Excerpts from Chapter 4

Your Stance:
Determine to Glorify God

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Focus on God’s Glory

Why does your family exist? What is your shared purpose? What actually is the goal of that complex web of interpersonal relationships, obligations, and experiences? Parents of particularly challenging teens may answer these questions by placing too much emphasis on an absence of conflict. But having a goal of “peace at any price” only compounds a family’s difficulties.

David and Phyllis York were husband-and-wife psychologists with out-of-control teens. In the last third of the 20th century they popularized something called the Toughlove movement. Although not writing from a Christian perspective, they asserted that if a parent’s primary goal when faced with defiant and angry teens was to create peace and harmony in the home, the parents had already failed.

It’s not hard to see why this is true. When the ideal is a simple absence of conflict, one of two things must happen. Either the parents hand all authority to the teens, making parental standards irrelevant, or the parents become dictators imposing harsh, legalistic, unbending rules. Not everything about the Toughlove approach is biblical, but on this point the Scriptures agree. There is something much more important and far more valuable than peace and tranquility.

This book takes the following perspective on the question of a family’s highest purpose. God’s greatest goal for us is to pursue his glory in all of life—including in the parenting of difficult teens.

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3. Focusing on God’s glory will clothe you with humility and openness to see your own failures and sins more clearly.

The humble do not promote their own glory. By being committed to God’s glory first, our weaknesses present us as people who are just as needy, just as inadequate, just as sinful, and just as much in need of God’s grace as our teens. In the next chapter we will examine more thoroughly what biblical humility looks like. Here, we want to recognize the grace that empowers us to be open and honest about our own weakness.

Paul asserts that the display of our weakness really points to God’s glorious power.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The grace to display this kind of humility in the face of disrespectful words, an arrogant spirit, or the defiant choices of an angry teen requires spiritual power that comes only from God. As we seek first God’s glory and not our own, we position ourselves to receive this powerful grace. The fruit of this stance will often position us to create a bridge of communication with a fellow sinner—our teen.

4. Focusing on God’s glory will energize you with confidence and hope as you continue to live faithfully with other members of your family, your church, and your world.

Having an angry teen can “use up” parents spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The draining effect of prolonged tension and conflict can tempt us to neglect our spouse, our other children, and our church friends. It can also wreck our thoughtfulness about ministry to the world. But a truly God-centered consciousness can realign our hearts and minds, and keep us from being seduced and sapped of energy.

By not being “seduced,” I mean that you don’t need to follow up on every single invitation that your teen’s temper offers you to address. Again, some parents will be inclined to see this as laziness, condoning sin, or a lack of integrity. But the biblical reality is that we parents have absolutely no power in ourselves to change our children. Only God can do that. However bitter or disrespectful your teen may be, the situation is not out of God’s control—and it certainly is not within yours!

Trying to address every act of disrespect by an angry teen is futile. God does not require, intend, or expect you to do that. Focusing on God’s glory, however, is not only a completely manageable goal. It is a far wider goal and ultimately the only thing that will be effective.

Yes, this book is about what to do when you have a deeply troublesome teen; we will discuss that extensively in Part II. But my point here is to allow the supremacy of God and his glory to rule in your heart, freeing you to release to God some—and at times, most—of the provocations presented to you by your teen. This will allow you to maintain your responsibilities to love and serve the other people God has put in your life.

My submission to God’s priorities is more important, and more realistic, than my efforts to establish order in my home my way. Pursuing God’s glory brings me clear vision. Solomon acknowledges this when he says, “The name of the LORD [YHWH, God’s covenant name for his personal relationship with his people] is a strong tower, the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Strong towers in ancient cities gave support to warriors, perspective for the battle, and protection against attacks. The “name” of the LORD is a strong tower for us when we run into it—when we trust him, look to him and his purposes, and pursue his goals as our goals.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 5

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