The following article is part of a series of excerpts from Letting Go, a book I wrote with Paul Gilbert that was recently published by Zondervan.
Actually, no. Fatigue doesn’t depict the whole wound. We’re talking about a different kind of depletion. Imagine your life as a pro wrestling ring where emotional exhaustion, mental weariness, and bodily weakness become a tag team who drop in each day with a smack-down. Alarm, breakfast, shower, bruising…repeat!
We are describing the collateral damage caused by one who strays. They suck life out of those who love them. It’s weariness, but it’s also something more: a kind of fear-encased, passion-sapping, confidence-wrecking, bone-tired exhaustion. If you love a prodigal, you’re always on-call emotionally. What foolish decisions will he indulge? What influences will she follow? Will they be safe?
So you talk to your prodigal. You are convinced that if they can just hear this one thing…they will change. But talk creates the illusion of progress and becomes a form of self-medication. Joy is erased and the world becomes a gloomy shade of grey.
Christ’s Suffering and Our Fatigue
Fatigue isolates. All relational energy gets pumped into survival. Combine this fact with the shame factor or the “If only…” factor, and you often see people alone in navigating their path of dealing with a wayward loved one. In solitude, it doesn’t take long for dangerous thoughts to surface: No one can relate to the pressures I feel; no one understands what it’s like for me to struggle daily with all this sin.”
Actually, someone does. Jesus wants to encourage you from his experience. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4).
Within the garden, Jesus prayed. The stress was enormous as he prepared to become God’s sacrificial lamb. Great drops of blood appeared on his forehead and streamed down his face. Denial, betrayal, torture, crucifixion, forsakenness, all of was it just a few hours away.
Christ is an expert in being overwhelmed when loving wayward people. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” he said. But then he whispered, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
He felt the strain; fought back the temptations; endured the scorn and humiliation. He struggled against the sins of others. Then he died.
Jesus was the pioneer of our faith and the pioneer in our struggles with wayward people. You are not alone. Jesus has gone before you in this experience. He gets it. In fact, Jesus sweat and spilled blood to ensure “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Are you weary? Take heart. Jesus understands and knows exactly what you need. Jesus knows what it’s like to feel forsaken. Don’t give up.
Fortify Your Perseverance
Here are some things you can do to fortify your perseverance.
1. Don’t neglect your physical health. Exercise, eating, and sleeping are not dispensable. Loving prodigals is a marathon. Keep moving.
2. Don’t neglect your spiritual health. Take time to read and meditate on God’s promises. Confess fear, control, anger. Don’t neglect spiritual disciplines.
3. Don’t neglect your emotional health. Take time to grieve.
4. Don’t neglect your relational health. Connect relationally with church members and other Christians. Seek fellowship. Ask for help.
5. Don’t neglect your intellectual health. Read; do a Bible study; do your hobby. These activities are not meaningless; they will supply your soul and feed your sanity.
6. Don’t neglect your family health. Yes, the wayward one is gone, but everyone else remains. Your family needs you and your strength. Let those you love see the faith you hold.
7. Don’t neglect your history. Remember how God delivered you in the past and trust Him with your prodigal.
Above all, flee to Christ and fight to keep the right perspective.