12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child


I recently came across an excellent article from Abraham Piper, the son of author and pastor John Piper. For parents who are currently struggling with a child (of any age) who has either strayed from their Christian faith or never professed Jesus as Lord of their life, this will serve as practical guidance to help you manage what is a very difficult reality.

prodigalson1.jpgDo you resonate with the following sentiments? If you do, I’d like to know what you’re currently struggling with and how you’re managing. I’d also like to remind you that our counselors are available to help you through these tough times.

Here now is what Abraham wrote:  

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk rock band. The real problem is that they don’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for them—and the only reason to do any of the following suggestions—is to show them Christ. It is not a simple or immediate process, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.

2. Pray.

prayer7.jpgOnly God can save your son or daughter, so keep on asking that he will display himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshipping him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

If your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend everything is fine.

For every unbelieving child, the details will be different. Each one will require parents to reach out in unique ways. Never acceptable, however, is not reaching out at all. If your child is an unbeliever, don’t ignore it. Holidays might be easier, but eternity won’t be.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.

If your son is not a Christian, he’s not going to act like one.

You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I know you’re struggling with believing in Jesus, but can’t you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?”

prodigalsonrem.jpgIf he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child’s unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms.

5. Welcome them home.

Because the deepest concern is not your child’s actions, but his heart, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house if you are…” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.

If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment.

What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Parents ought to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that they want their child to return to.


7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.

There are two kinds of access that you may not have to your child: geographical and relational. If your wayward son lives far away, try to find a solid believer in his area and ask him to contact your son. This may seem nosy or stupid or embarrassing to him, but it’s worth it—especially if the believer you find can also relate to your son emotionally in a way you can’t.

Relational distance will also be a side effect of your child leaving the faith, so your relationship will be tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But hard rebuke is still necessary.

This is where another believer who has emotional access to your son may be very helpful. If there is a believer who your son trusts and perhaps even enjoys being around, then that believer has a platform to tell your son—in a way he may actually pay attention to—that he’s being an idiot. This may sound harsh, but it’s a news flash we all need from time to time, and people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us.

A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools—and it is rare that this can helpfully be pointed out by their parents—so try to keep other Christians in your kids lives.

8. Respect their friends.

Honor your wayward child in the same way you’d honor any other unbeliever. They may run with crowds you’d never consider talking to or even looking at, but they are your child’s friends. Respect that—even if the relationship is founded on sin. They’re bad for your son, yes. But he’s bad for them, too. Nothing will be solved by making it perfectly evident that you don’t like who he’s hanging around with.

When your son shows up for a family birthday celebration with another girlfriend—one you’ve never seen before and probably won’t see again—be hospitable. She’s also someone’s wayward child, and she needs Jesus, too.

email1.jpg9. Email them.

Praise God for technology that lets you stay in your kids’ lives so easily!

When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation for them is positive examples of Christ’s joy in your own life.

Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out one after another, and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s word is never proclaimed in vain.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It will feel almost hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but try to anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, pray that the Lord will give you the gumption to ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re an idiot? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking.

(Here’s a note to parents of younger children: Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. Not only will this be valuable for its own sake, but also, if they ever enter a season of rebellion, the tradition of meeting with them will already be in place and it won’t feel weird to ask them out to lunch. If a son has been eating out on Saturdays with his dad since he was a tot, it will be much harder for him later in life to say no to his father’s invitation—even as a surly nineteen-year-old.)


11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will probably disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was ten; what can you do now that she’s twenty to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.


It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.

And not only is he the only point—he’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He will replace the pathetic vanity of the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the orgasm that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.

He will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

So, do you have a son or daughter who has strayed from their faith? Have you encountered this challenge in the past and come through the darkness? What worked? What didn’t?
I’d invite you to share your reflections.

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Leave a Comment

Anonymous 3 months ago
This is a really good article--I have a wayward child, too.  So, what do you do if they tell you not to email, or contact them in any way? 
Jennifer Knapp 7 months ago
Hi, this was a good read. Right now our 17 year old daughter is struggling with anger,depression & feeling lonely and lost. She has turned to drugs (marijuana), drinking,sex and lying. I am so heart broken over this. I feel I have failed as a mother. My husband and myself are both saved but have strayed away from the Lord for about a year now. We just started walking back with the Lord recently.  If anyone has any advice for our family I would love to hear it. Please pray for our daughter & our family. Our daughter has begun praying again and reading the Bible too, but this has been fairly new (since I've found out about everything she has been doing behind our backs). However we are so thankful that the Lord is trying to show himself to her. 
Anonymous 4 months ago
Hi Jennie,

I want to encourage you not to take this challenging time to be hard on yourself. It is easy to do when our children are struggling, and I can assure you that I have been there too. But I know when I start beating myself up, it turns me inward and that make the problem worse. If you have done things wrong that you have not confessed yet to God, then I would suggest to start there. I tell my children all the time that I make millions of mistakes, but each day I try harder, asking the Holy Spirit to guide me. I always apologize to my children and of course to God. I ask for forgiveness and do my best to forgive myself. You should do the same.  It also frees you to then focus on your daughter, who is the one that is struggling.

My 14 year old is struggling too. She is my middle child and her issues are lack of confidence mostly, but she acts out to fill the hole she carries. She was adopted and came from a very poor orphanage that set a foundation that was rocky.  She is struggling in school due to difficulty in reading and that compounds it all.  We have found an amazing tutor though who is helping tremendously and I am trying to support her and help her to see the amazing person who God wants her to be. I remind her all the time that God has a great plan for her and that I will do everything I can, for as long as I can to help her get there.

I think one mistake we make as parents is thinking we know what is best for our children. We fight against the expectations others put on them, yet if we are honest, we are just as guilty. I try hard to fight this.  I tell them over and over again that there is not a single person on this planet that knows what they are capable of. Not one exists. Their capabilities are a conversation between them and God. I am trying to teach them that God is always first. I am also showing them that I too am human so I fail just like they do. Only God can lead us on our path, and lead them on theirs.

Be an example and a light for your daughter. That is what I am trying to do for mine. Shine brightly instead of criticizing.  I fail often, but I apologize and try harder the next day. Keep going, see all that your daughter is in her heart. Help her to see that too. Remind her that her choices are not who she is, just what she is doing. And always remind her that God has an amazing plan for her life.

God bless you!
Pieter Roux 9 months ago
Hi, we tried all the above. Daughter refuses Christ, refuses to get help and are very destructive. Refuses to talk to anybody besides her friends. She openly declares that she hates her parents, that she will not go to a rehab.
Holly 9 months ago
We're sorry to hear about your daughter's struggles, Pieter. Please know we have counselors here who can listen and pray with you. Here’s the contact info: http://bit.ly/lWmWZ9. And here's a link to an article that you might find helpful, too - http://bit.ly/2d7DqWG. May God guide and direct you as you reach out to her.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Praying for you and your situation, sir. Prodigal children will break your heart but they will also lead you into closer intimacy with the Lord. Pray, pray, pray and go to God's Word and grow in your knowledge and love of Him. Let His love truly fill you and comfort you. Trust in His promises because they are truth and are mighty to save. Love in Christ!
Anonymous 11 months ago
I was with you until the picture of the Message "Bible." Not the way to point anyone to Christ. Use a reliable translation, not what Eugene Peterson thinks the Bible says.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Ephesians 4:29 - 
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

You can use your hammer (words & actions) to beat people down of build them up. Praying for you!
lisapreston966 More than 1 year ago

I disagree with some parts of this.  I guess it all depends on the situation.  However, everything parents do should be done in love and keeping the ultimate goal in mind – to save their soul.  From my personal experience in seeing how my parents raised  my now 61 year old brother, they did him a terrible injustice by never making him suffer consequences for his actions.  Raised in the church and knows God’s word by heart, he has never lived his life as God would have wanted.  He now lives with my elderly parents and takes all he can from them.  Won’t work,drinks, steals, gets in jail and my parents get him out etc…  I believe with all my heart if they had taken a firmer stand and truly disciplined him, things would be different.  I never really had a brother and now I can’t even associate with my parents.   

Another situation is a dear friend of mine’s son who is 35 years old.  Once a faithful member of the church but now divorced and living in sin with a non-Christian girl.  The elders of our congregation have withdrawn fellowship from him and did it according to God’s word and all done in love.  However, his family still socializes with him on every level. Another situation where a person is not having to suffer any consequences for his actions. 

I am a mother and grandmother and I pray I am never put in this situation with my children but I also pray that if I am, I will do what is best for their soul as God would have me to do.

It’s NEVER easy to discipline a child no matter what their age but parents should do it because they love them so much and love their soul even more.  God certainly believed in discipline and did it many times.

If a believer is overcome by a sin, but is repentant and wants help, you help him.But if he says, “I have a right to do as I please,” he is defiant and needs discipline.
I Corinthians 5: 9-13
 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—
10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church[b] whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am getting bitter, tired, worn out, feeling very angry towards God. God..  I see unbeliever's children prospering.  I see the adultress my husband cheated with - her children are prospering.  But mine, I am a believer and right now my 18 daughter denies God exists, tells me to shut up and won't talk to me, tells me I am an idiot because I believe in Jesus - what good has He done in your life Mom?  Dad cheated.  etc.  YOu JESUS  HELP US>  WE ARE THE BELIEVERS.  
Michael Gayman More than 1 year ago
My husband and I have just started this road with our 17 year old son. I was a wayward child so I can relate to this article and my son. He needs to see Christ. Thank you for this advice. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Thanks Jim for some helpful insights which just bolsters again what we are doing as parents.  I do however, agree with Suzy Bos that we cant just keep on inviting an adult child into our home who is not only destroying himself, but to a degree, his parents.  Our once amazing spirituality gifted son has gone wayward; we often wonder if his journey back will ever take place in light of how far he's gone, but then we remind ourselves that God is in the business of performing miracles.  Our son has for the last 4 years continually lied to us, (even believing his own lies), stolen from us and has had two stints at rehab for weed addiction. Our attempts to have him get an education has cost us financially as well as emotionally, as he keeps dropping out.  As a 22 year old, he has no motivation except to hang out with friends who are not always good for him, or for his girlfriend who ironically has ambition, is hardworking and respects her parents.

As parents, we are spent from all sides.  He came from the same loving Christian home as his older sister who has thankfully continued her Christian walk and who lives according to strong principals and morals.  Would love any input from anyone who is able to offer supportive, biblical and constructive advice.  Thank you.

Suzy Bos More than 1 year ago
Just be very careful not to enable their sinful, rebellious choices. There is a very thin line between welcoming a searching, repentant child home and letting them think you are OK and even supportive of their disobedience to God's Word and the wrong choices that stem from their unbelief or rebellion against God.  My parents have done think welcoming home thing and messed it all up to the point where they have enabled all my siblings (and me, when I was rebellious) to continue to live the way they want without any negative consequences.  The Prodigal Son was repentant and had a change of heart and wanted to go home to be his Father's servant and His Father was just waiting for His son to be at that point of complete loss on his own and realization of needing forgiveness.  The Father didn't say, while His son was still off partying and squandering his life away, "Sure, son!  Come on home whenever you want!  Go ahead and bring your girlfriend to Christmas and we will just pretend your life is hunky-dory and your living with her is fine with us.  Oh, and I'm sending some money for the flight since you don't have a job because you're too busy doing drugs and can't keep down a steady job.  Alright, see you then!  Wait until you see what we got you for Christmas!"  I have watched this lived out for years among my parents and my 3 siblings.  Let me tell you, the love them home philosophy doesn't always work well.  Showing them Jesus might also including saying to them, "Go and sin no more".  Children who are brought up in a Christian home, and have spent the majority of all of their childhoods learning about the Lord and His Word definitely know better and you as the parent need to stand firm and let them go.  Yes, cover them in prayer, and trust God's perfect timing for their lives to find their need for Him as Savior and Lord.  Everyone's faith timeline is different.
June E. Dahl 11 months ago
This reply of Suzy Bos,has a very sound basis ! The dilemma for us is how to be positive and helpful without being enabling. There is a very fine line. Trusting God is the only way to mentally stay "normal" and well-balanced and not let depression and negative feelings take over one´s life ! God will absolutely help us when we pray to Him through Jesus Christ . Jesus loves us and will help us but we must never GIVE UP or STOP praying! and being faithful to our close hourly and daily walk with Jesus Christ , ourselves. It is important that we love Jesus Christ and not become drenched in sorrow because of the terrible misfortune when our  adult children dissappoint us by turning away from righteous morality and throw aside the Bible and become atheists to justify their own new pagan lifestyles. We must not give in to shyness about Jesus Christ. or give in to "political correctness" hiding our Christianity. I have four children and two of these adults are living in a way that is anti-Christ. . . 1 gay marriage and 1 divorced from a non-Christian (one lovely 16 year old daughter) and now remarried to another non-Christian and with a sweet little baby. My third adult child is now separated (after 18 years marriage with 2 boys) from her husband . My fourth child left home very early and after some time, met a lovely Christian woman and is very happily married to a really believing Baptist Christian and he has 2 wonderful children and is a Baptist and has been married since 1997. . . after a very shaky start . (He had health problems with Diabetes mellitus - the serious diabetes.) All my children are very intelligent and stable and are doing well on this earth. However, they are to any believer in Jesus Christ, not following some important marital commands and are "living in sin" and it is extremely disturbing to all those who love them. Nothing is impossible for God. They live far away geographically and I could die before they are reconverted and return to the Lord. . .  but, I trust that God will help me with all this . . . We must TRUST and have CONFIDENCE in GOD ´s MERCY when we ask favours in prayer. He said that "ASK" and you will receive and He is Faithful to His WORD. God does not lie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keep praying for your son (who now thinks he is homosexual).  I have seen God move mountains, and homosexual activity reverse completely, after 5 years of believing God and praying constantly.  Don't lose hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would love to hear about any specific prayers you prayed.  Sometimes I need help to know how to pray and what to say.  We've been praying for our son in this way for 5 years.  He's had victory but it's up and down.
lera t. More than 1 year ago

All things are possible if you only belive, and from what you have said your faith is great. Some time when you've done all you can do its time for you to let go and let God. Turn the problem over to God move out of God way and allow God to take control. Step aside its time you have done your part well now its time for God to take over. I know you belive now this is the time for you both to stand by the way side and look at God work through this young man, and belive me God will work it out.

Sofie More than 1 year ago

Dear Fran,

When I read your entry that concluded with "my heart aches", I had to write back because I I just learned that my 24 year old son believes his sexual orientation is homosexual.  Though, we've had a good opening conversation my heart aches each time he leaves for work and as he plans his future.  I am wondering how you are doing?  Please know that there is someone out there who will pray for your son and you.  The Lord knows your son and you and shares your heartache. 

TA More than 1 year ago

Esther,  Thanks for sharing.  As a mom of a 16 year old daughter beginning to stray from her faith and make unwise choices, I know there is only so much I can do.  The rest I have to leave in the hands of God and trust Him to get her attention.  It is hard to surrender her and know that it could be years and through much heartache before her eyes are opened to the truth.  Your story is encouraging to keep hope and not despair.

Shawn More than 1 year ago

Elizabeth...WOW!  I am incredibly touched by your faith in God.  He does have a plan for us...for all of us!

Shawn More than 1 year ago

I agree Liz...welcoming him home is fine if he/she is ready to help themself.  I am sorry but spraying "Febreeze" on the childs jacket and changing the sheets mean they are using, at the very least, marijuana.  Mine was smoking in my home...not to mention other things  Their has to be boundaries in loving way.  I have lovingly encouraged my young adult to take responsibility.  But allowing them to live, in your home, while breaking simple rules just allows them to continue their behaviors.  Yes, I love my child and tell her that often "no matter what" but can't be spit upon.

Doug More than 1 year ago

Thanks for the encouragement. We are struggling with an 18 year old boy who just graduated from high school and is living a very immoral life absent from Christ and the Christian home he was brought up in.

Renee J. More than 1 year ago

Thank you LJK for your comment. I thought the same thing about connecting our kids with other believers. My husband and I have done just that and it has not been successful. It has done the opposite, she has become more bitter and annoyed with the Christian community because she finds them all to be hypocrites. I no longer have Christians talk with my daughter or take her to lunch. My husband and I pray that the Lord orchestrates (at the appointed time) bringing people in her life who love God's Word, have a fear of Him and have a sincere love of Christ in them. The Holy Spirit is really the only one who can reach my daughter, and I have no doubt he will bring those people who are destined to interact with her. I have found peace in knowing that my position as a mom is to pray for my daughter, because all my previous attempts have been short sighted. I leave my daughter at Jesus' feet in prayer. Then I wait and hope.

Fran More than 1 year ago

Our son went to college in Connecticut, then on to the "big apple" and has been in a homosexual relationship twice, current one for over seven years. I once called a pastor in the area and asked if he would visit my son, and he told me he believed homosexuals were born that way! I then begged him NOT to go visit my son. He won't come "home" for holidays anymore because he doesn't want to leave his partner, and we have told him that they can't both come and stay in our home.  My heart aches.

melissa c. More than 1 year ago

my heart goes out to all parents with wayward children. I have been a Christian for 4 years. I know exactly what your going through. My child was not raised in a christian home. she has prayed the sinners prayer and said she except christ as a teen and she has told me she believes in Jesus.yet she is making some unhealthy choices. she is 23 yearsold has 2 children is not married and is moving out of state to live with her exboyfriend that is the father my 2 grandchildren.  I have tried giving her motherly advice about dating and sex and talked to her about the risks of std's none of this worked. she is now pregnant.she asked me if she could move in with the exboyfriend and I said no that the exboyfriend could not because they are not married. I did tell her she and the grandchildren could move in. but has decided not to and is now moving out of town with exboyfriend.  I feel like I did have to set some boundries. I breaks my heart that she is make these choices. I have realized nothing I say in the form of advice works it only pushed her further away. like the article said our children know what they are doing they don't need to hear it from us. I have started excepting the choices she has made not that these choices are okay but all I can do is love her and except her where she is at. and I have started praying  God knows exactly what she needs to turn her heart to Jesus and that God would do what needs to be done.  I pray that as parents we never give up and keep praying for our children there is always hope.

LA More than 1 year ago

Thank you for posting this article.  It helps to know that even a godly, well-respected pastor such as John Piper has had a prodigal child.  My husband is in the ministry, too, and we have a wayward child as well.  After being raised in a godly home, a Bible teaching church, and a Christian school K-12, last year our then 18 year old daughter started dating a young man who we did not approve of because he was not a believer.  She refused to stop seeing him and under his influence, she soon adopted the philosophy that she was 18 and could do what she wanted.  How quickly her Christian morals and standards went by the wayside after dating him for a short period of time.  She became like Eve who questioned God’s Word, trying to figure out on her own what was right and what was wrong.  She chose to move out of our home six months ago because she did not want to follow our boundaries.  Thankfully, her best friend and her family, who are Christians, took her in.  We see her once or twice a week and try to keep the lines of communication open.  She knows we love her and she wants to be around us, but she is still involved with the young man and is determined to keep seeing him.

Like many of the others who have made comments, I know the heartache of feeling betrayed by a child you have spent 18 years of your life trying to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  I know the feeling like every day you are living in a nightmare that never ends.  You want to wake up and have everything back the way things were.  I know the horror of finding out some new sin your child is involved in.  I know the frustration of praying and fasting and crying out to God to intervene, to break up the destructive relationship she’s involved in, and seeing no results.  I pray, “Dear God, give me any other type of trial--take away my health, my material possessions, ANYTHING.  Just don’t allow my child to walk away from the faith that our family is founded on. That is the worst possible trial I could have ever imagined.”  I know what it’s like to feel like I’m the only Christian parent in the world who has a wayward child when all my friends’ children are walking with the Lord.  I know the fear of projecting into the future and imagining where my daughter will end up if she marries this young man, how future generations will be impacted by her foolish decisions.  I know the sleepless nights and constant mental turmoil of wondering if this trial will ever end.  Some prodigals come back, thank God, and some don’t or haven’t yet.

God has taught me many things through this trial over the past year:

1. The answer to the “why” a child raised in a Christian home would rebel:  The child is an individual who has their own sinful desires and is carried away by them (James 1:14-15).  The progression of sin portrayed in this passage is so true.  My daughter’s worldly, lustful desires gave Satan a stronghold in her life long before the young man came into her life.  I can really relate to Jill’s comments about her daughter being caught in Satan’s trap and being on the front lines of spiritual warfare.  I pray the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) every day.  I, like Rose, thought this would NEVER happen to our family.  Thank you, Tammie, for your comments, especially the ones regarding parental guilt.  I have spent so much time reliving the past and kicking myself for things I should have done to try to “prevent” this situation from happening.

2. God has proven Himself day in and day out.  Besides revealing Himself through His Word, He has strategically used radio broadcasts by various pastors, Tony Evans, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, and especially Chip Ingram, to speak to me at just the time I needed it.  He has also led me to two books that I would recommend:  Janet Thompson’s book “Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter” and Kay Arthur’s book, “When the Hurt Runs Deep.”

3. God gives grace for the moment.  Whenever I was at my wit’s end not knowing how I could go on, I would pray for God to just get me through that day, that hour, that moment, and He always did.  He doesn’t give His grace in advance, but when you need it, He provides it.

I wish I could say that my daughter has repented and returned to the Lord, but I can’t yet.  I have personally applied many of the suggestions in Piper's article, which is very reassuring to me.  In addition, I am currently walking by faith by praying James 5:19-20 that God would send someone into my daughter's life to turn her from her sinful ways; by clinging to God through his Word, especially the Psalms (31, 34, 86) and the book of James; and by asking God for His wisdom, James 1:5-8, being willing to follow whatever He reveals to me and surrendering my desires for the outcome of this situation.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your post encouraged me with my 2 kids.
But, I too was raised in a Christian home by 2 loving, faithful parents and rebelled at the age of 15. At 29 years old, with 2 kids as a single mom whose then husband of only 1 year died to drugs, and having to have stayed at a battered woman's shelter, I became born again. And, after 7 years of being happily married to the Lord, I'm now remarried to a wonderful believer, and love Christ with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  If He can deliver me, He can deliver anyone. I'm praying He delivers our children even moreso.
mourningwarbler More than 1 year ago

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A friend gave me a set of CDs from Lamplighter Publishing. I think it has answers for many of us. Has Mark Hamby ever been a guest on Focus on the Family?  Thanks to Mr. Daly for this article and to the many good points made by parents.

Daidna More than 1 year ago

Tears after reading this, of joy!

Susan More than 1 year ago

Thank You, Missy for writing this about your husband.  As I was just reading it, I felt like I could have written it myself.  My husband has done this also, and I feel like he is a wayward "child" too.  I will pray for you and your family.

Judy More than 1 year ago

How sad to see that so many parents have this same problem with their children.  But also encouraging to read about so many that have returned to their faith.  My son can be added to this list.  He was saved when he was 6, grew up in a Christian home and went to & graduated from Christian school.  Was active in his church from age 16 on, taught children's Sunday school, had a Christian band and proclaimed the love of Christ to his audience.  Fast forward to today, he is 36, recently married for the 3rd time-this time to a non-believer, and he has totally changed his attitude and thoughts about Christianity. He talks about the "expectations" that evangelical Christians have for people who come to their churches.  He's turned off to all of the established procedures of church. It's like he's searching for something that he can't find.  God has promised that if you "train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it."  And that "no one can pluck you from my hands."My son is a child of God, even if he's not acting like it, and I keep praying that He will bring him back to Himself. My heart breaks for him and what he might have to go through before he will have his eyes opened to the truth of God. Keep praying, parents!

Norma J. More than 1 year ago

I agree that gays and their families should be loved and not villified. However I have one question. You state 'it is the 21st Century, not the 19th'. Are you implying God's truth changes with the year? The Bible  would be meaningless if this were the case and some person revised it continually.I may struggle to understand at times, but one reason I can follow the triune God is because He never changes and I don't have to guess what the 'rules' are this century, or this week.