Too Soon to Give up! She wanted to talk with me about her son. It wasn’t that he is a “bad” boy or has had any serious problems, she said. But she was worried about the fact that he isn’t particularly interested in the youth group at their church and—beyond being with the family at Sunday worship times—seems pretty distant to faith.

I know something about parental anxiety over a child. That’s why God gave children parents, right? To worry about them? To wring our hands over them?

In all seriousness, there would be something wrong with a mother or father who is a Christian who didn’t notice or care about what was bothering that woman. All of us who are believers think about such things. We pray for our offspring and want them to share what we think is so vital to a meaningful life.

At the same time, children are children.

They are often interested in nothing beyond the immediate. They have games and music and sports. Then they have girlfriends and braces and pimples. Then come algebra and cars and girls. Oh, and did I mention girls? (Or, if it is a daughter, boys and boyfriends?)

Then there is the constant issue of being puzzled about life. An adolescent doesn’t know what to think about lots of things—including his or her parents. There may be issues of anger with siblings. Maybe she just can’t understand being expected to measure up to an older sister who she believes is prettier or smarter. He resents being identified with what his family takes for granted. All of us want to be given space to work out some things for ourselves.

Often the best any of us can do is worry. And pray. Then worry and pray some more. It is fairly certain that the worst thing any of us can do is to try to force things to our own desired conclusion. Children, friends, employees, neighbors—all of them have this scary thing called freedom. And freedom is a double-edged sword that has the possibility to accept or to reject.

So I encouraged this mother simply to continue loving, believing in and praying for her son and to have faith that all she had invested in him would have a good outcome and that she would be proud of him one day for who he would become. And I made the point more than once that she should not give up on her best dreams for him.

After all, do you remember that Jesus had blood relatives who didn’t know what to make of him? That his brothers—James, Joses, Jude and Simon—kept their distance from him during his preaching and healing ministry—and thought that he was weird for doing what he was doing – if not altogether out of his mind?

We don’t know how all of Jesus’ siblings turned out. But at least two of his brothers, James and Jude, became believers and wrote epistles bearing their names that we preserve in the New Testament. The most famous of them became a “pillar of the church” at Jerusalem before all was said and done.

Faith sometimes takes time. Don’t give up on any of the people you love.

by Rubel Shelly

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Rubel Shelly (Ph.D., philosophy / Vanderbilt University) has spent his adult life in Christ-focused ministry through preaching, teaching at both graduate and undergraduate levels, and writing. His commitment is to a non-sectarian presentation of the gospel.