Many good moms and dads have had to undergo trying circumstances in life. There are often times where one or more children have broken their hearts. Unfortunately, there are those parents that choose to deny reality and try to act as though nothing is wrong with their family. It’s hard to blame them as there is no pain any worse than spending fifteen or twenty years giving of your life’s blood, time, effort, prayers, and money and then watching sons and daughters go off track. Life is so uncertain. The joy over the birth of a child can be turned into terrible sadness over a wayward son or daughter. We know that large families are a blessing. Yet while having many children brings much joy, many children can also bring much sorrow – that’s just the law of numbers.
Read this verse and feel Solomon’s pain. In these verses we see somebody who is very open and honest and raw about the way they are feeling as they acknowledge that their own son or daughter is foolish. Being in denial about your children’s sin doesn’t do anybody any good. White washing their sin, denying or shifting the blame onto a schoolteacher, peer or society just compounds the problem. I once read something that Pop Singer Katy Perry’s dad said. Her dad, who is a devout Christian and Minister, said that his wife and he were broken hearted to see how their daughter has turned out. She is not just off base; she is openly mocking the things of God. I appreciate the fact that Katy’s mom and dad are doing what this verse says – they are overcome with sorrow rather than white washing it or shifting responsibility. The reason this is important is because if we deny responsibility, we won’t cry out for the mercy of God. The mercy of God is where the healing comes! Healing cannot come when I stick my head in the sand.
Being a wise parent means taking responsibility for at least some part our child’s actions. It is saying to God and others, “I didn’t follow Scripture fully.” On the other hand, every son or daughter will eventually stand before God alone. Ultimately, every foolish choice is their own, nobody made them sin. In some sense, we as parents can almost put a loaded gun in their hand and pull the trigger back when we allow or create an environment of temptation. At the end of the matter, however, every person sins of their own free will.
Regardless, it doesn’t do a parent any good to keep beating themselves up for family failures. We only rob other children and grandchildren of the lessons that we have learned. When an adult child walks away from God, it is what it is, and we must then move on and take appropriate steps to protect our family legally, financially and relationally. After we have done so, then we need to make the best of the situation that we possibly can, and find peace. If you as a parent have completely, genuinely, and full heartedly acknowledged your shortcomings, and gone before God in repentance, then you can be sure it’s not the Holy Spirit that keeps bringing up that sin – it’s Satan the Accuser! Paul gives us a sanctified look at the life lessons he had learned through the decades in Galatians 6:1, “…restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” For parents, the worst thing we can do is point fingers and blame our mates, we must consider ourselves first and then run together into the arms of the Lord!
6 Actions to Take for Those Who Love the Lord When a Child Becomes a Prodigal:
#1 – Pray and Identify any Personal Responsibility
Samuel reminded Israel in 1 Samuel 12:23 about the time that he had spent as prophet, priest, and king by stating, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” We might muse, “What did I ever do to my child to make him or her to turn out this way?” Well, it may not be a lot of wrongs that we did, but just that we didn’t pray for our child, as we ought to. If we are honest, we will realize we are human. Acceptance of our humanness then causes us to realize that my child’s sin is to some degree, our sin.
#2 – Acknowledge Failures to God and Ask Forgiveness from the Prodigal
We have to clear the air with God first, like David did in Psalms 51:4a, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” The reason we have to ask forgiveness from the prodigal as well as God is to remove every rock for a sinner to hide under. We humans will hold on to any excuse. We can and will be quite happy to blame our parents for our own misdeeds. Parents, who confess their parenting failures to the child, remove those excuses.
#3 – Plead with Them to Change and Warn Them of God’s Sure Chastising Hand
I know some people will disagree with me here, but I’m simply telling you what my experience has been over 40 years in ministry. I do not think the way to treat unrepentant sin is with soft gloves. I do think we ought to be gentle and be as sweet as we possibly can, but we must show them that we are concerned for their own safety and for the name of God. It’s not about the fact that they are embarrassing the family (although they are). The main issue is that they are shaming the name of God. God is NOT going to allow this to go unpunished. I believe the best way to do it, is to tell them that God’s hand of chastisement is sure and that if they don’t change, something negative is going to happen.
#4 – Let Them Know You’re Ready to Talk Any Time They Are
We must assure them that, “Any time you’re ready, I’m ready,” to settle matters. I’m convinced that in the parable of the prodigal son, as found in the New Testament book of Luke, the father knew the location of the pig pen was that his son was wallowing in. He had probably already had a talk with his son and warned him about God’s chastising hand. And yet in Luke 15 it states that the father was at home waiting for the prodigal to make the next step. The father was definitely on top of the situation, but he waited for the son to come to him. Luke 15:17 tells us that the prodigal finally, “came to himself.” That awakening moment is different for each individual, only God knows. We do know that when the weight of their sinful actions gets to them and they look back and see joy in the father’s house, they come home to make things right. That’s one reason why we need to keep our homes joyful, so that a door of communication is open.
#5 – Become an Intercessor for Them
This might be the most important point of all. It is a powerful thing when a mom or a dad prays for a child. They have special jurisdiction with God in this prayer. No prodigal will have a truly happy life if they have an interceding mom or dad. God hears the prayers of the wounded heart from a concerned father or mother. Praying parents get the job done!
#6 – Reserve Full Fellowship for Full Repentance
Let me preface this by saying that parents should always remind the unrepentant prodigal of their love. They should let them know that they are always welcome to come home for a short visit (a few hours). They are not welcome to bring their sin into the home of course, but the door is always open for respectful dialogue. Choosing to behave as if nothing is wrong is not wise as it takes the pressure off of them. Why do I want to them to stay convicted? Because it is more important that they get right with God, than that I get their friendship. While I desperately want their friendship, it’s infinitely more important that they get right with God.
We must not be enablers. We must not allow misbehaving sons and daughters to “have their cake and eat it too” - it’s not healthy. It is more important that they get right with God than for parents to have a “stick-your-head” in the sand kind of friendship. That’s not reality. We want our sons and daughters to be on fire for God. We want them to see the blessings and favor of God. I want my children to know that I love them deeply (and always will), but that I love God more and that their sin creates so many problems for the family.
There’s no exact science in how to deal with a wayward child. May God give you His grace as you use these six principles.