Loving a Prodigal: Patience and Kindness
This is the fourth post in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on LOVE, which is the theme of the 2014 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals. This letter goes to the members of the Prayer for Prodigals community, but it is true for all of us.
Dear Lover of Prodigals,
"Love is patient, love is kind..." (1 Corinthians 13:4)
I have a pretty strong commitment to love my prodigal as Jesus loves him—and that includes treating him with patience and kindness, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13. I think I have increasingly been faithful to that, especially as he has been making better decisions.There’s the rub—he has been making better choices, so it is easier for me to be patient and kind.
I think Jesus’ love model calls us to be patient and kind even when they are causing us deep pain with terrible choices.
What does it look like to be patient?
The dictionary defines patient this way: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.
Certainly, over time, our prodigals have provided provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay (whether waiting a few minutes or a few years), hardship and so much pain.
The question is, do we have fortitude, do we stay calm and uncomplaining? Do we get angry?
Guilty on all counts. I am not a patient person. I seem to have a gift to persevere (we will talk about that later, I think), but I don’t do it with patience. Even when I stay calm, even when I refrain from anger, I manage to complain—to my husband, or a close friend, and surely to the Lord.
What does it look like to be kind?
Probably I do better at kindness. Kind is defined as:of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person; having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence; considerate, or helpful; humane; gentle; loving; affectionate.
I hate to see anyone hurt, so kindness is a more natural response. Although my subtle remarks can be hurtful and unkind—when my prodigal forgot (neglected) to wish me happy birthday last week, my response was perhaps unkind.
I find it helpful, in the midst of a stressful situation, or for sure afterward, to ask myself if my behavior, my words, my thoughts, my attitude reflect the patience and kindness God has called us to. Do I get annoyed or provoked? Is there anger in my voice? Are my words kind—gentle, considerate?Unfortunately I fail this little test too often. Fortunately God knows I can’t love with patience and kindness in my own power. Gratefully I can ask the Holy Spirit to fill me, empower me, even love through me. The Spirit is capable of true patience and real kindness, and He is willing to love through me with supernatural power.
When I fail at loving as Christ loved—with patience and kindness—I can count on God’s mercy to forgive my sin. My loved prodigal might not be so full of grace. Rather, my lack of demonstrated love might drive them further away with genuine pain, a sense of rejection, and perhaps hurling an accusation of “hypocrite!” at me.
As my frustration and irritation level rises with some new offense, I remember God’s patience with and kindness to me. Once again I am confounded by His love. If necessary, I ask forgiveness—of God, and if I can, of my loved one.
May we love as Christ loves us—with patience and kindness.
In His Love,
What about you? When do you struggle with patience or kindness?
c2014 Judy Douglass
If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.