When Your Adult Children Lose Their Faith
“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.” Proverbs 22:6 (TLB)
One of the more difficult struggles we face as parents is how to approach our adult children around the question of faith. My wife and I have written about this more than almost any other topic because it remains on our hearts as well as the hearts of all our friends who are believers.
We all have dreams for our children. As Christian parents, we continuously strive to model our faith, hoping to instill in our children the same trust and belief we ourselves have in God. Yet how do we respond when our children – particularly as they grow into adulthood – lose their way? How do we discuss faith with the next generation in a season where faith seems to be increasingly pushed out of our culture?
There Are No Perfect Parents
To Christian parents, a child who steps away from their belief in God, even a grown child, can be devastating. We might feel guilty, that we have fallen short in some way. We might feel angry or hurt, that our child has intentionally rejected our beliefs.
The first and most important thing to remember is we are not to blame for our children’s lack of faith! Scripture teaches us that our most important kingdom role is to be shepherds to those around us, inviting them to the Truth. This includes our children. We can’t convert them or make them believe. We can only show them the way.
Neither we nor our children are perfect beings. We aren’t called to perfect their faith, only God can do that through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). Instead, we’re called to sow the seeds of the gospel into their hearts (Proverbs 22:6). If we’ve been faithful in sharing the gospel with our children, we’ve done our part.
Another important point to remember is that it’s not about us! Children hold different opinions from their parents for any number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with us. Regardless, it is our children’s obligation to reconcile their relationship with God, not ours (Ezekiel 18:19-20). We can only point them in the right direction.
Prayer is the Only Way
We aren’t alone on this journey as Christian parents when our children walk away from their faith. We can lean on other parents who are sharing the same experience. We can find church groups offering support. We can talk to friends.
But the single most important path we can take is prayer. Intercessory prayer has always been a crucial part of Christian faith. In Ephesians 6:19, Paul asked the church to pray on his behalf to proclaim the gospel. In 1 Timothy 2:1, he told the church to pray for one another. On the cross Jesus himself prayed over his persecutors, asking God to forgive them (Luke 24:34).
When we pray on behalf of our children, God hears our hearts. When we ask others to join us in that prayer, Jesus promises he is in our midst and is acting with us (Matthew 18:20). Prayer has the power to focus us, to help us discern God’s will for how we should approach the spiritual needs of our children.
Prayer also strengthens us. The well-known parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) offers a beautiful story of redemption. Yet, I can’t help but think that during the entire time of the younger son’s absence, the father was constantly praying God would send his child home. At the same time, the father was almost certainly praying for the older son to forgive his brother. In both cases, the father turned to God to ask that his sons return to faith.
God Delivers Miracles Big and Small
One of the most quoted verses in scripture is Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Christians use this as an encouragement for their future. However, the verse comes after verse 10 which says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”’
God asks us to be patient, to believe He can work miracles in our lives when we trust in His timing. In Jeremiah, only after seventy years of exile would those people who were carrying out God’s will see His promises come to fruition. This required trust and faith.
And this same faith is just as true in our own lives. God is in control of everything and has plans for both us and our children. When we set the example for our children rather than judging them (1 Timothy 4:12), releasing our control and trusting God’s plan for our children, God will work the miracle we are asking – whether it occurs in our timing or His.
A Prayer for Our Children
Almighty God, we thank You for hearing this prayer. We know our own faith is often weak, yet we also know Your faithfulness is without end.
We pray You will help our children trust Christ as their one and only savior. We pray they will reject a life of sin. We pray You will protect them from evil in every area of their lives.
Father, we pray they will have a responsible attitude in all of their personal relationships, respecting everyone they meet. We pray they will surround themselves with the right kind of friends and be protected from those who would lead them astray.
We pray they will meet the life partner You have chosen for them, someone who supports and strengthens their faith. We pray they and their spouses will remain loyal and faithful in their marriages.
We pray our children will be single-hearted, obediently following Your will wherever it might lead them. We pray You will deliver them every day from temptation, influences, places, and people that would take them from the safety of Your salvation.
We pray all of these things in the name of Your son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
May God always guide your path.