Dear Parent of the Prodigal,
I can’t imagine the pain you carry on a daily basis. I am sure you will never give up on your child and you will continue to fight and wait for the day they will return.
You continually pray for your wayward child and the decisions they make. You continue to be hopeful in the midst of your desperation. However, if you are being honest with yourself, you may admit that you are weary, exhausted, and discouraged because of the unanswered prayers. The combination of emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion has often brought you to a place of hopelessness and wondering if they will ever come back to the Lord.
To see your child make destructive decision after decision has to be an unbearable feeling. I am sure you are haunted by self-doubt about the way you raised your child. You may even find yourself wondering if and what you did wrong to make them choose the path they chose. Truth is you may even beat yourself up and carry shame and guilt, feeling as if you are responsible for the way they are living their lives right now.
I am so sorry you feel crushed when you experience glimpses of hope from them, only to be left disappointed when they repeat their old patterns. I am sorry for the pain and shame you carry. I know you have heard it all, the encouragement, the verses; these do not negate the reality of the pain. As your brother in Christ I would like to offer an attempt at encouraging you during this time.
Here are several things I would like to share with you.
1. Don’t Blame Yourself.
The enemy wants to capitalize on the thoughts of self-deprivation, self-blame and self-doubt. He wants nothing more than for you to carry and shoulder a burden you were never meant to carry. You will literally have to take every thought captive as Paul said and not believe the self-deprecating thoughts. Fight against those and replace them with the truth. When you blame yourself, you give yourself more power than you really have. I’ll explain this in my next point.
2. Remember God Loves Them More.
This will be hard to hear, or it may bring you encouragement, but God loves your child more than you do. He loves them so much that He wouldn’t give you complete sovereignty over their lives. He keeps that for Himself.
There is no guarantee of the path our children will take. As Christians we pray for the life our child will have, the friends they make, and how they live their lives, but ultimately, they are His creation, His masterpiece, and His to manage. I am not trying to give you an out, I am trying to bring proper perspective of who really is in charge. Whether you are or were the best or the worst parent, your child is still loved more by God.
3. Don’t Remind Them.
Don’t remind your child about their downfalls every chance you get. Our natural instinct as parents is to want to correct where they have gone wrong. I’m sure they have heard it from you and others a thousand times. This only exacerbates the feeling of being judged, criticized, and not accepted. Eventually they will grow distant and not want to come around in fear of being reminded of their failures. Give it a break and just try loving them.
4. Love Them Well.
Sometimes loving them well means not continuing to remind them of their failures. Loving them well is meeting them where they are even when you don’t agree. Sometimes Christians think that if we love them, then that means we are condoning the way they are living. Absolutely not! That is a lie from the enemy to get believers not to love like Christ. How long do you do this? Until Christ comes back!
5. Pray and Trust.
There is a misconception out there that if God hasn’t answered then He must not be listening. Just because God hasn’t answered your prayer doesn’t mean He didn’t hear your plea. Pray without ceasing also means trusting that He heard.
I hope and pray that this can bring you some encouragement today. My desire is that you are reminded of a sovereign God who sits on the throne and is still in love with your child!