Holidays are a wonderful time for food, family, and fun. But they can also be so difficult for many reasons. Perhaps you are missing a loved one from your holiday celebrations and because of that, the season seems just a bit off. Maybe it just feels painful. Perhaps you’d just like to skip the holidays and family gatherings all together.
Maybe, like I was, you are the parent of a prodigal. How do you even face this season? Sleep through it? But then, you can’t. There are others to consider—your other children, family and friends, as well as church activities. Perhaps your prodigal is still in the home physically while separated from you emotionally and spiritually. It’s just hard to plan for fun holiday experiences right now.
I get that. For eight years, our family celebrated holidays with a big hole in our hearts and home. A daughter had left to seek her own life.Not knowing where she was or, sometimes, even if she was alive, we struggled through the year. But holidays always brought it home that our family was incomplete.
May I say to you first of all: I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you because I understand the pain and even the fears you have for your child:
“What if she never turns to God?”
“What if she runs?”
“What if she causes a scene during family holiday get togethers?”
“What if she never again listens to us, or asks us for help or advice?”
“What if she starts (or continues) life threatening behavior?”
I wondered every one of those things. And many others.
But God. If not for His presence, I do not see how I would’ve lived through this season. Or how our marriage would have stayed intact. Or how I could have continued to serve in ministry for Christ, which for me included full-time vocational ministry. Or how on some days I could have even continued breathing.
But I chose to trust God and not the lies of the enemy. I took one step after another, I sought help, I prayed constantly, I cried, I got mad (at her and at God), and I physically lifted up my open hand and gave Him my prodigal, over and over and over, often multiple times in one day.
Let me encourage you to not shoulder all the pain alone. Share with a friend, spouse, counselor, or another mom of a prodigal. Having a more experienced mom of a prodigal as a mentor gave me such encouragement. Just knowing she understood my heart and that I wasn’t the only Christian mom in this situation was comforting.
Most of all, this mentor showed me what it looked like to trust God in the midst of not having any idea what He was doing right now. I watched her continue to release her daughter into His loving hands over and over until I was doing the same thing.
Guilt is a big part of this prodigal journey. As moms, it’s so hard not to wonder what we did wrong. What could we have done better? So in addition to not shouldering the pain alone, please do not shoulder the guilt! There are NO perfect parents. We must do whatever God tells in each season of parenting. We do learn the longer we are parents, but even then, we will never do it perfectly. There are also NO perfect kids!
I recently heard a dear friend of mine say to a group of moms, “You are the best parent for your children or God would not have given them specifically to you! And He knows better than you what He is doing.” This is not a direct quote, but it’s what I remember her saying. I loved hearing it again although we are way past our prodigal days and experiencing God’s amazing restoration and redemption after what felt like ages of difficult holidays.
So, let me give you things to consider this holiday season:
- Plan family holidays trusting God’s love and presence. Worship Him in the midst of it all.
- When you struggle to relate to your prodigal, do what God told me to do when ours returned: “Just love her.”
- Find things to enjoy and laugh at in the midst of the hurt. Watch a funny movie or play silly games. Maybe go for a walk to enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
- Remember that if you have other children, they need this celebration and they may also be hurting. Ask them what they want to do. Pray with them for your prodigal.
- Don’t forget your spouse if you are married. The enemy will do all he can to attack your marriage as you focus on your prodigal.
- Pray that God will send people into your prodigal’s life who will nudge her toward Christ and toward your family.
- Say out loud over and over, “God is faithful, He is good, He never fails, and He cares more for our prodigal then even we do.”
- If your prodigal is missing as ours was, pray for protection over her while you are not with her. Pray protection over her even if she is still in your home.
- Remember the enemy may get the daily battles, but in the end, we know who has already won the war. Tell the enemy over and over, “You are a defeated foe.”
- Read and pray these Scriptures: Psalm 143:8, Jeremiah 24:7, Psalm 91:14-15, Psalm 112:17, Matthew 19:26, Psalm 73:26.
- Know that you know that you know, God is sovereign over ALL!
I’ve loved Habakuk 3:17-19 for a long time. It gave me hope in hopeless seasons of life:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!”
Even though our daughter has been back for years now, I remember coming to a place of complete surrender of her to the Lord, of believing the Habakuk passage. Two weeks later, she called and the rebuilding of our relationship began. BUT, even if she hadn’t, I believe with all my heart that I would still say to you today that God is good, God is faithful, and I trust Him even when I don’t understand what He’s doing. I pray you will say the same thing at some point.
Don’t ever give up this side of heaven. God is often at work without our knowing it. That alone is a reason to celebrate this holiday season. That is hope and that’s what this season is all about.
Chris Adams is an author, speaker, blogger, and women’s ministry consultant. She retired in 2017 after serving over 22 years as Women’s Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. Chris helped pioneer women’s ministry as we know it today and compiled three women’s leadership books: Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and Women Reaching Women in Crisis.
Prior to her employment at LifeWay, she was the special ministries coordinator at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, overseeing women’s ministry and missions education.
When Chris is not consulting, speaking to women, or training women’s ministry leaders, you can find her reading, with family, or spending time at the beach. She married Pat in 1971, and they have twin daughters, two sons-in-law, 7 grandchildren, 7 bonus grands through blended family, and a 7-pound Yorkie named Mo.