The Prodigal Child – A Time for War and a Time for Peace

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time for war and a time for peace…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8b)

A time for war…

Prodigal children are in a spiritual battle.  They don’t recognize it and sometimes even parents fail to see it.  Our focus is oftentimes on the issues, when it should really be on fighting the war.  But the only way to do this is on our knees.  The greatest weapon we can wield against the enemy is prayer.


However, there are times we grow weary in the battle for prayer.  It happens to even the greatest warriors.  These are the times when we should turn to others for help.  People who care and will intercede on behalf of our child.


War is ugly and it oftentimes results in some casualties.  But it’s always, always worth the fight when it comes to the souls of our children.  When it’s a time for war, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to enlist help.


A time for peace…

For the sake of peace, sometimes we have to call a truce with our prodigal child.  We may never see eye-to-eye or understand each other’s ways.  But we have to weigh whether the battle is worth the price.  Relationships are the first to suffer harm, sometimes resulting in irreparable damage.  It’s a high cost to pay just to prove a point or to be right.


I’ve learned that the less I say about an issue, the more likely it will come to a healthy resolution.  It’s not my natural inclination, to remain silent—especially when I feel strongly about something.  But a closed mouth is worth it when the end result is peace.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Love and a Time to Hate

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to love and a time to hate…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8a)

A time to love…

If you had told me when my children were little that one day I would feel dislike toward any of them, I would have said no way.  It wouldn’t have seemed possible and yet…that is exactly where I find myself too often.  And I’ve learned that I’m not alone.


Yet it’s not the liking that gives me the ability to show grace. It’s not the liking that allows me to believe the best.  It’s the LOVE I have for my children.  Love goes deeper than my ability to like someone.  It gives me the strength I need to keep fighting on my knees.  It gives me the hope I need to believe there is good that can come from trials and tribulations


There is ALWAYS a time to love.  Not loving the sin but loving the sinner.  Not liking your child’s choices but loving the potential.  Loving when it hurts.  Loving when it disappoints.  Loving when all seems lost.


Isn’t that what God does for us?  He loves us when we sin.  He loves us when we make bad choices.  He loves us when we cause pain and disappointment.


A time to hate…

Hate is such a strong word.  Yet it’s exactly how I feel about some of the choices my prodigal has made.  Not personalizing their choices isn’t always easy.  This means we don’t take it personally and we don’t assign it to them personally.


The only one we should really be mad at is the devil.  When we turn the anger inward or toward the child, we are missing the mark.  Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood (people).  But it’s against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Satan and his demons).


One morning on my drive to work, the thought suddenly crossed my mind that all of my anger had been misdirected.  I started listening to a song that led me to start proclaiming out loud that the devil had to, in Jesus name, take his hands off my child.


The more I declared this, the angrier I became.  But it wasn’t aimed at my child…it was at the devil.  Thankfully it was still relatively dark out and not busy because anyone driving past me would have thought I was a lunatic.  I began to scream at the devil.  What a release!  Yes, there is a time to hate…to hate the sin and not the sinner.  To hate the hold the devil has on our child.  To hate his plans to rob, kill and destroy.


Think about where your love or hate may have been misdirected in parenting a prodigal.  Ask God to help you work through this and show when it’s the time to love and when it’s the time to hate.

The Prodigal Child – A Time for Silence and a Time to Speak

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be silent and a time to speak…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b)

A time to be silent…

I’m not very good at keeping silent.  When I have something to say, well, I’m going to say it!  The book of James does such a great job at reminding us how hard it is to restrain the tongue.  It’s especially not easy when your child is making poor choices or living an ungodly lifestyle.  Yet a lot of talk—especially loud talking—doesn’t tend to steer our children back onto the right track.  In fact, it can have the opposite effect!


Sometimes, no matter how much it hurts or how frustrated you may feel, it’s a time for silence.  Our words may cause more damage to the relationship.  They can push our children further away.  I’ve come to learn that my prodigal child already knows about my disappointment, anger or whatever the emotion is without me saying anything.  In fact, I think the silence oftentimes causes that child to suffer more.


A time to speak…

Yet there is a time to speak.  A time to voice your thoughts…to express your feelings…to remind…to encourage…to correct.  The only way to know when it’s the time and how you should speak is to seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction.  Done in accordance with His guidance, the words will make a greater positive impact.


Speech that is demanding, condescending, biting or sarcastic isn’t helpful.  It’s hurtful.  It has no place in a conversation with your prodigal child.  I say that out of experience.  Times the wedge has been the greatest between me and my prodigal has been in these types of conversations.  So season your speech with salt.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Keep and a Time to Throw Away

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to keep and a time to throw away…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6b)

A time to keep…

I don’t keep a lot of things.  In fact, one thing’s for certain, I will never be accused of being a hoarder.  I get rid of things easily (sometimes prematurely).  I don’t like clutter and I don’t like messes.  I’ll do whatever is necessary to eliminate these things from my life.  So, what do I keep?  Most things fall into one of two categories:  1) things that are useful and 2) things that are precious.  Useful is something like an extra pair of gloves.  Precious is a picture of my children.


How does all of this relate to parenting a prodigal child?  Well, it’s not about things…instead, it’s about keeping hope alive.  Never giving up.  Refusing to let go.  A time to keep hope in a God that can save even the most derelict person on earth.  Keeping faith and trust in God’s plan, which is always bigger than we can imagine.  There is always a time to keep hope and faith at the forefront of our problems.


A time to throw away…

Throw away what’s useless.  I’m not talking about those jeans you wore in high school and hope to one day fit in again.  I’m referring to useless chatter from others, who tell you everything that’s wrong.  Useless inner chatter that stirs up self-condemnation and guilt.  And especially useless chatter from the enemy of our souls, who tries to convince us that things will never change.


Throw away discouragement…depression…anger…bitterness.  Throw away lies.  Throw away all negativity.  But don’t just throw it away.  Completely destroy it so that it can’t come back refurbished, made to look good when it’s nothing but garbage.  Ask God to help you take out the trash.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Tear and a Time to Mend

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to tear and a time to mend…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7a)

A time to tear…

In Old Testament times, the tearing of one’s clothing was a demonstration of anguish, remorse, sorrow and/or distress.  Bad news was a sure way to cause one to tear his clothing.  An outward representation of internal hurt.


While I would never tear my clothing in dealing with a prodigal, there have been times I’ve thought about tearing out my hair.  Because I too have felt some of the same things—anguish over choices made, remorse over not doing something differently, sorrow over loss and distress over consequences suffered.  Yes, there is a time to feel these things and outwardly express them…whether that’s to God, others, one or both.


Outwardly demonstrating how you feel can be a sort of release.  It sometimes feels good to cry, scream or otherwise “let loose.”  It’s like releasing the volcanic ash that has been lying dormant inside.  The key is knowing the right time, the right place and the right people who are around (or if you should do this alone).


A time to mend…

There is also a time of mending.  When you lack anguish, remorse, sorrow and/or distress.  And not because you don’t care.  Perhaps it’s finally arriving at that place of peace, despite the circumstances.


When my daughter informed me at age 17 that she was pregnant, I felt a great deal of anguish.  I saw it as the end of her life and a season of my own life I wasn’t ready for.  I was in a tearing clothes kind of state.  But when she informed me at age 19 that she was once again pregnant, I didn’t feel the anguish.  Not because I felt the circumstances were any better…and while maybe in some ways they were, they still weren’t ideal.  Yet I was in a mending kind of state.  I had peace, in spite of the news.


I don’t think we can always control whether we tear or mend.  But I believe that in our moment, God directs us.  He knows what’s best for us and He will see us through either way.  Yes, there is a time to tear and a time to mend…but regardless, God remains in control (even if we don’t).

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Search and a Time to Give Up

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to search and a time to give up…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6a)

A time to search…

I can only imagine the pain and heartache experienced by parents of prodigals who have no idea where to find their child.  They’ve been missing days, weeks, months or even longer.  I’ve only experienced a smidgeon of this feeling.  To live day in and day out without knowledge of their child’s presence and safety—well, my heart goes out to these parents.


There is a time to search…to look for a child and try to bring him back.  In some cases, this means a searching for the truth.  What the child has done or plans on doing.  Truly, no one else makes for a better private investigator than a mother desperate to know the truth about her child.


Jesus can help in the search…He leads the search and rescue team!  I have seen Him do this in ways I could never have thought up on my own.  That mother’s intuition about where to find a child?  That’s the Holy Spirit guiding the way and giving wisdom.  He can help when it’s time to search.


A time to give up…

Yet there is also a time to give up.  Not in the sense that we lose hope.  But in that we let go of the need to control, the need to know, the need to understand.  Sometimes it just won’t happen.  So, all we’re left with is releasing our child and allowing God to do His work.


Searching is necessary sometimes but it’s frantic.  In letting go, we actually find the greatest peace.  When I get to that place, which has been fewer times that I would like to admit, it feels so freeing.  Not controlling is a relief.  Not knowing is okay.  Not understanding is fine.


Searching isn’t easy but giving up is even harder.  Yet there truly is a season for both.  Jesus walks with you through each of these, so know you are never alone.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Embrace and a Time to Refrain

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5b)

A time to embrace…

It’s easy to embrace a child who is acting right.  Only God’s grace can help you to do that when a child is making wrong choices.  There is a time to embrace your prodigal, despite the hurt and pain his decisions cause you.  Regardless of the actions, and in spite of your personal feelings.


Oftentimes, it’s grace that speaks the loudest.  More than your scripture verses or words of wisdom.  More than the shouts of anger or the ultimatums.  By embracing God’s grace to us, we learn how to embrace others in need of His grace.


A time to refrain from embracing…

Yet there is also a time to refrain from embracing…when boundaries must be established for the good/safety of yourself and/or your child.  Clear-cut rules are enforced.  No more chances are given.  Tough love is dished out.


It isn’t always easy to know when the time is right to embrace and when it’s not.  This is why it’s so important you are constantly seeking God for help…insight…wisdom…direction.  He will show you not only whether it’s the time to embrace or not but what that looks like.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Scatter and a Time to Gather

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5a)

A time to scatter stones…

In Joshua 4, we read how the Israelites gave glory to God by taking stones and piling them up as a monument.  The scattering of stones has always served as a reminder to God’s people of His faithfulness.  As we scatter the stones of our journey in parenting a prodigal, we also declare the goodness and glory of God.  It’s a public declaration of what God has done and is doing.  Yes, even in the midst of a mess we recognize that good still exists and hope has not completely died.


Let me share a very personal example.  When my 17-year-old daughter became pregnant, it seemed like a pretty hopeless situation—made worse when a few months after giving birth, the father of her child left her.  Being a single, teenage mom doesn’t sound like a God plan.  Yet He showed me how my daughter’s life was actually saved by the birth of my granddaughter.  Quite literally.


A time to gather them…

The stones of our journey in parenting a prodigal are sometimes not meant to be on public display.  Some things aren’t to be shared with others, even in the way of asking for prayer.  Learn when to keep things to yourself and instead, gather those stones in your heart.  Trust God with what you are to do with them.


Oftentimes it’s the gathering of stones that forces us to greater dependency on God.  We don’t look for answers in others.  But in the One who already knows the necessary path our children must take.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to mourn and a time to dance…

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4b)

A time to mourn…

I’ve had a lot of “dreams” when it comes to my children.  Dreams of who they’d marry, what they’d do for a living and what our relationship would look like as they entered adulthood.  Scarcely a one of those dreams has even slightly come true.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Even the unplanned events have (in some cases) brought unexpected blessings.


But still…when dreams die, we have to allow ourselves the time to mourn.  Grieving is a process of letting go what you envisioned for your child.  Some things haven’t exactly turned out right or the way you’d hoped or imagined.  Depending on the circumstances, this can be a quick or lengthy process.


One of the dreams I had was my daughter marrying her high school sweetheart.  Even though they did things the wrong way, in getting pregnant their senior year of high school, I still saw the possibility of redemption.  Yet never did I think they would end up not together.  As crazy as it sounds, I think in some ways I had a harder time letting him go than my daughter did.  She moved on to someone else.  But I still wanted my granddaughter’s parents together.  When I finally came to the understanding it would never happen, I had to grieve the death of that dream.  And that’s okay…mourn the losses!


A time to dance…

On the opposite spectrum, there is a time to dance.  Yes, sometimes with joy at what God can do in an impossible situation.  But even if nothing changes, if things remain hard…we can get lost in worship music.  We can dance in victory like King David did.  Who cares what others think?  He sure didn’t!  He got his praise on!


Worship music has been like salve to my hurting soul.  There are certain songs I really connect to, words that ring truth in my heart.  But there are also songs that stir up hope and joy.  They help me to see how God remains on His throne.


Yes, in parenting a prodigal child, there IS a time to dance!  Even in the midst of sorrow…of challenging circumstances…of mourning the death of a dream…worship to Him can rise up out of the deepest places and bring healing to all that hurts.

The Prodigal Child – A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to weep and a time to laugh…

A time to weep…

I have a love/hate relationship with weeping.  I hate crying in that it makes me feel weak.  My face gets red and if I cry hard enough, the nose starts to drip.  Crying is very unattractive, if you ask me.  But here’s what I love about it…the release of emotion.  The refusal to hold in the pain.  The healing that can happen.


Many a parent has cried over a prodigal child.  There IS a time to weep—when dreams have died, hope is diminished, bad choices are made, and serious consequences are suffered.  Allow yourself the ability to grieve the loss of your child, the loss of who he/she could have been.  The loss of opportunities.  The loss of closeness you once felt to your child.


This doesn’t mean things can’t or won’t turn around.  It’s not a matter of denying God’s ability to restore and mend.  But it is YOUR time to weep for what hurts.  Release the tears…let them flow…and allow God to catch the teardrops in the palm of His hand.


A time to laugh…

While I’ve been tempted to medicate myself in other ways, I have found that laughter truly is the best medicine.  Sometimes that’s hard to do.  It feels forced or you may feel guilty about laughing in the midst of chaos.


Laughter gives you a space in time where everything that is wrong doesn’t matter.  It’s a different type of release than weeping, but one that can also help foster healing.


I remember a few years ago going to a Tim Hawkins show with a friend who was going through an incredibly hard time in her marriage.  The laughter was nonstop and although it was momentary, somehow it stayed with her long enough to help her see that it’s possible to feel joy in the midst of pain.


Yes, even when you hurt because of a prodigal child, there IS a time to laugh.