Although being a parent can bring incredible joy and thankfulness to our hearts, sometimes being a parent means experiencing times that are just plain hard!

It’s hard to watch our children struggle through an illness and find ourselves unable to make them feel better. It’s hard to watch our children hurt when they are uninvited to a party, or excluded from a friend group, or ignored by someone they thought cared for them. It’s hard to hear our babies cry and not understand how to comfort them and it’s hard to watch our teens leave home and no longer have the power to protect them.

Yep, sometimes parenting is just hard. But I’m not sure there’s any harder emotional hurt than the hurt that comes from seeing our children make bad, rebellious choices. Watching them walk down a road that we are certain will surely lead to destruction is one of the hardest things a parent can endure.

However, I think sometimes we make that destructive road our children are choosing much longer than it needs to be by our tendency to “help.” As moms and dads we’re so used to helping our kids! It’s natural to step in and help them solve the problem, resolve the issue, or change the outcome of their choices. That’s part of our job as moms and dads. In our roles of protectors, providers, comforters, and cheerleaders we delight to see our children’s tears turn to laughter and hurt turn to hope.

When our children are faithfully doing their part to live according to the Word of God, our intervention is great! When they’re obedient to us, thankful to God, and characterized by a teachable spirit, our help can be a vehicle God uses to build their faith and give them hope in the midst of hard times.

But, when poor choices, arrogant attitudes, an unteachable spirit, and ungrateful hearts characterize our children, for us to rush in and try to “help them” is counterproductive. Despite our loving motives, we will rob them of the important lessons they need to learn and the hard consequences they need to face in order to understand the outcome of their own poor choices.

Trust me! I know how hard it is to allow a child to face the consequences of their decisions! However, the more often we step in and try to solve their self-induced problems for them, the longer it will take for them to take ownership of those same problems. The more often we rescue them from the consequences related to their poor choices, the harder those consequences will become in the future. Even when it seems as though the trial our child is facing is unrelated to their poor choices, if we know they are characterized by unbiblical living, we must resist the temptation to swoop in and fix their problem or alleviate their consequence.

Proverbs 13:15 says this: “Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard.” Another version translates the word “treacherous” as “transgressors.” In other words, even when it seems our children are not reaping the immediate punishment they deserve for their sinful choices, they will still experience “hardness” in their lives. Although they may be under the impression that they’ve “gotten away with” whatever sinful appetite they’re fulfilling because they don’t see an instantaneous cause and effect consequence, the overall characterization of their life will be one hard thing after another.

Often, God uses those hard things to soften the hearts of our children. As He brings pressure to bear in their lives through troubled relationships, dented cars, unexpected bills, and stressful days He can begin to draw their hearts back to Him. It’s no surprise that those children who are choosing paths of destruction are often the same children who experience the most drama in their daily lives. If they truly belong to God, He won’t allow them to frolic light-heartedly down the pathway of sin, but instead, He will squeeze them in order to get their attention.

Moms and dads… Don’t interject yourselves between your child and your God! Allow Him to do a good work in their hearts through the hard circumstances in their lives! Trust him to use the hardness of this life to soften your child’s heart for eternity.

As painful as it is to watch, perhaps the best thing we can do at those times is to simply pray that God would squeeze our children hard, in order to get their attention! Not stepping in to fix their problems doesn’t necessarily mean that we make ourselves unavailable to our child. On the contrary, be available to provide biblical counsel (when it’s requested!). Ask your child good questions to help them self-discover what God might be trying to do in their life. Direct them to other Godly believers who may be able to offer assistance in a way that they would never receive it from you.

God designed us to be helpers and encouragers for our children! What a blessing it is to come alongside our kids in order to help to carry their burdens and ease their trials, however we can’t allow our love for them and the pain we feel when they are suffering to keep us from parenting them wisely. Pray for a discerning heart and the strength to step back when stepping in is the wrong solution!

God is in the heart changing business and He can take the hardest things of life and use them to make the softest heart for Him!