Question: Our adult child has completely rejected his Christian upbringing. After graduating from high school he moved in with his girlfriend and became involved with drug and alcohol abuse. Our hearts ache to reach out to him, but we don't want to appear to be condoning his lifestyle. What would you recommend?


Your longing for a warm, close, emotionally safe relationship with your son is completely understandable. God designed moms and dads to feel this way about their children, and when the relationship doesn't turn out as they’d hoped and expected it’s only natural that they should be grieved. At the same time, you’re wise to set boundaries, enforce limits and communicate clear messages to your son about Christian values and Biblical standards of behaviour. You need to find creative ways of holding that position while simultaneously assuring him of the constancy of your love.

Wisdom from the Bible

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) can provide you with an instructive model in this regard. As you may remember, the father in Jesus’ story didn't assume responsibility for changing his son’s heart and mind. He understood that there were only two things he could do in response to the young man’s ill-advised choices: pray and wait. He prayed and waited with patience until the son finally "came to himself (verse 17). And when at last the boy came home freely confessing the error of his ways, the father "ran" to meet him "while he was still a great way off" (verse 20). You should be ready to respond with the same degree of eager love and compassion at the first sign of repentance on his part.

Enlist others to help

Is there anything at all that you can do to help him start moving in that direction – to open a crack, however small, in the wall of his resistance to God and his Christian upbringing? Not directly. But perhaps you could enlist the assistance of some objective third party. Is there anyone you know to whom your son might be inclined to listen? A family friend, perhaps, or a relative, or a pastor or member of your church? An older male acting in the role of a mentor – a man your son trusts and whom he doesn't perceive as a threat – could be of great help to you in this situation. The girlfriend’s parents might be another potential avenue of approach. Anyone who can speak one-on-one with your son, priming him with carefully considered food for thought and listening compassionately to his responses, could play an important role in opening up the lines of communication.

It has to be his decision to change

Bear in mind that the Prodigal Son wasn’t able to "come to himself" until he had come to the end of himself. It’s possible that your son has not yet experienced a sufficient amount of personal loss to be willing to listen to anyone. If and when he reaches a point where he is open to re-evaluating his life-choices, you can let him know that Christian counsellor referrals are available to him through the ministry of Focus on the Family Canada (at 1.800.661.9800). If you would like further consultation with a Focus counsellor, feel free to give us a call at the same number.

In the meantime, remember that there’s a very real sense in which you are engaged in a deeply spiritual battle. You can find a tremendous amount of strength and encouragement for the fight in Beth Moore's book Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free From Spiritual Strongholds.

Related article: Loving Your Wayward Child

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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