How God Handles a Prodigal
by Drenda Keesee
I love the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, but it is really the story of a loving father. The son demanded his inheritance from his father, which in essence was saying, “I don’t respect you, and I wish you were dead. Give me what I want.” He was selfish and had no regard for his father or family. After he left home and squandered the inheritance on riotous living and wrong relationships, notice the father did not chase after him but continued about his business and responsibilities with the other son who remained at home.
Eventually, the prodigal had nothing left and hit bottom, but he remembered…
…the goodness of his father and decided to go home. What if his father had decided to give up life because his son hurt him? What if the father had become bitter and forbade the son to ever return? What if his father had kept sending him more money to bail him out of situations? Would the prodigal have ever come home?
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Isn’t that amazing? The father’s love was greater than the sin of his son. He never gave up believing for his son’s return. The fathered covered the son’s past with a robe of his own righteousness, gave him the family ring, sandals, and a great party. He didn’t bring up the past, but rather he saw his son’s future. This is the kind of encouragement we all need when we’ve blown it.
We know that the father represents God, but this beautiful love story of our God also exemplifies how a father or mother handles those who are grown adults and make decisions to depart from truth. God shows His unconditional love even when His children aren’t where they need to be, and that is what we can do as parents as well.
Stop thinking of and rehearsing the pain they’ve caused you. Refuse bitterness and forgive them, but also let go and release them to make the decision to turn back to God. You should pray, and prayer is very effective, but you can’t decide for them. If you try, you’re an easy target for manipulation, only delaying their need for real change. Many young adults manipulate their “praying mamas” for money and anything else they can get from them. Be wise! This can also come between a husband and wife, dividing their marriage over disagreements dealing with the wayward child. Stay united and decide together how you will handle situations. A united position will stop the enemy from entering your marriage and creating more havoc.
I’ve prayed with women in their later years who are broke and about to be evicted because they have given all they have on wayward kids, and it hasn’t worked. It’s only delayed the inevitable. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, the apostle Paul said, “I have decided to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Sometimes sin must run its course that they may repent and be saved. As difficult as it sounds, when sin brought the prodigal son to the bottom, he decided to return and on the father’s terms, not his own selfish demands. He came home to be a servant, to make restitution, to do his part, not expecting the rights or privileges he had thrown away so carelessly. Yet the father, seeing his brokenness, restored him to being a son, not regarding or reminding him of his failure.
As a parent, live the life He destined you to live. Let your children see your joy, your peace, your provision, and your steadfastness in God. Instead of you grieving and throwing your life away because they have chosen to depart, hold steadfast to the Father’s house and love. When they truly return, you will have a robe and ring to offer in love.
As much as we love our children, our love for God must be more important than any human relationship (Matthew 10:37). This doesn’t mean we turn against children who have gone wayward, but we do choose Jesus and stay in the Father’s house while we pray for them to come to their senses, just as the prodigal son eventually did. Staying in the Father’s love is the only way you will be able to offer your child real love with the right perspective.
When I played basketball, I learned that the best defense is a good offense. Let your offense be that you are going to be all God says, and in faith serve Him and your purpose in Christ, even if someone you love chooses not to. Your best opportunity to see their turnaround will come if you continue in God’s promises and honor Him as an example to your family. You will find courage, strength, and answers in Father’s house.
Don’t be harsh, critical, or judge them. Beware of pushing religious rules that often have little to do with biblical truths, which is why they stay away! Religion is not the same as God’s love. Negative words aren’t words of faith. Instead, let God’s love help you believe the best in faith for your child. It will eventually touch their heart. Faith is calling those things that do not exist as though they did (Romans 4:17).
God saw you and me when we were dead in our sins and sent His Son to die for us before we said yes. That’s how much He believed we would eventually make the right choice.
One daughter had shut her mother out of her life. She considered her parents’ faith as antiquated and unnecessary, thinking her education and success had replaced her need for God. Initially, these parents were critical and embarrassed by their daughter’s behavior. But as her mother started to love her unconditionally, offering to serve her in helpful and practical ways (without preaching a word), she felt their love, not necessarily acceptance of all the choices she made, but of her as a person. Healing and forgiveness began to flow and restore the relationship. She began to open her heart and life back up to her parents.
Another family had a daughter who rebelled, moved away, and was living in a lesbian relationship. They were heartbroken. One Sunday I prayed with them for this confused young woman. I felt led to pray that the soul ties and control would be broken in the relationship, and their beautiful daughter would return home to them and Jesus. She called them the next day and asked to come home. The relationship was over, and she wanted to return to her family and God.
Sometimes the journey back home takes longer than parents’ hope for, but if home is an inviting place of love and steadfastness in Christ, it’s hard to resist. Forgiveness and love are vintage values that go back as far as the beginning of creation.
ps…Are you looking for a good church? Be sure and listen on Saturday evening or catch the 3 services on Sunday for Faith Life Church!
*Excerpt from “The New Vintage Family” by Drenda Keesee
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional, and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage, and family. Tune in for their weekly messages here. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesee’s have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then the irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.