Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Encouraging Mothers of Prodigals

  “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father
 as well as the soul of the son is Mine..” Ezekiel 18:4

Few things are more heartbreaking to a Christian mother than having her adult child reject the Gospel.   Some of the most godly parents I know have grown children who have rejected the faith and have adopted lifestyles or beliefs  contrary to Scripture.   Invariably parents are left wondering what in the world went wrong.     
History speaks often about this.  Absalom rebelled against his father David, a man after God’s own heart.   Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew and married two Hittite women in violation of God’s commands (Gen. 24:3).   And Adam and Eve had the perfect parent and still rebelled, causing the fall of the entire human race.
It’s common for Christian parents in this situation to experience all kinds of emotions when their grown children chose another path.    Anger with their child,  blaming themselves, and doubting their own parenting abilities.    “If only we had done a better job of this, or had not allowed that, maybe things would be different now.”  
These kinds of feelings and insecurities would be expected. Hindsight has a way of  revealing  shortcomings on both sides, but it's good to remember there are no perfect families and we are all sinners in need of a Savior.    

Our children have been gone from home for many years and have families of their own.   When they were young,  parenting books were primarily focused on  how to be successful and didn't prepare young parents for the possibility that children might grow up and reject the things they had been taught.  By implication,  if you did this and did not do that,  your child would stay on track.  "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" was the name it and claim it verse. Consequently, when someone's child  went off the rails, eyebrows were raised.  Surely, the parents must have done something wrong.   Little if any attention was given to the sovereignty of God in salvation.   
There was also a popular teaching that the sins of the parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents are mystically transmitted to their children creating a generational bondage that had to be broken.  As a young mother I worried about this until I learned it was a misinterpretation of Numbers 14:18.   To the contrary, there's a wonderful passage in the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel that debunks this notion and offers encouragement to everyone.
“ The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.” (vs. 1-4)
The chapter goes on to illustrate how every person will be judged individually and not according to the sins of their parents.  Every generation has the opportunity to turn to the Lord and be completely forgiven.   And no one will be able to blame their parents for their own sin. 
Did you notice the Lord said “every one belongs to me. The parent as well as the child.”?   Even the rebellious and unbelieving belong to the Lord to do with as He chooses.  Romans 9 speaks to this truth in detail.  

Personally, I find this very comforting.  Mothers can find rest knowing that God is sovereign over their child’s soul, regardless of the situation.   Can we say it often enough?  “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Ps. 3:8).  We say that we believe in the doctrines of grace but when it comes to the salvation of our children our feelings don’t always match our beliefs.   The truth is we never would have chosen Christ,  and neither will our children  unless God calls and regenerates the soul.  He alone saves whomever He chooses , whenever He chooses.  We are simply the messengers,  however flawed we may be.

So, if God determines our child's destiny what more can a mother do once her children are on their own?   Pray! Pray! Pray!  We need to  keep going before the throne of grace on  behalf of our dear children, no matter how long it takes. 
Augustine's faithful mother Monica prayed for many years that her prodigal son would return to the faith she raised him in.    He had been drawn into false relgion and philosophy and lived a life of lust and pleasure before her prayers were finally answered.   When she died Augustine said "now gone from my sight, who for years had wept over me, that I might live in your [God's] sight." 
 The very fact that it is God who continues to prompt us to pray for our children should be a real encouragement!

As much as we love our children, we need to watch out that our joy in Christ is not overshadowed by our grief.    
“Abhor it as a great sin to faint under this affliction, that is, either to be disabled for thy duty or to sink thy comforts. It is a sign that thou didst place too much of thy happiness in thy children, if their wickedness make thee faint under this calamity. I shall only plead with thee, as Joab did with David when he made that bitter lamentation for his son Absalom, “Thou has declared this day, that thou regardes neither princes, nor servants” (2 Sam. 19:6). So I say to thee, thou hereby declares that thou regardest not God and Christ, if thy soul faint under the burden of a disobedient child.  
This is an affliction that ordinarily befalls God’s dearest children. Ye must not think of this as if ye were the first godly parents of ungodly children, or as if herein some strange thing happened unto you.” 1 – Edward Lawrence

1. Parents' Groans Over Their Ungodly Children by Edward Lawrence (1623- 1695)


  1. Thank you for these words that spur me on to more trust and reliance in the sovereignty of God.