When You Love a Prodigal

by DanWolgemuth on July 30, 2019

The title above represents a book project from Judy Douglass, my friend and trusted ally. Judy and Steve Douglass have been a part of Cru for many, many years (Judy partners with Steve in leading Cru). Judy has brilliantly and honestly walked a journey as the parent of a prodigal. In March, Judy asked me to write the Foreword to her book that will release on September 17th. I’ve provided a link at the bottom… as you will be able to tell, Judy and Steve Douglass’ journey inspires me.


And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 ESV)

“… while he was still a long way off…”

A long way off. A chasm of shame and guilt and regret and anger and bitterness and despair… a chasm that only love and grace can navigate.

Jesus, the teacher of all teachers, teaches us. To love prodigals. To love in a way that crosses the chasm. While the prodigal is still a very, very long way off.

Jesus doesn’t minimize the distance, He resources it. Fuel for the journey, fire for the soul.

Traversing the pain-filled, doubt-littered, fear-exploding route of redemption.

A son… two sons… one consumed with pleasure, the other consumed by the pursuit of power and control. Both prodigals. Both lost and demanding. Both a burden.

Enter the love of a father. The Father.

Yes, God loves first. And His love isn’t restricted to saints… no, it focuses precisely on sinners. With sacrifice, humility and passion. God’s love for sinners is why He loves me. A prodigal. Sure, more politely prodigal than some, but a prodigal nonetheless. The “prodigal journey” is all of our journey.

The message of hope and life comes from the love of Jesus. God’s messenger and message to prodigals.

Our reaction to the message; we dismissed and despised Him. We mocked and rejected Him. This is often what happens to those who love a prodigal.

Yet, our pain has a companion in Jesus. We’re never alone in the journey across the chasm. Through the vast and tiring journey. In the middle of hopelessness and pain. Jesus is our guide and our friend. He is our breath and our advocate.

And in the journey, tears water the dust of discouragement. When our resolve is extinguished, and our courage depleted… God, through Jesus, shows us the way. “While he was still a long way off.”

Jesus doesn’t simply join us in the journey… no, this is His journey that He invites us to be a part of. This is His burden to carry, His wound to salve, His tear to wipe. Indeed, He knows the wilderness well.

And that is why Judy Douglass wrote this devotional. As a cup of cold water in the wilderness… from here to there, across the lonely and difficult chasm.

Her story is raw and personal. It’s authentic and tender. Her wilderness journey has a name, a face, an aching heart. And as Judy penned the words that follow, she attacks the lie that those who cross the chasm go alone. No, you are never alone… because Jesus, our King and Redeemer “saw, felt compassion, ran, embraced and kissed a desperately lost son.” Our son. Our daughter. Us.

“When You Love a Prodigal” is a book that Jesus wrote long ago. And I’m so grateful that Judy Douglass has powerfully and compassionately highlighted the immensity and persistence of God’s amazing love and grace.


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