Chapter 7: The Prodigal
Compassion, compassion, compassion! We cannot walk as citizens of the Kingdom of God without it, it simply cannot be. When people ask how I can be compassionate toward my ex-husband who was too many horrible things to mention, I say “because of grace”. The same grace I need is the same grace he needs; neither of us nor do any of you deserve it. It is an unwarranted gift from God. The same grace God poured out for me and you is the same He poured for my ex-husband and all the other offenders of the world. It’s literally that simple.
How could I expect God’s grace and forgiveness to apply to me, once a prodigal, if I can’t look at another prodigal with compassion? Without compassion, can one actually be in, of or for Christ? Just because someone remains a prodigal doesn’t mean I should despise them; I too was in their shoes at one point in life. I may not have done the heinous things as did they, but sin is sin and the result is always death. No one can be a “little dead.” Varying sins have diverse consequences on Earth but, in the spirit realm post death, the end result is the same for the little ones and the big ones.
I deserve death and hell. I received grace through repentance to the Almighty. Now that I’m delivered from death and hell, it is my responsibility to assist anyone I can into the same grace. To wish harm on our enemies is against the very God of whom we boast. Wishing for our opponent to “get what they deserve” is not of the Kingdom of Heaven, it just isn’t and will never be.
One of my favorite texts which drew me to love is John 7:47: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” When I came to the realization of how sinful I actually was and was in dire need of such limitless redemptive love, I became equally able to extend love to my foes. I deserve hell. You deserve hell. Your enemies and your friends deserve hell. We’ve all been forgiven much. The sooner we recognize this fact, the sooner we’ll repent of our unforgiveness, hatred and vengeance and begin to intercede for our oppressors.
We who are found in Christ were all, at one time, as the prodigal son. We left our first love whether or not we knew God was our first love. We chose sin. We chose the evil one no matter how nice a person we view ourselves. You and I were the prodigals and Christ loved us all the same. He forgave us, welcomed us into His shelter and gave us His Kingdom. Does our enemy deserve less grace than you or I?
Let the Peace of Christ Rule:
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Psalm 119:165, KJV).”
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:`5) is not a suggestion, but a command from our heavenly Commander in Chief. Simply stated, when God’s peace rules in our hearts, we will be offended by nothing. When we are in a position to be offense-free, there’s nothing by which we will be moved unto hatred. God’s peace is a key element to a successful relationship, both with God and with man.
Remember Romans 12:18 which reads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Sometimes peace is not possible because of someone else’s lack of peace. Nevertheless, you and I who are in Christ must demand our feet be shod with the mighty boots of peace which is a part of the armor of God. Peace is the opposite of discord. Discord stems from offense.
The Prodigal son did not know God’s peace; therefore, he spent his inheritance on worldly, temporal entertainment. When it ran out, he was as much in the literal and spiritual gutter one can possibly find themselves. Spiritually, when we have no peace, we will waste our heavenly inheritance on the foolishness of Satan’s domain: hatred, bitterness, malice, and much more of their kind. Seek the peace of God and do not let it go.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, NAS).”
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22, KJV).’”
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart (Matthew 18:35, NAS).”
“And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound…but we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found (Luke 15:27, 32, NAS).’”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).
In my 50 years of life, jealousy has never been something to which I have commonly subscribed. I’m always elated to witness success and assist others so as to catapult them into greatness. That being said, having a chronically ill child has, on more than one occasion, provoked a spirit of jealousy within me. I deal with it in the throne room of grace, to be sure, as soon as I feel it. Nevertheless, the pangs of such a vile emotion rear their ugly head when I least expect it. When I see all around me the kids of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers who are perfectly healthy and thriving, as awful to admit as it is, I feel the sensation of jealousy. It is not for money or possessions, but for good health for my daughter. I weep for my sweet Sophia as I know others weep for their suffering children.
From family to family, it’s a sliding scale of illnesses and severity but, I assure you, pain is pain. I don’t have less sorrow for my child than a parent of a child with cancer or more sorrow than a parent with a kid with an infection which is taking longer to subside than average. Hands down, it is all horrible watching your child suffer while other children run, play, go to school and do the things healthy kids do. Sophia has begun a two month regimen of medication specifically for her issues. It’s been two weeks and we’ve seen some improvement. She’s been getting caught up in some school work and able to spend time with friends here and there. It has been encouraging to watch as slow progress is still progress.
Yesterday, just as Michael and I had embarked on a much needed date night, we had just sat down at the restaurant to order and the phone rings. Sophia called bawling her eyes out because, while at her friend’s house, she threw up repeatedly and was in a lot of stomach pain. What’s more, she was/is very frustrated she can’t seem to kick this and the correlating problems. This morning at church, a friend was excited to revel in our mutual friend’s daughter’s achievements where she had deservedly, once again, taken 1st place. Of course, I am thrilled for my friend’s daughter; in fact, she’s my best friend. Our daughters are only a year apart and we are each other’s daughter’s god-mothers.
I thought to myself how astonishingly disgusting it was that I would feel such pain and jealousy for one I love so dearly; its a bit of a paradox. Even as I type, I weep at the unbearable thought that I would have such emotions. It was all I could do not to cry the entire service knowing my baby was hurting and feeling the way I did. Notwithstanding, the fact remains, people in my shoes do feel surges of jealousy with the desire for our kids to be able to enjoy childhood/teenhood just like everyone else’s kids.
Just the other day, a friend wrote asking me to pray for peace for her because she was feeling jealousy for reasons I just described. She is a follower of Christ and knows God has a perfect plan for her child, yet struggles with such feelings. She mentioned that watching photo after photo of other kids doing so well and having such joy brought her more pain.
I responded like this (roughly): “My personal peace comes from reminding myself that, at the conclusion of this part of Sophia’s life, it will catapult her right into the perfect will of God. If I may be frank, you do not need prayer for peace, you need to believe God has a plan and that it is good; belief is where the peace lies. I don’t know what God has designed for your daughter’s life, but a part of that is not you feeling devastated as if there’s no hope. I say this to you as I must daily remind myself.” Knowing, believing, trusting and accepting God does have a plan is the key. This knowledge is how I am able to:
- Call myself to accountability in my incorrect emotions
- Pull down (away from) my mind all thoughts not of God
- Pull those thoughts into the obedience of Christ until my obedience is made complete
- Refuse to allow my mind to continue a process of comparing Sophia’s life to anyone else’s
- Remind myself God is faithful, He has a plan, He is in love with her and He purposes the best for her
- Believe all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who walk according to the Spirit
- Trust God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – regardless of what my eyes see or emotions feel
- Reestablish peace that passes all understanding
If I may help you in any way, please reach out to me on Facebook, email or in the comments section. If there’s help for me and my child, there’s equal hope, help and peace for you. Jealousy of others will only lead to further destruction, chaos and confusion, it is a murdering spirit. Just because we feel something in a moment of weakness does not mean we have to allow it to overtake us. Focusing on the love of God chases out feelings which are not of God. Blessings!
Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Content in Weakness, part III
On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:5-10, NAS)
I hear constantly, “I will bend but I won’t break” and that has nothing to do with God’s instruction. God, as I’ve written previously, most assuredly wants us to break because, in our brokenness (utter weakness) He is able to restore, renew, refresh and altogether transform us. We’re so busy trying to be strong enough so as not to break, we miss the God to whom we cry and plead.
After my first husband abused and abandoned me, I can recall emphatically stating, “I will not be like those other poor divorcees, I will not be a blubbering, sad woman broken by a man!” Because of my frail attempt to be stronger than my predecessors who have already experienced such anguish, I became the thing I vowed I would not be and worse. Bottling all that pain and sorrow, pushing it unresolved to the bottom of my spirit only made me more crushed than at the onset. God never wants to crush you as that is the tactic of the enemy. Satan desires to sift you like wheat. God wants you broken, weakened unto death (internally), so He can produce His supernatural life through your circumstances.
If you don’t believe me and cannot find a specific Scripture stating, “God will break you to remake you”, allow me to point you to every person of God who ever accomplished anything for God’s glory and the benefit of the person and multitudes of people. Struggles come to all who have a huge assignment. Some examples are: Jesus, Joseph, David, Mary (mother of Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Ruth, Daniel, Jacob, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Apostle Paul, Job, Esther, Jochebed, Pharaoh’s daughter (Moses’ adoptive mom), Samson, Peter, Joseph (Jesus’ adoptive dad), and Nehemiah.
Certainly the list goes on and on. Read Hebrews 11. There’s literally a list of men and women who were slain literally to physical death so as to withstand the mocking of the anti-Christ spirit facing them. God’s ambassadors must be able to withstand the wiles of the anti-Christ and the only way to accomplish this is to first take us to a breaking point. God was their Portion no matter what earthly portions they were looking to lose. The breaking brings a person of God to the brink of total loss so that their gain is in Jesus alone.
For me, I can lose my husband, my children, my loved ones, my home, my car, money and worldly possessions and survive, but do not remove Holy Spirit because I would not survive. He is my solace, my comfort, my strength, my faith, my life. Without Him, I have nothing, I am nothing, and there is nothing of value. Breaking is a blessing; it is one of our greatest benefits.
One of many issues with having a chronically ill child is knowing how to cope with other people who do not know what to do with or for you. I have found that people, even those who love us dearly, do not know what to do, so they do nothing and often pull away. They’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing, so they go silent. As the parent, it poses the problem of us becoming offended, angry, saddened or even depressed that friends and family seem to be disappearing left and right, especially when we need them the most. It’s easy to feel abandoned when we’re the most vulnerable because we are already stressed and feeling isolated given the nature of the situation.
What we parents must come to terms with is how to allow others to separate from us without becoming or, at the very least, remaining angry. Just as we ourselves often don’t know what to do, imagine how they feel. They have not endured as have we, they have not suffered and watched our children suffer as have we; they have no concept of what to do because they are not in our shoes. It is vital for our relationships outside the immediate family, as well as for our sanity, to allow people to pull away when necessary without us being embittered against them. Let’s face it, half the time we want to run away! How then can we begrudge others who have the freedom to do so?
Caring for our child is extremely difficult on a myriad of levels and we do not have the right to put that burden on others. We must keep ourselves accountable, but we cannot hold others accountable for not being able to deal with our situation. They cannot possibly grasp the magnitude of having a chronically ill child lest they have or are going through it themselves. It is selfish for us to want others to understand because that would require them having their child become ill as well. That is unfair and unreasonable.
It all goes back to staying our mind on Christ; keeping our minds and hearts set on His love, comfort and mercy. Just as He is considerate of our shortcomings, we too must be considerate of others. Not everyone can cope with the same things, not to mention other folks have their own crosses to bear and we don’t always know how to talk to or assist them. Let us be mindful of what we expect from others. Let us be mindful that we’re all going through something so that we don’t put pressure on our loved ones to be what we think they should. Allow them to be who they are and focus on what is most important – our child’s wellbeing. We must guard our hearts so we are not led astray by the actions (or lack) of others. Let the mind that is in Christ be also in us. Bitterness we allow to take root will hurt us and everyone around us, not excluding the sick child.
Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Hebrews 12:15: See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
Chapter 5b: Abdicating the Throne of Flesh
“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…(Philippians 3:3, NAS).”
“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:3, NAS).”
Definition of Circumcision: removal of the foreskin or prepuce of the male genital organ
In the natural, circumcision is a customary, religious practice of being set apart from other people groups by removing a layer of skin not required for life. It is removed as a symbol of purity. One is born with it but is not necessary to sustain life, much like the appendix or gallbladder. Spiritually, God calls His people to be “set aside” through circumcision. We’re all born with a fleshly, sinful nature, but it must be cut away so as to be set aside unto God. It has everything to do with characteristics and predispositions with which we are all born. To say, “I was born this way” as if to excuse sin or bad behavior is invalid before God. We’re all born with characteristics, flaws and temptations that, once in Christ, must be abdicated to God through spiritual circumcision. For that matter, we’re all born little babies, but we do not remain in such a form.
To be circumcised in Christ means you live only unto Christ and you willingly cut away that which is displeasing to the King. It is a matter of surrendering everything. “Put no confidence in the flesh” Paul says, by definition, the flesh is defiled. The fleshly nature of mankind is a heavy yoke no one can bear very long. It is condemned and can breed only corruption, no exemptions. There is no exclusive club comprised of people who are born into righteousness. We are all born into the nature of the world with our minds corrupt from birth. There are natural weaknesses that don’t need to be kept and controlled; they need to be forfeited altogether for the cause of Christ.
A baby or young child may be innocent from blatant sin, but a child naturally knows how to manipulate with crying, whining, begging, nagging and things of the like. It comes naturally figuring out quickly how to get what it wants. That isn’t innocence, that’s the sin nature at work without even realizing what’s happening.
It is crucial you and I understand we are all born into the sin nature of Adam. There is no good person good enough that God would look upon them and say, “Okay, you, you and you are exempt from resigning the Adamic nature because I like your style!” Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? There is no one good but God (Matthew 19:16; Romans 7:18).” True circumcision is spiritual and it is a matter of cutting away that which divides you from intimacy with God.
All God’s people should desire and pray that “the natural will become unnatural and the supernatural of God become natural.” Translation: you personally should be so attuned to and led by Holy Spirit that acting worldly becomes unnatural, and operating supernaturally, as God, becomes everyday life. In this condition, whatever unholy characteristics are present with which we are born, they are brought into submission to the Holy One so that He will reign in their stead.
“They (the righteous) will have no fear of bad news” reads Psalm 112:7. For anyone who walks with God who has a chronically ill child, this verse alone has the power to uplift the most downtrodden in the darkest of times. God’s promise to those who love Him and keep his commands is that the righteous will never be forsaken, they will never be shaken.
I speak as one who is, through Jesus’ blood, the righteous seed of Abraham. As such, I have no fear of bad news because I trust the One who upholds His word as well as our family. Over the last 9 years, especially the last 3, I have watched Sophia go up and come down thousands of times over. One by one, we hear a diagnosis for this and for that. Just last week they determined she has dysautonomia, a malfunction of the nervous system. Three times in a week she had to get IV fluids because her body can’t retain them. This is causing chronic dehydration, fevers and tachycardia. Our next step is to visit the neurologist and cardiologist.
I can say without hesitation, I have no fear of bad news because my confidence lies in the God of all creation. It does not mean I like what’s happening or that I am enjoying watching my daughter suffer. It does mean I believe beyond what I see. I trust all things work together for good for those who love God. My heart is secure in Jesus, the Christ. I will praise Him all the more until I see heavenly, divine results concerning Sophia. My encouragement is in personally knowing who God is; in such intimate knowledge, it overrides temporary discouragement.
“Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor (Psalm 112:6-9).”
One of many issues with having a chronically ill child is dealing with the emotional and psychological toll. As a parent, when your child is sick for an extended period of time, for many people, there’s no escape because you are with them 24/7. You’re administering medications, taking them to the next doctor’s appointment or simply holding and comforting him or her hours at a time. To say it is “draining” and “overwhelming” is a gross understatement.
I can only speak from my perspective as I have not journeyed with any other parent and their sick child. I’m certain it is different in each situation but, at the root, we’re all exhausted which makes us the same. Since I don’t have a mountain cabin, a beach house or even a separate office at my disposal to which I can get away and I don’t have the means to hire a nursing staff to care for Sophia, I have to go in my room, shut the door and simply sit in quietude, just me and God. There I am able to regain my sanity once more as I talk to mine and Sophia’s Creator.
Being a caregiver of anyone is difficult in its own right, but caring for your baby of any age is quite another thing. Life can become so overwhelming you don’t know which way to turn. Graham Cooke said this and they are life-changing words by which I choose to live: “We are not here to be overwhelmed by life, by circumstances, by the wickedness of people, or by what the enemy is trying to accomplish. We are here to be overwhelmed by who God is for us.”
As I continue on this path with my God-created daughter, daily I remind myself that God is in love with her and with me. In this remembrance, I rest is who God is in every situation. I am at peace knowing Christ carried this specific burden at the Cross of Calvary. His Kingdom has equipped me with everything I need in each and every moment. When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the circumstances before us, I breath; I commune with the sovereign, holy God, and I choose rest instead of allowing chaos to ensue.
The tactic of Satan is to get us to panic because, when we do, we lose sight of God and His purpose. I am sustained even when I do not know what to do in a given moment. God is faithful, He is just, He is loving and He has a plan; I have walked with Him long enough to experience this fact. According to Romans 8:28, all things (good, bad, uncomfortable, painful, etc.) work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. I bank on this promise every single day. He will not let us down despite how bleak things can appear. I rest in His greatness.
Psalm 27:13-14: I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.