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Hope for Parents Dealing with Wayward Children

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Scott Williams, Northpoint’s Pastor of Adults and Families.

Hope for Parents Dealing with Wayward Children

Dear Church Family,

This past Sunday, I preached from Hosea 11, which gives a wonderful depiction of God’s great love for Israel, who is described as a rebellious and wayward child.  Hosea 11 begins with a beautiful picture of God’s tender care for Israel, but His love and provision is continually spurned by a people who are “bent” on turning away from Him to other gods.

The primary application of Hosea 11 is that the God who loved wayward Israel is the same God who loves wayward sinners today. The death of Jesus on the cross puts on display what our loving God was willing to do in order to redeem all those who are lost and wayward. Christ endured our punishment so that we could have a right relationship with Him, and end our rebellion against Him.

While that is the primary application, I also think this passage gives insight and even hope for Christian parents today who are dealing with wayward children. Here are a few of my thoughts that I didn’t have time to address in my sermon last Sunday:

First, we have a God who understands the deep pain that comes from loving wayward children. Hosea says that the more Israel was called back to God, the more they went away. Even though God taught and led them with gentleness, not harshness, Israel was bent on turning away from Him.

I have known many parents who experience the pain of adult children who reject Christ and begin to live sometimes very destructive lives. Years ago, one of my mentors died at almost 90 years old. He led an exemplary Christian life. He served his entire adult life as a pastor, church planter, and mentor to hundreds of young pastors entering the ministry.  He was always faithful to his wife and he saw his children grow to be deeply devoted followers of Christ, except one.  It was the pain of that one wayward child that he was reminded of as he neared the end of his life.  He never stopped loving her.

There is hope for Christian parents of wayward children in that we do not have a God who is distant and unmoved, but a God who deeply sympathizes with them. He knows what it is like to have a child spurn instruction, reject loving guidance and live deeply destructive lifestyles. His understanding leads to bringing comfort.

Second, realize that hope for wayward children rests in God, not in you. Now there are many things parents can do to help children get back on track, but no parent can change the heart of their child, only God can do that.

Many Christian parents dealing with wayward children suffer from the “if only” and “what if” syndrome. Parents often say things like this: “If only we had more family time when he was a child, or kept him from that group of friends, or were less strict, or prayed more as a family, then maybe he would have not rebelled.” Which often leads to parents saying things like this when adult children rebel: “What if we show her more tough love, or be more gracious, or find her the right counselor, or even get her on the right medication, maybe then she would see the error of her ways and run to Jesus.” Many parents are burdened by a sense of guilt for past mistakes, and/or weighed down with a sense of obligation that it’s up to them to “fix” their kids.

Hosea reminds us that the salvation of the wayward is a work of God, not man.  While many of us know this to be true, we can often live hoping in our abilities to save, rather than resting in the fact that God is the one who saves, and He does so according to His will and His timing.

Lastly, never stop loving and demonstrating that love to your wayward child. What a picture we have in Hosea 11:8 of a God who, despite the ugliness of Israel’s rebellion, is still moved to warm and tender compassion for them.

Abraham Piper, son of Pastor John Piper, was a rebellious child who left the faith, but after a time, returned to faith in Christ. At one point, John Piper had to submit his adult son to the discipline of the Church. Abraham wrote an article giving advice to parents dealing with wayward children.

He writes, “If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home. …

What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

What a great encouragement it is that the way you respond to your child’s waywardness will show if you are really trusting in Jesus. That’s really the whole point, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, what you really want is for them to remember, or see for the very first time the beauty of our risen savor Jesus Christ. The problem facing wayward children is not drugs, sex, laziness, liberal thinking, homosexuality, and the like, but it is that they fail to see and believe Jesus is truly all that He said He is and will do all that He has promised to do.

Pastor Scott