Will my son ever believe?

My son is confused. He is 18 years old and he was raised in church. We have attended a Baptist church and he has gone to Vacation Bible School and he accepted Christ when he was 10, but since graduating from high school, he is going crazy. He has been drinking, not coming home – just being someone we don’t even know. He said he does not believe the Bible and that it is just stories that people have written. We are at our wits end with him and don’t know what to do. I have placed his Bible in his room and have also copied Scripture from the Bible and posted in his room, but he has gone crazy tearing that down. He tells us that’s what we believe, but it’s not what he believes. Please help!

I’m sorry you are experiencing heartache about your son. You are to be commended for raising him in the “nurture and admonish” of the Lord. You have been faithful to give him the necessary Biblical instruction (Ephesians 6:1-4).

However, he must “own” his faith. If his salvation experience at 10 years old was real, he has the capacity to show evidence of Christ in his life. In this case, you can pray for the affirmation of his faith as the Lord chastens him back into fellowship with Him (Hebrews 12:11). If his salvation experience was not real, then he will need to genuinely turn to Christ as Savior (Ephesians 2:1-5).

In dealing with your son, it would be wise to show unconditional love and acceptance no matter what he does, while, at the same time, showing the tough love of not condoning sin. This is a challenge, indeed, but God can give you grace as you calmly declare love to your son while also declaring your hatred for what he is doing (2 Corinthians 13:8, 1 Peter 4:8 and Romans 12:9, Psalm 34:14). This may mean giving your son some space and time to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit on his own, but it also may mean, eventually, having certain consequences for ongoing sinful behavior. Reward him lavishly for any and all positive movement toward God and God’s will. On the other hand, let him realize genuine consequences for any and all negative movement toward worldliness. The consequences could be the removal of your support of him financially and/or any housing you provide for him. But, consistently remind him that he always has your love, and, in fact, you love him enough to help him see his sin so he can be back in fellowship with God and with you. Also, remind him that any previous material support will return immediately upon his repentance and restoration to the Lord (Luke 15:11-24 about the prodigal son).

In regard to putting the Bible in his room and posting verses for him to see, this seems logical, but can be counter-productive. His anger in tearing them down actually proves that he knows the truth and is under conviction, but refuses to respond at this point. Your combination of your unconditional love and a firm stand for what’s right will speak volumes to him and will actually be Biblical truth in action for him to see. So, speak the truth in love and wait on the Lord for your son’s return to righteousness…either by repentance and rededication as a believer or by receiving Christ as his Savior for the first time.

My prayers are with you that this time of brokenness will end up being a blessing in disguise as you see that “all things can work together for good” (Romans 8:28-29). If not, just remember, God Himself has many children who have turned their back on Him, thus He can sympathize with you and be a comfort to you. Be sure to maintain your closeness to the Lord, despite your difficulty, and don’t allow your son’s carnality to disturb your relationship with Him, or your relationship as husband and wife. Get Christian counseling for your son, if he’s open to it, but, also, get Christian counseling as a couple in order to work through the grief you’re suffering.

By the way, remember that your legacy is not primarily your children…your legacy is your faith in God. Ideally, your children should come to respect and want that faith for themselves, but if they don’t, it’s not the failure of your legacy, it’s the failure of the child to make his own legacy by faith in God.

May God bless you with His grace, knowing that His Son, Jesus, said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”