Each time I talk to a mom or a dad whose family is experiencing significant difficulty, I want to tell them this story as an encouragement…

Towards the end of my senior year in high school I considered what it would be like to become an atheist. This was a significant topic of thought for me because I was seriously wondering if atheism was the right way. Fairly quickly after starting college I decided that it wasn’t, and I haven’t really doubted my faith since.

This decision to stay in the faith was based on two factors – one of them was mind oriented, the other heart oriented. The Mind factor was this: In high school it had seemed to me (somewhat incorrectly) that all of the bright people were atheists and the Christians were those who didn’t really think things through. This opinion went out the window a couple weeks into my time at Bethel, a Christian college, when I saw proof to the fact that there were indeed many extraordinarily intelligent Christians.

That was the first factor. As I say, the second factor informing my decision was a heart factor – so yes, I’m admitting to the fact that this one was less logic based. But it came down to this: One of the most important reasons I didn’t leave my faith was that I really didn’t want to. I wanted to stay. Here’s the main reason why –

When I was ten our family went through a significant crisis – my dad was diagnosed with leukemia, he was treated and in and out of the hospital for 18 months, and died right before I finished the fifth grade

And during those 18 months, and in the months after my dad died, my church, Calvary Baptist, supported our family with meals, and kid-sitting, and love and prayer and more meals and more prayer. I remember my mom saying she could feel the effects of their prayers even as my dad was not doing well in the hospital.

Seven years later, as a doubting high school senior was convicted by the thought that I did not want to walk away from that kind of good, that kind of benefit, that kind of blessing.

I can’t be the only one who experienced a thought pattern like that. So …

To the dads and moms of Christian families in crisis I say this:

I know there are many bad things that are happening as a result of this hard walk that God has chosen for you. But maybe here’s one good thing: Maybe the love and support that you are getting from your church will be remembered by your children when they are growing up and considering if following Christ is worth it. Perhaps it will help them “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” that they are hearing in your church.

To the dads and moms who aren’t in a church:

Certainly there are some more important reasons to become involved with a local body – corporate worship, service in the work of God, encouraged salvation and sanctification. But you can’t discredit this potential good: If (some might say when) crisis happens to your family, you won’t be alone. You will have people praying for you and loving you and providing for you and helping with the logistical issues that all crises bring. I fear for families who have to go through these hard times alone.

And to churches with families in crisis I ask:

Are you helping them? Are you giving time and resources and grocery store gift cards to them? Are you staying up late praying with them? Are you watching their kids as they make another hospital trip? Are you encouraging them with God’s words for them in the Bible? You better be. That’s what God wants you to be doing.

And if you do so, you can have the hope that maybe five or ten or fifteen years down the road there will be another young man or woman who finds themselves thinking, “If I leave God, then I must leave his church, and why would I want to do that?”