I am going home to have Thanksgiving with family I haven’t seen in years. I was recently diagnosed with cancer. Before I met Christ, I squandered money and relationships. I’m worried about how to relate to my family again. It could be very awkward for us all.
Dear Prodigal Son,
First, I am sorry for your diagnosis with cancer but very glad you are returning home this year. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect on God’s goodness and to make amends with friends and family. Before you go, ask God to prepare your heart and those you will see. And, consider the following.
I don’t know how dire your diagnosis is. But, you must be looking back on your life and considering your future. This is very healthy and will reshape your entire perspective.
A funeral company in South Korea conducts living funerals “to help people appreciate their lives and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends,” says Jeong Yong-mun. He heads Hyowon Healing Center where more than 25,000 people have “died” to learn to live.
Teenagers to retirees are participating in these living funerals. They put on shrouds, take funeral portraits, write their last testaments and actually lie in a closed coffin for ten minutes.
Professor Yu Eun-sil, a doctor at Asan Medical Center, wrote a book about death. He believes it is valuable to prepare for death even at a young age.
The Healing Center attempts to communicate to people that they matter. That happiness is in the present and that someone would miss them if they were gone.
Jeong Yong-Mun says, “We don’t have forever. That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”
Larry Burkett, Crown’s late founder, who was diagnosed with cancer as well, said that “everyone should experience a verbal pronouncement of terminal disease”. He said that it quickly puts “everything into perspective.” Even in the midst of great hardship, I hope you have experienced that blessing from your diagnosis.
God, our Provider, is generous and merciful. The future He promises for those who have put their faith in Him grants hope. When the Prophet Jeremiah was grieving, he said:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV)
To avoid or root out bitterness, seek to mend broken relationships. Verbally forgive others and ask for forgiveness. Like Paul said:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, knew pain and suffering. And, yet she clung to the Lord. She said, In darkness God’s truth shines most clear. And: There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.
God loves you and nothing can separate you from His love. When you cling to this fact, you can be a vessel in the hands of God to be poured out for others.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
Regarding your comment that you have squandered your finances in the past, make a plan to be generous with your loved ones to demonstrate to them that you are no longer self absorbed with money.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35 NIV)
Perhaps you can take gifts or make an effort to supply food items for the Thanksgiving meal or contribute to the costs others have undertaken to be the hosts. Your generosity will speak volumes to your family.
I pray you choose to recognize that every day you have is a gift from God, available to be spent for His glory. May this event be a turning point for you and your family. There is no greater joy than when a prodigal returns home.
Originally published on the Christian Post, November 22, 2019
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