There are a few common reasons why some people don’t turn to God or pursue faith until later in life:
1. They are focused on worldly pursuits
When people are young, they tend to be very focused on building their careers, finding romance and adventure, achieving worldly goals, and enjoying earthly pleasures. They feel like they have plenty of time to think about spiritual matters later. As Ecclesiastes 11:9 says, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”
Some get so caught up in worldly affairs that they don’t slow down enough to contemplate eternal matters until their youth has passed and midlife approaches. At that point, some start to question if they’re really happy or if there is more to life than temporal pleasures. Hebrews 11:24-25 notes that “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
2. They don’t think they need God
When people are young and healthy, they often feel self-sufficient and invincible. They may feel like they don’t need God’s help or salvation, and that their own abilities are enough. But as they get older and start experiencing health issues, career setbacks, loneliness, or the loss of loved ones, some realize they aren’t in control and need God’s help and comfort.
Psalm 30:6-7 describes this reliance on God that can develop later in life: “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.”
3. They are resisting due to rebellion
Some people, especially when they are young, intentionally rebel against religious upbringings. They want to find their own way in life and so they avoid or reject the faith of their parents or youth. But as they mature, some recognize the emptiness of a solely pleasure-focused, materialistic lifestyle. They see friends struggling with purposelessness or despair. Over time, their rebellious resistance softens, and they become more open to considering faith.
The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 illustrates this story. The young son rebels and leaves his father to live a self-indulgent life. But after losing everything he realizes his mistake and returns home, where the father welcomes him back.
4. They haven’t encountered hardships before
When life is going smoothly, some don’t feel any urgency to seek God. But when they eventually encounter a crisis such as a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a layoff, or a broken relationship, it jolts them into confronting their need for God’s comfort and support. Their suffering creates spiritual openness that wasn’t there before.
The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 illustrates this response. After being healed from leprosy by the prophet Elisha, Naaman proclaims, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.” His life-changing hardship drew him to God.
5. They realize time on earth is limited
As people enter middle age and beyond, they start recognizing their mortality more. Seeing friends and family members getting sick and dying leads some to ponder what will happen after death – and in their afterlife if they don’t get right with God first. The realization that time is limited creates a sense of urgency to turn to faith before it’s too late.
Psalm 90:10 describes the ephemeral nature of life: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” This motivates some to stop putting off faith.
6. Peer influence lessens
In youth, peer pressure can make some resistant to faith. They allow friends’ skepticism or secular lifestyles to rub off on them. But as they get older, move, change jobs, and see peers struggle, they may no longer feel inhibited or intimidated about pursuing spirituality on their own.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 notes the power of influence from companions, for better or worse. Some don’t question negative influences until later in life.
7. Priorities shift
When people are young, they may be very focused on boosting their status, wealth, and fun experiences. But age and life events often shift people’s priorities to valuing relationships, personal fulfillment, and spiritual growth more. Having children, especially, motivates some parents to connect more with faith so they can pass values onto their kids.
Mark 8:36 poses an important life question: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” As priorities change with age, some recognize earthly gain means little without spiritual health.
8. Cognitive abilities mature
Younger people tend to think more concretely and less abstractly. Their brains are still developing higher-level thinking skills. But research shows cognitive maturation continues into the late 20s. As people gain more complex perspective-taking and critical thinking skills, some apply those abilities to better evaluate faith claims and make more informed decisions about belief.
1 Corinthians 13:11 acknowledges this developmental growth: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” For some, a more mature intellect facilitates faith development.
9. They crave meaning and purpose
When people are young, satisfaction often comes from excitement, pleasure, and worldly accomplishments. But as they get older, some feel a gnawing sense of emptiness as those sources of meaning prove fleeting. Some become more open to faith later as a way to discover deeper purpose and connection with God.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 describes this discontentment: “”Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Seeking meaning is an important catalyst for faith.
10. They see faith working for others
Some remain skeptical or indifferent to faith until they see its transformative impact on others’ lives firsthand. Watching loved ones find hope, purpose, community, and peace through their beliefs motivates some people to give faith a chance. Their eyes are opened to the positive ways God changes lives.
Jesus spoke about the powerful example set by believers in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Observing faith benefits in others’ lives provides living proof.
The testimonies of those around us play a major role in drawing people to God – no matter what age they finally embrace belief.
In summary, there are many reasons why some people do not prioritize or pursue faith until later stages of life:
- Focus on worldly goals and pleasures
- Feelings of self-sufficiency
- Rebellion against religious upbringing
- Lack of hardship to create spiritual openness
- Denial of mortality
- Negative peer influences
- Different priorities and values
- Immature cognitive abilities
- Emptiness and lack of meaning/purpose
- No exposure to faith benefits
But the good news is, it’s never too late to turn to God. He promises in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” The parables of the prodigal son and the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) show that God warmly welcomes all who come to Him, regardless of age or past wrongdoing. He forgives generously and finds great joy when people accept the gift of salvation, whether as children or on their deathbeds.
If you or a loved one have put off faith over the years, take heart that God’s arms are still open. His timing is perfect, and He can bless and transform lives at any age. Be encouraged to draw close to the Lord who created you and knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). It’s never too late to begin a relationship with Him!