Fourteen-year-old Louis is moody. He constantly complains any time he is not absorbed in his screens. His parents fear for the things he might be viewing when no one is watching. It seems like it has been weeks since anyone has seen him smile. How did this happen? What needs to happen?
The immediate, expected response is to demand his screens from him and require him to stop being so grumpy and moody. This plan may attain some temporary relief. But it will not address the real reason for his sin and unhappiness. If the focus is only on his wrong and unhelpful actions, it will miss reaching his heart and actually encourage him towards even deeper struggles and sins (Col. 2:23).
It is vital that you understand that sin is not only an action. Sin is a process that flows from attitudes and patterns that are not resolved in Christ. When Louis was four, he began to develop a complaining spirit. But, he almost always did what he was asked to do, so the significance of his complaining was lost because he usually outwardly obeyed.
This oversight led to patterns being established that became the process which resulted in the sinful actions that are evident now at fourteen. Louis’ heart has had ten years of following and establishing the patterns of self-pity and selfishness.
Recall with me the three components of biblical obedience:
- doing exactly what is commanded,
- right away,
- with a good, pleasant attitude!
If anyone of these components is missing biblical obedience has not happened. By not focusing on the importance of obeying with a good attitude, Louis was allowed to get by without having the issue of his self-pity and complaining spirit addressed. He obeyed but was often resentful and displeased in the process. His outward compliance was forced but accepted: at least he took out the garbage.
However, internally he began to deeply resent the demands that he had to do what he didn’t want to. He began to feel more like he was a servant and not appreciated. The next step in the process was feeling increasingly misunderstood and unknown. Discontent led to deep self-pity which led to feeding dark desires and temptations. His mind fell prey to the lure of pornography and lust. Louis was indeed an unhappy, sullen young man.
If his parents had pursued all three components of obedience when Louis was four the discontent and complaining spirit could have been addressed at its beginning instead of allowing it to grow and fester for ten years.
Now that you see the power of the process, work lovingly and patiently with your younger children to obey exactly, quickly with a willing spirit.
Realize that your teenager’s struggles and sins are the result of the process of sin and not just individual actions. Patiently provide the love and care that he needs to understand all the forces that have enslaved him. You can now address these relational issues with patience and grace. You can show him you understand the temptations and slavery of pornography. Most importantly you can lead your teenagers to the healing grace of the gospel.
Ask God for the grace to understand the process of sin before you address the acts of sin with your children. Lead your children to the beauty and freedom of the gospel.