My wife and I are at that stage in life referred to as the "Empty Nest." Our four children have all left home and are making a life for themselves building their own homes and marriages. The emptying of the nest was a joyful time for us as we observed them maturing and establishing their own families. Of course, watching them actually leave our home was filled with apprehension – there were so many things we wanted to tell them, so many dangers in the world we wanted to protect them from.
I am convinced that all parents want their children to find joy, success, peace, a good partner, and purpose in life. Before they leave home there seems to be so much more you want to teach them, and so little time and opportunity to do so. Therefore, on behalf of all parents, I would like to share some advice that the Bible gives to those who are about to leave home now or in the future.
#1 - Remember to Keep Your Way Pure
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
- Psalms 119:9-10
This psalm is a meditation on the beauty, power, and comfort of God's word.
In verses 9-16 the writer refers to the relationship between God's word and young people, and he says that the way a young person can keep his/her way pure is by obeying God's word. The author expresses this idea in a picturesque way by saying that God's word is actually a road, a way, the pure way – and if one wants to travel the pure way he has to travel the road indicated or traced out by God's word.
The concept is that when a young person leaves home, there are a variety of roads or ways he can take. The pure way, however, is the way of God's word. In this passage he explains what taking the pure way consists of and how one walks along that way. He mentions several things:
A. Treasure the Word – vs. 11
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Keep God's word as a priority in your life, even after you leave home. Keeping the Word as the basis for making decisions and guiding your actions will keep you from making mistakes. The Bible provides the way to avoid sin, and in life it is much easier to avoid sin than to pay the consequences for sin.
B. Ask for Enlightenment – vs. 12
Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
James says that we should ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). The Word is always with you, even when you leave home, and it can provide the wisdom and insight you need to solve your personal problems wherever you may be.
C. Proclaim the Word – vs. 13
With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
The word "ordinance" is another way of saying or referring to Scripture. Once we have found the pure way, bringing others to the way helps keep us on this way. When we leave home we are easily tempted to follow other ways; however, sharing our faith not only brings others to Christ, it helps us stay on track ourselves.
D. Appreciate the Way – vs. 14
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
Be happy that you have chosen the pure way. The author compares the pure way with other riches he has known, and declares that it compares favorably. He says that following God's way is the best course for him, and it has made him happy. If we are not happy as Christians there are usually two major reasons:
- We are secretly involved in willful sin and identifying ourselves as Christians at the same time. You cannot serve two masters and be happy.
- There are things we do not understand concerning God's word or have not implemented the things we do understand.
The remedy for these causes of unhappiness is to follow the pure way with all your heart, soul, and body without holding back. If you love the way and follow it faithfully, it will lead you to peace and understanding which will produce joy in your heart, a joy that is better than simple happiness.
E. Study God's Word – vs. 15
I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
The words that the author uses; meditate, keep before his eyes, commands, statutes, etc., suggests more than a casual glance at the Word when he is at the temple. He meditates (thinks about, observes from different perspectives, reviews, etc.) on the Word. It is before his eyes (he studies and reads it). These words suggest that God's word is with him every day in a significant way.
He does not forget what he has heard at worship the minute he walks out – he chews on it throughout the week so it becomes a part of him.
F. Rejoice in the Word – vs. 16a
I shall delight in Your statutes;
The Word provides encouragement, hope, and confidence when life becomes difficult. The other paths in life offer other solutions to problems which work to one degree or another, but God's word provides a final solution as well as an everlasting hope that produces joy despite the challenges of life.
G. Remember the Word – vs. 16b
I shall not forget Your word.
Wherever you are and whatever the circumstances, the Word will serve you best.
After leaving home, everything you have been taught will be tested. If, for some reason, you forget how you ought to act or you need encouragement and direction, God's word will always provide these wherever you go. It will guarantee the safety of your soul in every situation.
#2 - Choose Your Friends Wisely
Choose your friends wisely because you do what your friends do, become what your friends are, and marry who you befriend.
The Bible speaks of friendships that blessed the individuals and gave their lives joy. People like...
- Ruth and Naomi
- David and Jonathan
- Daniel and his three companions
- Mary and Martha
- Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus
In each of these friendships there were common threads that led to healthy and productive relationships. For example:
A. These friendships were based on mutual respect, not weakness.
Some friendships begin because the individuals share similar weaknesses, and it usually leads to trouble. In contrast to this, we see that Jonathan's humility and generosity led David to act in the same way towards Johnathan's relatives later on in his life. Find friends that you admire and respect. Be friends with the type of people you can be proud to bring home and introduce to your family.
B. These friendships shared similar beliefs.
Daniel and his friends, because of their shared faith, were able to withstand tremendous obstacles and help each other succeed in difficult circumstances. If none of your friends are Christians, it won't be long before you are no longer acting like a Christian yourself. If you do not seek out Christian friends away from home, you will not find them. The number one reason why Christians divorce is because they marry non-Christians to begin with.
If you cultivate relationships exclusively with non-Christians, it won't be long before you cultivate their habits and beliefs as well.
C. These friendships were based on mutual sacrifice.
You find out who your friends are when the going gets rough or there is money at stake. Choose friends that can give as well as receive. Paul, the Apostle, risked his reputation in Jerusalem to bring this "Greek" boy Timothy along with him on a missionary journey. On the other hand, Timothy travelled many miles and stayed in prison to be close to Paul. Epaphroditus nearly died during a trip to deliver money and messages to Paul.
If you see that your friend is only around to be on the receiving end of your kindness, then you don't have a friend who will stand by you in the day of trouble.
When you leave home, choose friends that you can respect, that you can share your faith with, and who are loyal to your friendship. The type of friends you choose (and you do choose your friends, they are not forced upon you) will determine the kind of life you have, so choose wisely.
#3 - Find Something to Give Yourself To
If your training and career is simply based on getting the most for yourself – you will be unhappy. For example:
- I want to be a doctor so I can make a lot of money.
- I want to marry someone well educated or well placed so we can be comfortable.
The attitude that says, "I will use my skills, talents, and opportunities to make my life better and make myself happier," is doomed to failure. It does not work because it violates a basic life principle described by Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
This is a rule of life, just like gravity is a rule of physics. If you violate it, you suffer the consequences.
- Rich and famous people who do not use their blessings to help others in some way are often obsessive, unhappy, and suicidal because they violate this rule.
- Social workers, nurses, volunteers, etc., are much poorer and go largely unnoticed for their contributions to society but on average are much happier and well-balanced spiritually and emotionally because of the self-giving nature of their work.
In the passage quoted above Jesus was not merely referring to the money one gives at church, He was talking about giving as a lifestyle. His point is that we are happier as givers than we can be as receivers. Regardless of what you end up doing when you leave home – find a way to give of yourself to others who are in need.
Of course, as a Christian, you will have many opportunities to give yourself to others in the name of Christ as you:
- Pray for others
- Give to others
- Serve others
- Share your faith with others
You may even choose to give your entire career to God and go into some kind of full-time ministry. This would be a great blessing if the Lord were to call you. If you are far from home, discouraged, and unhappy ask yourself, "Is the reason for my sorrow the fact that I haven't received enough, or because I haven't given enough?"
You will be surprised to note that when the "receiving" column is full and the "giving" column is empty, it is difficult to enjoy our blessings no matter how many we have. We can only rejoice in what we have when we begin giving some of it away.
I am sure that there are parents reading this who are thinking of all the things that I have neglected to mention:
- Call home regularly
- Get some insurance
- Don't get into debt
- Etc., etc.
I believe, however, that if young people leaving home remember to live their lives according to God's word (continue to ask, "What would Jesus have me say or do in this situation?") and find a way to give of themselves in order to help others by sharing not only their material blessings but their spiritual blessings as well (i.e. sharing the gospel with others) the following results will slowly take place:
- They will have happy and productive lives.
- They will never be ashamed or afraid to go home.
- They will receive the love and gratitude of others.
- They will be reunited with their Christian family in their heavenly home with God one day.
If you are contemplating leaving home soon, I hope you will take this advice to heart.
If you are a parent, remember to give your children this advice before they leave. If they take it they will eventually arrive at a home that they will never want to leave again.