What should Christian parents do when their children decide to reject Christianity? Pastor and theologian John Piper offered some advice on and pointed out that in the end, faith is a "gift of God" and parents have "no control" over what their offspring decide to believe.
Piper was responding to a mother who said that her 14-year-old daughter no longer identifies with the Christian faith. He recommended a book by John Miller and his daughter Barbara Juliani, titled Come Back, Barbara, which talks about precisely that topic.
The pastor also listed his top eight suggestions for the mother, firstly telling her that her daughter's decision "is something you utterly and totally have no control over."
"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," he wrote.
"God does use parents and pastors and teachers and friends to point children to Christ, but none of that pointing is decisive. God is decisive. It is utterly crucial that you as a burdened parent not bear more than you should or can."
Next, he recommended prayer, which he said is "absolutely essential and indispensable" at times like these.
Thirdly, he said that the mother should try and find a balance between being brokenhearted for her daughter, and at the same time expressing "indomitable joy in the face of this suffering," as found through the power of God.
"Your daughter, indeed, your own conscience, needs to see that she does not have the power to nullify the hope and joy that you feel in Christ. She does not need to feel that she has that power. That would be extremely false if she felt that," Piper wrote.
"She needs to feel that she matters and that you are deeply sad at her spiritual condition, but she also needs to see the reality of what she is missing; namely, your indomitable enjoyment of the grace of God, the peace of God that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), and the goodness of God and the power of God in your life."
The theologian continued by reminding the mother that her daughter is still living under her roof, and therefore is under her authority, which means the Gospel needs to be central to the home.
At the same time, he warned against turning "every evening into a grilling about her faith," and advised the mother instead to schedule periodic "lunch dates" where the two can talk about spiritual issues.
Piper's sixth piece of advice was directed at the mother herself, reminding her that she needs to "feed her soul with the food of biblical truth, especially stories about how present sorrow and seeming hopelessness is a prelude to joy."
Piper also advised that the mother not put her daughter on the spot. At the same time, her child needs to see her parents "loving Jesus in the world."
Finally, he told the mother not to despair.
"God loves to hear your prayers. He puts your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8), and he pours it out with his grace in due time," he advised.
Piper has written numerous advice columns about parents and children in their walk of faith, and back in August said it is very important for children to see their parents worshiping God.
"You can't impart what you don't possess. And this is what you want your children to catch. You want them to catch authentic worship. Authentic, heartfelt worship is the most valuable thing in human experience. Think of it. The cumulative effect of 650 worship services spent with mom and dad in authentic communion with God and his people between the ages of 4 and 17 is utterly incalculable," he said at the time.