Remember to Breathe

Intro from Barbara:

I know exactly what Judy means when she writes in this post about remembering to breathe. Though it’s a built-in automatic bodily function, when you have a prodigal or one of your chicks is wandering in their faith, we mamas hold our breath … a LOT. Most every Christian parent wants their children to make wise and godly choices. We long for them to experience as little pain as possible. But no child stays on the straight and narrow flawlessly, and some flail widely, determined to do life on their terms instead of God’s.

Judy and I have talked over the years about our common experiences and she has hosted conferences for parents of prodigals … now she has taken that insider lifetime knowledge and shaped it into a book. Judy is a wise woman who loves her one and only son fiercely. I’m delighted to have her share her wisdom with you today.”  – Barbara

Remember to Breathe by Judy Douglass

When you love a prodigal, you hold your breath a lot.

A recent season with our wayward one was especially breathless. Papa – our adopted son Josh’s grandfather- was slowly failing, with various ailments claiming more and more of his 88-year-old body.

Three weeks earlier Josh and I went to visit him for the day. The last time we saw him he seemed fine—his usual chatty self. He and Josh had good conversations. But when we arrived this time, it was as though the breath was knocked out of us.

He was mostly sleeping, mostly unresponsive. We were celebrating Josh’s birthday—I went to him with a cheery, “Papa, wake up.  It’s time for birthday cake.” He raised his head, knew me, said something briefly, and was out again. We did eventually get him to eat a bite of cake.

We returned two days later, holding our breath. Would he have revived?  

No, the same or worse.  Josh spent the rest of the week there, loving his Mimi, encouraging his sister, and being the strongest he’s ever been. Steady, calm, wise, adult—her rock, Mimi said.  

In long “conversations” Josh told Papa all he had meant to him—how he had been the dad he hadn’t had in those early years, how he had taught him to fish and handle a boat, how he had taken him to baseball and karate.

I left for a trip to Uganda. On Saturday afternoon the call came. Josh, through many tears, said Papa was gone.  We talked a long time. Pain and loss flowed from my son. He would grieve. But he would be strong. His Mimi needed him. He had to help take care of things. (See more on loss here.

Yet I held my breath. My husband and I had dreaded this moment. Yes, we would grieve the loss of this dear man Josh had brought into our lives. But the fear of what Josh would do was strong. Would he return to his old patterns for coping with unbearable circumstances? Would he harm himself? We had tried to prepare ourselves for the possibility.

But Josh did not. He went from deep weeping to determination to make Papa proud. Abundant tears were followed by resolve. Faltering choices changed to courage.

Still, I held my breath. It’s hard to shake years of destructive responses. Could he keep walking a new path? Would he let God comfort and encourage and strengthen him? Would this be a turning point of newness of life for him?

“Remember to breathe.”


God whispered it again. “Remember to breathe.”

“I am with him,” He assured me. “I am holding him. I have never let him go. I have known this was coming. I am doing a good work in Josh: ‘…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1:6)

“Be at peace. Breathe. The legacy of Papa will help him go forward bravely, with hope. He has a future.”

A little air began to escape. Slowly I exhaled.

I found I could breathe…even in the uncertainty.

Judy Douglass is a writer, speaker, encourager, advocate. She loves to encourage God’s children—especially His daughters—to be and do all God created them for. She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Cru/Campus Crusade for Christ globally, speaks all over the world and is the author of six books—the latest is When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness. Known for her “realness,” Judy writes at You can find her on Facebook ( and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @judydouglass417. She has three children and nine grandchildren.


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19 thoughts on “Remember to Breathe”

  1. I just heard about your book, When You Love a Prodigal from Barbara Rainy’s web site so I haven’t read the book. However, I enjoyed the comments regarding your book. Just taking time to breath and letting God take control is wisdom. I am also reminded of the scriptures my pastor’s wife quotes with conviction for her children; Acts 16:31 “The seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
    Both my daughter and middle son have accepted the world’s views of accepting the actions of the “gay” population ignoring my Christian viewpoint. I am praying that God will put a believer in their paths that will show my daughter and son the error of their thinking.

  2. How often I have held my breath, wondering if my son would make the right choice or falter again and drift back into his destructive behaviors. Thank you for reminding me to breath. Just this morning I was asking him to consider his life and make the right choices. Thank you for this article, a blessing!

  3. Wow – so true in many areas of my life. I need to pay attention to when I am holding my breath because I am sure there are reasons I don’t yet recognize. I have only just begun this book and could barely read the intro through my tears. It was honest and humble and made me lean forward.

  4. Breathing while you’re in uncertain times reminds me of Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Thank you for the reminder that something as easy as breathing can show faith and give hope.

    1. True, Amy. Because I’ve had asthma all my life, breathing is something I am very conscious of. Maybe that’s why God keeps bringing me back to it.

  5. Thank you for sharing Judy’s article, Barbara. Her writing is life-giving to parched, weary souls. This helped me remember to breathe during times of uncertainty with my daughter and that God has her in His hands.

  6. I just read remember to breath by Judy and the into by Barbara Rainey.
    BREATH ! I have to remember that too.
    These are wise words . When someone I love is in jeopardy I hold my breath . I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Holding in the air that isn’t healthy. Waiting with anxiety. That is not a good way to take care of myself or anybody else. Conscious Breathing reminds me to surrender and trust God . Slow breathing gives me time to think and relax Instead of holding the anxiety inside. Releasing my breath slowly is like releasing my fears to the Lord. Brings me back to
    My soul where Jesus is .

  7. What a beautiful reminder that we have no control, but God who does, loves us and will walk with us and remind us to breathe and rest in Him.

    Thank you for your vulnerability! Such a good read!


    This post brought tears to my eyes because living with a prodigal brings living in uncertainty to a whole new level. Breathing isn’t always automatic – sometimes panic sets in as we hold our breath. Yet, we have a patient and loving Father who is teaching us to trust Him more and more especially in the uncertainties. Thank you Judy for your faithfulness to Josh and to God. Your book is an amazing story all about the love of God not only for our prodigals but for those who love them as well. Thank you!

  9. Judy, I could really identify. Thank you for the reminder that God is in control even when everything in our world seems to be out of control. Thank you for reminding us to breathe!

  10. How timely-I was just praying some prayers for my children that I have yet to see answered. To hear God’s voice in the midst reminding me that they are His, that He is continuing His good work in their lives-aaahhhh. Deep breath. Smile. Thank you for sharing your heart and struggles with us. You are an encouragement to me.

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