Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Encouraging Parents of Prodigals

everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me.”  Ezekiel 18:4
What could be more grievous to Christian parents than to have their adult child reject the Gospel?   Some children go through a season of rebellion and return to the Lord,  but when a grown child makes a cogent decision to forsake the essential truths of Christianity it is heart wrenching.   I’d like to share some things parents commonly experience when this happens  and try to offer a little encouragement for those going through this.   

Any parent who has  faithfully raised  their children  in the Lord will experience a range of emotions when their child abandons the faith.    Self-examination prompts them to consider,   “Had we done a better job of this, or had not allowed that,  would things have turned out  differently?”
Hindsight usually turns up some things the parents  might have changed  yet we know that  David was a man after God’s own heart and Absalom rebelled anyway.    And what about Isaac’s beloved Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew and married two Hittite women in violation of God’s commands (Gen. 24:3)?   Romans 9 gives us the reason for that whole situation.    
Because training in Biblical parenting is often focused on  being a “successful” parent,  there’s usually not much preparation  for the possibility that a child might grow up and reject the faith.  Unfortunately, not many books give attention  to the sovereignty of God in our children’s salvation.
Consequently, when  children fall away the parents can  feel like failures and  may sense judgement from other Christians.   Unbelieving friends and family who don’t understand the spiritual dynamics involved  may  be critical because  of  the parents refusal  to condone their child’s beliefs or practices.    

In short, these are parents who are grieving for their child’s soul and also for the loss of the sweet relationship they once enjoyed,  but may find little encouragement from others.     

When our kids were young,  there was a popular teaching going around  that the sins of the parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents  are somehow spiritually transmitted to their children  and  this alleged  generational bondage needed  to be broken.    As a 29 year old mom this freaked me out until I learned that it was a  misinterpretation of Numbers 14:18.    There's  a wonderful passage  in the eighteenth chapter of  Ezekiel  that debunks this  notion and offers great  hope to everyone,  especially parents. 
“ The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.”  (vs. 1-4)   
The passage goes on to illustrate how every person will  be judged individually regardless of their heritage,  but that any person can be fully forgiven no matter  how awful  their sin  is if they repent and turn to the Lord. 

But did you  notice verse 4?      The Lord said  “every one belongs to me.  The parent as well as the child.”   Yes, even the rebellious and unbelieving belong to the Lord to do with as He chooses.    I find this very comforting.   Parents can find rest knowing that  God is sovereign over their child’s destiny  regardless.    Can we say it often enough?   Salvation belongs to the LORD”  (Ps. 3:8).   If it had been up to me I would have never chosen Christ, and that also applies to my children.   It is God alone who saves whomever He chooses, whenever He chooses, and we know that He is  a good and merciful God.   

So then, if  it is God who determines  our destiny and not ourselves,   what role can a concerned parent have in this?   Pray! Pray! Pray!     If this  describes your current situation,  leave your beloved child at the throne of grace because that is the only place of hope for any of us.   The fact that God continues to prompt  you to pray for your child should be an  encouragement!
“Abhor it as a great sin to faint under this affliction, that is, either to be disabled for thy duty or to sink thy comforts.  It is a sign that thou didst place too much  of thy happiness in thy children, if their wickedness make thee faint under this calamity.  I shall only plead with thee, as Joab did with David when he made that bitter lamentation for his son Absalom, “Thou has declared this day, that thou regardes neither princes, nor servants” (2 Sam. 19:6).  So I say to thee, thou hereby declares that thou regardest not God and Christ, if thy soul faint under the burden of a disobedient child.
This is an affliction that ordinarily befalls God’s dearest children.  Ye must not think of this as if ye were the first godly parents of ungodly children, or as if herein some strange thing happened unto you.”  1 – Edward Lawrence
1. Parents' Groans Over Their Ungodly Children  by Edward Lawrence


  1. Although it is one of the hardest things I have ever been through, having an unbelieving child has taught me more about God and myself than anything else in life. I will never give up hope in their salvation. It truly belongs to the Lord.

  2. "What could be more grievous to Christian parents than to have their adult child reject the Gospel?"

    What is more grievous is having two of our children also reject us. We have not heard from them in years.

    1. I'm sorry Keith. The two often go hand in hand. I know.

    2. I am hearing your pain...sadness in imagining such a hurtful thing.

    3. I have 2 unbelieving children & one trapped in a Christian cult. We do have good relationships with the 2 unbelievers, something I'm very thankful for, but the one in the cult has cut herself off from us. It's all very difficult. I pray for them frequently. I hope the Lord is gracious to transfer the unbelievers from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son & delivers the believing one from false teachers.

      Thanks for the encouragement Diane.

  3. Thank you for sharing this encouragement from the Word of God. It is indeed painful when a child turns against you, and grievous when he turns against God. I have blamed myself, mourned, and prayed, but I am going to try to leave the other options and pray more diligently. Leaning on Him seems better than to 'let my soul faint'!

  4. Timely and thoughtful encouragement for many - thank you!

  5. please be encouraged -I am one of those children who turned her back on all she was taught and walked in the world for years. Years, Mom and Dad loved me from a distance, and when I would allow it, up close, never ceasing to remember me in prayer. Not saying this happens every time. But I hope you will be encouraged to pray for your children. I am SO thankful for my parents' continued love and prayer for me. And now, I pray for my own children.

  6. B , thanks for your sharing above a bit of your story , it is so encouraging to be reminded that prayer does matter even while there is no guarantees. My husband and most of my six children are still prodigals and I am still praying .

  7. Thank you. In spite of my sons' rejection of God, I've been able to maintain a good relationship with them. They accepted the Lord as children, but found religion not to be logical. Thankfully, my daughter loves the Lord, married a believer, and are teaching their children to love and obey him.