“How is this possible!?”
“I can’t believe this is happening! One day she’s fine and the next, she’s doing this? I just don’t understand!”
“What went wrong? I don’t even know my own daughter anymore!”
These and others are common cries for help that are voiced by desperate, Christian parents on a regular basis. In the last two decades, godly parents have begun to experience the alarming epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, drug abuse, alcoholism, premarital sex, unwed pregnancy, teen runaways, and attempted suicide within the walls of their home. It’s hard to find a Christian family nowadays that hasn’t felt the impact of these things within their home, or who isn’t intimately acquainted with someone who has. The question therefore that begs asking is this: “How do we stop the spread of this in our own families?”
Part of the reason these things have become so rampant within the body of Christ is because Christian parents are contracting out the spiritual care of their teens when they discover the “unChristian” (or socially unacceptable) sins that are being committed, often upstairs in their teen’s own bedroom, or smack dab in the middle of the family kitchen. Early detection and response may save your teenager’s life – but only if they’re carried out in a Gospel centered way. Today, I’d like to give you 3 biblical ways to handle the discovery of secret, addictive sin in your teenager’s life:
1.) Examine Your Heart Before Proceeding to Address Your Teen.
Time and experience have taught me that a parent’s natural response to discovering something shameful and horrendous about their teenager’s life is cyclical. Initially, there is often disbelief accompanied by anger: “I taught you better than this!” Anger then gives way to prideful indignation: “I can’t believe someone in my family is capable of this! You’re so ungrateful!” Later, as the kettle simmers down, embarrassment and blame settle in: “I must have done something wrong. We can’t let anyone know about this issue because it will ruin our family’s reputation.” Many Christian parents suffer silently along with their teen because the body of Christ has largely become judgmental and self-righteous. Don’t copy in your parenting what you’re afraid of encountering amongst other Christians (See James 1:20; Galatians 6:1).
2.) Approach Them in Love, Not in Anger.
The natural human response to being confronted is to become defensive. If we want to gain a listening ear with our teenagers, we need to approach them with gentleness, not arrogant anger. Your teen knows that you are just as human as they are. No doubt, you would verbally acknowledge the same. But in situations like this, it’s incredibly easy to address the situation in a manner that causes your teenager to feel like they’re a worse sinner. They are, in fact, not. Just as the Bible instructs parents to discipline in love vs. anger, so confrontation should begin with an assurance of unconditional love: “No matter what the outcome of this situation, or what choice you make, I will always love you as Christ loved me when I was yet a sinner” (See I Corinthians 13:7; I Thessalonians 5:14).
3.) Don’t Give Up on Them. Instead, Move Towards Them Relationally.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was both fully God, and fully man. I believe therefore, that when Jesus chose his disciples, He knew that in the end, Judas would betray him, Peter would deny him, and they all would forsake Him. And yet, He faithfully invested in them, gave Himself to them, shared vulnerably with them, and rebuked them with compassion over their short-sightedness. His patience towards them should convict us all of the abrupt expectations we have of children with volatile sin natures. Even though your natural instinct as a parent will be to withdraw and act more as a disconnected correctional officer towards your teen, it’s important to recognize that that’s not a biblical response. Instead, take to heart the truth that love is sacrifice. It entails dying to self for the good of someone else. It gives selflessly without expecting compensation. Be the aroma of Christ to your teen – yes, often that includes “tough love.” You may be all of Jesus that they ever see (See Ephesians 5:1-2).