Here’s a profound statement: parenting a kid is hard! Learning to program a computer is hard, too, but at least there are books and manuals that will help you learn how to program. There’s no such manual for teenagers. And just when I think I’ve got my oldest teenage son figured out, along comes his younger brother who is “programmed” completely different! We are told to “teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6, italics mine). The beauty is that God has wired each of our children in a unique way with their own giftedness, interests, desires, and yes, personality quirks. The proverb calls us to raise each child in a unique way according to their gifts, interests, and (here we go again) personality quirks.
There are lots of great books on parenting. You’re holding in your hands a great monthly, timely resource to help you in parenting. Plus there are . . . WAIT! I need help with this unique child of mine in this unique situation!
Don’t resign yet. God has not left you alone. Just as He gave you that precious child that has now grown into a teenager, He wants to help you in the task and role of parenting He has called you to. His desire is to be your active partner in the task of raising a teenager. The Bible tells us many things about the role of God the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at three roles of the Holy Spirit in the context of parenting.
Our source of wisdom. We certainly would acknowledge that God is all-knowing. There is nothing that God does not know or understand. Wisdom begins and ends with Him. But remember: the source of all wisdom is living in you! James reminds us that “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him (Jas. 1:5). God does not play a mystery game with us, where we have to figure out the clues and try to guess the right answer. He loves us and will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it.
The ultimate way God has revealed Himself and His wisdom is through Scripture. It is so important that we stay daily in God’s Word. As we read, we should pray, asking God to help us understand the truth and wisdom He has already given us. The role of the Holy Spirit is critical in our ability to understand and apply Scripture to the task of parenting. “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12).
Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26). As we seek the Spirit’s help, He will guide us in knowing the truth. What the Spirit reveals to our hearts, though, is never contrary to what He has already revealed through Scripture. The Spirit will guide us in applying His truth to our unique situations with our unique teenagers.
Our prayer partner. As God shows us what to do as parents, we are to act in obedience. We may do what is right . . . but what about our teenagers? We want them to do what is right, too. Therefore, we need to be unceasing in our prayers for them. There is a spiritual battle being waged for the minds, affections, and souls of our teenagers. Many times we know specifically how to pray. Yet there are other times, we are burdened for our kids, but we can’t even concretely express it. We just know we want them to be spiritually safe . . . to do what’s right for today . . . to trust God with their lives . . . or whatever. The Holy Spirit knows what’s on our hearts, and He intercedes on our behalf. “The Spirit also joins to help us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Rom. 8:26). The Holy Spirit loves us—and our teenagers—deeply, so He goes before the Father’s throne, expressing our needs perfectly. The Spirit’s requests are always heard and answered because “He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:27). Do not be afraid to pray boldly and specifically for your teenager, but know that the Holy Spirit takes your requests and expresses them before the Father’s throne in a way that conforms to God’s will—and thus is the best for your child.
Our source of comfort. I find it a great comfort knowing that the One who knows –and cares for—my teenager far better than I do is guiding me and praying with me all along the path of parenting. John 14:16 refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Counselor,” a phrase that is sometimes translated as Comforter. What does a counselor do? The word refers to someone who helps, counsels, even protects, and the word literally means “one who is called alongside us.” Doesn’t that settle your mind just a bit, knowing that God Himself is walking alongside you offering guidance, protection, and comfort during those oft-trying days of steering your child through the maze of adolescence?
As we pray for our teenagers, let’s also pray that the Holy Spirit would carry out His role as Comforter/Counselor with our teenagers. Our students are used to counselors, but here is One who walks alongside them!
Letting the Spirit work
All this sounds great, but how do I get the Holy Spirit actively doing these things in my life? As a follower and believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is already in your life! God placed His Holy Spirit within you the moment you became a Christian. Even though the Holy Spirit is in our lives, we may not always be aware of it.
In West Texas, Thomas Hickox was a rancher and businessman looking to unload his 16,640-acre River Ranch. The property had no fences, so it was plagued by disputed boundaries. The land was in an area that had frequent droughts and “greasy” well water. He met a man named Ira Yates who owned a small but prosperous store in the small town of Rankin. The rancher offered to trade Yates the land for the store, if Yates would agree to pay off the existing mortgage on the land. It was not a good deal for Yates, and his friends told him so. Yates made the trade anyway, because he wanted a ranch. That was in 1915.
In 1926, Transcontinental, Ohio Oil (which later became Marathon Oil) took a gamble and drilled for oil on Yates’ struggling ranch. The bottom line: Yates became an instant millionaire. Even now, over 70 years later, that land is still producing oil.
Think back to 1915. Thomas Hickox was sitting on vast wealth, but he couldn’t wait to unload the land. Even Ira Yates struggled on the property for 11 years, not realizing the millions of dollars underneath him. It would be sad to have that kind of resources at your feet and never appropriate it.
Many Christians are like that. The Holy Spirit lives in them, but they never appropriate the power, guidance, and wisdom He offers. It is not automatic. We are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Even though the Spirit is in our lives, we are not always “filled” with his presence and power. I think about the glass of chocolate milk my son likes to drink. If he pours a glass of milk and pours in the chocolate syrup, does he have chocolate milk? No, he has milk with a glob of chocolate in the bottom of the glass. My son must take a spoon and stir it up so that the chocolate permeates and “fills” the whole glass.
Do you see the parallel?
The Holy Spirit is in believers, but His presence needs to be given freedom to permeate our lives. We allow the Holy Spirit to fill us when we acknowledge His presence, surrender ourselves to the lordship of Christ, and let Him have control. We are to do this day by day. (The Greek language for Eph. 5:18 expresses being filled as a continuous action.) Surrender to the Spirit’s control. If you seek Him for wisdom and guidance in raising your teenager, He will give you just what you need as you let Him work through you.
There are days—oh! there are days—when my teenagers can be such a challenge. I always do so much better, though, when I get my eyes off the problem and focus on the answer: letting God be at work in me and through me. Adolescence can be a bumpy road, but we can pray with David, “May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps. 143:10). I thank God for His Spirit who guides us—me, my wife, and my sons—along the road. We are not alone!