Tuesday, April 14, 2015

There but for the Grace of God...

Years ago I regularly met with a small group of women to pray for our collective children.  We called that time Hannah's Hour, and often we grieved and cried over our children as much as Hannah lamented before God that she had no child.  We could see vividly the spiritual, emotional, and physical dangers that lay before our little ones and we prayed a hedge about them.  Now, that the years are past, I find myself praying with other women over our children via the internet.  Not all, but many, in one way or another are bearing the burden of a prodigal child and my heart breaks with them as I watch these teen or adult children spiral downward, making painfully harmful life decisions that can bring death and destruction. 
As a young parent, it can be easy to believe that if we bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that they will not stray.  It is also all too easy to believe that parents of wayward teens have in some way spoiled or neglected their children.  Through the years, God has repeatedly shown me that this is not necessarily true.  Time and again I have seen that the parents of prodigals, more often than not, have indeed sought to raise their children right before God.  These are families that were not only strong in their faith, but they also deeply loved and nurtured their children, teaching them gently from God's Word at every turn.  So what happened?  What about God's promise?
Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle that holds true, but it is not an all inclusive promise with which to box in God.  Look at the Garden of Eden....God was the perfect "parent" and yet we not only disobeyed, but we also tried to blame God for our disobedience.  Was God at fault? No!  Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for churning out perfect kids, even if we are faithful and follow God's Word.  God is the only one who can break the power of reigning sin.
The good news is that this season for our lives is not the end of the story.  Again, God is both the author and the finisher of our faith and theirs.  Jesus will not lose any that the Father has given to Him.  From our earthly perspective, it may seem as though all is lost, but when we view all of eternity and keep our eyes of God rather than our present circumstances we are better able to see God's hand on us every step of the way.
If you know the parent of a prodigal, please do not be hasty to judge them.  There but for the grace of God, go I.  Pray for them as this is most likely the hardest, darkest season of their lives.  Do not ask them "why" questions or probe for any details that have not been freely offered.  Listen and pray...a LOT.
If you know the prodigal, pray for them as well.  Be loving without being enabling.  Teach with your life more than your words.  Be available and be ready for very tough and real questions. Point them to God without trying to be the Holy Spirit.
If you are the parent of a prodigal, again...pray.  Never, never quit praying.  Be prepared to receive your child with love when they do return, realizing that it may be a long way off or may come in small steps.  Remember the parable of the prodigal son?  The father saw his son a long way off and ran to him.  Again, be loving but not enabling; this is a tough tightrope at times.  Seek prayer from older Christians who are strong in the Lord.  You might be surprised just how many of them have navigated this same road in years gone by.  If you encounter criticism and condemnation rather than support, move on until you find the help you need. 
If you are the prodigal, run home and run hard after God. Even if you fear your family will not embrace you as the father in the parable of the prodigal, remember that your Heavenly Father is faithful to forgive you when you confess your sins. It is not too late and you are not too far gone for hope or God's love.  Pray and ask others to pray.  If you can find no one to pray or fear confiding in others, I am here; feel free to message me.  Run home and run hard after God.  You ARE loved.