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Hope for the Prodigal

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Marti Wiegman, Northpoint’s Director of Women’s Ministries.

Hope for the Prodigal

It’s that time of year—the season of candy and costumes, of harvest fairs and Halloween parties, of fall leaves, and pumpkin-flavored everything.

I’m reminded of Pastor John’s challenge to us to use this season as an opportunity to be a witness in our neighborhoods; to not withdraw from the darkness but to find ways to step forward with the light of Christ’s love. I’ve heard some very fun and creative ideas from a number of you on being a witness this Halloween. Be sure to keep sharing these with others here at Northpoint. Let’s continue to be a challenge to one another.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with women in our church family about something that truly brings fear to our hearts. . . .

The worst nightmare of many Christian parents is to have a prodigal—a child who makes his own destructive way through life. Or a child whose heart grows cold and hard, leaving no space for God in her life. Of course, I’m speaking in general terms of “children.” Your prodigal might be a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a grandchild, a best friend—anyone near and dear to your heart who does the unthinkable and turns their back on God. And now your soul is in anguish.

We talk to them, write to them, quote Scripture to them. We bring in the professionals—maybe a pastor or counselor. We yell and cry. We beg and bribe. We do everything we know to do to turn them around. But eventually, the truth hits us: We do not have the power to change a human heart; only God can.

My challenge to all of us with aching hearts is to see this truth in the right light: God CAN!

My husband Tom has a younger brother—17 years younger. Danny grew up in a much different home than Tom. After a lifetime as missionaries, a heart-wrenching moral collapse devastated the family and his parents ultimately divorced. Danny was a teenager at the time. He and his mom ended up living in a low-income apartment in a rough neighborhood in Dallas. Here every negative influence was magnified. Danny got into drugs and dropped out of school. He was thrown into jail and then prison. Each time was followed by an unsuccessful stint in rehab. There were moments of hope through the years, but far more seasons of failure, as each time Danny cycled further downward.

This went on for 15 years as those of us who loved him prayed. I have to confess I held out little hope that Danny would ever get it together. It’ll take a miracle to turn Danny around, we told each other again and again. For myself, I didn’t say those words with faith, as if this was something I really believed God was going to do. Instead, it was more of an expression of just how hopeless I perceived the situation to be.

Finally, Danny hit bottom. His alcoholism nearly claimed his life and he ended up in a hospital in Chicago. That’s when God began to work His miracle of love and grace. Danny became involved with an amazing ministry called Teen Challenge that God used to turn him around. It took 18 months of residential treatment centered on God’s Word to set his feet on solid ground and get him walking in the light.

That was six years ago. Danny has continued to follow the Lord, though the road has often been hard. It took time to get integrated into a loving church home, to repair broken relationships, to build a positive work history, all while continuing to make godly choices one day at a time.

Next weekend in Chicago, on November 5, Danny is getting married to a wonderful Christian girl. Tom will be standing beside him as he says his vows, while the entire family rejoices at the miracle God has worked. Danny is enrolled at Moody Bible Institute where he will begin studies in January with the goal of becoming a substance abuse counselor. HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

For each one of us who is still standing in the yard, shielding our eyes from the sun, hoping to catch a glimpse of our prodigal coming over the horizon, I pray this testimony lifts your heart. God CAN rescue our loved one and call him or her home.

We tend to look at the mess our loved one has created, rather than keeping our eyes focused on our God who can do all things. You might be thinking, I don’t see how God can turn my son around. You don’t have to. Because God can handle this. He’s got this. Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God, everything is possible (Matthew 19:26).

Ephesians 1:18 (The Voice) says it this way: “Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in.”

Don’t give up. Keep on praying. Keep believing. You never know what God will do.

With hope in Him,