Few things in life are more heartbreaking than having a loved one turn away from God. The disappointment, fear, worry, and pain can be overwhelming. How do you keep a positive attitude, go on with your own responsibilities, and hang on to hope? How do you keep from being guided by your emotions? What do you do with the anger? How do you make sure your own faith stays strong? These are the types of questions I struggled with, and the questions I address in an upcoming book. Throughout the month of December I’ll be sharing excerpts from the book. Today I’ll share the introduction. My prayer is that this book will strengthen and encourage those who find themselves pleading with wayward loved ones.
It has to be true that the greater the love one has for another, the greater the pain when that love is rejected. A mere acquaintance who does not return overtures of friendship is no heartache. A bond forged at youth camp which promises to keep in touch “forever and ever” then gradually fizzles out causes no tears. But when a husband of twenty or thirty years spurns the wife of his youth in favor of a more youthful wife, the pain is unbearable. A mother whose angry son has gone the way of the world and no longer wants anything to do with her feels like her heart has been ripped from her chest.
Consider the greatest of all loves–the love God has for His children. Can we really adequately grasp the depth of God’s love? Time and distance can douse friendships. Unfaithfulness can kill marriages. But nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38,39)! Even when the children of Israel rejected Him and repeatedly committed spiritual adultery, God pleaded, “Return to Me” (Jeremiah 3:1). God is the creator of man and the creator of love. God IS love (1 John 4:16). What immeasurable pain, then, God must experience when His children fall away!
Hosea’s task was difficult and his message from God was an emotional one. The faithfulness of the Israelites was described as “a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away” (Hosea 6:4 NKJV). Hosea pleaded with the children of Israel to turn from idolatry by reminding them of the loyalty of God’s love. God said He loved them from their youth, and He taught them to walk, “taking them by their arms.” He “drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love,” and “stooped and fed them.” God’s tender care for His people is very apparent, and so is His hurt as He declared, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.” None at all? To spiritually lose one child is detrimental enough. How easy, then, to understand God’s grief as He cried out, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?…My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred” (Hosea 11:1-8).
“How can I give you up?” So many read this passage and feel their chest tighten with sympathy. They can completely relate to this question. Concerning a wayward loved one, many have thought over and over, “How can I bear to let you go?” Nothing is more grievous than having a loved one fall away from the Lord. Losing someone in death is painful, but Christians can look forward to that happy reunion in Heaven. Losing someone spiritually is overwhelmingly painful. In addition to the severed relationship, there is the fear of losing a loved one eternally. There is the loss of being able to pray, “Lord, come quickly,” for instead there is a panic that He might return and it be too late for the beloved prodigal.
The Father knows how we feel. He understands. We can turn to Him for guidance and help. As much as we want to wring our hands, weep, and wring our hands some more, we know that is not healthy after an extended period of time. The purpose of this book is to discuss how to cope when loved ones fall away. At the end of each chapter is a “Faith in Action” activity. Sometimes it helps just to have something tangible to do. To get the reader started, and to build a foundation for this study, there is even a suggested activity here at the end of this introduction. Also at the end of each chapter are some thoughts shared by individuals who have had a loved one fall away from the Lord.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24).
*Faith in Action– Go through the first several chapters of the book of Jeremiah. Underline in black (representing sin) phrases like “they have gone far from Me,” “backsliding,” “forsaken the Lord,” “transgressed against Me,” “rejected,” and “My people have forgotten Me.” Then underline in red (representing God’s loyal love) every time God says, “return,” “return to Me,” or “amend your ways.”