But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31
How long should a stander wait on a prodigal to come home? Does there come a point when it is acceptable to simply give up and call it quits? Does God understand if we “move on” with our lives and put the painful past behind us? Many in distressed or broken marriages will oftentimes ask these questions. For a majority, there will come a point when the desire to escape the pain, emptiness and despair becomes too overwhelming to bear. At this stage, we begin to question our stand and the sovereignty and faithfulness of God to intervene and bring restoration. While it is understandable to sympathize with someone in this situation, we need to be discerning in our approach to identifying the root causes of the sadness and grief. Above all else, our examination should focus on God’s Word. This correct approach will reveal how easily our hearts can be deceived and our minds swayed from holding fast to the truth.
When it comes to establishing a set time for waiting on a prodigal to return home, we need to reframe the question. We must understand that the goal or “endgame” for any stander should be to see their spouse come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their journey home to you and your family is secondary. But, because of the emotional ties we have with our one flesh partner, it becomes challenging on many levels to keep this right perspective. Regardless of the difficulty, we must strive to stay focussed on the spiritual and eternal nature of the battle.
Your absent husband or wife is likely facing an eternal separation from God if they remain in their sin and bondage to the flesh. This is the sobering reality. Focus your prayers and petitions before the Lord on the very heart of the matter, the soul and mind of your deceived spouse. Our question to God shouldn’t be, “How long must I wait for my prodigal to come home?” but rather, “How can God use me to help point my prodigal towards a saving knowledge of God’s truth?” Our marriages will only return to a condition that is honoring and pleasing to the Lord when both husbands and wives have fully submitted themselves to God’s will. In most cases, prodigals will not arrive at this state until they are broken by God. As someone who lived as an “in-home” prodigal of sorts for over ten year, I can assure you that when the hand of correction does come, it comes swiftly and mightily. For me, the result was a complete heart transformation as Christ began the work that only He could.
As far as “moving on” is concerned, the first question to ask is, “What does that really mean?” Is it to say that an individual wants out of the situation he or she is in and believes there to be a better path apart from the Lord’s revealed will? Sadly, in most cases it does. Be cautioned though. This “take charge” approach to rectifying our situations is not rooted in God’s truth. In fact, it is quite to the contrary. What “moving on” or “moving forward” essentially boils down to is an unwillingness to wait on God.
In other words, it is the belief that God isn’t fulfilling His end of the deal fast enough. Can you understand how foolish it is to think this way? All throughout Scripture we find examples of man relying on his own understanding and failing to acknowledge and follow God’s clear instructions. This deeply flawed perspective and approach to dealing with trials and tribulations will result in nothing but more pain and heartache. Granted, there may be some temporary relief from the grief and suffering in the short term. Speaking long term however, you will find the “quick fixes” you attempt to apply now, will likely result in problems down the road that eclipse the magnitude of the stress and sorrow you are enduring in the present. This is almost a certainty, and you have no idea of how those issues will manifest themselves later on. You don’t want to know either.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.Proverbs 14:12
Dear friends, as God’s Word says, there is a way of thinking that may seem right, but if it is apart from the Lord’s revealed truth, it will not lead to peace and fulfillment. In most cases it will only lead to further heartache and suffering. When you are being tempted by the enemy to give up your stand so as to make the pain go away, remember Christ’s example for us. Even as He was being crucified, he remained faithful to His call. He willingly suffered and endured the pain on our behalf. In the end, death was conquered and defeated.
I challenge you this day to let the mind that was in Christ Jesus also be in you. Endure what you have been called to endure and rejoice that our God is faithful in fulfilling his promises. And as to the question, how long should we wait for God to move? We should wait for as long and as fervently as his faithfulness to us endures.