FAMILY: Wayward Children: Priceless Guidance for Broken Hearts

by Ron Halbrook

Synopsis: In the second part of his series, Ron explains how God's word answers the question asked by heavy-hearted parents of wayward children, "What can we do to please God and to rescue our children as we pass through this fiery trial?"

God's word gives priceless guidance for broken hearts, including the broken hearts of parents with wayward children. Their hearts throb with anguish and pain as they struggle with the question, "What can we do to please God and to rescue our children as we pass through this fiery trial?"

Pray, Pray, and Pray

Constant, fervent prayer is needed by all Christians, most especially when passing through fiery trials. Not only will the parents of wayward children pray for their restoration, but they must also pray to be delivered from the dangers this trial brings to their own faith. Surrounded by enemies, David prayed, "Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught… But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice" (Ps. 55:1-2, 16-17, NIV). Like Daniel who faced one trial after another, and like Christ who knew his trials were stepping stones leading to the cross, we must "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17).

Parents of wayward children must pray that their longings to restore their children will be strengthened, balanced, and refined by the wisdom which only God can give. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (Jas. 1:5). God teaches us not to pray for the erring to be saved in their sins, but that they will repent of their sins. "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). The prayer of Jesus for his tormentors to be forgiven was answered for many when they repented (Luke 23:34; Acts 2:36-41).

Time is fleeting, and life is fragile and uncertain, and so we pray for God's kind patience and providence in extending the lives of wayward children to grant them time to repent. We pray for every influence to be brought to bear in their lives which might humble them and lead them to repent.

Put God First

Jesus warned that exaggerated fear for the material needs of life can divert our attention from life's first priority (Matt. 6:24-34). Nothing must be allowed to interfere with our focus on a right relationship with God. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). We must not let excessive anxiety over our children's bad choices and conduct obscure our faith in God.

By no means dare we compromise the truth in a frantic effort to mollify and accommodate wayward children. We must determine to obey God no matter what our children may do. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Sympathizing with our children's sinful conduct, enabling them to continue in it, or joining with them in sin will harden their hearts. As Paul said, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11). Our children must know we love them, but we love God more!

Put Our Trust in God

How could any good result from the tragedy of wayward children? Let us learn to trust that God will bring spiritual good out of our trials as He promises. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (Jas. 1:2-4, NIV). Facing the most severe and painful trials by trusting in God strengthens our faith, hope, and love.

When we wonder how we will survive dark days, the promise of God in 1 Corinthians 10:13 calms our fears. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Satan cannot overpower our freewill nor can he overturn our faith against our will. Legion are the number of parents who have lost their children because they chose a life of sin, and yet have survived by choosing the path of righteousness.

Almighty God stands above the storms of human life and exercises His infinite love and providential power to guide us through any trial or temptation, no matter how severe. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:6-7). He knows. He cares. He is strong to help those who trust in Him!

Present the Truth Always in Word and Deed

Wayward children desperately need to see the faith of godly parents who uphold the truth in a kind, firm, and consistent manner under all circumstances. If the faith of a godly wife can influence an unbelieving husband who refuses to open the Bible, most certainly the influence of godly parents wields great spiritual power (1 Pet. 3:1).

If wayward children openly question or challenge their parents' convictions, let us remember 1 Peter 3:15-16, which says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander" (NIV). Let them see the answer in words and in "good behavior."

Parents must answer carefully and cautiously when wayward children complain against brethren and the church in general. To sympathize with them is to help Satan make them comfortable in sin. Treat petty complaints as petty: "I don't like the time or length of the service, sermon topics, Bible class teacher, elders, or song leader. Someone did not shake my hand, etc." Remind them they do not quit their jobs or other activities over such pettiness. If true problems are identified, address them with Scripture, not emotion or overreaction. Point out that we can be part of the problem or the solution—we can seek to help, not merely complain.

Remove Stumbling Blocks and Correct Sin

There are cases where parents have committed sins, even sins against the child, which are a stumbling block to the wayward child. Such parents should openly confess their sins, seek reconciliation, and change their conduct. Jesus said our worship is not accepted until we do so (Matt. 5:23-24). Failure to do so will bring the wrath of Jesus on us on the Judgment Day: "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6, NIV). Confessing and correcting our sins against other people opens a door for healing to begin.

Press on in Serving God

Let us focus on growing spiritually and on the future reward of heaven, not on our past mistakes or the sins of our children. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). We must not be embittered, demoralized, or paralyzed by the sinful attitudes and actions of our wayward children. Every lost soul is wayward from God. If we cannot help our own children, we must remember that every soul is equally precious to God, and we can help someone.

Author Bio: Ron Halbrook and David Dann serve together as evangelists for the Hebron Lane church of Christ in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. Ron began his work with the church in 1997. In addition to the local work, Ron makes four trips to the Philippines each year and does meeting work here in the US. The church website is He can be reached at