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  • Writer's pictureDawn Ward

How to Trust God with Your Prodigal Child

Updated: Apr 27

teenager in hoodie
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." Psalm 56:3 ESV

Do you know the feeling of being worn out? Most moms do. Who doesn’t remember the sheer exhaustion of staying up all night with a sleepless baby? How about raising teenagers? That’s a daunting task! Raising kids in today’s society, with all its influences, is an modern-day experiment in trusting God on a minute-by-minute basis.

As our children grow older, the voices of their friends, foes, and social media influencers crowd out the advice of their parents. As our control over our children’s lives shifts to that of influence, we often find them disregarding our advice as they pursue their much-desired independence. Soon, their need for adventure outweighs their common sense. That’s when trouble starts for many parents. Their once sweet, obedient child turns into a rebellious renegade, leaving mom and dad reeling over how to keep him or her from destroying their life.

As their parents, our nights are spent restlessly awake, praying our prodigal child will return home safely. If our child is an adult and no longer living at home, we pray he or she will answer our phone call or return our texts, just to let us know they are alive. This is what life looks like for a parent whose child is engaging in reckless living and self-destructive behaviors. For many of us, our children struggle with addiction, which compounds our fear for their safety.

Fatigue is a constant presence, always staying one step ahead of us. Even after a full night's sleep (if we get one), we arise exhausted, longing to climb back under the sheets for a few more moments of rest. Our minds are weary from worrying, and our bodies are tense from the stress we are constantly under.

For moms especially, we push ourselves to the point of burn-out, trying to save our prodigals from themselves. Like our bodies, our souls also operate under the weight of sheer exhaustion. The burdens in our lives become too heavy to bear. We long for a moment energized with joyful expectation, but after having our hopes dashed repeatedly, we brace ourselves for the next disappointment.

It’s tempting to want to give up, throw in the towel, and complain to anyone who will listen. I should know. I’ve turned to Hallmark and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for a momentary check-out plenty of times! I’ve also nagged and pleaded with my husband to do something, anything, to fix our wayward son, just to give my mind a rest from its distress. But none of it offered me any real relief.

It was right when I finally reached the point of giving up, I heard the Lord speak softly to my war-worn soul. "Do you trust Me?"  And that’s His question for every mom of a prodigal. “Do you trust Me?”

Hmm. Without giving it much thought, the answer is quite obvious. But answering it honestly, well that's another story. If you’re like me, your answer probably sounds something like this. “I trust you, Lord. I believe I trust you. I want to trust you. Okay, I'm trying to trust you. But, it's so hard. This is my kid we’re talking about here."

three girls looking at camera
"Do you trust me with your child?" ~ God
"Trust in the LORD with all our heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5 ESV

After giving the question some real thought, we will most likely realize that trusting God with our restless offspring is one of the hardest duties He has for us as their moms. We say we trust Him, but we can't resist meddling in their lives.

So how do we trust God with our prodigals when we fear for their safety and are struggling to hold onto our faith? How do we trust that He can and will work in their lives if we do the hard part of letting go and cease trying to control their decisions?

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3 ESV

Trusting God While Letting Go of Your Prodigal

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6 NIV

The Lord faithfully answers as we cry out to Him from our dark places of fear, worry, and dread. He comforts us with His Word, quieting our restless souls and reminding us that we are not in this battle alone.

He gently speaks, "Shh! Not by might...cease striving. Stop fighting in your own strength."

Again, He whispers, "Shh. Not by power. You can't do this on your own. The burden is too big, the load too heavy."

Letting go of our wayward prodigals is much easier said than done. “But how, Lord? How do I let go and trust You with my prodigal?" The question alone feels impossible to answer. Letting go and trusting Jesus with our struggling children is a task too daunting for us as their mothers to do on our own.

The Lord understands how we wrestle with letting go, so He helps us with the process. "…by My Spirit," says the Lord. His Spirit awaits us as we surrender our will, our strength, and our power to Him. We have a Helper, God Himself, who empowers us to do His will.

He promises to attend to whatever is concerning us. This includes our wandering and wayward children. He beckons us to let go and trust Him with their lives. We can’t do this in our own strength. God sends His Spirit to lead us and guide us when it comes to letting go of our prodigals. Without His help, it would feel like we were giving up on them, throwing in the towel. But the Lord has not hard-wired us as their moms to give up on our kids. So, instead of giving up, we let go by entrusting them to His care.

Trusting the Holy Spirit with Your Prodigal

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness." Romans 8:26a ESV

Here are three helpful steps that will help you learn how to let go of your prodigal without giving up on them. As you implement them, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and strength to do what's best for your wayward son or daughter.

  1. Accept: to let go we learn to trust God with our prodigals by accepting our own humanity and weaknesses. We are imperfect people who must admit to ourselves we raised imperfect kids. We only want what’s best for them, but our motherly advice has its limits. Accepting our own limitations, while difficult, is quite freeing and a necessary first step in the letting go process.

  2. Release: to let go of our prodigals, we release our will to do things our own way to the Spirit who breathes strength and life back into our weary hearts and minds. We hand Him back the controls. Releasing our child is the hard part. It feels like giving up. Instead, we release our own capabilites, strengths, and efforts to the One who holds all power in his hands.

  3. Embrace: to let go of our children, we need to acknowedge our grief and embrace God’s grace. The Lord is near to brokenhearted moms. He longs for us to cling to Him when we are hurting. He knows our children have crushed our hearts. He is empathetic to our pain. The Lord has also experienced the heartbreak of watching His children go astray. When we let go of our children, we do so by following His example.

Butterflies in hand
"The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 ESV

When we learn to trust God with our prodigal children, we don’t stop having influence in their lives. We continue to encourage them by reminding them of how much they are loved, by us, and by the Lord. We never cease to speak words of life and hope into their souls. Remember that while they may think they have it all figured out, they are getting weary from running away from God. Our part is to keep our hearts open as we await their return.

This doesn’t mean we never intervene or speak up when we see our children self-destructing. Instead, we ask the Lord to give us wisdom on when we are to become involved or when we should hold back. Most of the time, allowing for natural consequences and not running to their rescue is the best way we can help our children grow up and learn to make wise decisions for themselves.

This is where we want to pray for God’s grace as we relate to our children. When we step back and stop trying to control their lives, they may see us as harsh and judgmental. When this happens, we will need to ask the Lord to show us how to love them without returning to our old ways of relating to them.

It’s especially painful as moms to watch our kids suffer for their mistakes. We feel compelled to fix their owies. That’s what moms do best. To resist the urge, we will need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us strength to trust Him with our prodigal. He promises to help us in our weakness as He intercedes on our behalf.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26 ESV

Finally, we never cease to pray for our prodigals. There is power in our prayers. As we release our children to the Lord, asking His Spirit to strengthen us, we are emboldened with an unwavering faith, one that believes God is in control and is moving in our children’s lives to bring them home.

Dear Lord.

We confess that we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Our prodigal children are heavy on our hearts as we lie awake at night wondering if they are safe. We are hurting and afraid, and the only way out from under this weight is by your Spirit. We look to you to lighten our loads. We look to you for hope. We trust you with our prodigal children. Thank you for releasing us from our heavy burdens or worry.

In Jesus name we pray.


hands holding book

Coming Summer of 2024, From Guilt to Grace: Freedom and Healing for Christian Moms of Addicted Children by Dawn R. Ward.

For moms with children struggling with addiction and in need of support, please join her Facebook group, Christian Moms of Addicted Children

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