Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When Your Children Don't Seem to Share Your Faith

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our goal in life is to give the world a right impression of God. And the way we’re responding to these momentary, light afflictions—they don’t feel momentary; they don’t feel light. But in light of eternity, they are. And the way that we respond to those challenges is always giving others an opinion of God. And as they look at how we respond, do we adorn the gospel?

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for New Year's Day.

When you have conflict and hurt in your family, the holidays can just make the pain feel more sharp.

The discussion you’re about to hear will help you with any heartbreaking circumstance. It’s the second part of a series we began yesterday called, Handling Pressure in Your Family.

We’ll hear a panel discussion Nancy conducted with a group of ministry leaders. That group included Sue Paulus, Mary Madeline Whittinghall, Tex Tippit, Kim Butts and Debby Canfield.

Yesterday they left off talking about the pain parents feel when their children don’t share their faith. And that’s where we’ll pick up.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: This whole issue of children not walking with the Lord; there’s nothing harder for a mom, I think, than to have children who are not following Christ. I think I’m hearing this more than almost any subject today. Maybe it’s just the season of life I’m in. Many of my peers have young adult children. And so many of them are struggling with major issues with their young adult children.

Let’s just interact for a little bit here about that season of life. How do you stay engaged? How do you pray? How do you think? How do you get God’s perspective on that whole issue?

Tex Tippit: Our son and daughter both came to know Jesus at an early age. And both walked away from the Lord to some extent in college, our son more so than our daughter. Our son came to the point where he said if I’d been born in another region of the world maybe I would have been that particular religion or a Muslim or a Hindu. He came to the point where he even doubted that God existed.

The good things were—two things—is that he would always come back to his dad and say, “I don’t believe this,” or “What about this?” And Samuel would just gently say to him but strongly the principles of the Word. And the second thing was before our kids were born we asked God, “Give us the promises for our children that we can stand upon.” And He did. And one of the promises He gave us for our son was that he would one day proclaim the gospel to the nations.

So when he was in college and he said, “I don’t even know if God exists,” I can tell you there were many nights that my pillow and Sammy’s pillow was wet with tears. And I thought, “God where are You? Our son doesn’t even think You exist. Where are You?”

And I could hear from His Word, I’m faithful. I’m faithful. And through a series of circumstances, God did work in Dave’s life and Renae’s life. He called us from Siberia (collect) and he said, “I just want you to know that I’ve surrendered my life back to Jesus.” Now, we did not ever tell Dave about those promises because being a preacher’s kid sometimes you’re under the pressure.

When he came back from that trip we said, “Dave, we want to share some things with you that God’s shown us.” And we wept and thanked God for His faithfulness, even when we were sometimes wondering. And now they’re both serving the Lord and walking with Jesus.

So if you’ve not got promises for your children I’d say ask the Lord to show you promises for them, and stand on that because He’s faithful.

Debby Canfield: We surrendered our children at a young age, every single one of them. And we have not had a perfect time as people think. They stand up here, but they’ve all struggled through things. Our pillow has been wet many, many nights praying over them. But one of the things that I realized with one of my sons is that you’ve got to keep loving them. Don’t resist them, no matter what sin they may get into.

One night we sat down and told a couple of our older sons our past. I didn’t want my kids to know my past because it wasn’t pretty. I had rebelled against God when I was in college. And when I told them that, I felt so dirty because I wanted them to think that their mother just always loved Jesus.

One of our sons, the one that has struggled probably the most, came to us crying about 1:30 in the morning and got on his knees and said, “I am so grateful that you shared with me your struggles because now I don’t think you’re perfect, and I can share with you my struggles.” And that has opened up a whole new relationship with him. He’s twenty-eight years old, and he doesn’t do anything without calling his dad and saying, “What do you think I should do?” because he knows we’re there for him, because he knows we’re not perfect, and because he knows that we are going to love him through this and that Jesus will always be there for Him.

So I’d encourage you maybe just to confirm your love for them. I think sometimes we want our kids to be better than we were, and so we set a lot of expectations on them. I’ve realized I’ve got to take my hands off, stop manipulating, and just let Jesus work in their lives.

Mary Madeline Whittinghall: We had a time in our family—a year and a half—that we date our life from. Probably most people in here have had a time where you date your life from—what happened before that time and after that time. During about a year and a half, first of all our precious daughter came to me while I was in South America and said, “Mom, I really need to talk to you.” I’ve always had a very close relationship with all of our children. She told me that she was pregnant. It’s the kind of thing that socks you in the stomach. But the Lord poured out His grace on me and peace in the most supernatural way.

I just instantly forgave her. I felt such a deep, deep peace of God and trust in God. Then the process began of was she going to marry this man and what did God have? It was a huge process. I didn’t want it to really be a process. I wanted it to be a dramatic overnight, we had this and now it’s over. It’s all settled, and it’s fixed. It was a process, but God led so specifically.

We fought in prayer for our girl. During that same year when she was twenty-four weeks pregnant, she started hemorrhaging. She had our precious grandson in another city and state at age nineteen at twenty-four weeks. She was marooned in another city for three months while her baby was in ICU. They were deep waters of our lives.

Two months later we found out that our precious oldest son had cancer at age twenty-three, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My father also had lung cancer and emphysema during this year and a half; that takes your breath away. God poured out His grace and peace on me in the deepest way, and built my faith as I tasted of His presence in the deepest way ever. He proved Himself so faithful like He always, always does. But He gives us grace to the measure of our trial. Now my trial was bigger, so I experienced His grace in a bigger way.

I tell my daughter all the time she’s like an extreme makeover. She is such a truly godly wife and mother. She blesses me so deeply. And my precious little grandson, God’s hand is so mightily upon his life. He has his grandmother’s heart for sure.

Nancy: Kim, your story is a little different in that it’s still being written. How do you keep hanging onto the Lord?

Kim Butts: Lots of prayer. We know that God is going to be victorious in the midst of all of this. We know that God is not going to waste anything. And we tell our son—who by the way we have a very good relationship with, who now is calling us and asking us to pray for things; that’s huge. For seventeen years we’ve been praying for him. He was the type of kid where every time you’d thought he’d hit bottom, he would grab a shovel and dig deeper.

We tell him—and I’m speaking and praying this into his life over and over and over again—"Ron, you’re going to have a testimony to people that we cannot even talk to. God is going to use what you’ve been through for His glory." And he receives that, and that’s a huge thing, too. So it’s come a long, long way. There’s a long, long way to go.

But God . . . and I could just end there. But God. And we trust that. I really believe that he does, too.

Nancy: It’s interesting to see as you’re in process with these issues—and I’ve seen this with some other friends—how God brings beauty out of even the process before you can even see the end result, before the change has been made.

I’ve been talking and praying with a mom who has three young adult children who are struggling with different major issues, and a family that has really sought to love the Lord and to walk with Him. This was not the script that they would have written.

But I see what God is doing in that mom’s life, what God is doing in her marriage, and she can’t see the outcome yet. The children’s hearts have not been turned yet. But in the process God is sanctifying her and giving her joy even through her tears. It’s been a beautiful thing to see. We think we’d like to have all that great work of grace in our lives, but we don’t want to go through the mess that is sometimes involved in getting there.

Mary Madeline: If everything is good and perfect all the time, how does He do a work in us?

Sue Paulus: Well, I think that’s what part of my process, your process is. Because you’re in ministry, you want everything to appear all is well. But just be willing to deal with that pride and be willing to admit, whether it’s in marriage or with kids, that we have a need and find someone to go to. It took for us even going to our kids at different times and humbling ourselves and asking forgiveness for ways that we failed as parents.

Engage and enlist other people to pray for your kids. That has been a huge thing for us to have people come alongside of you and help lift up your arms as you walk through those days. It’s a huge blessing.

Tex: One of the things Dave said is that we pray that God will bring people across his path because sometimes he wasn’t listening to us. And it’s amazing how He’s done that. So that would be another thing I would say is to let other people pray that God would use other people to speak into their lives.

Debby: That’s a prayer we’ve prayed also

Nancy: There would be no need for the gospel if there were no messes. I’ve just been reflecting today on the mercy that God has had on me, and that’s the mercy He wants to flow through my life to others. Somehow I’m much more bothered by the fact that other people’s lives are messy than I am about my own mess.

One of the things I’ve seen God doing in this mom who’s a friend of mine is, God opening her eyes and her heart to see her own need. And not just to come back and say, “I failed as a parent,” because they did a lot of things right as parents. The enemy wants to put you on a guilt trip where you shouldn’t be, and he wants to make you not take responsibility where you should be.

So to say, “Lord, it’s not just my children who need You. It’s not just my husband; it’s not just the other people in our ministry; I need You. I need Your grace. I want to deal with others in the same compassionate and tender and merciful and gracious and longsuffering way that You have dealt with me.”

That’s what I see in these mother’s hearts and in other mothers. But I hope that you’ve been encouraged to hear something out of these women’s lives and to know that wherever you are in your marriage, in your parenting, perhaps some who aren’t married but serving the Lord with different challenges that are unique to being in the ministry. I hope that you’re encouraged by the reminder, and maybe underlying everything we’ve said today is the reminder that God is sovereign, and God is good, and God is faithful.

Let me just close with this quote. I’ve used it so many times because it just seems to apply to so many different situations that we’ve talked about today and others that I hear about. But I remember hearing a number of years ago John Piper—it was a Mother’s Day message and his message was on the suffering of motherhood. And motherhood does involve suffering. Marriage involves suffering. Ministry involves suffering. Walking with Christ involves suffering.

He made this comment that has stuck with me over so many years; it applies to everything. He said, “In every situation in our lives, God is always doing a thousand different things that we cannot see and we do not know.” I’ve been so encouraged by that because sometimes we can see two or three things here that God’s doing or here’s something else I can see God has in mind, but so much of it is mystery. The reminder that God is always at work, He’s always there, and He’s always doing not just one or two or three things but a thousand things that we cannot see and we do not know.

That’s when we bow the knee, and we bow our hearts, and we say, “Lord, though our eyes are filled with tears, if You never explain it to me, if You never solve it and fix it and tie it all off with a nice, neat bow in my lifetime or ever; whatever glorifies You most, I trust that You are God, that You are good, that You are sovereign, that You are wise, and that You are faithful."

In that way really we do what John Wesley said, which is our goal in life, to give the world a right impression of God. The way we’re responding to these momentary light afflictions—they don’t feel momentary; they don’t feel light, but in light of eternity, they are. The way that we respond to those challenges, to that imperfect husband, that needy child, that unsolvable situation, that perplexing dilemma . . . the way we respond to those challenges is always giving others an opinion of God.

And as they look at how we respond, do we adorn the gospel? Do we make it believable? Do we make them say, “Wow I’m struggling too, but she makes me believe there’s a God I can trust, there’s a God that’s good.” Or do we make God out to be a hard and unreasonable task master.

I look at my responses sometimes and I think, “Who would want to serve God if they’re watching how I’m responding to these pressures?” The goal is that we will adorn the gospel, that we will make Him believable, and that others in their need, in their messes, in their desperation will find hope and grace because they see us not perfect at all but responding to those challenges of life with faith and humility and even joy. Joy.

You said it Kim. Don’t lose your joy.

Kim: And gratitude.

Nancy: We have a book on that subject!

Sue: I’ve been reading Nancy’s new book on gratitude and there’s a quote in there.

Nancy: I don’t know if I want to hear this. I’ve been preaching to myself through that book. It’s haunting me that I have to now live these things I said in that book. Tell me what I said.

Sue: It’s to be able to say thank you amidst the situation. And I know God brought me to a point in that with our son. And to be able to say thank You Lord for this. One of the things in this gratitude book is undeniable guilt, (all of us are there) undeserving grace, but yet having unbridled gratitude. And I’m just so challenged by that to be able to say thank You Lord.

Mary Madeline: I think one quick Scripture too that really sticks with me that I was thinking of when you said that is 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And everyone’s always asking what God’s will is. Didn’t He just tell us? Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. It doesn’t mean we have to give thanks for them, but in them, in the midst of them.

So if we hold onto those things knowing they’re God’s will, we’ll be joyful, we’ll pray continually, and we’ll give thanks and have gratitude.

Nancy: And walk in hope because the final chapter hasn’t been written and God is doing a thousand different things that we cannot see and we do not know. Thank you ladies for sharing out of your lives and thank you for being faithful in the race, faithful in the fight. I hope that something that has been shared today will motivate you to pray for one or more of these ladies that God puts on your heart.

But I’d like us to just take a moment and pray for each other in light of the things that we’ve just shared.

Lord, only You know the burdens that are being carried by women here on the platform and women in this audience today. We’ve shared some things, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. We all have challenges. There are some women here carrying some very deep, deep burdens and heartaches and some who think everything is going pretty well right now, but just around the corner is something they have no idea of, something they would have never scripted. But You’ve scripted it.

They’re going to get home in a day or a week or a month or a year from now and find out the bottom of their world has fallen out. So Lord, I pray that You’d encourage and strengthen and give hope and fortitude and perseverance, not just bearing up but triumphantly bearing up by Your grace.

I pray that You’d give the grace to be honest to speak truth, to speak it with grace and to speak it in love. I pray for prodigals and for moms and grandmoms here whose hearts are broken over wayward sons and daughters. I pray that You would intervene in their lives oh Lord, that You would shine the light and cause them to see the gospel, the glorious gospel and the face of Jesus Christ. You’re the one who said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And some of these we love are walking in darkness.

Lord we’d do anything we could to change that, but You’re the only one who can change it. So would You do it Lord? Would You intervene? Would You give tailor made grace? And would You be the God of all hope, the God of all comfort, the God of all grace, and the God of all peace to that woman who is hurting so deeply.

And Lord, thank You for the privilege of being called and set apart for ministry. Help us not to forget that it really is a privilege. In the hard times, the times when we feel so vulnerable, so exposed, so alone in our particular challenge, help us to remember that this really is a privilege, and that it’s a gift from You.

So keep us faithful, faithful in the race, faithful in the fight, faithful all the way to the finish line. May our lives give the world, to those around us, to our family, to our friends, to our colleagues in our ministries, to those we serve, may our lives give them a right impression of You. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with a group of women in ministry. We heard from Sue Paulus, Mary Madeline Whittinghall, Tex Tippit, Kim Butts, and Debby Canfield. Today’s program shows that all marriages and families face a lot of pressures. I hope that conversation encourages you to persevere through the challenges you’re facing.

If the pace of life keeps speeding up the way it always seems to do, 2013 is going to be an even busier year than 2012. But we invite you to make 2013 a year of greater peace.

Here’s how. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a new devotional book called The Quiet Place. It’s a daily devotional with 366 entries, so the beginning of the year is the perfect time to start this book.  Each day, one of these devotionals will help you get rid of the distractions and enjoy the quiet of being alone with the Lord.

To order The Quiet Place, visit

Today you’ll keep hearing the phrase, “Happy New Year.”  But how can you turn that greeting into reality?

Tomorrow, Nancy will show you how.  She begins a new series on Psalm 1 called, How to Have a Happy New Year. I hope you’ll be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.