God uses many circumstances in our lives to stretch our faith, and parenting is one of them. Sometimes, no matter how hard we strive to be godly mothers, our children turn their backs on God. They become prodigals. It can be a painful journey, and it’s one that Judy Douglass has walked.
Judy currently assists her husband, Steve, in leading Campus Crusade for Christ International, where she serves as Director of Women’s Resources. Judy is passionate about equipping women in ministry, and she blogs regularly at Kindling. This week, Judy told us the story of her son Josh and how it has impacted her relationship with God.
4word: Would you say that parenting stretches and grows your faith?
Judy: Parenting is probably the greatest faith stretcher there is. It reveals what’s inside us: our strengths and weaknesses. We feel unbelievably responsible and totally inadequate because we are trying to positively influence independent people who get to make their own choices.
4word: Earlier on the blog, Diane wrote about the pain of watching her son, Christian, making some very bad choices, and I know that you went through a similar struggle with your son, Josh. What was that like for you?
Judy: I have three wonderful, imperfect children. They grew up in a fairly public profile, as their dad and I were in leadership in our mission. Our girls, Debbie and Michelle, both provided some challenges for us, but mostly have made good choices. Both are walking with God, married and in ministry now.
Josh came to us at nine years old from a very difficult situation. From the beginning, he provided significant challenges for us. By his late teens, we were fully into the world of rebellion, poor choices and their consequences.
Josh took us into places we knew nothing about. Calls from the school principal about his latest escapade. The juvenile justice system. Repeated visits to traffic court. Late night calls from jail and hospital. Friends who lied to, stole from, took advantage of and abused us and our home.
There were definite strains on our marriage, partly because we couldn’t find solutions, but mostly because we had different ideas of how to help Josh. It was very stressful for our daughters because they felt Josh stole so much attention from them. But we have all come through it in peace and love, by God’s grace. Now, Josh is making mostly good decisions and usually seeking to walk with God.
Amazingly, Josh had a positive impact on our ministry. Because we did not hide our struggle, but lived out the journey in appropriate ways before our staff, we found new doors of ministry opened.
The greatest impact was on my relationship with God. We were helpless and therefore driven into His arms. My honesty with, trust in and hope in God all grew in amazing ways.
4word: Can you tell us some of the story behind Prayer for Prodigals? What inspired you to start that ministry?
Judy: Prayer for Prodigals is a direct result of our desperation for our son. Nothing we tried was helping. Even my prayers didn’t seem to make a difference for Josh.
So one June 2, Josh’s spiritual birthday, I asked some friends to join us in a Worldwide Day of Prayer for Josh. Quite a few did, and we saw some positive effects in his life. So we prayed each June 2, in growing numbers, and each year, God answered in specific ways.
A few years ago, I sensed God wanted us to expand our efforts, and the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals was born. For two years I managed the growing number of people and requests via my personal email. When the numbers grew too great, we built a website: Prayer for Prodigals. It is filled with resources and has an active ongoing prayer center. It is an incredible community of hope and help. Every June 2, we all come together for the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals. This past June 2 we prayed for a list of some 1600 names.
Judy: In your article for FulFill Magazine’s blog, you said that you wouldn’t trade the struggle or the pain “because the gifts [you] received through this prodigal are of far greater value.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
Judy: Here are a few of the gifts that I believe have come directly from God via Josh:
- I know I am totally dependent on God.
- I learned to pray—really.
- I know for sure that God will never give up on me—and He enabled me to not give up on Josh.
- I have a better understanding of unconditional love.
- I am able to attest to God’s unfathomable love and grace.
- I am able to share hope and courage with others.
4word: What’s one thing you think our readers should know about being a parent, regardless of whether or not their children are walking with Christ?
Judy: I’ll share two things. First, you can’t do it yourself. It takes the Holy Spirit living through you. Second, it is only partly about what you do for your children. It is more about what God does in you through them.
If you’re interested in joining the private Prayer for Prodigals community, you can request an invitation at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to hear more from Judy, you can visit her blog, Kindling, or follow her on Twitter: @Jeedoo417.