How to Live with the Uncertainty of a Prodigal

I don’t do well with uncertainty. I like clear expectations, definitive answers to my questions, and specific guidance for next steps – whether from my family, friends, employer, or even from God…maybe ESPECIALLY from God.

Over the past two decades, I have had to learn to live with uncertainty and shattered dreams in more than one arena. The most challenging was praying for adult loved ones who have either yet to come to faith in Jesus Christ or who have walked away from following Him. And yet I have come to a place in life where – most of the time – I have a sense of peace and not anxiousness when I think about my 90-year old father who clings tenaciously to the agnostic label or adult children/grandchildren who are trusting in their own wisdom and abilities as they make life choices.

To some this “inner peace” may be misconstrued as surrender, hopelessness, weariness, or lethargy. But others have asked how I found this peaceful contentment amid uncertainty and apparent unanswered prayers. Here are a few pointers that have helped me:

  1. Expand your long-distance vision. I no longer wake up each day fully expecting that “today” will bring all the answers (or miracles) I seek. I still believe that God is at work, often behind the scenes where my vision is limited. I go about my day with a focus on my own responsibilities for this 24 hours, leaving tomorrow, next week, and next month in God’s hands and off my worry list. I try not to fret over what I see in their lives today and to allow them and God to “work out” their faith in their own personalized timelines, knowing He loves them more than I do. I remind myself that spiritual birth and growth take longer for some and they are in Good Hands!
  2. Expand your grateful heart. I try to look for small things in each one for which I can be thankful. I thank God and, when possible, also mention it to them in the form of encouragement or affirmation (i.e., “blessings”). This may be verbal (in person, by phone or computer), a written note, or by brief text. If I pay more attention to what’s missing than what is present in their lives, they feel my disappointment or sadness regardless of my attempts not to communicate that. Striving to be watchful and attentive to small kindnesses shown, efforts to improve relationships, or positive decisions requires conscious effort and energy from me – energy better expended than in fretting or worry. A grateful heart makes waiting for answers more endurable.
  3. Expand your own faith walk. The supernatural “peace that is beyond human understanding” is a gift from God. It comes with a closer personally intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The more time I spend with Him and the better I get to know Him, the greater my trust in His beneficence and good plans (for me as well as for the ones I love so much). This makes it easier to confidently place my burdens, worries, and fears in God’s care. Of course, I sometimes take them back onto my own shoulders but, finding them too heavy, I will release them to His responsibility once more. The ultimate outcome of the lives of loved ones is far too great a burden for any of us to carry. It will crush us if we insist on carrying it ourselves. One of the best means of transferring this heavy weight is through prayer—praying alone, praying with my spouse, and praying with others who share similar concerns. Prayer is healing for those who pray as well as those for whom we intercede.

I still do not enjoy uncertainty in any areas of my life. But I am growing in daily peaceful contentment with imperfect circumstances and patience with today’s unanswered prayers as I wait with expanded thankfulness for God’s timing in the lives of those I love.

Bev and her husband, Olin, are Ministry Partners of CGN. They lead our Courageous Grandparenting Seminars as requested. Bev serves as Director of Care Ministries at Lake Free Church in Lindstrom, MN. She and Olin have nine children and ten grandchildren.

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