The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt)
In “Prodigals and Those Who Love Them,” Ruth Bell Graham reminds readers: “Lord, You have trouble with Your children, too.”
A family fractured by the estrangement of a child or parent has unique discipleship needs. Yet it also has unique opportunities to grow beyond what might be experienced in easier circumstances. Having gone through the experience, I’ve discovered the value of those opportunities.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (John 15:5-6).
Often in loving an estranged family member, we feel thrown away. But when dependent, abiding prayer is all we have, we find out it’s what we most need.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
Until we know the pain of a child turning from God — let’s be honest — we tend to be judgmental of other parents.
But when it happens to us — suddenly we re-recognize grace. We discover that everyone has a backstory. We hurt when they hurt. We grasp the depth of God’s mercy and become profoundly grateful.
“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).
The father’s heart is broken and his trust shattered. Yet he doesn’t interrogate his son about intentions and sincerity. He doesn’t wait to see how it’s going to work out. He welcomes him completely back into the family. My guess is the only way this father could do that was to practice praying for his son and offering forgiveness daily.
Jill Richardson is a Free Methodist pastor, wife and mother sharing God’s grace through speaking, writing (jillmarierichardson.com) and living.
DISCUSSION: In what ways have you learned the truth of being able to do nothing apart from God?  What is one way you can place your loved one before God today and leave him or her in His care?  How has family difficulty made you more grateful?  How can you practice Romans 12:15 today?  What can you let go of today in true forgiveness?  What is the hardest thing for you about trusting a family member who has hurt you? How can God help that?