This message was written by Francis' daughter Joy in 1995. It has been part of our In Christ's Image Training Prayer track since 2002. We felt that this would be a special blessing to some of you right now. Currently, Joy and her husband, Steve, have two children of their own. She is a successful businesswoman who continues to be an immense blessing to her parents.
No one can tell me that fathers and daughters can't have close relationships, or even become best friends. People are almost envious of the love my dad and I share. The only time we argue is about who loves who the most. But our relationship was not always this warm. There was a time when I felt I had lost my ability to love my father. I was a teenage Christian in a public high school. My Christian background made me different. I was new, craving acceptance. My father's rules seemed to be the source of my rejections.
Fueled by my insecurities, in my eyes my dad became the root of my problems. While I set an adequate standard and struggled to live by it, he was strict. I was angry because he refused to back down from the standard he knew was right. He refused to appeal to my ignorance in order to keep my acceptance.
Things were going from bad to worse during those years. We hit bottom the day I looked him square in the eyes and told him that I hated him. They were harsh words, but it was a hard time. I didn't really hate him. I hated me. I felt I wasn't bad enough to be accepted by my friends and not good enough to be accepted at home. When these feelings take over your life, you search for something---anything---to blame. I chose my father. He carried the blunt of my pain. He even became my enemy.
In my heart I knew I didn't hate him. I was angry and confused. I felt he wasn't concerned with how I felt. It seemed he had made no room for compromise with my situation. He risked losing my love to save my soul.
It was a hard time for us both. He suffered the pain of rejection as I did. He suffered the hurt and the loss, but from a different angle. His fear of the Lord withstood his fear of pain. He loved me, but he had a higher obligation than my favor and my approval. I'm sure at times he wondered if he was doing the right thing. There must of been times when he felt like his prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back at his feet.
At times I'm sure he considered lowering his standards. It would have made things so much easier than wrestling with the power of an independent, strong-willed child. These considerations may have come, but he never gave in to them. He stood firm and prayed harder.
The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16 KJV). Many times he cried out to the Lord in anguish and in frustration. "What have I done wrong?" My father has a wonderful ministry to God in prayer. I think I had something to do with the character God worked in him during those days. Before he ever prayed for cities and nations he was on his face praying for me.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). That verse was a promise that he would hold on to. "Your sons and daughters will prophesy" was another promise he stood upon (Joel 2:28). He had given me to the Lord, set a godly standard and held God to His word.
At the same time, I was wrestling with my salvation. My desire to be accepted by my non-Christian friends at school warred against my desire to be with the Lord. James speaks of a double-minded person being unstable in all of their ways (James 1:8). I was completely unstable. I walked on a line between Heaven and hell. I wanted the best of both worlds and was satisfied in neither.
Although I had been brought up in the church, the world had taken its toll on me. My eyes had been blinded to the sin in my own life, further separating me from God and parents. It was so hard for me to see my way out.
When a child is brought up in a Christian home, regardless of what may happen, there is a seed that has been planted in their heart that continues to grow. It's an amazing seed because it can grow in the dark without water; it can even bloom in adversity. The reason we can never outrun God is because He is that seed growing within us. Once you have tasted the presence of the Lord, nothing satisfies you like He can. Sometimes those who seem to be running the hardest from God are doing so because He is so close to them.
On the outside my witness was weak and I was in bondage to my unsaved friends. But inside my heart cried for oneness with the Lord. I hated my double-mindedness as much as my father did. My whole life I wanted strong Christian friends to save the world with me. I wanted the support, I just never had it. I did the best I could, but I lost my sensitivity to sin, and the more I was with non-Christian people the more deceived I became.
Paul warns us to not be deceived: "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousnes?" (2 Cor. 6:14). I didn't realize the impact my unsaved friends had on me. The more I was with them the more I conformed to them. When I look back, I know, unless my parents had been praying for me, I would have been on my way to hell.
Sin has a way of moving in and taking control. But "love is as strong as death" and "many waters cannot quench love" (Song of Sol. 8:6,7); "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). And prayer is the highest power through which love is released. I had to relearn how to love. My love had become completely self-centered and conditional. I had failed to realize that my father and my Lord loved me unconditionally. I had only to try. I had only to bridge the communication gap to understand that God had loved me before I was even aware of His standards. And my dad loved me for me alone, not for something I had to become.
My relationship with my father is wonderful, and that's the truth. God has proven faithful in the working of both our lives. The Lord has bridged the gap and filled it with love. It took me leaving my environment and being planted with Christian people who faithfully loved me. It also took my will to change, but it did happen.
Listen, please don't give up on your teenagers. Don't sacrifice God's standards of righteousness to appeal to their carnal nature. They can't respect you for it and God won't honor it. Your children were not consecrated to Satan; they were dedicated to the Lord. He has had His hand on them and He will not forget them. He has heard your prayers and He is faithful to your cries. He is your God.
Prayer works. I'm living proof of it. I look back now and see how many times nothing but the miraculous dedication of loving parents took me out of hopeless situations. The Lord will not forsake His children. He will not turn His back on them. We are never too far from His reach. Believe the promises of the Lord. He is not a liar. He honors a steadfast heart. Hold on. Your children will come back to the Lord.