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To the Parent of a Prodigal


Most of us are familiar with the story of ‘the prodigal son’ in Luke chapter 15. However, for many parents, it can be a story that’s all too familiar in a more painful and personal way.

They relate to his story because it is one very similar to their own. They have a son or daughter who is “far from home.”

And while being a parent of a prodigal carries with it a weight that only such a parent can know, there are some key principles in this biblical story that can be a help and encouragement to any parent.

And we see these principles exemplified through the father in the story. Here are a few of them:

1. The father didn’t rescue the prodigal from his foolishness.

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country. (Luke 15:12-13a)

While our tendency is to want to save our children from any pain or heartache that we can see in their future, that is not always what is best.

Regardless of their age, don’t be too quick to rescue your kids. Sometimes there are lessons that can only be learned from “the school of hard knocks.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is:

  • Allow them to make mistakes
  • Allow them to learn from those mistakes
  • Because sometimes experience is the best teacher

I can remember as a boy hearing my dad say these words, “Experience is the best teacher, you just can’t always afford the tuition.” Some lessons in life have to be learned the hard way because unfortunately, not all of us are willing to just simply learn from the mistakes of others.

2. The father didn’t revert to fear when the prodigal went astray.

But while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion. (Luke 15:20)

When one of your children goes astray, don’t fear. We don’t see a father in this story who is daily wringing his hands in fear of what might happen to his son. We instead see a father who with great anticipation daily awaits and prays with hope for his son’s return.

Sometimes parents are guilty of taking their prodigals’ actions personally, even blaming themselves for them going astray. But may I remind you that even the disciples of Jesus who would soon “turn the world upside down” actually failed and abandoned Him in His darkest hour. Yet they returned to be even stronger than before to fulfill and carry out his mission of changing the world.