The heart’s desire of Adventist Christian parents—as well as parents of other faith groups—is for their children to have a growing relationship with the Lord and to become strong members of the church. To the dismay and bafflement of many, however, children don’t always follow the path that parents lay out for them. They too have a free will, and when grown, they may choose to join a different denomination, or reject God altogether.
I spoke with parents who have either a prodigal child (or grandchild) or a child who at one point had left the church but has now returned, and asked what counsel they would give other struggling parents. Here is what they said:1
Christine: “Unconditional love is probably the most important thing that parents of wayward children can give, regardless of what behavior they may be exhibiting. Showing that you are upset with their choices is not likely to change them. Instead, showing them the happiness and peace that you are enjoying because of your relationship with the Lord speaks volumes. I have found that at times silence is golden.”
Jonathan: “Keep the lines of communication open and try not to be judgmental. Spend time doing things with them that you both enjoy, and not only talk to your child but listen as well. Let them know by your words and actions that you love them no matter what.”
Phyllis: “Never give up on them. Be as patient with them as the Lord has been with you. Never quit praying for them. The Lord promises that He ‘will contend with those who contend with you, and your children [He] will save’ [Isa. 49:25].”
Joanne: “If your child is open to it, continue to invite them to church events that might interest them and where they could connect with someone their own age—perhaps a music festival or a game night. Don’t push them; just invite them. If they say no, let it go at that and maybe try again another time. Helping them keep even a loose connection to the church could eventually lead to a desire to find their way back to God.”
George: “Find opportunities to connect or reconnect them to Adventist friends. The Lord can use such friends to draw your child back to Him.”
All the parents said they find comfort and encouragement from reading the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and books by other Christian authors—as well as from prayer. Christine shared a quote that has been particularly inspirational to her: “While it is true that God will not force the will, yet through our intercessions that claim the blood of Christ, His spirit can overrule the forces of darkness and control events in such a way that the ones we are praying for will be helped to decide for right.”2
The Lord loves our children even more than we do, and He longs to save them. We can trust Him with their care.
Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.