It’s a parent’s greatest fear—and if it actually happens, their greatest heartbreak—a wayward child.
How do you respond during this crisis? Whether your child is a fifteen-year-old who is struggling or a twenty-two-year-old who is questioning their faith, it is vital that you navigate this season with wisdom and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
What do you do if and when your teenager or young adult is rejecting? Here are some thoughts:
1. LOVE CHRIST UNCONDITIONALLY
If there is anything that matters at a time like this it is that you personally have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Allow this trial in your life to draw you closer to the Lord. Regardless of the choices your child has made or will make, determine now that you will continue to love and serve the Lord. As you draw closer to your Heavenly Father during this time, you will understand more than ever before His unconditional love for you (Jeremiah 31:3).
2. LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY
Every Christian parent holds a deep love for their child that is placed there by God.
But unconditionally? A young person’s struggles, especially when they are expressed as resistance toward you or when they publicly embarrass you, can sometimes reveal the points where our love has become selfish.
Our children need to know that no matter where they are or what they are doing, nothing will stop us from loving them.
Don’t ever give up on your children. Love them unconditionally, and make sure they know that you do.
3. PRAY FOR WISDOM
There are many causes for the outward manifestation of kid’s struggles. This could simply be a season—a struggle in the maturing process. On the other hand, there could be a deep root to it—bitterness over an offense, a dabbling in sin, dangerous influences, or inconsistencies in authority.
Ask God to search your own heart and reveal anything in your life or parenting practices that may be hindering His work in your teen’s life. As you ask for wisdom, study His Word and seek out His answers.
4. BE SURE YOUR OWN WALK IS REAL
A teen will not leave their fathers’ faith if their father didn’t have one. Paul was able to say [“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (Philippians 4:9). ]His walk was so genuine that he could encourage his followers to copy his example.
When our children struggle spiritually, one of our first responses should be to search our own hearts and to ask the Lord to examine our lives for inconsistency or insincerity.
5. REALIZE IT IS THE NATURE OF YOUNG PEOPLE TO QUESTION AUTHORITY
The provocation to rebellion or rejection may not lie with you, a person in your church, or a teacher in the school. It may simply be a young heart questioning authority and choosing the harder way of discovering how it all works.
But from the perspective of experience, parents must recognize that sometimes this season is sparked by immaturity and the fallen human nature—not a failure on your part.
6. REMEMBER TO BE THANKFUL FOR THE GOOD BENEFITS OF YOUR PASTOR AND CHURCH
When a teenager or a young adult is frustrated and feeling resentment toward the church or authority figures, it is easy for a parent to become just as frustrated and see the world through dark lenses. There may be a difficult teacher or person in your child’s life, but remember (and help your child to remember) the many positive benefits that have come to your family through your church and your church family.
When your young person struggles with the legitimacy of spiritual authorities or questions the church altogether, maintain in your own heart a gratefulness for what God has done for you and for your family through this sacred institution. You need your church.