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When a Loved One Leaves the Faith

What do we do when those closest to us walk away from Jesus?

Though her husband’s not a believer, a mother finds joy in passing on her Christian faith to her son who asks to be baptized and is enthusiastic about his faith.

But somewhere along the journey from boy to man, he loses his faith. His mother watches and prays as her son gives in to a life of lust, preferring sexual exploits over the “rules” of Christianity.

As time passes, his mother continues to pray desperately as she watches her son become attracted to an alternative spirituality and then join a cult-like religious group.

Eventually, her son rejects this belief-system and becomes a skeptic, eschewing religion for philosophy. She continues to wait and pray.

Then somehow, despite this young man’s determined resistance, God breaks through. At the age of 32, Augustine returns—wholeheartedly—to the faith of his childhood. His mother Monica’s years of agonized prayer and heartache have come to a surprisingly joyful end.

Augustine of Hippo, also called St. Augustine, went on to become one of the greatest and most influential Christian leaders of all time. His spiritual and scriptural insights, recorded in works like The Confessions and The City of God continue to challenge and inspire believers today.

But Monica didn’t know things would turn out this way. If we step back in time, into her shoes, we can only imagine what it was like for her to watch her adolescent son starkly abandon his faith and continue to reject it throughout his first decade of adulthood. She’d done her best to raise him in the faith, yet he still chose to turn his back on Jesus. There was little she could do . . . except pray. And as Augustine records in The Confessions, pray she did. He credited her persistent prayers for God’s powerful work in his life to protect him during his years away and to draw him back to the truth.

Like Monica, you may be living in the pain of watching a loved one walk away from Christianity: perhaps a child or your husband or a dear friend. Try as you might to convince them otherwise, ultimately the choice is theirs—and they’ve chosen to leave.

So what do you do? How do you deal with the emotions of hurt and betrayal? The fear for their spiritual well-being? The concern you feel for their lifestyle choices? How can you respond—and trust God—through the painful process of loving someone who’s turned away from Jesus?

Monica eventually experienced a “happy ending.” We know this is not always the case, and she certainly didn’t know how things would turn out with her son. Yet her example of years and years of persistent prayer, even when her son seemed only to be going further away from God, can be a compelling example to us. As you consider how you can best respond to your loved one who has left Christianity, may you (like Monica) “always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).

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Kelli B. Trujillo

Kelli B. Trujillo is editor of Today’s Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter at @kbtrujillo or @TCWomancom.

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