[about how to respond to a teenaged son turning away from the faith; links and bold original]
Once you have put your fears into words, the next step is to identify the beliefs behind the fears. All fears are based on certain assumptions. Let’s look at the assumptions the [following] statements are making about God.
#1: I’m afraid that my son might not really be saved after all and that he might end up in Hell.
If souls spend their entire lives refusing to submit to Jesus as their God and Savior, they will certainly end up in Hell when they die—this is a very important truth that many of us try not to think about. But whenever we find God’s truths having an oppressive effect on us, it’s an indication that other false beliefs are getting added to the mix.
If we really understood God’s priorities, we wouldn’t think there is anything sad about souls ending up in Hell for an eternity. Hell is not a bummer to God, it’s a glorious thing. God will not be mocked. He delights in justice. He delights in revenge (see Why God Loves Hell). But while God thoroughly enjoys thrashing His enemies, He is also extremely gracious, kind, patient, and merciful. Before condemning us to Hell, God gives us plenty of chances to come to Him. He educates us about who He is and what He wants. He makes sure we have the internal resources we need to meet His demands for reverential submission (see The Salvation Process: Understanding the Fairness of God). If we really saw how incredibly gracious God is towards every soul and if we were really loving God first, then we would feel furious at seeing souls continue to spit in His face for their entire lives and we would celebrate their demise. Being aligned with God means caring about HIS feelings more than we care about the comfort of created things. Being loyal to God means wanting Him to be revered and honored by every human soul.
When the idea of a loved one ending up in Hell makes us feel burdened, sad, and miserable, what we’re often trying to do is one of two things: either we’re trying to share grief that we think God is feeling, or we are mourning for ourselves because we think the loss of our loved one will permanently cripple us. Neither of these things is true. God is not mourning when souls end up in Hell, and we aren’t going to spend eternity pining for the people who didn’t make it to Heaven. We were designed to be fully satisfied by our Creators in eternity. Relating with other created beings is going to be a nice extra, but relating to our Gods will be what really makes our souls feel complete. God has designed Heaven in such a way that you will not miss anyone who isn’t there. In the worst case scenario, if you ended up in Heaven but your child did not, you would not miss him at all. You would not be sad, you would not feel incomplete, you would not be haunted by memories from earth. God has taken care of all of these issues and He promises that for those who submit to Him on earth, Heaven will be a place of eternal joy. Your peace today will come from focusing on the fact that all is well between you and God. If your son is choosing to defy God, that’s something he needs to work out with the Holy Spirit.
#2: I’m afraid that my son is heading down a path that will make his life miserable. I’m afraid I won’t be able to deal with the heartache that will cause.
This fear assumes that your happiness in this life is dependent on teen’s current circumstances. If your son is sad, you must be sad. If he’s happy, you can be happy. Well, no, you are not dependent on your son. Being a good parent doesn’t mean you have to revolve around your teen and let him control your state of mind. God is your center in life, not your child. God is your all-sufficient Provider who is with you every day and guiding all of your steps. You never need to fear future trials, nor should you anticipate them. You just want to take one day at a time and focus on the fact that God is with you.
Your son is not alone in this universe with only you to guide him. God is your son’s true Fatheryou’re just a temporary caretaker who God has called in to be a witness for Him in your child’s life. It is an enormous privilege to be trusted with the care of another human soul, but God doesn’t just abandon you on the job. He is right there with youguiding your steps, and leading you in the care of HIS soul. You don’t have to have all of the answers because you know the One who does. You don’t have to see into the future or be able to anticipate problems. If God wanted your teen to only have a perfect parent, He would have never gotten you or any other human guardian involved in your teen’s life. But it pleased God to have youan imperfect, fallen human beingto work with Him as He raises HIS son. The pressure isn’t on you in this situation, it’s on God. God is the only One who can illuminate a soul with truth and give him a desire to do what is right. You can present your child with wisdom that God gives you, but you can’t reach into your child’s mind and make him value righteousnessthat’s God’s job. You don’t want to try and take on God-sized responsibilities or you’ll end up feeling like a total failure.
#3: I’m afraid my son’s rebellion indicates I’m failing as a parent in some way. I’m afraid God is angry with me for not living up to His demands.
God doesn’t expect or want perfection from you. God wants your total submission. God wants you to ask Him to have His total way in your life, and then TRUST that He will. God is not going to dump a bunch of vague guilt trips on you. If there’s something specific He wants you to do or say in this situation, He will tell you. TRUST is the key hereyou need to trust that your Father is good, kind, loving, and on your side. He is not going to let you miss His cues and then rage at you for failing. He is not going to demand things from you that He knows you don’t have. Every parent makes mistakes. All parents lose their tempers, make bad judgment calls, and do things that they wish they could undo. This is where you need to remember that God is gracious and He judges you by your soul’s desire to please Him.
Okay, so how should you pray for your teen during this time? You shouldn’t. You need to pray for yourself instead, because the fact that you’re stressing over this tells you there are weak points in your own trust. God is already taking the best possible care of your son, and He will continue to do so regardless of what advice you give Him. God doesn’t want you to tell Him how to do His job. He is already the perfect Fatheryou want to give Him room to work and honor Him with your trust in His goodness, wisdom, and methods.