Popular evangelist Greg Laurie has offered advice to parents whose children are struggling or have abandoned the Christian faith by revealing that his own children also strayed for a while, only to return like the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible.
"Even when raised in godly homes, kids sometimes rebel. Sometimes children go astray — and parents feel like they somehow failed," Laurie, who leads the Harvest Christian Fellowship megachurch in California, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
"My own sons had prodigal times in their lives. Both strayed from their faith for a time. But we never gave up on them. And both of them came back to Christ," he added, referring to Christopher and Jonathan Laurie.
The pastor noted that Jesus told a story of a prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke.
"There was a dad who had two sons. The youngest son came to him and asked for his portion of the inheritance. It wasn't long until that boy had blown the family fortune on prostitutes, drunkenness, and all kinds of things."
He continued: "One day, the son — starving to death, miserable, and broke — makes his way home. Jesus says the father saw the son and began to run toward him and threw his arms around him, saying, 'This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found' (see Luke 15:11–24)."
Laurie said that an important point in the story is that the boy was raised in a loving home, yet still rebelled.
"This can happen. If you have a child that goes prodigal, stay true to your beliefs. Hold your course. When my son, Christopher, was in his prodigal phase, he always knew I cared. I kept communication open even if he didn't communicate with me. He always knew I loved him," he said.
The evangelist said that parents can face such difficult times when their children refuse to talk to them, and do not want to hear about the faith of their parents.
"But don't give up — we should never give up on our kids. Keep praying," he advised. "Listen to this: your children can escape your presence but they can never escape your prayers."
Christopher died eight years ago in a car accident on his way to church, a day which the Harvest pastor said was the "hardest" one of his life.
"Now birthdays are difficult. Christmas is difficult. Easter is difficult. It's amazing how every occasion is loaded with memories we didn't know we had," Laurie wrote in January.
"If it were up to me, I would have my son back in a heartbeat. But I am not given that opportunity, of course. So, I simply say, 'Lord, I don't want to waste my pain. How can I use it for Your glory?' There are a lot of hurting people out there. I know what they're going through," he added about helping others deal with their own pain of losing a loved one.
Pastor and theologian John Piper also recently spoke out about children who have chosen to stray from God, and what parents can do about it.
"Faith is a gift of God. Perhaps a better way to say it would be that the eyes of her heart, not just the eyes of her head, must see Jesus as true and beautiful and desirable in order to be a Christian — and only God can open those eyes," Piper wrote in a list that included his top eight suggestions for parents in such a difficult situation.