What Can I Do If My Child No Longer Believes in God?
My teenage son told me very calmly one recent weekend, “Mom, there’s something I need to tell you. I don’t want to go to church tomorrow. I don’t believe in God anymore.”What? I must not have heard him correctly.This can’t be! How is this possible?
I was shocked, but somehow I kept it together and responded calmly and reasonably.
It is heartbreaking, awkward, and challenging. My son no longer believes?
I do everything I can to encourage my children to grow in faith and love of God. I don’t just say I believe, I live my faith in Jesus. He is a member of our family, alive in our home.
I tried to raise my kids to ensure that they would have strong relationships with our Savior through prayer and worship, even sending them to Catholic school (until we were prohibited by expenses).
At first I thought this would not have happened if my son were still at Catholic school where all his old friends still believe and still serve Jesus.
But then I had to question whether his faith was ever real if a couple of nonbelievers at his public school could so easily influence him against Our Lord.
I thought I had reached the point in my life when circumstances would never again make me cry. I hadn’t cried before this in literally years.
But talking about this made me cry.
It breaks my heart. I love Jesus so much, and I know how much He loves my son, even now. I am grieving for my son’s lost faith.
How is this even possible? My son knew we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. He used to tell me he loved the grace he felt after Reconciliation (confession). We prayed together every single night. My son used to believe God answered our prayers.
But now he thinks I am misguided in believing, misinformed, wrong!
He thinks those couple of teenage boys at school have it right, and they know better than all us misled believers.
I assumed something instrumental must have happened to make my son question his faith. I asked what it was. Someone sick or hurt that didn’t deserve it? What was it? There must be a reason. Something I can explain or fix.
He says nothing happened at all. It’s just after having discussions with these boys, he no longer believes in God. He accepts their point of view that God does not exist.
It is hard on my daughter too. She can’t wrap her mind around the idea of not believing. She insists her brother must be present when we pray in the evenings, even if he is not praying himself. (So do I.) She misses him sitting in the pew with us at Mass. (So do I.)
For several weeks, I couldn’t accept that my son truly no longer believes in God. I thought it was just a temporary phase he was trying on in his journey toward adulthood. I kept thinking in a few days he’d tell me he didn’t mean it or he was only questioning his faith.
Unfortunately, he is not questioning his faith at all. He is not having doubts about his faith. He just does not have any faith.
I still talk to him the same as I always have. When he faced a recent challenge, I told him how proud I was and that I had been praying for him. He said, “That’s nice, Mom. I appreciate the gesture.” He appreciates the gesture!
I talked to my priest. He told me this is very common with teenagers to lose their faith for a while. He said what is lost is their child’s faith, which is not the same as their adult faith. He said when my son comes around to believing again, it will be a much stronger and lasting faith, and that if he does not come to believe by his own choice, the child’s faith can’t bear up throughout his life.
I’d never heard that theory before, but it does make sense. While I never lost my faith in my teens, I do see that my “child’s faith” from accepting what I had been taught by my parents was not as powerful as the faith I have now as an adult.
Saint Monica prayed for her son’s conversion for 16 years, before St. Augustine converted to Christianity. Yet he became a Doctor of the Catholic Church and a Saint.
I know that Jesus will call my son back to Himself and convert him. I will pray for it for 16 years or for the rest of my life.
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