“I am not a rebellious child and try to stay within necessary confinement. But my parents, they are something else! I need to find joy in honouring what God says is honourable, but this one is so difficult. So I struggle to honour my parents, and I need a solution.”
The quoted words above sum up the sentiments of many youths today. Unfortunately, many young people are caught up in what they know they ought to do and what they are experiencing on the ground. What are we supposed to do when we are caught between the rock (obedience) and the hard place (our current heart situation) when it comes to our relationships with our parents? Well, there are several things we need to consider to get a good grasp of how to handle such issues.
First, we must come to terms with the fact that our parents are not perfect. They, too, make mistakes, and as frequently as we do. This is a hard truth for many of us to perceive because growing up, we imagined that our parents were perfect and beyond reproach. Nothing negative about our parents would ever cross our minds (most of them may be) because they defined the whole world for us. Nevertheless, many of us later realise that our parents have been unrepentant, therefore languishing in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and that for some, their minds are not entirely transformed (Romans 12:2) in line with God’s will. Consequently, we must acknowledge that our parents also need a saviour, just like we do, because they are also sick at heart (Luke 5:31).
For those whose parents are believers, they must recognise that parents are still on the journey of faith and are also being sanctified into the image of Christ. Hence, we must practise patience with them (Romans 6:19, Philippians 2:12-13). Viewing them from this perspective allows us to be more gracious to them. Does this mean that we should have no expectations? Not at all. But it does mean that our expectations should not be divorced from the reality that they also apply to us (as we shall see later).
In humility, we must recognise that whatever character flaws we see in our parents should remind us that we are on the same earth and susceptible to the same failings. We must consider Paul’s warning to the Galatians to examine their walk before they start boasting (Galatians 6:4). Likewise, the Psalmist humbly calls upon the Lord to test his heart to see if there is any hurtful way in him (Psalm 139:24). If we do this objectively and consistently, we will realise that we are equally in need of patience from others but much more in need of Christ’s grace to live in obedience to him.
Wearing our parents’ shoes
Secondly, it would be helpful to put ourselves in our parents’ shoes simply because there are things we may be unable to understand because they are parents and we are not. Therefore, in the few issues we get to deliberate with our parents, we need to wear their shoes and feel the weight of responsibility in life—plus taking care of our needs. Parents have a high calling from the Lord; Ephesians 6:4 calls Fathers to be careful not to provoke their children to anger, yet still, parents are to maintain discipline in the home and train their children in the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Proverbs 29:17). There are many more verses we can point to that show us the magnitude of God’s expectations over parents. When we choose to become troublesome to them, we know we act selfishly and are oblivious of our role in making their work easier.
Life’s pressures put so much strain on our parents, and like other humans, they grow weary, and their consistency is challenged to great degrees (not adding our issues to this list yet). But, sometimes, the things we see as challenges or obstacles will cease if we see them for what they are. Again, this is genuine sympathy, putting ourselves in other people’s situations and doing our best to make it easy for them.
Pursuing the greater goal
The third thing for us is to focus on the more essential goals; peaceful existence and our eternal blessing from God. The journey to growth and maturity will often be marred with distractions, hence why the scriptures urge us not to give in to such (Joshua 1:7, 23:6).
Hebrews 12:14 encourages us to strive to live peacefully with everyone. It sounds like a tall order, yet we must remember that we are never alone in achieving these commands; they are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Peace will not just come from the blues. We must work for it. Living with our parents was meant to be a pleasure instilling, joy stirring and peace-giving affair. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of us. Therefore, we must deliberate more effort to attain peaceful co-existence with our parents. We need to pursue peace with our parents for the sake of peace as is called for in scripture (Romans 14:19, Matthew 5:9).
Secondly, the other goal, more excellent than the first, is so that we can receive the blessing of God. Therefore, we live with our parents honourably because God blesses those who do so with long life (Ephesians 6:1-3). Now, God does not tell us to honour them when they do all we ask or when they are nice to us. Instead, he commands us to honour our parents and leaves it at that. The derailing comes when we start rationalising and considering why we may not need to honour them. Reasons may abound, careless upbringing, squandered resources, abuse, or whatever we might tag on them. However, we always need to remind ourselves that in this life, God is our audience and not mere men. When we live for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), we learn the pleasures of obeying his word, no matter how challenging it may seem. He who sees what we do in secret will surely reward us (Matthew 6:4). Living in light of this truth will help us greatly when we struggle to honour our parents, especially when their actions do not logically warrant honour! Remember, the same grace you need every day for your joy is the same grace they need for their salvation and eventual joy if they are not saved and their sanctification and maturity in Christ if they are born again. Therefore, have the glory of God in focus through all things.
The article has mainly focused on our role as children to our parents and God. It may be hard sometimes, but pursuing that path is not futile. On the contrary, God will be glorified when we honour our parents and set our hearts to please him no matter what.