As parents, we never stop worrying about our children—even when our influence over their actions and decisions begins to wane. In this encouraging article, Lori Ann shares 6 biblical examples to help us stop worrying about our grown children, and instead learn to trust God with every aspect of their lives.
As a mother, I loved the grade school years. I loved helping my kids with science projects. I loved checking math homework and correcting spelling errors. I loved sharing in the language of book reports and in the design of art projects. I loved the tape and teamwork, construction paper and camaraderie.
But when my children hit middle school, they were subject to a new grading system. As emerging adults, they were tasked with more independent assignments and evaluations. No longer would I be able to help with all of their schoolwork. Instead, their grade would be calculated by the sum of two parts: 70% of their final grade would be based on unassisted (independent) work, and only 30% of their grade would be based on assisted (parent-aided) work.
Translation: My input and influence were being limited.
And the worst part was, I soon learned my child could get 100% in the assisted category (like projects and homework we worked on together) and still not get a good grade if they did poor work in the unassisted category (like tests, quizzes, and in-class projects).
All of parenting is like this. Our grown child can score 100% on the parent-influenced part, but the independent part can still throw the final result. We can do everything right as parents, and still not achieve the ‘result’ we had envisioned. And that’s often a difficult reality to accept.
Who they become is less dependent on me than I once believed.
HOW TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR GROWN CHILDREN
As a hands-on momma, I eventually got onboard with the gradual letting go, but still felt responsible for a large percentage this side of eternity. More than anything, I wanted peace, and a way to stop worrying about my grown children. In desperation, I ransacked the Scriptures for guidance and grace. I latched onto six mentions of children in the Bible, and God’s far-reaching care for them—care that extended far beyond the fingertips of their devoted parents. From these passages, I found six reasons we can sleep easy tonight, despite what is happening today in our adult children’s lives.
1. God Loves Them Even More Than We Do
It’s an understatement to say that Abraham loved his son Isaac. Isaac was a miracle child, born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age as the fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants a great nation. So when God instructed that Isaac be sacrificed, it tested Abraham’s love for God. But perhaps what we often miss is God’s love and care for Isaac. God protected Isaac even when it seemed there was no other way. Even when it seemed the story was over, even when human eyes couldn’t see a different ending. God’s love for Isaac overshadowed even his earthly father’s feelings for him.
Likewise, God’s love for our adult children always eclipses our own deep devotion for them.
2. God Parents Them More Perfectly Than We Do
King and “man after God’s own heart,” David had both the DNA and the resources to be a top-notch parent. Of his nearly two dozen known children, only a few are mentioned in the Bible. With the notable exception of Solomon, most of the children who were described in Scripture made decisions and lifestyle choices that would have broken any parent’s heart: rape, adultery, murder. Even his favorite son Absalom publicly humiliated David. But God took that messed up family tree and brought the Savior of the world through its lineage—a definitive display of perfect love.
God can take our well-intentioned, yet flawed attempts at parenting and bring ultimate good.
3. God Dreams Bigger Dreams For Them Than We Can
Hannah, like so many would-be mothers we know today, endured years of infertility. She longed for a child. She vowed that if she ever got pregnant, her child would be dedicated to God. Hannah’s promise was something she could envision: “I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…” (I Samuel 1:11b).
What God dreamed for Hannah’s child was bigger and more detailed: Samuel became a prophet and judge of Israel and restored law, order, and regular religious worship in the land.
As Hannah learned, often our dreams aren’t big enough for our children. We are tainted by practicality and tangible resources. We are constrained by finite amounts of time, and patience, and money. We have our own selfish motivations factored in. We weigh and consider, bargain and prioritize. God is never bound by these. And His vantage point is much higher than ours. As mommas, we’ve all prayed for an outcome for our children we thought was best at the time, but one we’re later thankful God didn’t grant.
God’s dream for our child, on the other hand, is unselfish and unlimited. He sees their full potential.
4. God Understands Them Better Than We Do
At the manger in Bethlehem, Mary likely had no idea that her perfect baby would someday break her heart in all kinds of ways. And while Hannah intentionally left her son at the temple, Mary thought she’d accidentally left hers there. It’s the only story Scripture shares of Jesus’ childhood. But we can assume it wasn’t easy for Mary. Though Jesus had the noblest of causes, I’m guessing His mother noticed during His teen years, or perhaps even sooner, that He was headed down a dangerous path, fearing He was making the wrong kinds of enemies.
Mary was raising a boy she couldn’t understand. But as parents of the fully human, our children are a large mystery, too. As we scratch our heads at their career choices and social decisions, just as He did for Mary, our omniscient Father comprehends it all and lovingly guides us both.
5. God Holds the Patent on Free Will
As a mom, the Parable of the Prodigal Son has put a certain fear in my heart ever since my children were reading it in preschool Bible class. At that time, I was still making most of the decisions for my children. My faith was essentially their faith. And I wanted it to stay that way.
If I had been designing the saving of the world, I would have never factored in the risky element of free will. But God knows that true devotion, pure love, real faith, requires a choice and a decision. It was His bargain, and He knows it is worth the risk to solidify our love to Him.
But our child’s choice is not ours to make. We do our part, they do theirs. That is when we become most closely bound to the heart of Father God. Like the father in the parable, sometimes we let go not necessarily because we’ve come to realize it’s best, but rather we let go because we simply can’t hold on anymore. Through it all, God continues to anticipate every child’s return home.
God invented free will and He understands the risk and reward involved much better than we ever could. For us and for our grown children.
6. God is Already Out Ahead of Them
A daytime pillar of cloud and a nighttime pillar of fire guided the Israelite children during their exodus from Egyptian bondage. In order to lead them this way, God had to be out in front of what was currently happening in their trek. Through four decades, God was way out ahead of these fearful Jewish slaves. He was already in the Promised Land.
God mentioned this going-ahead idea to some other adult children, too. God told Moses, “And the Lord is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NASB).
Later, God was ahead of Mary’s hometown shame in Bethlehem’s manger, and ahead of Jesus’ Gethsemane agony at the empty tomb.
Still true for His children today, more than just knowing about our future, He exists there. Wherever our adult child is headed, God is already there. God works above and apart from our human, linear timeline. He sees it all and He is in every moment of our grown child’s life. Even, especially, their future.
TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR GROWN CHILDREN
I learned an important parenting lesson when my oldest child completed her first science fair project without me: The assisted percentage eventually begins to diminish in all areas of parenting. As such, the battle for our child’s destiny is not ours to win. Though we can assist in certain ways, we can’t do enough to independently secure the outcome.
I also realized something else to help me stop worrying about my grown children: Mommas can take comfort in the God who gave us this role in the first place. And we can trust His process. Mercifully, the scoring is not logical; it’s not a level playing field. The Creator of the Universe is doing everything that can be done in the battle for our grown child’s heart.
His Word displays the character of a good Father who still specializes in redemptions, surprise endings, and second chances.
For a season, God gives parents flawed, free-willed, finite people to care for. And yet, we are flawed, free-willed, finite people ourselves. We work hard at holding on, then we work even harder at letting go. All the while we know deep down we don’t get to keep our children, and we don’t get to control them, or the outcome of their lives.
We all eventually learn that our parental influence will wane. As our children grow into independent adults, the assisted percentage keeps getting smaller, even though the responsibility we feel sometimes doesn’t.
Anne Frank was hinting at the assisted/unassisted evaluation scheme when she said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Though Anne Frank’s wisdom was far beyond her years, there’s another important contribution a parent can make to their adult child’s life.
WHAT’S AN OVER WORRYING MOTHER TO DO?
A mother’s spoken influence, small as it may eventually become, matters even if it doesn’t seem like it. Though I gave her many disappointments and sleepless nights, all my life I’ve known that I heard God’s voice first through the lips of my own momma. Songs and prayers and wisdom before I could even understand. And every word mattered.
Like my own young adults, I moved away from my momma too, and made some decisions she wouldn’t have chosen for me. But her faith-filled words carried me through many rough spots. And it was her prayers that made the biggest impact. After she passed, I found written proof of her heartfelt pleas for me, at times of my greatest need.
So I’ll keep praying over lives I mostly can’t envision and dreams I often don’t understand. And I’ll keep entrusting their hearts and their futures to a far-sighted, perfect Father who loves them more, understands them better, and dreams bigger dreams for them than I ever could.
What comfort does Lori Ann’s examples bring you as you worry over the choices your grown children are making? What lessons about trusting God have you learned along the way in your own parenting journey?
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I remember when I realized I needed to make friends with free Will—or jeopardize my relationship with my kids!
I can relate to this! My first grandchild is two states away and I look forward to my daily FaceTime with her. But I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting it!
I needed to read this today, as I am struggling over life decisions one of my adult sons made recently. It certainly IS NOT what I ever dreamed or wanted for him. However, I must accept free will being what it is for him, just as it was for me when I was younger before knowing the Lord. Being parents of adult children is extremely difficult, and we must give our children over to the Lord, second by second, it seems sometimes!
Still learning this on a daily basis, Kay. It makes me appreciate the lifelong patience and grace God gives each of us. Prayers as we both continue on this bumpy, beautiful journey!
So my adult son is not serving the Lord, and informed yesterday that he and his girlfriend are getting married and don’t want children. I am sad.
Oh Robin, it is so hard when what we want for our grown children are good things and they choose differently. As I’ve parented through difficult years, I’ve seen God bring about changes in hearts that I never expected. Sometimes it’s been theirs, and sometimes it’s been mine. I will keep praying to the God of the Unexpected on your behalf, and your son’s and new daughter-in-law’s as well.
Thank you so much Lori. I desperately needed this today. My son just called to tell me that he and his wife have separated after 22 years. I feel absolutely sick. He has also just lost his job. I do not know how to help him and I do not know how to stop thinking about it. All I can do is pray and trust in God
So sorry to hear about the difficult times your son is going through, Valerie. Although my first tendency is to want to make those rough times disappear, I know God intends to use them for good. Even knowing this, as a momma, it is hard to watch. Trusting God sounds simple and direct, but it never is. I will be praying for you and your son as you both face this new territory. Thank you for your comment.
This is one really reached out to me this morning. Thank you. I needed this so badly!
So happy it resonated with you. I have to remind myself of these truths so often, even as my third child enters young adulthood. Blessings, Margaret!
So great, Lori – I feel like I continue to deepen my walk with God, the older my kids get! For all of the above you mentioned. PS I was just in Bentonville! Wish I had known you lived there. Sibling reunion. xox
What? You have sibs here?? Would love to have connected! Next time, for sure.
Agreeing with you about getting closer to God as children age. I also deepen my appreciation of the patience and grace He has for all of us. Take care, Sue!
Heart tugging truths in your article, Lori. ❤️your writing!
Thank you, Janice. As you know, momming is not an easy job. I appreciate the encouragement in my writing and in my mothering. Blessings!
I have six children ranging in age from 40 to 20. Parenting adult children can be challenging. Thank you for sharing these very wise words.
Oh wow, Kelly. You are a veteran in this area! I’m finding the worries keep coming, but I’m reminding myself of these biblical models and doing a lot of trusting. Great to hear from you!
Please say a little prayer if you have a quiet moment for my beautiful daughter Lesley who suffers from MS and has so many challenges in her life. She tries so hard and is kind to everyone she meets. X
I am honored that you asked me to pray. Lesley will be on my ongoing prayer list, and her mama will, too. Lesley is blessed to have you in her corner.
I have 7 children from 30 to 4 years old. I have learned to trust God that everyone has their own testimony and will meet God their own way. Right now praying for my Joseph who has a learning disability and turning 25 without a job. Please pray for him with me. His birthday is on July 17 and he is getting depressed about it. Thank you
I love how you put that into words, “everyone has their own testimony and will meet God their own way.” This feels like the essential challenge of motherhood. It is my privilege to pray for Joseph and his mother. Much love to your family.
I have been struggling since 4/1 when I found out my 22 yr old daughter is pregnant. She will be a single mom but have us to help. I know I will love this baby so much but raising a child scares me for her! I live in constant fear. I’m trying to trust God has a better plan than I had!
Kelly, as a brand new grandmother myself, I can tell you this baby will fill your heart in places you didn’t even know were empty. I can also say my daughter and I have become closer as we now have trod new common parenting ground. Praying for you and your daughter in this new chapter. She is blessed to have you on her team on this wonderful, scary, life-changing adventure.
Totally loved your article– and like you my name is Lori Ann too! I have 5 children and the youngest being a girl that I gave birth to at 39 yrs. As surprising I was by the pregnancy I was just as surprised that when she graduated high school she moved in with your high school boyfriend of 1 year. They lived together for 3 years and here we are 4 years later they just recently got married. My hurt comes mostly from not hearing from her like I used to– She goes to college full time and works full time also. My new son in law we fell in love with him — but now I feel since the wedding she rarely calls me unless she needs something— she blames it on work/college– but its been like that for the past 3 years since she graduated. I do know that her husband has continued to stay close to his mom– and I wish my daughter would with me. My other 4 children are married and I have been blessed with 8 grandchildren– I am not new to a child of mine being married but she is the baby and it has been extremely rough on me. I just hope and pray her husband is takes care of her–that is my major worry. I loved this article– and plan to continue to follow your articles. May God bless you as you bring His word to all.
So good to meet another Lori Ann who is a mom of grown children! I understand about the communication gap that can happen when kids get out on their own. I am not a caller or texter by nature, but I have determined to schedule weekly calls with one of mine that seems content to check in only on rare occasions. I also had one young adult child become distant for a season and now we are closer than ever. I am praying with you that your daughter will pull you in one day, too. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your vulnerability may be just what someone else needs to hear to know they are not alone in their parenting journey. Thank you, too, for your kind words about my writing. Blessings to you and your family.
Love the feedback that you have provided to others. I have worried about my son so much that I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, My son was an exceptional student in school. In high school I notice a change in his interest in school. He drop out of college. Traveled around the world. Dated all ways the wrong young lady and got married then divorced. Always work but dead end jobs. As his mother I was always there no matter what. He keeps making bad choices that puts him in financial trouble.,All of his class mate’s appear to be successful married , good jobs, and family. No drugs no alcohol. He has told me he is suffering from.depression but want seek help. He does not want to have a conversation with me about what Is going on with him. He snaps at me says I worry about everything. He is my world I love him so much and want the best for him. I want him to be happy. I don’t have a life. I know that I am a good mother in every since of the word, if I push a conversation, I am afraid i am going to loose him and never see him again. I think I am excessive compulsive over my son. How do I let go without pushing him away?
Hi Linda, thank you for reaching out. I have felt your disappointment and frustration in parenting grown children. One thing to remember is that you have done your part and will continue to do so, but ultimately, free will allows your son to make his own choices. These choices are painful when they are not ones we would make. A wise Christian counselor once told me that the one thing we can give our children is a soft place to land, a place they can always come home to. I would focus on that. Please make sure your depression and anxiety are under the care of a professional. You can’t be the best mother otherwise. Christian counselors have been a lifeline to me. Praying as you navigate these difficult days.
Please everyone pray for my sons Christopher and alexander i raised them in the church and today they are prodigal sons who dont believe in God !! Breaks my heart i been praying for years for God to send them Godly woman!
I sometimes dont know what to pray anymore my heart is in pain !!
God bless you all .
Of course, Paula, it will be my honor to pray for your boys. I will pray for your heart, too, as you release them into God’s hands. I have always been so much better at the hands-on part of mothering than I am at the letting-go part. Because God loves our children even more than we do, I’m finding more peace in my diminishing influence. But the more we love, the more it hurts. Praying for your deeply devoted mama heart.
I live in the UK and found your website by accident. But what a blessing that I found it! Just reading other people’s stories and that I’m not alone, worrying about my adult son, is so reassuring. Most of all, being reminded that God loves him more, has bigger dreams for him and understands him better than I ever could, has lightened my heart. Thank you.
Belinda, I am so thrilled you found this beautiful site! It provides such honest, spiritual support for Christian women. As a contributor, I am always comforted by comments that my thoughts resonate with other moms. Thank you for letting me know how my words touched you. You have blessed me today.
My children are 45 and 47. Both single. One by choice. The other divorced. She also lost custody of her son due to her mental illness. She has a estranged herself from me her mother and all her family. I don’t know where she is or how she’s living. My son, 45, just had his first colonoscopy where they found 4 large polyps. Waiting on biopsy results. I have prayed to God to keep them both safe. But many adults die from cancer or accidents everyday who are someone’s child. So it too hard for me to trust that God will take care of Them.
I am sorry to hear about your family situation. I can agree that it is hard to trust God sometimes when we watch our children struggle in this fallen world. I rest in the idea that He loves them more than I do, in ways I cannot comprehend. And although He never promised to spare them disappointment, disaster, or disease, He did promise to be with them through it. He promises that to us mommas, too. I will pray for God’s undeniable presence for you and your children.
I’m the momma of an adult child with mental illness who has estranged herself from me and her entire family. She just went thru a second divorce and lost custody of her son. Who I just met for the first time, as his father opened that door after their divorce. But the last we heard, my daughter was in a run down hotel, not working, no car. She’s so ill, that the last time she responded to my text asking her how she was, she called me her aunt and threatened to call law enforcement if I contacted her again. Her phone no longer works. So my question is, is this Gods plan? Is it his plan if she dies? Is murdered while alone in the streets? I pray to him every waking minute to make her well. To get her help. I can’t stop worrying.
Oh Kay, you are living such a hard part of the story right now as you balance loving and letting go. My heart breaks for you. Something I cling to when I feel helpless and things look hopeless is that the story rarely makes sense in the middle. It didn’t for Joseph, or Job, or even Jesus. This is a lot to process for anyone. Please reach out to a local church or Christian counselor for your own well-being and to be the best mother you can for your daughter. I will be praying for your heart and for your daughter as you mother in ways you know and leave the rest to Jesus. Thank you for sharing, so others in similar situations can feel seen. That takes a high level of courage and strength. As so many of us learn to parent these free-willed adults, you are definitely not alone.
I found your website at the rite time. I have three adult children ranging in age from 25-28. All three have mental health issues. My youngest (only boy) was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years ago. Of course he will not take his meds, but I was able to get him approved for disability and moved into subsidized housing so he has a roof over his head and I give all that glory to God! Every other day I receive off the walk calls from him or a million psychotic text, but I just continue to pray. My middle daughter, was also diagnosed with schizophrenia after trying to commit suicide by jumping in our lake. I have minimal contact with her and have her son full time. He is such a blessing in all this and I wouldn’t change anything about him or him being with us. We honestly can’t imagine life without him. Believe it or not mom was a great mom until she wasn’t. She told us that it wasn’t safe for her to be around him and there were zero questions asked. She lives in a rooming house, but that is all I can tell you. My oldest has been such an independent soul. She has held a job for all of her adult life and managed to stay financially afloat until recently. She now has been having psychotic episodes, quit her job randomly and moved from Texas to Wisconsin with no plan. I know she needs help but I can’t even tell anyone where to find her. For the longest, I felt like I was an alien. My kids had a two parent home, went to the best schools, didn’t kids out on anything. I was confused and I started to question God…like, why me? I don’t know anyone else who has three kids who all suffer from mental illness but I now understand that this is my story that God has written for me and I truly trust that everything will work together for the good. I will continue to pray for my children, but I have given it all to God. We are all appointed a time of suffering and this is my time- but I won’t lose my faith and I will not ever stop praying for my children. I truly needed to see your post. I’m glad God directed me to your page.
Michelle, you are an amazing example of faith to me. As parents we all have similar questions and concerns, but even in the unbelievably hard season you are in right now, you are able to see God in it. Thank you for sharing, and know that by opening up, you are not only allowing others to come alongside you, you are providing hope to them as well. Please take care of yourself and seek support through a local church. I will be praying for you and your children, and asking for God to assure your heart and mind as you support your children. They are blessed to have you on their side.
Sending love, hugs and prayers to you. Your strength is inspiring. Thank you for sharing ❤️
Stumbled across this on a Friday night. My 22 year old son is finding his way. I haven’t slept much in 5 years on the weekends. Oh the control we believe we possess! The bars are hopping on the weekends but I am standing on the promises of God.
So many mamas can relate to this! I know about those sleepless nights, too. Something most of us never saw coming in the baby/toddler years. One of the blessings is realizing that God often feels this as we struggle to find our own way as His child. For that perspective, I am grateful. Thank you for the reminder to cling to God’s trustworthy promises. Our children will have that hedge and that example.
What an amazing article. I found this randomly. I unfortunately have let the worry of my young adult children affect my personal health.
My youngest was so close to me up until age 20. He now still lives with me and hasn’t spoken a word to me in three years. There was no incident …he just pulled away. I don’t want to put him out in the street. He does work , but has had a problem with alcohol. I know he’s trying to find his own way, and I’m trying to give him space, but he won’t communicate.
My oldest son has been estranged from me for five years. He got mad at me over something and hasn’t gotten over it. However, I did see some hope when he stopped by my hose several months ago and talked with me, but he has discontinued communication. I know the town he lives in, but I can’t reach him. I do have a lot of hope that God is turning both of them around . In His time. And my daughter barely speaks to me and is living with another woman. They are all in their 20s.
I feel as though I can believe God for them making their own decisions, but I’ve had a hard time with their cutting me out of their lives. I just can’t seem to let go. They found it easy to let go of me. It’s painful!
All of this, has caused me,extreme anguish that has affected my own health.
This article is helping to know that I’m not aloneI
I pray daily for my children. I pray for their relationship with God and reconciliation with me. I know they are in God’s hands, but it is so hard for me to let go and let God! This is something that I have been trying to do. They were all raised up in the church we had a very close knit family (although I was a single parent). I thought I had done well.
I need to stop worrying so I can live a peaceful healthy life.