Age & Stage
When your adult child has rejected the faith he or she was raised in, as a parent it’s easy to feel helpless.
Valerie sank into her favorite recliner after the weekly phone call with her daughter, Holly. She stared out the window at the birds splashing in the birdbath. Today’s call had gone sideways, and Valerie clutched the armrests as she tried to make sense of it all. Not only had Holly skipped church this weekend for some questionable college parties, but she was no longer interested in attending church at all. In fact, Holly had just told her that she was deconstructing her faith and that she wasn’t sure she even believed in God anymore.
Across town, James watched his grandkids chase each other around the yard as he trimmed the trees. He could see his son, Elliott, drinking coffee in the kitchen while reading a New Age book. His heart broke knowing that Elliott had given his heart to Christ as a child but had walked away from the faith as an adult. Elliott’s choice to deconstruct and walk away from his faith had ramifications for his two kids. They weren’t learning about Jesus at home, and James worried they would grow up without knowing the Lord.
Both of these families have adult children who are deconstructing their faith. Whether our children doubt God’s existence and truth or have walked away from Him, watching our adult children turn their back on a relationship with Christ can be heartbreaking. It can be difficult to know how we can best parent our adult children in this situation.
Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” C.S. Lewis describes faith as “the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
Faith is one of the foundations of a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. However, our world places great importance on tangible things we can experience with our senses. If we can’t see, smell, hear, taste, or touch it, it must not be real. In tandem with other cultural beliefs, doubt can arise, which causes people to deconstruct their faith and sometimes turn away from God.
God created us to be curious and gave us minds and hearts hungry for truth. It is natural for a person to question what they believe and why they believe it. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, the empty place in our hearts and minds that seeks the truth is filled in a way that nothing and no one else can. However, influences in our world can create confusion and doubt during this process and cause a person to deconstruct their faith.
Deconstruction of Faith is the process of pulling apart and examining a person’s beliefs to discover what is real or true. Brian Zahnd, in his book When Everything’s On Fire, describes faith deconstruction as “a crisis of Christian faith that leads to either a reevaluation of Christianity or sometimes a total abandonment of Christianity.”
Sometimes, people deconstruct their faith and re-discover God in new and powerful ways. Perhaps you have even done this in your own relationship with Him. However, all too often, when a person begins to question God, their doubts and cultural influences cause them to pull away from a relationship with Him. Sometimes they choose to reject their faith entirely.
If your adult child deconstructs their faith and turns away from God, does that mean all hope is lost? Sometimes it might feel that way. But know that God knew your child before they were born. He says in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I anointed you a prophet to the nations.” David writes in Psalm 139 about how God’s knowledge of each of us is intimate and complete and that nothing comes as a surprise to Him.
The fact that your son or daughter is deconstructing their faith right now does not surprise God. He knew they would have these doubts and question their relationship with Him before they were born. Take comfort in knowing that He is still faithful and will continue to pursue their hearts with His great love.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God’s great love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”
As a parent, you might be restless, wondering what you can do right now to help your adult child return to their faith. Here are ten things you can do as a parent to encourage your adult child to return to a relationship with Jesus Christ when they are deconstructing their faith.
First and foremost, it’s critical to remember that God is sovereign in this and every situation. He cares for your child and loves them so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross. God will pursue their heart with all of His. In the end, He will be the one who can move and inspire their heart to turn to Him. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help. In fact, God invites you to do so.
What was your first instinct when your child told you they were deconstructing their faith or that they don’t believe in God? Was it panic? Fear? While this may be a natural reaction to hearing this news, it’s important to remember that God is in control. There is no need to panic with God in the driver’s seat. Take a moment and breathe. Remember that it’s normal for a person to wrestle with their faith. If you’ve been there, you know how God can restore anyone to a relationship with Him, and He is willing to do the same for your child.
Take the time to remind your child that they are loved unconditionally by both you and God. They need to know that no matter their doubts or choices, they are loved and accepted.
Praying for your child can be one of the most powerful ways to impact their minds and hearts. Know that God hears your prayers and will work in your son or daughter’s heart. Remember that God may not work in the way we expect, and things may take time. If you’re unsure where to start, there is a prayer you can say for your adult child below.
Be a safe place for your son or daughter to share their doubts, thoughts, and feelings. Even if they don’t share your values, you can have respectful conversations and find common ground. Remember that arguing and fighting with your adult child will only alienate them and may push them further from both you and a relationship with God.
Practice being a good listener when conversing with your adult child who is deconstructing their faith. Try to see their point of view and understand where they are coming from. Having a good understanding of their thought process can help you respond and will facilitate deep conversations between you. Listening to your adult child will encourage them to listen to your insights and allow you to be open about your faith.
When you have conversations with your adult child over their faith, be sure to ask open-ended questions that allow them to share the details of their beliefs and thoughts. Encourage your child to ask questions too.
Take the time to educate yourself in the areas where your child is deconstructing your faith and learn about apologetics. Remember that you may not have all of the answers to your adult child’s questions, and offer to learn the answer to those questions alongside your son or daughter.
If there is something for which you need to ask forgiveness in your relationship with your son or daughter, be sure to do so. Asking for grace and forgiveness will help heal your relationship and demonstrate to them your willingness to have a good relationship. It will also gain trust and help them open up to you. Demonstrating repentance and forgiveness is a great way to model your faith to your adult child.
Every day, be sure to live out your faith. Even if your children have moved out of the house, remember they are still watching and listening to everything you do and say. Be open about your relationship with Jesus. They will notice the difference between you and others who don’t walk with Christ. Your example will often be more powerful than any words you can say.
If your adult child is going through a season of deconstructing their faith, one of the most powerful things you can do is to pray for them. If you aren’t sure where to start or what to pray, this guided prayer for your child will help to get you started.
Heavenly Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus, and I thank You for __(Child’s Name)__. I thank You for bringing them into my life and allowing me to be their parent. Thank you that You know my child better than they know themselves. You have created them in Your image and love them beyond measure.
Father, I thank You that You have a purpose for my child’s life and desire, above all else, to be a part of it. You long for a relationship with them and have done everything — including sending your Son to die and rise again — to show them Your love.
Thank You for knowing their heart, thoughts, beliefs, and influences better than anyone. I pray that your Holy Spirit would speak truth to my child and move in them. The Bible says if we ask for wisdom and knowledge, You will give it in abundance. As they seek truth in this life, I ask that You show it to them in abundance. Show them You are the way, the truth, and the life.
Help my child to see your handiwork in all of creation. Let them discover Your providence and see how You are active and involved in every moment of their life. Make it clear that You are all You claim to be.
I pray the blood of Jesus over my child and know we have victory in You. Bind the hands of the enemy and put a stop to their tactics to create confusion. Silence their lies.
Bring people into my son/daughter’s life who will speak life into them and demonstrate what it is to walk with You. Help me as a parent to love and guide my child and to be a witness to Your greatness. Give me understanding and peace as I seek to honor You and share Your love with my child.
©2023 by Carol Cuppy. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
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