Very little rips at our hearts like the report of a lost child. Prayers go up immediately for the family, for the child, for God to protect and intervene. We know too well what that child may be going through from the fear of being lost to the horror of being abducted.
As Christian parents, let’s be honest, we kind of feel that way about the possibility of losing our own children spiritually. We are almost in a panic until they “pray that prayer” and we feel they’re safe.
However, we know the rote prayer at the end of a service is not enough, especially if someone has been coerced in some way to pray it.
We want desperately to raise them right, lead them well, and help them embrace a genuine relationship with Christ. Our hearts are sometimes ripped apart by the fear. Our prayers go up for our family, for the child, for God to protect and intervene. Because we know too well what our children may go through in this ever-changing, non-Christian world.
We also know of friends whose adult children quietly walk away from faith, who deconstruct publicly, or who lash out blaming their parents for how they raised them. We’ve seen friends’ children who have embraced beliefs and practices that tear God’s heart apart as well as our own.
So, how do we walk through all this?
How do we raise our children knowing they may reject everything we are trying to teach them?
How do we find peace and contentment when we are tempted to play like we are the Holy Spirit trying to guide, protect, and teach our kids?
(1) First, we hold on to 2 Corinthians 12:9 – His grace is sufficient, and it is strong when we are weak. His grace is what carries us through the fears, worries, doubts, and concerns. It is what leads to His peace in the storms of life. Grace also covers a multitude of our own parenting mistakes.
We are so tempted to push our children into the kingdom of God instead of nudging them toward God, answering their questions as they arise. We need to pray for God’s grace to cover those missteps and fear-filled reactions, and for God to give us hearts of faith and peace as we watch HIM work in their lives and draw them to Himself.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).
(2) Second, we cannot control anyone but ourselves, and we don’t do a very good job at that much of the time. We can only teach, testify, and tell, with transparency and authenticity the new life Christ has given us. This is discipleship. We do not control a disciple. We do not create them or dictate to them. We show them and teach them, and the results are up to them and God. They still have free will and make their own choices, even when they are our children. However, we can find peace in that knowledge. God is at work in our children’s lives. They are not “out there” somewhere alone. God is with them and knows exactly where they are in their walk with Him (or even away from Him). We share with them because we love them, but God does the work of redemption and salvation. They are being drawn to Him by His Spirit, and their relationship with God is their relationship with God – they own it. They are not just relying on our faith to sustain them or guide them. It is a real, living relationship with God in whatever form that is currently taking.
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29, NLT)
(3) Third, we have the power of prayer. How often have we found ourselves thinking or saying, “All I can do is pray.” How foolish we are! In saying that, most of the time, we are just feeling like we need to do something, and we can’t. The situation is outside of our control, so we pray and wait to see what God is going to do. We hate waiting. We hate not being able to do something.
However, let’s stop and think about this more logically. Prayer is bringing our hopeless, helpless, concerning, desperate situations to the Holy Throne of our loving God. He is powerful, and He hears. Plus, He loves our children more than we do. He knows them better than we do. Sometimes we feel afraid to put our children into the hands of God, especially when they are rebellious and making bad choices, but He does not want to destroy them. He wants to save them even more than we want them saved. Trust God. Pray. Leave the situation in His hands.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. (1 Timothy 2:1, NLT)
Here is a prayer Paul prayed for the people of Philippi that is so good for us to pray for our children and others we disciple:
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:9-11, NLT)
(4) Fourth, we focus on the needs of our children and those we disciple. We must not care about what others think, but care for and love our children and others we disciple. Everyone needs an ally who will walk with them even through mistakes and bad choices. We do not condone the bad choices, but we can still be a safe place for them to come back to. We need to be a place of integrity and honesty with love that is constant.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2:3-4, NLT)
The pain of concern (and worry) is real, especially as our children grow older and more independent. And if we allow the worry to take over, we can respond in ways God does not want us to when we talk with our children about their faith. We need wisdom, discernment, and patience. Only God can give us those. So, as we trust His grace to carry us and focus on them and pray, let us pray for ourselves as well that we can know when to share, what to share, and how to share our faith. And while our children are young, may we seize the teachable moments provided to help them fall in love with God and His Word.