Over my ministry I have had the same conversation with different people many times: “Pastor, I don’t know where we went wrong. We set the best example we could for our kids and now none of them goes to church or even seems to have a relationship with the Lord. I don’t even know how they make it through life without faith.”
My first and last comment always is this: “Pray for them; bring them before the Lord and ask that the Spirit will work in their lives; remember that we are not in charge of anyone’s salvation, Jesus is. Pray for them!”
Of course, we cannot command faith. Just as we cannot command someone to fall in love with a certain person or insist that an insomniac goes to sleep right now. When we face the situation where we fear a person dear to us is hesitant or even hostile to “all things God”, it might help us and them to understand our lives as gifts from God. If we do that, see life as a gift, we know that behind the gift is a giver; otherwise it is not a gift, right!
When we receive a gift, especially one that is rather incredible, most of us respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. Our gratitude always is particular: you give me a gift and I express my thanks to you not to your second cousin once removed. Being thankful in general only is like being married in general. One is married to one particular person, not in the abstract. Just as most married persons do not feel the same about being married each and every day, most of us do not feel the same about our very lives each and every day. Nevertheless: we are alive not because we generated our lives single-handedly but because God gave us this gift.
Those who are not sure if they want to “engage in faith”, often seem to have a hard time acknowledging that they might actually need God. “We can’t find God unless we know we need God,” said Thomas Merton (American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, scholar of comparative religion who died in 1968). “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” says Jesus – by some translated as “How blessed are those who know their need for God.” It is not always easy to distinguish between our needs and wants. To have God, and faith in God, is a blessing!
Perhaps the question is whether we actually desire God and a relationship with Him. Could it be that our desire for closeness with God is as sweet as the relationship itself? “My soul thirsts for you, O God,” the Psalmist says. “I want to know Christ”, says St. Paul who surely did know Christ! When we first fall in love or look at our first child, we want to be with the beloved, or the new babe, as much as we can. We wish to get to know them, appreciate them, understand them and simply show them our commitment. Surely, it cannot hurt to desire our relationship with God.
None of what I wrote is in our hands per say. We certainly are unable to instill appreciation for the gift of life, the realization of our need for God or another person’s desire for God, in anyone. We can explain these things to a hesitant doubter but we have no control over the outcome. What we always can do is pray for God to work in the lives of those whom we know and love that faith may be rekindled and that our own faith may remain strong. May it be so. Amen