Do you have a wayward child or other family member?
Do you feel responsible? Are you looking for peace?
Jerilyn sent me the following note:
“My 40 year old daughter said it’s hard for her to believe in God because she knows that I have prayed for 30 years for her brother and that I just want peace before I die. She said that she can see that I have tried to live close to "a" God but I cannot find peace. I told her that God did keep my son (her brother) alive, he is drug free as far as I know, and He has watched over both her and her older sister. I’m devastated to think I’ve caused her and my son to not trust God. I’ve never felt such guilt.”
She goes on to say,
“I’m sitting here wondering, Have I Caused My Kids to Not Believe in God?”
Jerilyn is in a great deal of pain and she is not alone. What should she do?
This is a difficult question to answer and in order to know what Jeri should do, we must understand more of her situation. She was kind enough to share her story, hoping to achieve her own peace, and help others with their own challenges. Let’s look a little deeper into Jeri’s story (in blue).
By her own admission, Jeri never enjoyed “being a kid.” She was thrust into being a wife and mother before she had the opportunity to explore life and discover herself. Her life developed as a series of adaptations to her circumstances, some of which were in her control, but some were not. We can probably guess that Jeri also went through some challenges in her home life before she was married. For many people, choosing a mate and getting married is the biggest decision in life. Jeri found herself in that situation at a very young age. She was just 15 years old.
It is unlikely that Jeri was prepared for what life was about to send her way. However, throughout her life, she portrayed the traits of an individual who accepted responsibility and didn’t blame others for the problems that she faced. On the contrary, she seemed to feel as if she was responsible for everything that happened.
The Bible provides some very sound wisdom where this decision is concerned. However, its counsel is not often sought out or even given heed when it is understood. There are so many factors that can affect this life defining decision. For Jeri, getting married at age 15 and raising a family was just the way things were done.
Her life as a high school adolescent was over. However, Jeri still knew the value of her education. After she was married, she successfully took on the challenge of finishing her junior and senior year high school education. She achieved her high school diploma in one year while taking care of her firstborn baby girl.
Without a union that was centered on God’s Word and mutual relationships with Jesus, everything eventually fell apart. Her marriage lasted 20 years, which is a great success by some measures today in which 43% of all marriages end in divorce and the average length of a marriage that ends in a divorce is only 8 years. However, even with “relative” success, divorce wreaks havoc upon all of those involved. In Jeri’s case, it left her alone for the first time in her adult life. She immediately became a single mom, working to raise two kids who had to go it alone a lot of the time while she worked to support them.
For a time before her divorce, Jeri’s family was a close unit. Then it began to change under the pressures of life. Her oldest daughter left to get married and start her life on her own. Shortly thereafter, Jeri and her husband divorced. She was lost when she found herself on her own after 20 years of marriage. One child was out of the home, but two remained under her care.
Bearing the burden of our decisions can be brutal on us. However, it can even be more brutal when those decisions have a negative impact upon those we love, especially our children. This burden can quickly morph into guilt, believing that a different decision would have yielded a different and better result.
Life is difficult to navigate, especially where children are involved. Children are not delivered to us with a “user’s manual”, they just show up. We must draw on our own experiences, frequently based on how we were raised by our parent or parents. Unfortunately, in many situations, the application of these experiences to our children does not produce the desired results. When we come to that realization, guilt can develop. Guilt can be a very strong and driving force in all subsequent decisions. We can feel as if we need to “make up” for our less desirable choices. As a result, we can overcompensate and make even more undesirable decisions.
Jeri made another decision out of desperation and remarried, hoping to get help with finances and taking care of her children. Her first husband had very little contact with his children. This left them feeling abandoned and unimportant. For a variety of reasons, the two children began to act out with several behavioral problems for which Jeri was unprepared. Her new husband told her, “It’s just a phase that kids go through, just let it go and they will grow out of it.” Jeri felt as if she had never been a kid because she accepted the responsibility of raising her family at such a young age. She didn’t act out like her children and she had a hard time understanding and accepting this reasoning.
Her middle daughter began to hang out and drink with her friends. Her son began to get into trouble of various sorts. A few years later, her middle daughter left the house and got married. She still drank too much but she and her older sister were married, so Jeri felt like they would be OK. She quickly turned all of her attention to her son. However, her son continued to deal with his life badly and made many poor decisions.
The stepdad was cruel and emotionally abusive to both Jeri and her son, which only made things worse. Jeri and her son began to lean on each other for emotional support. Her son continued to get into more trouble with drugs and was in and out of jail. He began to steal from Jeri and his stepdad to support his habit. Jeri worked and used her money to cover for his stealing and constantly bailed him out of his troubles. Then the stepdad enlisted her son to buy pot for him.
By this time, Jeri found herself no longer living life, she was very depressed and just existing. She lost track of years. There were still occasional good times, with family gatherings at holidays, but Jeri kept all of the hurt tightly hidden behind the veil. Eventually, the hurt and depression became evident to Jeri’s father who took her to a psychiatric hospital for help.
Her 2nd marriage fell into another statistic that 60% of second marriages end in a divorce. Jeri was again alone, but now had adult children who had slipped through the cracks. Jeri had always accepted the responsibility for everything and she was overwhelmed with guilt that everything that was wrong was her fault. Now, without her children Jeri was lonely and eventually remarried.
Her son continued on his downward path. He ended up in jail several times for DUI’s. The DUI’s kept happening and the last one became a felony. Her son went to jail for 5 years. No one in the family would talk to him and his biologic father wanted nothing to do with him, so Jeri continued to rescue him and sent him money for phone calls to her.
When he got out of jail, he had no place to go, so Jeri scraped together some money, paid his rent, got some furniture, etc. He would then lose it all and end up back in jail. She repeated this ritual with him several times, and in the process, alienated her daughters. They resented both their mother and their brother because all of Jeri’s attention and financial support was focused on her wayward son.
Here son eventually lost his license to drive for life, but would continue to drive to various jobs, get pulled over and end up back in jail. Jeri came to his rescue again and again for fines and attorney fees. She even sent him to Teen Challenge twice, but he walked out. He went to jail yet again for 5 years for altering a check to buy drugs.
After Jeri remarried, they moved away from where she was raised, got her depression under control and got a good job. Her son had a daughter, and because of the instability of her son and the child’s mother, Jeri and her 3rd husband took his daughter in at 8 years old and assumed the responsibility of raising her. Then her son showed up again, at her new home. He had just gotten out of jail again, moved in with a new girlfriend, and they were both unemployed. Jeri has been paying their rent for the past year. She continues to send money for school clothes, supplies and gifts for his girlfriend’s kids.
Tension in her current marriage is growing because her husband resents her son and his control over her life. She still continues to supplement her son and his significant other. Her son recently told her that he had been molested by his dad’s brother and rebelled because of that. Jeri lives with stress, anxiety, panic attacks and a major depressive disorder. She only wants her son to be “whole”.
With no secretive past, Jeri considers herself to be a good person and grew up as the most respected Aunt and cousin. She has always tried to do right and help people. She goes to church and reads her bible but is stuck in a hole. Her daughter sees how she has cried and begged and lives on medication to cope with anxiety.
She realizes that she has not turned her son over to God and trust God because of the money shortage. Jeri still thinks that if her son could just make ends meet, she would worry less and try to live her own life.
Recently, another concern has added to Jeri’s burden. Her middle daughter sees the struggle and sadness Jeri experiences from taking on the consequences of her son’s actions. Her daughter doubts God and told Jeri, “I’m a skeptic. I’ve been too close to you being close and not getting any peace.” So Jeri thinks, “It’s my fault she doesn’t believe in a caring God. She knows of my love for God and I pray every day but she sees no fruit of the Spirit in my life.”
On the other hand, her older daughter, rather than blame Jeri for confusion about God, told Jeri that of everything she had ever done for her, she’s glad Jeri taught her about Jesus. Jeri feels that the difference between her daughters is that they were a complete family when her older daughter grew up before leaving to start her own life.
Motherhood and fatherhood are both awesome privileges and great responsibilities. Motherhood is probably the closest thing to Godliness, in that a mother brings forth life like God brings forth life. Parents are responsible to bring their child to adulthood and provide wisdom and guidance in order to succeed in life and become responsible for his or her own decisions. The job of a Christian mother and father is to nurture, protect and raise their child to have their own relationship with God by teaching their child to learn, follow and serve God through Jesus Christ.
Early in life, parents provide care, sustenance and protection for their child and more often than not, this care is provided by the mother. In a way, the mother could be likened to being “God” to her child, in that she is there to meet all of her child’s needs. However, sometimes this responsibility can be taken too far. The role of a father and mother is not to try to take God’s place indefinitely and try to be a perpetual “God” to their children. God knows how to guide us and He knows what is good for us. The soft voice of the Holy Spirit is there, but, we don’t all listen. No matter how hard we try or how much responsibility we take on for our children, we don’t have all of the right answers. We humans are not designed for the job of being God.
While acceptance of responsibility is an admirable and Godly trait, there is a big problem when it is taken to an extreme. Jeri became her son’s source for fulfillment of all of his needs. In becoming “God” to her son, she has inadvertently subverted her son’s ability to develop and become responsible for himself. Her care has actually prevented his growth, personal responsibility and maturity. He looks to her for his needs to be met, not to God.
Jeri wants to experience joy before she dies but doesn’t see it possible until her son gets his life together. She only knows 2 ladies she’s met at church. She stays isolated so no one asks about why she is raising her son’s daughter and she feels too depressed. Her middle daughter’s perception of God is that if He exists, if He doesn’t help me, whom she knows prays and lives right, he’s must not be a loving God, because she thinks I deserve a break.
Jeri is trying to put some distance and step back from her son some, but she feel that she is his only friend for so many years and she is his bank. She believes that if she doesn’t help they’ll be homeless.
God has answered Jeri’s prayers by keeping her son alive and safe, helped him have strength to beat drugs, helped her girls be safe, and spared her current husband who has survived two recent heart surgeries.
She knows that she has basically made her son her idol. She is trying to change and do better.
Jerilyn then made another statement that cries out with a devastating fear.
"I know I believe IN God, but do I BELIEVE God?"
What a powerful statement... and question!
A very large part of the population would acknowledge that they “Believe in God.” That is to say that they believe that there is a “Higher Power” at work in the universe. That statement is not that difficult to make. There is so much evidence in every part of the universe that tells us that this is true. The book of Romans speaks about this:
Romans 1:19-20 (TLB)
19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse [when they stand before God at Judgment Day].
Believing “in God” is truly very easy, it is actually harder to believe that there is no God. The hard part is believing what God says in His Word, the Bible. This is where “the rubber meets the road.” It is the true test of your Faith. That is why it is so important to study His Word and learn what it says and not what someone else says about it. This is why I wrote Ideolatry.
How can Jeri find the peace that seems to elude her?
In order to get peace for herself, she must truly surrender her son to God, stop being a physical and emotional “God” to him and leave him to figure out his life for himself. However, Jeri may see this as abandonment of her son because of a deep sense of abandonment within her. She may want to try to overcome her pain by overcompensating with her son.
When Jeri can believe God, rather than just believe in God where her son is concerned, her first step might be to surrender him to God. She should lovingly release him to fend for himself, just like a mother bird pushes a baby bird out of the nest to fly on its own.
We read earlier in Romans 1:19-20, that the knowledge of the presence of God is virtually imprinted in every human. However, believing God is a matter of another type of knowledge, the lack of which carries a consequence. This is a deep knowledge of God’s character and nature, who He is in your life, and what He wants from you. It is tied to your faith in Him. This important scripture is found in Hosea, which states:
Hosea 4:6 (KJV)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: …”
This knowledge comes from learning God’s Word, the Bible. However, sometimes the Bible can be confusing and we might need a little help in understanding difficult passages. This is another reason that I wrote Ideolatry. It is very important to know the history and law of the Old Testament as well as the grace of the New Testament. Without a working knowledge of the Old Testament, it is sometimes difficult to fully comprehend the wonder of the New Testament. A lack of this knowledge can lead to a lot of misery in your life.
A lack of this knowledge can also manifest itself in a myriad of ways, primarily in the way in which we make decisions. All decisions have consequences. Some are good and some are bad. Some have very short term effects and others can alter the rest of your life. It is important to know the difference and it is very wise to have the counsel of God before making the decisions that will alter our entire lives. The decisions that cause us the most grief are the ones that we make without God’s counsel or that we make in spite of His counsel. These decisions become “baggage” that we can carry throughout our lives.
Jeri’s original question, “Have I Caused My Kids to Not Believe in God?” can be resolved by taking action. However, not living in Jeri’s shoes and experiencing her life as she does, it is very easy to make judgments about what actions she should take. In this situation, there must be a great deal of emotional pain that must be overcome. Only God can truly speak to her heart through the Holy Spirit to provide healing, restoration and direction. Jeri, just like the rest of us, must trust in Him as we read in Proverbs.
Proverbs 3:5-8 (The Message Bible)
5 Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. 6 Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. 7 Don't assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! 8 Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!
While there is no indication in Jeri’s story that she has any unforgiveness toward anyone, it can be difficult to let go of some of the things that happen to us in our lives. When people are offended or abused, they can bury their feelings deep within themselves and harbor unforgiveness.
We should all be aware that holding on to unforgiveness, even unintentionally, can completely negate our prayer life and keep us from receiving what we are praying for. Jesus is very clear about this in the book of Mark.
Mark 11:22-26 (KJV)
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
God, through the Holy Spirit and Jesus can heal, but unforgiveness on our part can hinder that healing.
It is also possible that Jeri felt emotionally and spiritually abandoned at a very young age and continues to try and fill her own void while providing for her son. She may have felt that God abandoned her and she had to take care of herself and she wanted to prevent the same thing happening to her son. However, it is plain to see in the narrative of Jeri’s story, that Jeri has taken on the role of rescuer where he son is concerned. In the process, she has become the victim.
However, it is never too late for the situation to change as with this example found in the gospel of Luke.
Luke 23:32-43 (NIV)
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
One criminal reached out to Jesus and Jesus assured him of his salvation because of his trust and faith in Him. The other criminal mocked and rejected Jesus. All three of them were moments away from physical death. Until we actually stop breathing, it is not too late to accept Jesus.
It takes trust in God (faith) and His promises (knowledge of His Word). God would like to have a conversation with Jeri that her son is not part of and He desperately wants to have a conversation with her son that Jeri is not a part of.
The simple answer to Jeri’s situation would seem to be for Jeri to:
- First and foremost, Forgive herself for anything and everything, because through Jesus, God has forgiven her.
- Forgive those who may have abused her (not for their sake, but for hers).
- Forgive those who’s actions may have made her feel abandoned.
- Release her position as “God” in her son’s life
- Truly release her son to God to be an adult.
- Immediately stop all financial support.
- Ask for the forgiveness of her daughters for any abandonment that she may have made them feel.
- Trust in God regardless of the outcome.
Here are some additional scriptures that may prove helpful.
Philippians 4:19 (KJV)
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Nehemiah 9:17 (KJV)
… but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness...
Zephaniah 3:17 (KJV)
17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I pray for the revelation in Jeri’s life that can only come through the Holy Spirit and I pray that she will allow God to guide her to the right decisions for her. My hope and desire is that she realizes the “peace that passes all understanding” that she seeks.
Jesus will set you free if you let Him !
I hope my blog posts help you grow in your faith and Biblical understanding. I would like to invite you on a journey of further spiritual growth by purchasing the Ideolatry Book and Study Guide. Together, these tools will give you a strong Biblical foundation when life is difficult to understand.
May the Lord bless you and keep you... Dr. Rich Masek
To learn more about God’s Character and Nature in Ideolatry - God Is Not Your Problem
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