The holiday season is here, and that means that many of us will be spending time with our parents (or in-laws). My father-in-law will be joining us for Christmas, and I am seriously excited. But I know not everyone experiences that excitement when they are going to be around their parents. I was talking to a good friend and asked how her Thanksgiving was and she said something along the lines of, “Really hard because of my parent.” That just broke my heart. It can be exhausting and discouraging on the holidays when you find yourself dealing with difficult parents. I believe that God has a specific plan for dealing with tense parental situations. It can be difficult for adults to know how to interact with their parents, and vice versa. I have no idea what it will be like to interact with my children once they are all grown up, but I imagine the emotions I will feel will be complicated. I wanted to share this excerpt from my book, “The Truth About Godly Confidence.” I feel like this is one of the most important parts of the book, because so many people struggle to accept the fact that their parents are sinful and make mistakes. At the same time, that isn’t how God is, since He is sinless, and we need to remember that.
I pray that you would have a blessed Christmas with your family members, and that this post will help.
There is nothing that a small child desires more than the knowledge that they are loved. Over fifty years ago, in any town in any state in the United States, Satan thought he had won a very important battle. He made it a cultural stigma for fathers to tell their children that they loved them. Even the most loving men gave into the lie that it was shameful to verbally admit their parental love. Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up never hearing your father tell you that he loved you? I know that some of you experienced this horrible cultural phenomena, and I’m sorry. That was never God’s plan. Why would Satan wage such a battle? Damaged men and women, on their quest to feel some type of love and acceptance, embraced drugs, sex, and empty solutions to their soul problems. When parents, especially fathers, do not tell their children that they love and accept them, bad things happen. I don’t think Satan, with all his worldly knowledge, saw the Jesus movement coming in the 1970’s, but it did. The weapon God used to destroy Satan’s tactic was the love of Jesus Christ. This is was an interesting time in Christian history for the United States, and I think that it brings to light an interesting concept. We have already established in earlier chapters that God created us with the desire to feel loved. When individuals do not feel loved, broken hearts lead to bitter souls.
One of the easiest places for Satan to attack an individual is by creating tension or apathy in their family unit. That was the exact way of attack Satan took when God gave him permission to test the God-fearing man, Job. Let me set the scene for you. God was having a conversation with Satan, and God pointed Job out. God called Job a faithful servant and Satan made a comment about how much God had blessed Job with. Satan said that as soon as God removed the blessings, that Job would curse God to His face. In response, God told Satan to do whatever he wanted to Job, as long as he didn’t kill him. Suddenly, all of Job’s land, servants, and animals are killed by raiders. Then Job got even worse news in Job 1:18, “While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” Up until this point, Job had been ok. We don’t read about any reaction until after he heard about his children. In response, he tore his robe, shaved his head, and then he fell to the ground to worship the Lord. I often marvel at Job’s response, because I don’t know if I would respond so righteously in the same situation. If Job hadn’t been so faithful and disciplined in his relationship with the Lord, things could have gone much differently. If Job had not understood God’s love for him as an individual, he would have fallen apart. Dear friend, that is exactly what Satan is counting on the rest of us to do, fall apart. Job’s wife did; she told her husband to curse God and die. We should want to be like Job, not like his wife.
If you have never felt loved by your parents, I am sorry. I think God would want me to tell you that. He gave your parents the ability to make their own choices, and parents are sinful people, like everyone else on this planet. Perhaps your parents did tell you that they loved you, but they did not make you feel loved. Maybe they made you feel worthless with their unrealistic expectations, harsh words, or lack of physical affection. It is very likely that your parents tried to break the bad pattern they experienced as children, but failed. In the Old Testament we see that bad familial habits transcend generations.
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” -Exodus 34:6-7
God is quick to forgive at any time, but at the same time we see that bad habits (iniquities), like worshipping other gods, will be passed down from one father to another. Many families are caught in this trap, and need to turn to God and stop worshipping idols if they want to be free from this evil inheritance. If you have experienced a painful childhood, God is the only one that will deliver you from it. You cannot overcome these obstacles on your own. Repent from the sins that are accepted and even admired in your family. This is the only way to break free from the bondage that has kept generations of your loved ones confined and condemned.
There are also instances where one or both parents have died. I am so sorry for your loss, if this has happened to you. I won’t begin to pretend that I know the feelings you have about this, because I have not experienced them. But I can direct you to the Lord. He truly understands and He wants to be there to support you during your grief. Talk to Him. Tell Him everything. I promise, He is listening and He wants to hear what you have to say. Remember, this is the same God that keeps your tears in a bottle.
Overcoming Parental Negativity and Neglect
We often view our parents as mini-gods. We associate our worth with our perception of how our parents view us. If they seem dissatisfied with our abilities and choices, God must be as well. If they are loving and approve of our choices, then God does too. This is not reality. First of all, God always loves you, no matter what your parents say. Secondly, your parents may approve of choices you make that contradict the Word of God. The Bible does say that we should obey our parents (Ephesians 6:1), but it does not say that we should choose to please our parents over pleasing God. In Acts 5:29, we read that “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Without someone to remind of us of God’s love for us and to teach us what the Bible says, we often live our lives in search of acceptance, especially from our parents. I have often heard this phrase, “I was never good enough for…” and enter either “my father,” or “my mother.” I think this is something we need to talk about in the light of the truth of God’s Word.
Parents are men and women, children of God, and they are capable of making foolish choices. I am at a point in my life where I am determined not to let my parents’ opinions matter more to me than God’s. I am not saying that I am disrespectful to my parents. We know that it is God’s will for us to be respectful and honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). But I must not agree with them if I feel like they have told me to do something unbiblical. In addition, we must choose not to take the things they say as personal attacks, even if they are. But why? Why should we give our parents grace and mercy if they fail to be the godly examples in our lives that we wish they would be? We don’t want to be like “the wicked man.” In Psalm 109:16 we read, “Because he did not remember to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.” As I prayed about my parents, their influence in my life, and all of the hurts from the past, I asked God to help me see my parents the way that He sees them. May I suggest to you that your parents are broken hearted and in need of mercy? I understand what it is like to be taught that you are not good enough. It hurts.
Let me ask you a question: Have you ever thought about why your parents act the way they do? Have you ever tried looking at them the way that God looks at them? It could be that when God looks down on your mother or father, He sees a broken little child in need of a Heavenly Father to love and chasten them. However, everyone, including parents, will be held responsible for their choices. We all need to repent from sin and follow after Jesus’ example. In the meantime, it is God’s desire for you to forgive them and show them mercy. I know this is a difficult thing to ask, but God never asks you to do things in your own strength.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:10
When Paul the Apostle said this, he meant that God works in our weakness to show His strength. When we are weak and God helps us, He gets all the glory. There are many situations that will be too difficult for us to face on our own, and that is when we need to ask God for His help. To forgive others that have hurt us emotionally is very difficult, but God promises that He will complete every good work He has begun in us.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6
The only way to battle against bitterness in your life is to forgive. If you want peace from the hurts and unrealistic expectations of your parents, you must forgive them. This is a process that needs to happen continually. At one point in my life I made the decision that I would forgive my parents for past hurts, and hold onto all the positive things they did. If I teach my own children God’s Word and the positive things my parents taught me, I am allowing God to transform the negative legacy into His holy plan. Whenever I am tempted to dwell on past hurts, I remember Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
If you are interested in the flip side of this discussion, how God feels about you and what He provides for you, you can download my book for free on almost every reading platform. Check out this page.