My wife Agnes and I have had the honour of ministering to hurting parents whose children are far from Jesus. Agnes has a list of the names of these sons and daughters and prays for them. It is a list of expectation and hope, but it is also a list of faith-filled combat. A battle is being waged over our children’s lives. We have to fight for them, especially when blindness keeps them from fighting the battle themselves.
In our journey with our youngest daughter, Emily, we discovered a few things that enabled us to stay steady among grief, confusion, and anger.
First, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for support and prayer. It may be easier to only highlight blessings, but that is ultimately a soul-killing decision. Agnes and I decided we would share our burden with others, and we found comfort, understanding, and wisdom from other parents.
Second, don’t blame yourself. We as parents tend to think it’s because we did something wrong. After all, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This verse was never meant as a guilt trip—nor as a guarantee. We all make mistakes, but ultimately kids make their own choices.
Third, deal with your feelings. Agnes and I faced many emotions: anger, grief, sorrow, depression, and guilt. We had to acknowledge these feelings before we could deal with them. I had to continue to bring my pain before God, and over time He flooded me with His healing love.
Fourth, focus on the heart—not the behaviour. I found myself fixating on Emily’s bad choices and dangerous behaviours, and she interpreted my disapproval of her actions as condemnation. God called me to let go of that anger and to focus on His grace to transform her heart. We began to pray less about her choices and more about her heart.
Fifth, remember that our kids are on God’s list. God loves our kids more than we do. That’s why we must lean on God and His grace. He constantly draws our kids to Himself and will be with them when we can’t. As we continue to love and pray for our kids, we need to have faith that our child is God’s work in progress.
God can change the hearts of our kids in an instant. When Emily returned to intimacy with Jesus, she wrote these powerful words, “I am paralyzed by fear; I cannot fight back—it feels out of my control—and then I feel a hand on my cheek. It slowly turns my face away and back to Jesus. The darkness melts away in an instant and once again the peace returns—and I take a breath of freedom.”
Dave Hearn is the President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. He has held C&MA leadership positions at local church and District levels. He served as District Superintendent for the Canadian Pacific District from 2005 to July 2012. He loves spending time with his family, and he’s passionate about living on mission fearlessly.