There are numerous times I am asked to pray for family members and loved ones of friends who seem to be walking away from God or are overtly anti-Christian, anti-church, and anti-God. The heartbreak of parents lamenting the walking away of children from the faith is overwhelming. The church is full of parents struggling with the prodigal story. Some sought to raise their children in the faith. Others came to Christ later in life themselves and lament the lost years where God was not honored in the home.
As I sort through the emotions that come with these stories (and there are many stories like this) I must also look at my own response. As others in the ministry can attest, we are not protected from these stories. They often become more than something we are seeking to help others manage, but also biographical.
It wasn't long ago a question came to my mind.
I'm ashamed to even admit the answer to the question that I offered, yet as I continue through this journey of life, perhaps others have felt this as well.
In the midst of the hurt, the grief, and the pain, when a child (or a spouse, close friend, other loved one...you pick the scenario) walks away from a life of Christ-centeredness, church, morality and a biblical worldview, am I broken for the sin expressed or just embarrassed by how these actions make me appear?
Oh, I know the right answer.
As a Christian, sin should grieve me. I should have compassion for those struggling with faith questions. I should pray for the Light of the world to shine brightly through the encompassing darkness loved ones find around them. I should be broken, seriously broken for how sin has entered my story and kidnapped my beloved.
That's how Christ expressed his feelings over the people, right?
Yet, because of self-centeredness and a religious viewpoint on many things, that which should be expressed is suppressed. Am I really broken, or just embarrassed? When a person is hurt by a loved one the pain goes much deeper than if it were just from an acquaintance. If hurt by a stranger, anger may be expressed, but again, it's not as deep as from a loved one.
I think of Judas' kiss and betrayal of Christ. He was not just a member of the crowd. He was a close friend, a loved one, one of the twelve. Oh, I know he was a thief from the beginning. So did Christ. Yet, I also know that Judas was loved.
The betrayal hurt, but only a loved one can betray, right?
So friends as you sort through your responses to prodigal children, betraying spouses, hurtful relatives and those who seemingly walk out of the church never to return (at least via their expressed plans) how do you feel?
Yeah, feelings are dangerous, yet you still have them. So, how do you feel?
Beyond the anger, frustration, and hurt, does the sin that seemingly kidnapped your loved one leave you broken in grief and moved to deeper prayer and trust in a God who loves your loved ones more than even you? Or...and this may surprise you at the truth...are you really just embarrassed because of how your loved one has chosen to walk away? In many cases, the walk away isn't hidden from your church family and friends. Thanks to social media and an inability for most people to live their lives privately, everyone (it seems) will soon know the lifestyle choices of your loved one.
And that may leave you embarrassed, right?
May we see the story for what it is and understand the Enemy's tactics well. May we have compassion for those who are far from God and remove ourselves from the center of the story. If my embarrassment is the primary factor, the story is all about me! Yet, brokenness over lostness leads to reliance on the God of grace and mercy.
Life is difficult and no story runs smoothly, especially if you're intent on honoring God. However, it is wise to remember the depth and strength of the love of an unchanging God in the midst of the difficult days. Continue to love people, even those who have betrayed you. That, my friends, is impossible apart from the grace of God.
In truth, I'm embarrassed that I have been more embarrassed than broken.
Of this, I repent.