Power struggles are common among parents and teenagers. Even teens who appear to be mild and compliant to others can engage in hard-fought battles at home. At the root of many of these battles is a deep-seated perception that they, the teens, are being treated unfairly. We see this dynamic in the life of Absalom. It is abundantly clear from the narrative that Absalom did not seek God in his distress and troubles. He took matters into his own hands. His outrage over Tamar turned into vengeance towards Amnon. His bitterness at his father’s failure to deal with Amnon’s sin yielded a life devoted to the overthrow of David’s kingship. We see Absalom’s anger, his planning, his obsession with justice, his treachery, and his quest for power, but we never see him reaching out to God.
When a teenager, or anyone else, focuses only on the injustice that has been done (either real or perceived), his way to trusting God is blocked.
Struggling with unjust treatment tends to leave anyone weary and burdened. The weight of injustice is more than we can bear in our own strength. Absalom bore this weight alone and it eventually destroyed him.
Teenagers who bear this burden by themselves may appear intimidating, even menacing. Or, they may be sullen and withdrawn. Christ appeals directly to them when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…and your will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-30). This is the message of hope and restoration that your teenagers need to hear from you.
Too often, parents also become locked into the battle for power. Instead of waging the battle in the power of the Spirit, the battle is waged with the inferior weapons of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). A power play on the part of the teenager is met with a similar display of power from the parent, and battle is on. When this happens, the results are not pleasant.
Please make no mistake about the power of the sinful nature and its lasting influence on the flesh. What the flesh wants directly opposes what the Spirit of God wants. This influence is deceptive, not only to the child, but also to the parent. Playful back-and-forth banter with a young child about whether or not he will obey quickly can seem cute and amusing. But, in reality, seeds are being sown for battles of will—battles of power—that will yield bitter results in the future. The quest for justice begins at an early age.
Young children need to be gently, but firmly, confronted with the reality of God’s control and authority. A young child who learns that he can manipulate parents by holding out for his own choices, either by cuteness or angry defiance, has the potential to become an Absalom—someone committed to getting justice his way, whatever the cost.