When I was 18 years old, I wasn’t sure what I thought about Jesus. And I certainly wasn’t sure what I thought about some people who professed Christianity.
Intellectually, I had become increasingly unconvinced that Jesus was the Son of God. Furthermore, I saw hypocrisy within the church that disturbed me deeply.
I was left with a choice about deciding who I wanted to be moving into adulthood, and while the idea of exploring Jesus was intriguing, I stepped onto a path of growing ambivalence toward the faith. There were points in my life when I truly wanted to adopt the faith that my parents had dutifully raised me in. A candlelit service on Christmas Eve would elicit tears. An old hymn would spark a familiar warmth inside of me.
But in time, the warmth faded, as I moved farther away from the fire that fed it.
Why am I telling you this today?
Because even after I turned away from Jesus, He didn’t turn away from me. True to God’s promise in Psalm 23:6, His faithful love would indeed “pursue me all the days of my life.”
And pursue, He did.
Years later, I am standing by the fire again. Jesus is not only my best friend, but the CEO of my ministry.
Do I believe in miracles? Yes, because I am one.
You’re likely reading this today because you are asking for a miracle, too. Someone you love has strayed far from God. Perhaps you are the parent who painstakingly raised them to know Jesus.
You’ve prayed. Hard.
You’ve cried. A lot.
You trusted God. And yet stand in the silence.
Your child shows no signs of returning.
Friend, I was that child.
And that’s why I am here: To give you hope.
I understand that not every faith story turns around like mine did. I also know that the reasons people come back to the faith are as varied and complex as the reasons they leave.
Some, like me, have intellectual obstacles that aren’t quickly reconciled with earthly logic.
Others have observed hypocrisy in the church, or have been told that the way they behave or vote doesn’t fit the mold. Still others have been wounded by the church.
So they left.
And you — dear soul — are standing in the wake, asking questions like:
“What in the world can I do?”
“Will the ones I love be in heaven with me?”
First of all, know that God understands what it’s like to have children who don’t follow Him. God has been dealing with the rebellion of His kids since the first two walked upon the earth.
But there’s more. While all humans have a rebellious streak, we also have this: an inborn desire for purpose. And that purpose is in God; He made it so.
“…he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27).
Blaise Pascal observed that everyone has a “God-shaped vacuum” inside our heart. We may try to fill it with work, pleasure, or relationships. But it can only be satisfied by one thing: Jesus.
As a woman who once strayed from God — and now as a mother who prays that her daughters stay the course — that God-shaped hole gives me peace.
The so-called Hound of Heaven will pursue our children “all the days of their lives,” just as He pursued me, and just as He pursued you, no matter how “faithless” we are.
As it says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful…”
We can agree with God, by remaining faithful alongside Him.
Faithful in modeling the love of Jesus.
Faithful in doing that kind of parenting that happens on our knees. It’s more than parenting. It’s “prayer-enting.”
There will be moments when any parent will be tempted to guilt a loved one into attending church or behaving differently. But let’s remember: no one has successfully shamed another person into a relationship with Jesus. That’s a relationship built on grace and love.
Finally, let’s hold on to the promise that Jesus pursues us all, to the very end. Remember the thief on the cross, who waited until his last moments on earth to respond to Jesus’ gift of salvation. Jesus turned to him with these words: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The wait, of course, can be agonizing.
But as one who has lived on both sides of that wait, I urge you, with all that is within me, to keep waiting. Keep going. Determine to live your life with joy and peace. Model the kind of love that Jesus taught. Acknowledge your own brokenness. “Prayer-ent” like you’ve never prayer-ented before.
And know, deep within you, that these children are God’s. The Hound of Heaven is in pursuit.
Here are two books that have helped me on this journey.:
The first is The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. As someone with intellectual doubts, this book provided credible proof about Jesus. (A note of caution: Many who have strayed from the faith will not find comfort in receiving such a book, for their objections aren’t necessarily with the teachings of Jesus, but with professed Christians and/or the church as a whole.)
The second book is for parents: Love, Pray, Listen: Parenting Your Wayward Adult Kids with Joy by Mary DeMuth. It offers advice when your children choose different paths from yours.