Young People Ask . . .
What if My Parents Don’t Support Me in My Faith?
MANY Christian youths have parents who are unbelievers. “I am the only one that studies the Bible in my family,” says one 12-year-old girl. “And my mom wants me to stop studying it.” Others have parents who fail to take the lead spiritually. These circumstances can be a real test for a sincere youngster wanting to serve God.
Trying to be a true Christian without the help and encouragement of one’s parents is difficult. But you can succeed! Numerous examples, both past and present, prove that.
Faithful Youths in Bible Times
Consider Abel, son of the first human pair, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve should have given their children perfect spiritual support. But they rebelled and turned their backs on Jehovah, leaving their children to fend for themselves religiously. Rather than feeling sorry for himself or allowing his parents’ lack of spirituality to dampen his own appreciation for sacred things, Abel apparently learned what he could about the Creator. Jehovah communicated with Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, and Abel developed a relationship with God and grew up to be a man of faith. “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous.”—Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 4:2-15.
Josiah is another example of a youth who had to do without parental religious support. His father, King Amon of Judah, was assassinated when Josiah was but eight years old. While alive, King Amon had “proceeded to do what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, just as Manasseh his father had done; and to all the graven images that Manasseh his father had made Amon sacrificed, and he continued serving them. . . . Amon was one that made guiltiness increase.” (2 Chronicles 33:22, 23) Imagine, therefore, the demoralizing spiritual atmosphere that Amon’s son Josiah would have grown up in.
Yet, Josiah “proceeded to do what was right in Jehovah’s eyes and walk in the ways of David his forefather . . . He started to search for the God of David his forefather; and in the twelfth year [at about age 20] he started to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem from the high places and the sacred poles and the graven images and the molten statues.”—2 Chronicles 34:2-4.
How did Josiah develop such strength without the help of a father? He got support from other spiritual men, such as high priest Hilkiah and his secretary Shaphan. Their positive spiritual influence on young Josiah helped him to “carry out the words of the law.” (2 Kings 23:24; 2 Chronicles 34:14-19) That Law required the kings to make a personal copy of it and to study it day and night. (Deuteronomy 17:18; Joshua 1:8) Doing so no doubt greatly contributed to Josiah’s spiritual growth.
Finding Support Today
You too can grow spiritually, even if you are not receiving the support you’d like to get from your parents. Support can often be obtained from spiritual brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Mark 10:30) There may be some spiritually-minded youths in the congregation you can befriend. Or there may be some older Witnesses who will take an interest in you. For example, one fatherless teenager by the name of Jerry was invited by a congregation elder to accompany him on a home Bible study. After the study, they would often have a bite to eat in a fast-food restaurant and talk. “He became like a father to me,” Jerry recalls. Today Jerry is married and serves as a ministerial servant. He is ever grateful for the support that elder gave him.
Have any older ones offered to assist you in some way? Then why not respond positively? And if no one has made such an offer, take some initiative to cultivate healthy relationships. You might even try approaching one of the local congregation overseers. Perhaps you need someone to conduct a home Bible study with you or to help you in preparing assignments for the Theocratic Ministry School.a Or you may simply be in need of some wholesome family association. Understandably, you may feel nervous about making your needs known in this way. But remember, congregation elders have been appointed to care for the spiritual needs of everyone in the congregation—including the young people. (1 Peter 5:2) They can be a real help.
Cultivating Support at Home
Does this mean, then, that there is nothing you can do to improve the situation at home? Not at all. Take young Joe, for example. He describes the amount of spiritual support given by his unbelieving parents as “limited.” Yet, Joe admits that he may actually have contributed to their lack of support. How so? Well, it seems that when Joe first began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he did little to apply what he learned to his personal life. So he continued to disobey his parents. Naturally, they saw little reason to study the Bible themselves, much less encourage more Bible study on his part.
What about you? If your parents are unbelievers, do your actions give them reason to believe that you are serious about wanting to serve God? Christian wives are told to win over their unbelieving husbands by their fine conduct. Could your parents likewise be “won without a word” if you were more obedient and respectful toward them? (1 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 6:1-3) If so, would they not be more likely to support you?
What, though, if your parents are Christians but not doing all they should to help and encourage you? Whatever their reason, you can do much to promote a healthy spiritual atmosphere in your home by setting a good example. (1 Timothy 4:12) When it’s time to attend Christian meetings, be dressed and ready to go. Volunteer to take on some extra family chores so that your parents can likewise be ready in time. Who knows? Perhaps your enthusiasm for meetings will rub off.
Are your parents conducting a weekly home Bible study with you? If not, why not in a kindly way, not nagging or complaining, ask them to do so. When the study is held, don’t make them have to work hard to get comments from you; be thoroughly prepared to participate. Do your part in making it an enjoyable occasion. Thank them for having the study. This may very well give your folks the needed encouragement to hold the study regularly.
What if there is little response to your efforts? Do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) Openly express your love for God and the Bible’s truth. Do not lose your zeal or sense of urgency in helping others to learn about God. Continue ‘building up yourself on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit.’ (Jude 20) A youth named Laverne is doing just that. “I’ve decided not to let my father hinder me from learning the truth,” she says. “So I study The Watchtower on my own instead of watching TV.b I also read a Bible text every morning. I am able to get into the preaching work by going out with other Christian brothers and sisters.”
Show the same determination. Do not let a lack of support at home discourage you. Stay strong in your convictions. If possible, draw close to spiritually-minded peers and older ones in the congregation. But with or without support, be determined to maintain your friendship with God. You can count on him for support.—Compare Psalm 119:116.
a For information on the Theocratic Ministry School, see the article “How Can Christian Meetings Help Me?” in the July 8, 1991, Awake!
b The Watchtower is the companion magazine to Awake! It can be obtained by writing the publishers of this magazine.
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Mature members of the congregation can help out by taking an interest in you