By Mark Altrogge
What? Are you serious? What good can it possibly be to have a difficult child? Or a teen who struggles with sin? Or a child who rebels against you?
God causes all things—even a teenager’s sin—to work together for our good. Here are 5 ways:
Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in dependence on God
Challenges with our children are as much (or more) about us than about them. Sometimes we discover that we are depending more upon ourselves than the Lord. So often we think that if we just do all the right things—have family devotions, discipline our children, love them, keep them from bad influences, educate them in a certain way—then they will automatically be saved and follow the Lord.
But doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God—to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.
Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in humility
When we have a child or two who do well, we can start to think that we are responsible for how well they are doing. Yes, we think, it is my parenting that did this. My hard work paid off. A difficult teen ends all that. We become aware of doing many things that failed. We become aware of making many mistakes and that the reason any of our other children are doing well is God’s grace. A difficult child makes us feel weak. It’s humbling to ask others for prayer and counsel. It’s humbling for others to find out we don’t have the ideal Leave It to Beaver family.
Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in mercy and sympathy toward others
Years ago in my arrogance, when others had challenges with their children, I would think they must be doing something wrong. It was somehow their fault. In my arrogance I had little mercy or compassion for others. Having a difficult teen changes all that. When you have been through challenges, struggles, and disappointments with one or more of your children, you become very merciful and sympathetic to others in their struggles. You know how much you appreciate the sympathy of others, so you extend it to others. You know how much you need mercy so you become merciful to others.
Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in patience and perseverance
Unfortunately, the only way to gain patience is to be put into a situation that requires it. Jesus usually works in our children little by little, often imperceptibly, over years, as he does in us. Sometimes we must keep praying for our children for years and years—even as they are adults. All we can do is plant the seed of the gospel, then we must water it with our prayers and trust God to cause the seed to grow in his own timing. This takes patience.
Think of how patient and long-suffering God has been with you. You aren’t always quick to change are you?
Having a challenging teen helps us to grow in love
Jesus told us to love our enemies expecting nothing in return. Of course, our kids aren’t our enemies. But we must love them, bless them, speak kindly to them, bear with them, and do good to them, even when they don’t respond. God loved us before we loved him, and he calls us to do the same. We rejected Jesus again and again, yet he loved us and came for us and died on the cross for us. Even now, millions and millions reject Jesus every moment of every day, yet he continues to love them. Whatever disrespect we receive from our children in return for our love is but an infinitesimal taste of what Jesus experiences every day from mankind.
So we must grow in love. We must seek the grace of Jesus to love as he loved, unselfishly, expecting nothing in return.
Our children’s struggles are as much about us as they are about them. So praise God and thank him, that as difficult as things are, he is at work both in you and your teen. Don’t give up, even if you see little change or fruit. God isn’t done working yet. The story isn’t over yet. God is not only working in your child, he’s working in you.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.