The Heartbreak of a Prodigal
Founder, Refined Family
Kerry Tittle is a mother of 10 children and a 20+-year homeschool veteran. She is the founder of Refined Family. Her desire is to honor Christ while comforting others with the comfort she has received from the Lord.
H. G. "Butch" Walker
Butch and his wife Karaña are friends of the Tittles. Butch is certified by the Association for Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC)
There is just something gut wrenching about seeing a weeping mother begging for salvation on behalf of a child. Whether the child is young or an adult the experience is equally as painful. Sometimes the very words, “I will pray for you” can hurt worse when it seems your own prayers have been ineffective.
Though we probably wouldn’t verbalize it, we definitely want to take the control out of God’s hands. If God would just let us have jurisdiction over the spiritual lives of our children, we could avoid so much hurt.
The most dire issue is the disconnect they have from God, but there are also factors that can drain even the strongest believer: the embarrassment that it brings on the family, the tensions it causes in relationships, the example it sets for younger siblings and quite possibly the hardest is the judgers that are certain your parenting plays a huge role in the issue.
Regardless of the severity of the sin, all parents have felt the sting of their child’s actions. We live in a fallen world and our children are sinners. We shouldn’t be surprised, but on the other hand what can we do?
Monica seemed to have the right answers.
Monica lived with an unbelieving husband. He had committed many adulterous acts against her. Monica loved the Lord and sought His wisdom in prayer constantly. She never gave up. I can only assume that when Monica gave birth to a baby boy she must have thought there would be joy found in this new season of her life. Naturally, as any mother, Monica loved her son. But little did Monica know what was in store for her!
This precious babe brought his mother many years of grief. Throughout his childhood he had a steady diet of mischief and wickedness. Into his adult years, his sins became more heinous. He sought after wayward relationships and became dangerously entangled with lawless and immoral groups.
Between the spiritual bankruptcy of her son and husband, Monica’s burdens were great. But not once, even when it seemed that all hope was lost, did Monica quit praying for her family. She believed that the delivering power of Christ could do the impossible and save these lost souls! And she was right! Her husband Patricius became a believer before he died. Her son, none other than Saint Augustine, became one of the most widely known and respected fathers of church history!
Monica tearfully persisted in praying for her family through many seasons when they were not open to hearing the truth. She patiently bore the burden of taking these wicked men to the throne of grace. She didn’t run away from her circumstances but handed them over to the Lord in complete trust.
After Monica’s death, Augustine was moved to write his notable book, Confessions. In one of the many quotes he made referencing his mother, he stated in his book, “So be fulfilled what my mother desired of me–more richly in the prayers of so many gained for her through these confessions of mine than by my prayers alone”
Parent, if your heart is broken over a prodigal, know that you are in a bigger class than you might imagine. You, like others, try not to make eye contact with the truth of the situation because the seemingly hopeless circumstance leaves you feeling spiritually drained and helpless. Honestly, if we are depending on our own strength, that would be true.
But we have another option – a sure option: access to the throne of grace.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We all know that the reality is that our prayers aren’t magic words that bring immediate repentance to our children or deliverance from their circumstances. Too much of the time they have to hit rock-bottom, eating with the pigs, before they come to their senses. The Person we approach in prayer is the Sovereign God of the universe who knows all possible outcomes and is working things toward the very best one. We have to trust that He knows more and is wiser than we are.
But it should also comfort us to realize that the One we approach is also the Father of prodigals. He has been wounded by the sins of His children, rejected unjustly, and abandoned in favor of far lesser things. In fact, He is wounded by the sins of our children…and us.
But we also know how this Father loves His prodigal children because He told us a story in Luke 15.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
So be assured that the Father you address in prayer loves your children as much as, in fact more than, you love them. He sacrificed His own Son to make a way for their redemption. There is nothing that He would not do to bring one of His children home.
Let that give you great confidence as you approach the throne of grace.