Our Prodigals are His

Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

The account recorded in Mark chapter 9 details an incident concerning a man, his young adult son, Jesus’ disciples, and the Master himself.

We enter the scene in the midst of a dispute because the disciples were not able to handle the man’s problem. This father’s predicament mirrors what many parents today encounter when dealing with their adult children’s choices, problems, and dilemmas. And the narrative holds answers for distraught contemporary parents when their adult children decide to live in a way the parents—especially Christian parents—simply didn’t see coming.

The Case

“I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not” (verse 18 NKJV). You see, the case in front of us had to do with a problem this father never saw coming. This son was often so affected by a demonic spirit that “it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid” (verse 18).

The issues that seize our adult children take us by surprise, not only because they’re troublesome, but also because as our kids deal with life, they sometimes veer from the Christian standards of morality we hold dear.

What to Face

“How long has this been happening to him?” (verse 21). Instead of eliminating the son’s problem, Jesus sends the father through an interview of sorts. He asks the man about the length of time his son has been plagued by this spirit. The father’s answer? “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him” (verses 21–22).

Both this biblical dad and we parents today mustn’t allow embarrassment, denial, anger, disbelief, or minimization to deter us from facing the seriousness of our adult children’s hurts or departures from the faith. Face the issues head on. Be honest as this father was about exactly what his son was going through. We cannot fix what we refuse to face.

Make Haste

The father of Mark chapter 9 hastened to the One who held the answer he needed for his child. “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us … help my unbelief” (verses 22, 24).

This father cried out to Jesus through tears. Watching his son being tortured was torturing him.

We must recognize the spiritual battles we are up against and make haste to engage the enemy. There can be a controlled urgency about our attack. Depending on the crisis, our children either do not realize they have been duped, do not recognize they are being deceived, or are powerless to react against that which has overpowered them. No matter the problem or the cause, like the father in the biblical account, it’s the parents’ responsibility to take those adult children to Jesus—they will not or cannot go on their own.


Even though the man realized his own shortcomings, the Master granted his request. “He [Jesus] rebuked the unclean spirit … [and] Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up” (verses 25, 27).

Our personal shortcomings and lack of faith do not prevent Jesus from healing, delivering, and changing our adult children.

Jesus goes straight to the core of the problem by rebuking the spirit and commanding it to leave permanently. The young adult son did not have to clean up his act, and the father did not have to turn into some super-spiritual perfect specimen. Trust in God’s ability and dependence upon God’s grace were enough for that dad to see his son freed. And God’s grace is enough for us and our adult kids too.

No matter the case you didn’t see coming in the lives of you and your adult children, bravely face it head on, make haste to turn the problem over to Jesus, and then wait patiently for God’s grace to make a difference.

Dr. Sharon Elliott is the author of Didn’t See That Coming: When How They’re Living’s Not How You Raised Them. Her passion lies in encouraging the people of God to live significant, authentic lives that clearly mirror the love and life of God to the world thanks to the life of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

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