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5 Tips for Parents Whose Adult Child Has Left the Faith



Lisa jerked her hand off the door handle as if she had just touched the top of the heated stove. Haven’t I done everything I thought was right for my daughter? She knows right from wrong. Doesn’t she realize this is not pleasing to God? Oh, God, where did I go wrong?

Just moments before, Samantha had ended their drug store shopping trip with a startling declaration. “I’m moving in with Christopher.” Moving in with her boyfriend? She had only known him a few months and we haven’t even met him. Now she wants to live with him? 

On the silent drive home, Samantha and Lisa didn’t even look at one another. When they pulled into the garage, Lisa put her hand on Samantha’s arm. “Wait, just a minute, please. I need to talk to you.” Lisa bit her bottom lip. “How could you possibly think this is okay?”

“Mom, I have made up my mind. We’ll be fine. Think of all the money we’ll save living together. I am old enough to make my own decisions. Lots of people live together who aren’t married.”

“Yes, but sweetheart, you are not lots of people. You are my daughter and I love you and I want what’s best for you. Just because other people are doing it doesn’t make it right for you. If everyone else jumped off a cliff…”

“I know, Mom. It doesn’t mean that I should jump too. How many times have I heard that?”

“Well?”

“Well, Mom, I have made my decision about this.”

“What do you think God thinks?”

“This has nothing to do with God. I still love him. I just think this is the right thing for me.”

Lisa held her breath. She knew if she let herself say one more thing it would be too much.

Samantha opened the door, grabbed her bags, and turned to go into the house without another word.

Lisa sat in the car for another minute. God I need wisdom. Help me to be the mom Samantha needs to get her through this. 

Many parents have dealt with children who have made bad decisions. Some of them are small. Some of them are short-term. But some of them are major and parents struggle to find a way to help their wayward adult child find his or her way back to God. These major decisions can cause children to strain their relationships with their families and God.

Once your children cross the line from child to adult, your relationship changes. You are no longer the authority in their lives. You are their friend who loves them more than any other. You have a responsibility to speak up when you think they have made wrong decisions but the ultimate result is up to them. So what’s a parent to do to help their adult children come back to their faith?

©Getty Images/Predrag Images 

1. Pray for Your Child

Parents pray for their children before they are born. But there are times in the lives of families that require concentrated, unending, focused prayer. Lisa’s situation with her daughter Samantha was one of them.

Lisa began to sleep poorly and many nights ended up sitting in the green recliner in the family room. Often through tears, Lisa reminded God how precious her daughter was and how hard she had tried to raise her to love him. On nights when she couldn’t articulate the deep pain in her heart, she held her Bible closely and rocked back and forth, allowing the Holy Spirit to intercede for her. Lisa sought the help of a counselor to help her process Samantha’s decision.

The counselor told Lisa that Samantha’s decision was just that—Samantha’s decision and had no reflection on her parenting. He told her to plan to pray a certain time every night for Samantha, then go to bed and rest, knowing that God was watching over her.

Still hard for her, Lisa felt the need to be closer to Samantha when she prayed, so she drove 40 miles to park outside Samantha’s apartment to pray for her and Christopher. She had no idea what kind of upbringing Christopher had but she knew he was not a believer. Those sessions in that apartment parking lot were some of the most meaningful prayer times Lisa had.

Enlist close friends or family members to join you in prayer. Ask them to specifically pray for your child’s needs. Practice Ecclesiastes 4:12—“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” When we feel our children are in trouble or have made a poor decision, our best defense is to pray.       

2. Release Your Child

God created him or her and expects you to do the best job you could raising them. Once you have done that, it is time to release them into the world, continuing to pray they will cling to the lessons you have taught them.

Lisa often prayed in the shower. She felt like it was a safe place where no one would see her tears. One day Lisa was in the shower praying, and in an almost audible voice she heard God saying to her, “I love you. And I love Samantha. I will take care of her. She was my child before she was yours.”  

Many parents cling to the familiar verse, Proverbs 22:6. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It’s hard as a parent not to look at that verse as a promise your children will never stray from the things you have taught them. However, that is not the case for many parents. The Passion Translation for that verse reads, “Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way they should go, and the values they’ve learned from you will be with them for life.”

Children may not choose to follow those values but if parents do the best they can to instill godly values, they will remain with their children—for life. The parents’ job is to instill and then release.

3. Believe That God Is Going to Redirect Your Child

Lisa knew the real answer to Samantha’s problem was to reconnect with God and come back to her faith. How was Lisa ever going to make that happen when they were not even talking?

The short answer to that question is, of course, that Lisa can’t make that happen. She must be faithful in prayer and believe God will draw Samantha to Him in ways only He can. Again Lisa felt that she heard God speak into her life. “You have taught Samantha right from wrong. Now pray that she will come back to me.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We don’t understand God’s ways but we can trust them.

4. Expect God to Answer Your Prayers

God has told us in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Cling to God’s promises, pray Scripture on behalf of your children, and expect God to answer your prayers.

Keep the lines of communication open so your child will know how much you love him or her. When the time comes and he or she needs to come home, and it will, you want him or her to choose home and not move in the other direction.

Lisa knew communication was important. Even during the times Samantha was not speaking to her, Lisa left daily messages on Samantha’s answering machine. None of them tried to tell Samantha what to do or asked her to come home. They just were cheerful messages of love from a mom.

5. Rejoice!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice.” Philippians 4:4. Joy that comes from the heart is not dependent upon circumstances. Whether Samantha came home in a week or in years, Lisa chose joy to fill her days, despite the heartache of her absent child. She wanted Samantha to see that joy and be drawn to it for her own life.

Making sure your children follow biblical principles is not the parent’s job. But instilling those principles from the time they are young is. Continue to pray your child will be a lifelong follower of God. He will gives you peace of mind and releases your children into God’s continued care.

For parents who have adult children who are following God’s way, thank him daily. For those whose adult children have strayed from the faith, put into practice the 5 tips for hope—pray, release, believe, expect, and rejoice.

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Ethan Jones

Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!

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