Loving a Prodigal: War and Peace
Once a month I write a letter to the wonderful Prayer for Prodigals community I am part of. Often those letters, though specific to those who love a prodigal, apply to any or all of us in the challenging circumstances of life.
Dear Lover of Prodigals,
We just had a wonderful weekend with some people who love prodigals—their own. Lots of help, real life journeys, deep pain, emerging hope, trust in God.
I spoke about War and Peace. Here are a few thoughts from our journey that I shared.
Loving a prodigal is often a battle. Living with a prodigal can be a war zone. Conflict abounds, even when we are able not to enter in to the conflict. The need of the prodigal to be center of attention or in control creates strife. The war at home affects everyone living there, some severely.
There are emotional battles as well. Volatile emotions are fairly routine in many prodigals, reflecting immaturity, insecurity, frustration, selfishness. Emotions can provoke active rebellion and destructive choices.
Sometimes there are legitimate causes for emotional distress, such as our (former) prodigal experienced over the past year and a half: divorce, the death of a beloved grandfather, theft of personal valuables, surgery that took him out of work for two months and prevents him from continuing that work, and the suicide of his roommate in their home. These can set off negative and addictive responses.
We see more and more diagnoses of bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, ADD, borderline personality in the population. Babies born to addicted mothers carry the results in their bodies. Fetal alcohol syndrome is known to prevent in the brain of an early fetus the connections for cause and effect reasoning and can contribute to learning disabilities, ADD and even the inability to manage life.
Causes are often not known or understood. Genetics, abnormal brain development, illness, environmental factors such air, food, technology can often contribute to actions and reactions that include unpredictable behavior and destructive choices.
These behaviors might look like ordinary rebellious, prodigal choices. But in many cases the person has little or no control over their responses. They are not making volitional choices. This is much more difficult for those who love them, who struggle to help them.
And of course there is a battle in the spiritual realm. If we love and follow Christ, we have an enemy who desires to destroy us. And that is true for our prodigals as well.
If they don’t know Christ, he is determined to keep it that way. If they are in the family of God, Satan is relentless in his efforts to pull them away from God, to prevent them from discovering all that God desires for them. He is clever, a liar and a schemer. A formidable foe, though we know that the one in us is far greater.
So in the midst of what often seems like ceaseless warfare, what do we want? We want peace.
The turmoil is exhausting. Where is rest, relief, reconciliation? Where is peace?
Paul tells us Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Here are two specific actions we can take to help bring peace to our own hearts and minds and to our prodigals: We pray instead of worry, and we give thanks.
The result: Jesus promises to give us a peace that “transcends all understanding.”
Paul, Peter and John give us two more clues in their consistent greetings to the churches they wrote to. Over and over they say, “Peace, grace and mercy to you….”
I deeply believe that we often miss this avenue to peace. We are so committed to tough love and not enabling wrong choices—good objectives--that we frequently overlook these two peacemakers: grace and mercy.
When I think of the (many) times I have made wrong choices, not trusted God, sinned in big and small ways, I should have been given some hard consequences. And yet my God, time after time, extended grace and mercy to me.
And when I read in Luke 15 the story of the prodigal son, I am overwhelmed by the response of the father: He runs to meet his returning prodigal, covers him with kisses, invites him back to the family, throws a celebratory party. His son was lost and now is found!
Do I think there are easy or quick solutions to the warfare described above? No, I don’t.
But I have found that when I go to God with all my fears and hurts and anger and frustration over the life of my prodigal, thanking Him and asking Him for what I desire, God does give amazing peace to my mind and heart.
And in my relationship with my prodigal, mercy and grace have been so helpful in diffusing anger and rebellion, in calming emotional outbursts, in facilitating peace.
May I encourage you to pray, thank and ask. And make mercy and grace significant parts of your peacemaking efforts.
In His mercy and grace,
If you would be interested in requesting prayer for a prodigal loved one, or being a part of our wonderful praying community, respond in comments or write to me at PrayerforProdigals at gmaildotcom.