What Imperfect Parents Can Do About Imperfect Grandparents

The whole gang working at Grandpa and Grandy's, maybe 17 years ago?

I do realize how blessed we are. Daniel’s post last week was a sweet reminder of the blessings of those exhausting-but-worth-it Thursdays with Grandpa and Grandy. I am so thankful for those last rich years with them.

While I thank God for those years, I know that many families are not blessed with godly grandparents. Your parents may not even want to be involved in the lives of the grandchildren, or they may look like they just want to undermine all that you’re trying to teach your children.

You have my prayers. You may need to pray for some godly “grandparents” to adopt.

But don’t forget to also pray for God’s wisdom in relating to your parents. Ask Him to show you any ways He may be calling you to build or rebuild a relationship with your parents that will glorify Him, sanctify you, and enrich the lives of your children. Don’t miss the lessons He may be trying to teach you.

I would like to share some more of the story of our lives with Grandpa and Grandy. My sin in that relationship could have robbed our family of so much blessing. Perhaps my story, which I think they would want me to share, will encourage you in some way.

I’ve never doubted my father’s love for me. It was a fierce and loyal love. It was a generous love. But, like any human love, it was not perfect. For many years of my childhood, my father was not a believer. I remember lying in bed crying, afraid that he would die before he put his faith in Jesus. I remember wishing he would go to church with us instead of heading for the golf course every Sunday morning. And I clearly remember the events that God used to humble him and bring him to his knees, acknowledging his need for a Savior.

His faith in Jesus was uncomplicated, a faith that understood that he was loved and forgiven. Daddy took Scripture at face value and sought to obey it. I am thankful for that heritage, combined with my mother’s humble, quiet, persevering faith.

But it was the faith of a sinner, saved by grace, and my father made mistakes – big, life-altering ones – ones that led him away from Christ and the church for several years.

During much of that time, I wrongly felt it was my duty to punish him for those mistakes. After all, he had turned his back on all he had taught me. I was disappointed and angry and hurt. In my pride, I overlooked how much God had forgiven me. Instead of gratefully sharing the deep and undeserved love that Jesus has shown me, I chose to withhold it from the very people in my life that needed to see His love the most. I spent several of my college and early adult years without my father’s presence in my life. He and his wife tried to make contact with me, but I refused it.

About to walk up the aisle!

Then one day God woke me up to the fact that I was not my father’s judge. My job was to love him. God would take care of the rest. Our relationship was restored. It wasn’t what it had been, but we were reconciled. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. He and my stepmother were at the hospital when our first-born (Daniel) was fighting for his life.

Over time Daddy was restored to fellowship with Jesus, and his wife became a vibrant, joyful believer. They knew what it was to be forgiven, and as a result, their love for Jesus spilled over onto everyone who knew them. My family and I were the very blessed recipients of much of that love.

Daniel and Joseph with Grandpa and their dad in front of Grandpa's homespun A-frame where Joseph and his family live now

I look back now and realize how much my family and I would have missed if God had not graciously pried the anger and bitterness out of my heart and helped me humble myself before my father. I could only see the bad. But God can bring so much beauty out of what looks so ugly and hopeless from our limited view of life.

I wish I could say I’m done learning this lesson. I still look at what I can see, and forget about what God can see. I forget about what He wants to do in me, often through the lives of those I would rather not love. He’s still testing me, still sifting out the pride and ingratitude in my heart. He’s still reminding me that I can’t manage any of this life without Him.

Some of you are blessed with solid, healthy relationships with grandparents, and I’m sure you know how blessed you are. For others, your story is much harder and your hurt much deeper than anything I have experienced. Your children’s grandparents may not live a life of obedience to Jesus. They may have wronged you as a child. They may be indifferent or even hostile toward you and your family. And of course, this lesson is not limited to our relationships with parents and grandparents. God may be using other people and their sins to refine you. But God is in control. He hasn’t made any mistakes. Nothing has slipped past His sovereign will for our lives. He’s put those people in your life for you to love, no matter how hard it sometimes is.

Pray. Ask God to help you understand the depth of His love for you. Ask Him for the grace to share that love, no matter how people respond. Involve your children in your parents’ lives in whatever ways you can — serving them and not expecting anything in return. God will bless. And don’t give up hope, because God can do anything, and He uses His children to accomplish His plan.



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  1. Thank you for this advice.

  2. Trusting in Him Alone

    All I can say is WOW! I had no idea about your struggles. Thank you for sharing.

    I am one of those whose hurts are deeper like you mentioned. Through many years of godly counsel and prayer, I have come to the place where I can and have forgiven but have learned that it is good and necessary to have healthy boundaries when others are out of control. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t make it okay to have to spend lots of time with them. Jesus had wonderful boundaries and studying how He handled relationships helps me so much.

    I was abused as a child, and have forgiven them. But the verbal abuse still continues at times, despite the fact that my parents say they are believers. They have belittled my choices to homeschool and train my children in God’s way. Yet I do send pictures and do iChat to keep in touch and godly people have told me I probably do more than I should in my situation.

    My MIL’s best friend is g*y. Last summer when we went to visit for an anniversary party (she’s remarried) she paraded around her friend and “significant other” in front of her own children and the grandkids as if it was the most wonderful thing in the world. She claims to be a Christian, but her church does not preach the gospel. I know we must pray for others, which I do, but it is just wrong to go out of your way to celebrate what God says is sin, especially to innocent children. And I know we are all sinners saved by Grace, and we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. Their example is such a bad influence on my husband, who is not a believer either.

    My FIL is addicted to p*rn. He doesn’t claim to be anything other than he is, and it’s almost easier to deal with because he doesn’t try to act all holy. But I do not allow him to be alone with my children.

    Thankfully, God answered my cries for help by moving us far from either side of the family (3,000 miles from one side, 800 miles from the other). The Lord knew that I can only take so much, and that I needed to be able to raise my children to walk in His Ways without undue influence. I make it a point to keep up contact with email and the phone, and pictures, and if they want to visit, which they do about once a year, I go out of my way with loving hospitality, but I have to be on constant alert. We pray for them all and hope that one day things can be different.
    I hope this sounds like the loving spirit I intended…thank you for letting me unburden myself…Hope this helps someone else in my situation.

  3. Thank you for sharing this.

    I, too, have suffered deep hurts. I wrote a memoir called “Innocence Stolen, Hope Restored” in order to try and help others who have or are going through similar things.

    The part that still pains me is the denial- from my mother, especially.

    I have to remind myself frequently that I am not my parents. I do not have to treat my children the way I was treated. And I don’t have to allow them to be treated badly by others either, including my parents.

    I see friends at Church who are in their 30’s (like me) and have such amazing relationships with their parents and siblings that I can’t even fathom such a thing. Honestly, it seems like a fairy tale. Yet I hope and pray that my husband & I will have that kind of relationship with our children now and when they are grown.

    Thank you for the reminder to keep on keeping on.

  4. Trusting in Him Alone

    Sarah- I know how you feel…but as you said, we can BE the kind of parents we wish we had. Praise the Lord He breaks those chains and we can have a different, healthy relationship with our children.
    Is your memoir online? I’d love to read it.

  5. Hi Trusting Him Alone,

    Yes, you can purchase it through Amazon. It’s available in paperback and for all e-readers. Thank you for asking! 🙂