I wasn’t surprised to see my 19-year-old daughter’s phone number flash on my screen. She’d occasionally call me to ask for grammar help on a paper or to describe an outing or adventure she’d had at college.
But not tonight.
With this one phone call, every dream I had for my bright, beautiful daughter vanished. She’d made a series of terrible choices, and the consequences had caught up with her.
What would her future hold now?
Hope for the Mother of a Prodigal Child
Our journey of parenting our prodigal had begun years before. Somewhere between childhood and adolescence, our sweet, easy-going, tender-hearted child became a sullen, resentful, troubled teen. Rejecting the faith she’d been raised in, she drifted further and further away.
But we had seen glimmers of hope. The camp experience she had the summer before her freshman year at college. Insight from a sermon or chapel service she’d share. Because she went to school two states away, we didn’t see her often enough to tell if her heart was softening, but we were hopeful.
Until that phone call. That awful phone call.
The morning after we spoke, I stumbled out of bed, eyes almost swollen shut from the long night of crying. As I willed my body to move, my heart bled from a thousand wounds. Even today, seven years later, tears form at the corners of my eyes when I think of that morning.
Everything precious to me is gone, I thought. Everything I’ve poured into her was wasted. Thirteen years of homeschooling. Bible reading every night of her life. All those prayers I’ve prayed and sacrifices we’ve made to raise her in the Lord. All for nothing.
How do you deal with a prodigal child?
As I walked down the hall from my bedroom, muscle memory kicked in, and I turned into my study. I settled into my chair and reached for my journal and Bible. For years I’d begun my day in prayer and Bible reading. Today, though, I had nothing to bring to the conversation. I sat empty before the Lord.
I opened my thankful journal and picked up a pen. Every day I’d been listing three things I was thankful for. That day I struggled to find one.
Next I journaled my prayers. Great, gushing laments expressing the heartbreak of my soul. “Father, what are we to do?” I wrote. “My hope is gone, and my heart is crushed.”
Then, like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver, I opened my Bible. I’d been reading through the Bible in a year with the MacArthur Daily Bible. Every morning I’d turn to the selection for the day and read a portion of Old and the New Testament. I’d fallen months behind in my reading, but I kept on. I was determined to finish, even if it took me two years instead of one.
Scriptures to pray over a prodigal child
I blinked a few times to clear the tears that kept filling my eyes. The reading for the day, in Jeremiah 31 said this:
Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope in your future, says the LORD, that your children shall come back to their own border” (v. 15-17).
What comfort those words contained. God saw my tears and my sorrow. He understood my grief.
A little further in the chapter, I read these words:
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (v. 27).
No, Lord, nothing is too hard for you. Not even my daughter’s stony heart.
Finally, in Jeremiah 32:38-41, I read precious words of hope.
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Although originally intended for the wayward children of Israel, God was now giving them to me as a promise for my prodigal child:
‘Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.
‘They shall be My people, and I will be their God;
‘then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them (emphasis mine).
‘And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.
‘Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’
When I crawled into my quiet time chair and sat miserably before the Lord that morning, I had doubted His love and care. And I had feared greatly for my prodigal daughter.
When I rose from my chair I knew three things:
- God saw my heartbreak and my tears.
- Nothing I had done in His name would be wasted.
- He would draw my daughter to Himself.
God, through His Word, had given me an anchor to cling to.
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Fighting for your prodigal child
The next day, eager to record the promises God had given me for the dark days I knew were ahead, I opened my Bible to the place where I’d left off.
There I received a final gift—promises that seemed specifically for my daughter. At the top of the page was the date of that day’s reading—and the date just happened to be my daughter’s birthday.
If I hadn’t built into my life the discipline of daily Bible reading and prayer, I would have missed the powerful comfort God had prepared for me that day. During the turbulent days, months, and years that followed, the promises God gave me that morning became my life preserver.
I clung to them when waves of grief threatened to swamp me and held them close when storms of circumstances tried to drown my hope. I refused to let them go when the currents of despair dragged me down.
Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy
Seven long years have passed since that dreadful day. Things got worse before they got better. Little by little, though, glimmers of hope began to sparkle. The Holy Spirit continued His work in the quiet corners of my daughter’s heart and mind.
Last fall, she stood before her church family to declare her love for Jesus Christ and her desire to live for Him all her days.
As my tears flowed freely—happy tears this time—I remembered the promise God had given me years earlier as the mother of my prodigal child. Then I realized He had replaced it with a new one:
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” Psalm 126:5.
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How to Parent Your Prodigal Child Series Contributor:
Lori Hatcher is the author of Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible. A 17-year homeschooling veteran, women’s ministry speaker, blogger, magazine editor, and pastor’s wife, she writes and speaks to help busy women connect with God. Read more from her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her blog, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women (www.LoriHatcher.com).