Forgiveness: The Return of the Elder Son

Beloved Prodigal 4.23.18 b.png

Have you asked the Lord for a friend who could come alongside you as you pray for loved ones? 

Have you felt the alone-ness that comes when your church body has grown weary of hearing you request prayer for your wandering ones again?

I have felt those cries when my children were walking through deep times of questioning.  And God miraculously sent me friends who understood the weight of caring and wanted to join with me in praying. I have also rejoiced when the Lord allowed me to be in a church body that joined together in praying for those wandering loved ones.

But I have also walked alone in churches that seemed to have forgotten the young ones who had once been a part of their fellowship.  It was during one of those most lonely times that a dear friend and prayer partner felt led by the Lord to start an Intercessors’ Group in her church.

The book they used during their study was The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.  This friend and I had walked through many years of praying together for our children, but now we lived almost two hours apart from each other.  She suggested that perhaps the women in her group would allow me to join “long distance.”  And so, once again, God made a way when there seemed to be no way.

On one occasion when I was visiting my friend, I was able to be with the group in person, and I shared what the Lord had put on my heart. I began by relating a dream I had 2 years prior to our meeting . . .

“In my dream I was in a large house with two adjoining front rooms. In the first room there was a women’s Bible Study, and I was participating.  I got up to move to the adjoining room, where another women’s Bible Study was happening.  In the doorway between I started sobbing and almost collapsed, but the Pastor’s wife of my current church jumped up to catch me. I was crying and kept repeating the words, ‘the young ones, oh the young ones!’ And then I woke up (I thought, but I was still dreaming) and told my husband about my dream. He said ‘you were interceding, just like Ruth.’  And then I actually did wake up, to find that there were real tears running down my cheeks.”

As together we studied the chapter in Henri Nouwen’s book concerning the elder son, I felt the Lord ask me:

“How does the elder son in our passage compare to Ruth?”

When Nouwen looked at the Father’s love that was given to the elder son, he quoted Shakespeare’s Sonnet on Love: “Love is not love which alters when alteration finds.”   The Father’s love is unchanging – it alters not. In response to the elder son’s complaints about the younger son, the Father spoke:

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’” ~ Luke 15:31

When the elder son wanted to be justified in his position of complaining about all of the wrong that had been done, he showed that he did not understand the Father’s heart of love that could not be altered by any circumstance.

The Father would ask the Elder Son to take up forgiveness—which is bearing the cost—for all the wrong that had been done. In the same way, our Father asks us to forgive the younger son for leaving, and to forgive the spectators, the church, the world, for not acknowledging our service—our son-ship.

When we truly see the forgiveness the Father has already extended to us, it is then we can receive the gift to be able to extend that same forgiveness to others.  And in that place of being the forgiven and forgiving elder brother, we long to see and celebrate our brothers coming home.

But where does Ruth fit in?

Ruth CHOSE to bear the cost of Naomi’s disobedience with her.  After all, it was Naomi, with her husband, who had run away from their Father’s house.  Ruth was not guilty, and she was not bound to stay with Naomi. She could have rejoined her people along with Orpah, but she chose to say to Naomi:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” ~ Ruth 1:16

She chose to identify and bear the cost with Naomi. She ultimately took up intercession for Naomi through her union with Boaz (the Kinsman-Redeemer) and gave to Naomi the child of her inheritance. And she saw the answer that God gave: Naomi, no longer “bitter” but “full.” (Ruth 4:15-16)

Here in this place, as my children have moved into their own lives, I am still praying for them. They have lifted their eyes and hearts to Jesus, but yet I know there is still a deeper healing that each will walk through.  And there are other “second children” of mine, children of very dear friends, who yet remain in places of deep wounding and shame.  And I can hear God asking the same question He posed to me at the end of that class, more than 10 years ago:

Beloved Prodigal 4.23.18 a

Will I stay in the place of the complaining Elder Son, feeling justified in my stance of being hard to those who have wronged me and my children?

Or, will I like Joseph say “What you meant for harm, God has meant for good,” and like Ruth, “your God shall be my God.”  He has already given the gift of forgiveness, bearing the cost, and there is no alteration in His love. Everything He has, He has given to us . . .

Will you pray with me?

Dear Father, Thank you that You truly do see the cost of this alabaster box of praise in our hearts. There is nothing that is hidden from You.  Will You forgive us for holding onto the hurt and shame that was heaped on us? Will You forgive us for feeling justified in our complaining hearts?

You have given us so much and invited us into Your very presence. Our hearts are broken with the forgiveness that You have poured over us. Now we ask for You to allow us the gift of forgiving those who have wronged us.  We want to walk with You and to bear the cost with You. We rejoice in Your salvation that You will bring to our loved ones. In the precious name of Your son Jesus we pray. Amen

(This post was originally shared with “The Beloved Prodigal” Community.)

Thank you to everyone who prayed for my husband’s knee surgery last week! Praise God that he is at home now, beginning the road to rehab.  We have been so blessed by the outpouring of love that we have felt.  Truly, Jesus is being our strength and sufficiency here. After this week I will be on a blogging break until later in May.  May God Bless you all, dear friends!

I am linking with:




30 thoughts on “Forgiveness: The Return of the Elder Son

  1. This is such a beautiful and ispiring post, Bettie! I’ve also left a comment on the Beloved Prodigal blog but just wanted to say how very much your words have touched me. It’s rather awe-inspiring when God speaks to us through our dreams, isn’t it? It shows how He has His hand on every aspect of our lives. Nothing is pure coincidence or left to chance. All is gift and all is grace and all is underpinned by His goodness and love. Thinking of you as you cope at home now after Barry’s surgery. With much love and prayers. xoxox ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Joy,
      I am so blessed that the Lord brought beauty and inspiration here for you! And, oh yes He does inspire awe in our hearts when He shows us things, even through our dreams! I love what you said here: “All is gift and all is grace and all is underpinned by His goodness and love.” He does carry us so securely in His love! Thank you so much for your love and prayers for Barry’s recovery! May you be blessed too this week, my dear friend! Love and hugs!! xoxo

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a vivid dream! And I’m sure your husband was right about it showing your interceding heart and prayer. I love how God wastes nothing in our lives. We don’t always understand everything, but He does and works for our good and His glory. Blessings and love to you! xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Gayl,
      Oh, thank you for the beautiful reminder that our God wastes nothing in our lives. He is always at work, interweaving and joining together for His good purposes! Thank you so much for all of your love and support, my friend! Your prayers mean so much to me!! Much Blessings, love and hugs to you! xoxo

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a touching dream, Bettie! And it’s beautiful how God provided friends for you along the way that carried the same heaviness in their souls for their children as you do. Such beautiful encouragement here! I pray God will give your husband further healing and strength. And also strength for you as you help him as you can. Love and hugs to you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Trudy,
      Yes, God was so good (and still is) to send praying friends along on this journey! What a gift, that I surely do not take lightly. And I cherish all of your prayers for us now, too, my friend! They mean so much to me. I am leaning on Jesus so much through this process. And He is being so good, to take care of things that I cannot. Even through a home health care nurse who will come to our house for these first few weeks–I am so grateful!! Love and hugs to you too! xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your prayers Lisa. It is surely a process, but I am so grateful that my husband has been offered such great medical care, and such dear comforts from the Lord! I hope that you are able to read this book, Lisa. I have really loved Henri Nouwen’s writing–each book is filled with so many treasures! Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So glad the knee surgery went well and happy for you that you can take a break. I hope you return refreshed and ready to write again this summer! What an amazing dream and an amazing group of ladies you were blessed to pray with. I have a friend who I pray with every Tuesday about our families and also our own spiritual walk. I’m so thankful for the relationship as I know many long for that and don’t always have it. Blessings on your break!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your prayers Amy! We appreciate them so much! It truly is a blessing when we have those personal prayer connections with friends isn’t it? I am thankful that you have such a precious friend to share your heart with. It is something that I do not take lightly, since I have felt those lonely times. I pray that the Lord will help us to keep our eyes open to see those that He might direct us to, to share prayers with! Blessings to you!


  6. Firstly I am grateful your husband is healing well.☺
    And this article oh my God, Bettie it is awesome.
    Shared my thoughts over there too.
    Hugs and Blessings to you and your family from Lagos, Nigeria 💃💃💃

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Ifeoma,
      Thank you so much for your prayers for my husband and for me as we walk through these difficult days of rehab. HE is our only strength!! And I am so grateful that the Lord touched you through these words here. His grace and mercy are so high above our ways, aren’t they? What an awesome God we serve! May we ever be looking up to HIM!! Love and hugs and blessings to you, across the ocean!! xoxo


    1. Dear Emily,
      I am glad to have found someone else who loves Henri Nouwen’s writings! God is so good to give Himself to us, and to help us lay our hearts open before Him! Blessings to you!


  7. Oh, dear friend! I am so thankful your husband is doing fine and is back home now. I trust the Lord will bless and strengthen you both during this time. Praying for you and sending hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Cheryl,
      Thank you so much for all of your prayers! We can feel the Lord’s protection over us through these hard days. I really cannot begin to say how grateful we are that He keeps bringing us just what we need. Blessings, love, and hugs to you my friend! xoxo


  8. Intercession is a powerful tool. A gift. I have gone through seasons of heavy, intense intercession and other seasons of peaceful, give it to God prayers. There is a time for both. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Susan,
      You are so right–there is a season for both kinds of prayers, and God calls us to walk with Him through each one. I am so grateful that we can encourage each other through all of those times! xo


    1. Oh, yes, Henri Nouwen’s works are all so heart-stirring, aren’t they? I’m so thankful that his books have been preserved for the next generation to discover. And he does bring such a fullness to story of the Prodigal Son. Blessings to you!


  9. I loved that Henri Nouwen book and have also been praying for my Prodigal Daughter (not a daughter by blood, just a young person I love dearly). So this encourages me today.

    May the Lord bless your husband’s recovery and your blogging break!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Betsy,
      Oh I am so thankful that the Lord knew how to bring His encouragement to you here! I am joining you in prayer tonight for your dearly loved “second daughter.” May the Lord woo her back into His presence. And thank you so much for your prayers over my blogging break & my husband’s recovery. Blessings to you!


    1. Dear Sandra,
      Yes, I agree that this parable is rich with meaning on so many levels. I am so grateful that Jesus keeps drawing us back to His Word and to His Father’s love. Blessings to you!


  10. May your husband continue to heal quickly. Glad the surgery was successful. PT is hard and its where the real work involves, but so very worth it. He will get his life back and so much more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much for your prayers and support. They mean so much, especially now as he is in the hard stages of PT. It is so good to know that the Lord is with us each step of the way. Blessings to you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s