The Gift of a Prodigal


Judy Douglass shares how God used her son to reveal weaknesses she didn’t know she had—and strengths she didn’t realize she possessed.

Eighteen years ago, God sent us a son. He was 9 years old when he came into our family. His first years had been very difficult and challenging. And he brought many challenges into our home.

We sought to love him, provide for him, accept him, encourage him—and we saw some good things happen in his life. But as he entered his teen years, he increasingly made choices that countered all our efforts and put him at great risk.

The years that followed were difficult and painful. Nothing we did seemed to convince him of our love and acceptance nor help him to make positive choices for his life. We were driven to our knees as the only help for our son.

Over the next years, as we spent many hours and days beseeching the Lord, God slowly brought changes in his life. He finally began to believe that we loved and accepted him. He began to make more responsible choices, to comprehend the serious consequences of the path he was on. He is still paying the price for some of those choices. He is not yet where we would like to see him, but he is moving in a good direction. We are grateful for the better path, though often impatient to see even greater transformation. We are eager to see all that God has in store for him.

But for me, as difficult as it has been, this journey has been an incredible gift. God has used our son to reveal weaknesses I didn’t know I had—and strengths I didn’t realize I possessed.

And God has used our son to show me so much more of Himself. I understand unconditional love at a much deeper level—and that unconditional love doesn’t demand love in return. In urging me many times not to give up on my son, God has reminded me that He has never given up on me. And certainly I have made many stupid and sinful choices that merit grave consequences, but His mercy has prevailed. When my feelings turned to anger, God reminded me that he has redeemed me with tender mercy and wooed me with lovingkindness.

In earlier days, in my thwarted desire for my son to love me and the pain that created, I got a glimpse of the pain I have often caused my Savior. When I have preferred someone or something else, when I have thought something else would satisfy my longings or when I have put another higher in my affections than Jesus, He has felt the rejection. Yet still He lovingly welcomes me back and delights in me.

One more gift: My prayer efforts for our son led to a Worldwide Day of Prayer for him every June 2. After several years of focused prayer from hundreds of friends, we began to see slow but real change. God said I should share the blessing and the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals was born. Every June 2 thousands come together virtually, or individually, or in small groups to pray for a list of hundreds of those needing a touch from God. We have an active website—PrayerforProdigals.com—that is full of resources and is an amazing prayer community.

Struggle and pain, for sure. But I wouldn’t trade them because of the gifts I have received through this prodigal are of far greater value. I am so grateful to God for him.

Written by Judy Douglass

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