloved Children, Foolish Choices

First of all, let me say that we should probably expect that our children will make a few bad choices. After all, their brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old, so there is bound to be some immaturity and wrong thinking involved. So don’t be surprised when you see your child doing something that you know will probably be a mistake. That being said, know also that you cannot control your adult child, nor should you try to do so. If he or she is living under your roof or receiving material support from you, then you do have some leverage with which to enforce rules, but other than that, your adult child is a free agent.

So, when they make bad choices, what are we to do? I believe that there are two things that we can and must do in this circumstance. The first thing is to pray. God calls us to pray without ceasing, and this is no exception. Ask the Lord to show your child that the choice he is making is foolish. If your child is a believer, and is sinning in his choice, ask that the Spirit of God would convict him. If he is an unbeliever, ask the Lord to use the circumstance to bring about his salvation. Pray often, and pray many prayers, both for your own ability to honor God in the circumstance, and for your child’s wellbeing. But don’t forget that the reason your child was created is to bring glory to God. Above all other requests, ask the Lord to make His glory the deepest desire of your heart in the situation.

Secondly, when our children make bad choices, we must offer them wise counsel. If we had a friend that we loved as much as we love our children, and that friend was about to do something very foolish, wouldn’t we want to speak some encouragement into their lives? The Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron, and that two are better than one, so why should it be any different with our children? If you are on even halfway good terms with your son or daughter, you should be able to speak to them frankly and honestly about your thoughts on their decision. If you can’t speak face to face, write them a note or call them on the phone and express your concerns. As you would with any adult friend, be respectful and don’t attack them personally. Just point out the down side of their thinking, and let them know that you are concerned, and that you are keeping them in your prayers.

Finally, if your child makes a decision, or chooses a path that you believe will surely bring disaster, you must trust the Lord with them, and leave it in His hands. I know from personal experience that this is much more easily said than done but, my dear sister, you must do it. Though this is your beloved child, and you are deeply disappointed or even heartbroken over his choice, know that the Lord weeps with you. He also loves your child, and desires the best for him even more than you do. But, one advantage God has in seeking that “best” is that He actually knows what it is! Dear mother of a wayward child, your Father knows better than you do what is best for that son or daughter. Though what you see before your eyes may look like disaster or doom, God, from the other side, may see salvation or sanctification.

Whether or not your child is a believer, God will use the circumstances and the consequences of his choices, to work out His will in that child’s life. The most comforting and encouraging Scripture passage I have found on this topic is Isaiah 55: 6-11. I’d like to walk through it with you, adding a few comments along the way to help you with the application.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;

This goes along with my first bit of counsel, to pray for your child. Pray this Scripture for him, that he would seek the Lord, even as you are seeking the Lord’s will for your response

let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

If your child has fallen into sin, pray for conviction and repentance, leading to salvation and/or sanctification.

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Pray that your child would turn to Christ, and that the Lord would have mercy on him, forgive his sin or foolishness, and restore or revive his heart.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is for us, fellow brokenhearted moms. Remember this truth: God’s plan for your child may be different from yours, but it will always be better, by God’s definition, than you could ever have asked or imagined. Remember, God’s glory, not our children’s happiness, must be the deepest desire of our heart in this or any circumstance. Trusting that God knows what is best for your child is vital to your contentment and satisfaction in Christ.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

These verses remind us that words of truth spoken to our children are never wasted. You don’t have to thump your Bible and quote verses to them in order to speak truth into their lives. You can convey Scriptural wisdom to them without quoting chapter and verse. If they are particularly hostile or closed off to the things of Christ, just offer them your wisdom, informed by Scripture, that comes from your sincere heart. If they reject it, you have done all you can and must leave it in the Lord’s hands, which is the absolute best place for it.

My dear friend, no one knows better than our Lord the heartache of a wayward child. He wept over Jerusalem, and has experienced more rejection than anyone in the history of the world. He knows your heart, He knows your fears, and He knows the future. But more than that, He knows your child, and He knows what it will take to bring about whatever heart change is necessary. Trust Him.

A final word of warning: Some moms have fallen into idolatry as they worry about their children and try to run interference, hoping to help them avoid the consequences of their choices. Do not do this. The best way to shorten your child’s journey down that wrong path is to allow him to experience the consequences of his own actions. If you rescue him, or try to force your will on him, he will not learn what God wants to teach him. Put your trust in God, and rest in His goodness, His mercy, and His love. Pray, speak truth, then rest, knowing that the Lord will give you the strength and courage to hold fast to Him through whatever troubles your child encounters as a result of his foolish choices. And remember, you were once foolish, like your grown-up child, but Titus 3:4-7 reminds us…

…when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Take a moment right now to thank Him for His mercy in saving you; to meditate on what He has rescued you from; and to plead for your child. He is listening.