(October 13, 2022) Maureen McQuillan shares good advice…
I know, I know… Psalm 127:3 says children are the blessing of God in that they are an inheritance from Him. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him’ (NLT). But… how they can cause parents trouble at times!
Some heartbroken parents shared with me recently that their child is an adult and, naturally, they have no control over them. Now they don’t want to tyrannically control their child… but, being good parents, want the best for their ‘inheritance’ regarding certain situations. Unfortunately the ‘child’ won’t be counselled by them!
I won’t go into a long list of things that are troubling these particular parents. However, some of you will relate to the following short list –
- Don’t honour God as you brought them up to do.
- Stopped going to church.
- Into drugs and mixing with the wrong company.
- Has a bad love relationship
- Mentally ill but won’t seek good counsel.
- Physically unwell, and you’ve only learned second-hand.
- Under a cloud of darkness and depression.
- Isn’t sharing if proper medications are being taken or not.
- Won’t talk to you.
Am I right in saying this list goes on, worried parents? That when you try talking to your kids, they just won’t listen, may even abruptly shut you up!
Oh, I could give some workaround ideas. But… what if I agree with them, outrightly saying, ‘You shut up.’ You’re probably reacting in horror, so let me explain how I see it.
You’ve been good to your kids, looking after them through all those trying years of growing up into adulthood; through sicknesses, insecurities, job-hunting, opposite partner seeking.
And, as a Christian parent, you taught them to ‘honour their neighbours’ and seniors; always tell the truth; make good decisions about everything; know what sin is and that God forgives; pray and trust the Lord; know Him personally. You even taken them to church with you, bought them Bibles at an early age, and encouraged learning more about Jesus.
But they’re no longer children! Perhaps they’re away from home, have back-slain somewhat. And the biggest disappointment you’re presently facing is that they’re no longer that obedient little boy or girl you once could cuddle and share with, giving warnings and good wholesome advice!
And here’s the heart of what I mean if I’d abruptly said, ‘You shut up’… you have already done all the right things, given them good life-instructions, taught them how to make great decisions, and most importantly to trust the Lord.
So then… if they’re not listening to you, dear parent, instead of being downcast yourself, considered this: What can you say that’s new to them? They’ve heard it all before from you! And because they’ve made mistakes, they know exactly what you’ll say and won’t want to hear it all again! They’ll be thinking you’re judging, not caring.
Oh, you might be able to get them listening a little – and of course you should try! But ultimately they have to make that right choice. The ball is in their court now! From your own experiences or from helping others, you know what they should be doing – or not doing. They need to know themselves, and make their own decisions!
But don’t turn your back on them! Lovingly assure them that you’ll always be there for them, no matter what. That your door is always open, that they’ll always be yours. That you’ll always be thinking of them… and caring, loving.
You don’t necessarily have to add that you’ll be praying for them… they already know that! Do keep loving them, remember birthdates and special days. Above all, believe that the Holy Spirit will get through to them… He is the only source to getting them to come to their senses!
When troubled parents asked my help recently about their child, a wasteful adult, I shared the above. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit quickened to me wise principles that Jesus taught about a similar situation.
Remember Luke 15 – ‘the lost chapter’? To me it’s as if beyond the salvation message here, Jesus tells a parable of a wise parent and a wastrel child.
Preachers, even non-Christians, refer to ‘the parable of the prodigal son.’ What is overlooked is that it is also known as the Parable of the Lost Son (the heading in my 1992 NIV)and, more importantly, the Parable of the Forgiving Father! In keeping with what I’ve shared above, I’ll call it the Parable of the Wise Parent.
Actually the whole chapter is about losses – sheep, silver and son – bringing great joy when found. Let’s consider the son and his parent…
1. Wilful Child – Wise Parent
Verses 11-12 tell of a witless son demanding what was not his to ask for: he was a second son and legally and culturally would only receive his inheritance after his father’s death, the first son having received his.
His father could have denied him, but instead allowed his wayward son to have what he wanted. I have no doubt that this parent was deeply upset… but he lets it all go. Sure there was much he could have said, but obviously saw the determination in his son’s attitude and this parent ‘shut up’ as it were. No doubt he realised his son had to learn some lessons the hard way.
Verses 13-14 tells us this wayward son would lose everything on wild living. Message Bible calls him a wastrel ‘… undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had.’
A severe famine hit the country he moved to and, moneyless, suddenly he’s in big trouble! He, a Jew, even hires himself to feed pigs and was so hungry he would have eaten swine food! But no-one offered him a thing. He’s trapped!
Jesus tells of the turning point in his wasted life… ‘He came to his senses’ (v17). I like how the NIRV puts it ‘… he began to think clearly again.’ Can you trust God that your wayward kids will come to their senses?
Let’s talk about this wilful son’s warm-hearted dad.
2. Wanderlust Child – Waiting Parent
Having sorted things out in his own mind, the wastrel son becomes a woeful one. He admits he has faulted not only before his earthly father but, first and foremost, his heavenly Father, and determines to return to safety and security (v 17b-20a).
What an amazing scenario verse 20b paints! ‘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.’
How can I fully describe what I sense happened here? I can only put it this way…
- His father hadn’t given up on his child (or on God, the only one who could do what he couldn’t): I like to think he’d always been looking for him, praying for him, caring for him and that’s why he saw and recognised him so quickly.
- In the original language ‘A long way off’ means really distant… yet his dad saw him! Our heavenly Father sees us – all the way from his throne in heaven. God too is a waiting Father.
- Before his son can say a word, his loving father doesn’t wait till his boy greets him with a meaningful embrace – he hugs and kisses his son! This is an affectionate embrace and when his boy tries to apologise, he’s cut short because his father is so happy he has returned.
- As for the depth of this parent’s compassion… the Message Bible bests explains this almost unpronounceable Greek word (splagchnizomai) as ‘His heart pounding…’ Have you ever sensed the depths of God’s compassion for you? It’s an incredible sensation!
- What compassion he had! He ran – that’s trekh’-o – to move hastily. If this son had been in a rush to leave, his dad is in a bigger rush to welcome him back!
3. Worthless Child – Welcoming Parent
This ever-so-warm greeting isn’t over!
The remaining verses of this chapter are a message in themselves. I’ll nutshell them by pointing out that this repentant child who admitted being unworthy is made worthy… by his parent!
Note the interruptive — dash in verse 21 of the CJB (Complete Jewish Bible): ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son—’
If you like he’s now told to ‘shut up.’ Note too the welcome his parent gives him… the best robe, ring, and footwear! Plus the best feast! Verse 24 sums it up – ‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.’ Message Bible calls it ‘a wonderful time.’
There it is… what Jesus thought about wayward kids. Can you understand and accept this and be at ease, giving God time and doing our part – praying and expecting?
The heart of what I’ve written is this: At times no matter what wise advice we give to anyone, let alone our children, we can’t change them, can’t make them turn around – unless they decide to change.
And so there will be times when we have to shut up! We should back away slightly… still caring and praying especially for any wayward children we may have. And relying on the Holy Spirit to get through to them.
In all that Jesus taught here, He was emphasising His Father’s incredible, extensive, wide-ranging love.
Some scriptures about how wide, long, high, and deep is the Father’s love…
- ‘… the Father Himself loves you’ (John 16:27).
- ‘… what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!’ (1 John 3:1).
- ‘He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers’ (Malachi 4:6).
One last thing… in the end forgiveness is so important. This wise father didn’t condemningly comment on his wayward son’s faults. Neither does our heavenly Father when one asks forgiveness for sins committed! God is an encouraging Father, not a heart crusher!
Pastor Maureen McQuillan’s link for questions and encouragements is OnlinerConnect@gmail.com __________________________________________
Lovely encouragement, Maureen, I am sure many of us may have a prodigal
in the family, thank you.