“How am I supposed to help my kids follow Jesus when I am struggling in my own relationship with him?” It’s a valid question, and one you’re not alone in asking. Or maybe you’re not struggling in your relationship with Christ, but you’re just having a hard time with life in general. Maybe it’s your job or an illness that is causing your struggles. It could be family or relationship issues that are complicating every facet of life. Perhaps your DIY remodel went off the rails and you’re living in a construction zone with your last shred of sanity holding it all together.
While there are varying degrees and causes, struggle is part of our life on this fallen earth and most of us are no stranger to it. Unfortunately, our kids won’t be either. That’s why it’s important that we show our kids how to lean on Jesus during the hard times and teach them how to do the same.
Run to Jesus
When we struggle, we must run to Jesus. He loves us more than we can ever imagine, and though we often choose to disobey, he still loves us in our brokenness. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience hard times or even the consequences of our choices. But that doesn’t change Jesus’ love for us. Our kids aren’t perfect, but we still love them though we may be broken over their behavior. How much more does our Heavenly Father love us?
Romans 5:6-10 reminds us that Jesus laid down his life for us while we were still lost in sin. I don’t want to get too fancy here, but that “us” in the original language means all of us. You and me. Jesus knew he was getting a bunch of messed-up people in exchange for his sacrifice—and he did it anyway. He loves us that much. And he desperately wants us to turn to him when we are hurting, when we are sick, when we are unsure of what to do, and in all the times between.
That’s great. But how is that supposed to help us disciple our kids? I’m glad you asked.
Transparency Is the Key
Transparency with our kids is vital to the discipling relationship, even when we’re struggling. That doesn’t mean that we tell them everything, because not everything is appropriate for them. Transparency is opening up to someone, letting them see the real you. It means being honest and sharing even the stuff we don’t want most people to know. It means telling them the truth, even when it hurts. This is so important for your children because the old adage is true: children do what we do, not what we say. The more transparent we are with our children, the more opportunity we have to grow in love for one another. And growing in transparency and love gives opportunity for discipleship to occur in the moments we already have with our kids.
I have a friend who never saw her parents have a disagreement when she was growing up. Not ever. Not even about where to go for dinner, where to spend Christmas, or who should take out the garbage. It sounds awesome and I’m sure it was a lot of work for her parents. But it wasn’t realistic. She never knew that her parents did, in fact, disagree, because they hid it. Once my friend got married, she quickly thought her own marriage was doomed because she and her new husband didn’t agree on everything—and even had an argument from time to time. Thoroughly embarrassed and at her wits end, she finally confided in a friend and learned that it was completely expected to disagree with her husband sometimes. She was relieved, but she was also hurt. She felt like she’d been lied to her whole life.
When we aren’t transparent with our kids, they don’t learn that struggling is an expected part of life. So when they struggle, they can believe the lie that no one understands. And if they don’t know we struggle, they don’t learn how to ask for help from us or from the best source we have – our Heavenly Father.
Jesus is our very best safe place. We must learn to depend on him and show our kids what that process looks like. Through our own struggles, we can grow in our relationship with Jesus and our children, if we will be honest with ourselves and with them.
For help developing a custom-fit method of discipling kids in your season of parenting, including growing in transparency, read Write It On Their Hearts by Chris and Melissa Swain.This article is based on ideas from the book, which offers practical help and advice for Christian parents on how to be intentional with their time to lead their children to Jesus.