"Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15:11-13 NIV
I have never been comfortable with the idea of letting go of my children for any reason; addiction is no exception. Even though they are adults and making grown-up decisions for their lives, the advice to let them go and allow them to hit their rock bottom shakes me to the core.
Ask any mother the hardest decision they've had to make regarding their struggling child. They will most often say it was the "letting go". The same holds true for wives, sisters, and grandmothers. It's in our nature to cling, to hold on tightly.
When we look at the story of the prodigal son and his father, we often focus on their long-awaited reunion. What we don't consider is what their separation might have looked like. I doubt that it was very civil, a respectful request from the youngest son for an early inheritance to go out and start a business of his own. It was more likely a painful exchange of words following years of rebellion and irresponsibility.
Perhaps you also have experienced a painful exchange of words with your son or daughter. Words harshly spewed left you reeling as your child slammed his(her) way out the door, rejecting your wisdom, instead choosing a life of self-destruction.
You may now find yourself in that dark place of living with the death of your dreams for them and for yourself. You have no clue what their future holds.
A Family Divided
We know the end of the story between this biblical father and son. After literally throwing it all away and making a complete mess of his life, the son came to his senses, his dad welcomed him back with open arms, and they lived happily ever after. Right?
One thing we know for certain is that the father and son were reunited. There was repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and healing in their relationship. It was a blessed reunion.
We also learned that his brother was not thrilled about this reunion. There was anger, frustration, and resentment. He was not happy with the idea of a homecoming party.
Afterall, he had worked hard for his father. Not his brother. He ran off, breaking his father's heart. He appeared not just angry, but hurt by his father's willingness to receive his brother back into the family.
The Bible does not reveal to us the extent of collateral damage the prodigal son's foolish rebellion brought on his family. His brother's reaction is a good indicator that is was pretty bad.
Unfortunately, many of you have seen your families devastated by your child's reckless behavior. You have been lied to, stolen from, threatened; you name it. You have tried everything to save your child. Some of you have spent your last dollar. Your other children have felt neglected and ignored as you focused your attention on saving their sibling.
Some of you have sacrificed your own sanity and health while the rest of the family sat by helplessly watching, unable to save you. No wonder they are angry at their loved one.
Letting go of our rebellious or addicted children does not guarantee us a happy ending.
Letting go is an act of surrendering our children to God to work out his plan and purpose for their lives.
Letting go says, "I will not help you self destruct, but I will be here when you are ready to fight for your life."
One insight we can observe as we peer into the lives of this family is the heart of the father and his love for this foolish and rebellious son. Lovingly, he let go, not knowing if he would ever see him again. There is no indication he chased after him or tried to bring him home. Yet, the father's forgiveness and love were there for him when he returned.
Today, many of you are right there. Your child is gone. They may be lost to their addiction or caught up in rebellion. You may have asked them to leave as they have broken one boundary after the other. Others may have woken to the reality that their child has vanished, leaving their whereabouts unknown. You do not know if they are safe. You do not know if your relationship with them will ever be restored.
For some, letting go means you may never see them again. You continue to pray and believe for them to be healed. Some of you don't know if your child will live through their self-destructive behavior. You can only hope, pray, and believe for that miracle.
This World is Not Our Home
How do any of us survive the fear of the unknow? How do we trust the Lord with our children when we aren’t sure that we will ever see them alive again? My encouragement to you is to remember that this world is not our home. Even if we do not see our desired reunions in this lifetime, we hold the promise of that glorious day when we are finally reunited together with our Savior.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17 NIV
Set your hearts and minds on praying for the salvation of your wayward children. Pray their hearts are drawn to him and that the last words spoken from their lips will be the name of Jesus. His desire for them is that they know him, not that they have an easy life. He knows what it takes to get them to come to their senses and cry out to him. For those whose children have confessed Jesus as Lord, pray that they will repent and be restored to him.
If you have made the difficult choice to let your child go, or if you are facing it now, remind yourself that letting go does not mean you are abandoning them.
Stay close. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep trusting. Stay in faith.
Letting go of our addicted children is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do, but in faithful surrender we have this hope:
“Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:25 NLT