Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28

Amelia was an ideal student.

Teachers at the Christian school she attended loved her enthusiastic approach to learning. Her peers respected her insights. Her parents were proud of her. She was a standard bearer – someone who certainly would not stray from her beliefs or standards.

But, as a college student, Amelia did stray.

At first it was out of curiosity. However, she enjoyed what she experienced on the “dark side.” She found the pursuits to be fun and she delighted in feeling free without restraint. Surprisingly she also felt relief. Gone was the need to prove her worth and value in her Christian community. Gone was the pressure to strive for God. Away from the church, she found acceptance without having to work for it and she found herself actually relaxing. She was not about to go back under the stress she had previously felt trying to live up to what she believed was expected of her.

I hear many “Amelia” stories today.

While her name is changed, her story is real and represents many young men and women who leave Christian homes for college and wind up walking away from their faith and values.

However, the happiness she first experienced, as well as the feelings of freedom and relief, were short-lived.

Instead she found herself in a nightmarish prison, one filled with fear, despair, insecurity, and shame. Her new friends had no solutions to the discouragement that invaded her heart. Deep feelings of unworthiness prevented her from seeking restoration with her family. Nothing in her new way of life had actually satisfied her deepest needs. Now regret and desperation were daily companions.
The truth is none of us will be able to satisfy our heart’s deepest yearnings outside of Christ. Worldly counterfeits entice but the fulfillment they offer is short lived.

Why is it that so many Christian young people try to satisfy the needs of their heart outside the church? What can we do to keep them from leaving? How do we encourage them back?

These are questions that I will address in the next blog. These are questions being discussed in a book my husband and I are working on that we are super excited about. (As a result we need to build our Facebook audience — so we would really appreciate it if you liked our familywings facebook page. Thanks!)
It starts with regularly feeding our kids the true message of the gospel and not moralism, of encouraging them to live from God – and not for God. If our children fail to comprehend where their spiritual strength comes from, they are likely to grow weary of trying to hold on to their faith, especially in a secular culture that presses them to let go of their values.

Why do so many college students wind up with a deep seated disdain for Christianity?  

Perhaps many, like Amelia, sincerely did try but never experienced Christ’s rest nor His life-giving power in their years within the Christian community.
Amelia’s story does not end here. Thankfully, today she is on a path to healing and restoration. It has not been easy but I am confident she will finally find wholeness in Christ.
NEXT BLOG: thoughts and tips on what parents can do to combat this trend.