His wayward son disowned him, but God told him: “Your son’s destiny is in my hands”

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Joseph Oh // June 12, 2024, 11:48 pm

When Joseph Oh asked God to bring his youngest son back from his wayward ways, God told him: “Your son’s destiny is in My hands. You are my focus.” All photos courtesy of Joseph Oh.

From the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I knew that our family must be built on faith with God at the centre of it.

So when our three children came along, we raised them with godly values to the best of our abilities. We thought we had done a good job as Christian parents.

In December 2013, during a Sunday morning service, I saw my youngest son dancing, singing and fervently worshipping God. He was on fire for the Lord.

I was standing at the back of the church hall watching that beautiful scene. It brought tears to my eyes.

An unexpected change 

Two weeks into the 2014 school term, however, there was a sudden change in our youngest son. He was 14 years old then.

He entered a rebellious phase and started losing interest in his studies. He refused to wake up for school. Even when he did go to school, he would disappear from the classroom.

When Joseph and Joni had their three children, they knew that they wanted to raise them in God’s ways.

Truancy became a problem. Whenever he did not turn up for school, my wife and I would comb the whole estate looking for him. Sometimes, we would find him at a void deck, smoking with other students who were also playing truant.

We would drag him back to school. Though he went reluctantly, he would challenge the entire school’s discipline team, right up to the principal.

Most times, we could not locate him.

Once, he stood up for a friend when they were confronted by the discipline master. He felt they had been unjustly punished.

They used threatening words and behaviour towards the discipline master, giving the school reason to believe that they were involved in gangsterism.

The Secret Societies Branch was called in to escort the boys to the Police Headquarters. When my wife received the call from the school and relayed the message to me, my heart sank.

Questions ran through my mind: “What has happened to my son? Is he in serious trouble? Is he going to be locked up? He’s only 14 years old! What will happen to him? His life? His future? Is he really in a gang?”

“I disown you”

He started showing signs of violence at home and constantly challenged my authority as his father.

He had countless late nights, refused to attend church, and finally landed himself in a street gang. There were numerous calls from the school and the police station.

It pained my heart to see the 180-degree change in my son. The fear of losing him crept in.

Day and night, my wife and I lived in anxiety over him. We tried so many ways to get through to him, but all efforts to communicate with him only resulted in fierce arguments and, at times, even physical tussles.

I regarded myself as a worthless person. A complete failure as a man, a husband and a father.

I was completely helpless. It was not just a big blow to me as a father, but to the entire family. Our relationship with him was at its lowest.

I remember one particularly heated argument. He did not want to go to school and insisted on going out with his friends. I was trying yet again to impose my authority as a father on him.

The words exchanged are seared in my mind: “Leave me alone! Just leave me alone! Why can’t you just let me go!”

“I cannot because I am your father!”

“Okay lah! Now I disown you. Not you disown me! So just let me go!”

Those words were like knives that stabbed right through my heart.

There were many times I would break down and cry whenever I thought of his words and behaviour. As a father, I had always wanted to establish an ideal family, but my hopes were completely dashed.

With the numerous challenges I faced at work and with our youngest son, I was completely beaten to ground zero.

I regarded myself as a worthless person. A complete failure as a man, a husband and a father.

Reaching the end of myself

I unknowingly fell into depression. But there is a Chinese saying that roughly translates to: “The end of man is the beginning of God.”

It was at this time that the Lord sent two beautiful angels to support my wife and me. Through them, I was once again reminded: “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

As I reflected, I realised I was neither patient nor kind to him. All I wanted was for him to fit into the mould of a good son.

The words “patient” and “kind” struck me. How patient and kind was I to my son?

As I reflected, I realised I was neither patient nor kind to him.

All I wanted was for him to fit into the mould of a good son and a godly child. When he did not, I would flare up at him for not being what I expected of him, or had hoped for him.

I was not even kind to him. Many times, when we had fierce arguments, I had thoughts of chasing him out of the house.

My wife, however, kept reminding me that we should never shut the door on him. We had to let him know that he will always be welcomed home, regardless of his behaviour or whatever he did outside.

My wife and I prayed for God to bring our son back. God’s response blew my mind. He told me: “Your son’s destiny is in My hands. You are my focus.”

I wrestled with God on this: “Have I not done enough? I have served You in ministries for 23 years! I go to church, I read the Word, and I pray. We even have family prayer time! Are these not right before You?”

Then this verse came: “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:22)

While I thought of myself as “wise”, I was instead becoming more and more foolish, as I unknowingly placed myself and the ministries I served in above God.

Is my heart turned to my Father?

As I continued reading His Word fervently, I was inspired to seek the Lord earnestly through 40 days of fasting and praying.

At the end of the 40 days, the word “promise” was given to me through three confirmations. It was a clear sign to me that God’s promises never fail.

I was at my wits’ end when I realised the only thing I could do was to let go and let God.

In September 2015, the Lord led me to Elijah7000 through brother Jason Wong. They are a group of fathers who gather to pray and seek the heart of God.

God spoke to me through our weekly declaration:

“Behold! I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

You see, I am also a son of God. God’s heart was always turned towards me. The question was: Is my heart turned completely to our Heavenly Father?

It was such a revelation. The Lord was after my heart. He wanted my heart to be completely turned to Him. He wanted to be on the throne of my heart. It was when my heart was completely turned to Father God, that my son would turn his heart back to us.

I was at my wits’ end when I realised the only thing I could do was to let go and let God. It was a lesson in total surrender.

I started to put aside all the problems I faced and all the answers I was trying to find. Instead, I focussed on building an intimate relationship with God.

Remembering our other children

In the midst of facing the challenges from our youngest son, we realised that our two older children had withdrawn themselves from us and were communicating less with us. We observed that they had developed lots of inner frustrations.

“We needed to unite our hearts as one to commit our son to the Lord.”

My wife and I knew that we could not neglect their emotional needs even as we spent time supporting our youngest son.

We spoke to our older two individually and tried to understand how they viewed the situation with their younger brother.

Our eldest son was so overwhelmed that he did not know how to respond to it. As for our daughter, she told us that she felt neglected and that we were focussing too much on our youngest son.

We acknowledged their struggles and frustrations and did our best to give them the space and freedom to develop their opinions and thoughts.

We thank God for both of them that they were a pillar of support to us during that difficult time.

Rules must accompany relationship

The turning of hearts wasn’t just between father and son, but also between husband and wife.

My wife, Joni, recounted: “When the challenges with our youngest son began, I told Joe that we must journey through this together. By saying this, I knew it was not a matter of Joe’s opinion or mine regarding our youngest son’s situation.

“We needed to unite our hearts as one to commit our son to the Lord. Our children are always watching and learning from us. We had to be as one; that oneness which reflected God in it all.

“In 2015, after Joe encountered God in the Elijah7000 meetings, I began to see the changes in him. He was no longer hopeless. His spirit was uplifted. He learnt to be more patient and kind to our youngest boy.”

By the grace of God, Jonas and Joseph have a restored relationship today.

Slowly, I learned to accept, adapt and adjust, instead of rejecting, being rigid and refusing to change. 

First and foremost, I must accept that he is my son, just as Father God accepted me for who I am.

If my son did not feel accepted for who he was at home, he would not want to come home.

If I continued to be rigid in my thinking and values, insisting that my way was the right way and not trying to understand the struggles and thoughts he might have been facing as a growing teenager, it would only push him further from us.

If I did not adjust my mindset, approach and response to him, I would end up losing my son to the world.

I learned these two important equations:

  • Rules + Relationship = Response
  • Rules – Relationship = Rebellion

Unconditional acceptance

I started working on my relationship with my youngest son, constantly looking out for moments to connect with him instead of lecturing him.

If I did not adjust my mindset, approach and response to him, I would end up losing my son to the world.

I cooked for him when he needed food, even at times when he came home in the middle of the night. My wife cooked his favourite food whenever he came home to eat.

We engaged with his friends by inviting them over to our house for dinner. At times, we would even celebrate his friend’s birthday at our place.

Why did we do this? Because acceptance was not just of him alone, but also of his friends. It was a way to reach out to them too.

We would engage in conversation with him about almost any topic whenever there was a divine moment.

Instead of questioning him on his whereabouts or his behaviour, I learnt to affirm him when he did small acts of kindness like making time to have a meal with us.

We were trying our best to reconcile with him, but it was not easy.

A truly significant year

However, we saw God do amazing things in our family in 2017.

After two years of playing truant, my younger son went back to study for his ‘O’ level examinations in January 2017.

Although he struggled to adjust to the structured routines of schooling, he persevered.

“Father God has never stopped His reconciliation work. He has prepared well for His prodigals to return,” says Joseph Oh, pictured here with his wife, Joni, and their children – (L-R) Tryphena, 26, Jonas, 24, and Zenas, 28.

As for me, I attended Tung Ling Bible School from April to June. My son and I found ourselves on a study journey together.

On May 26, 2017, our two boys had a fierce argument. In a fit of anger, my younger son smashed a glass cabinet into pieces, causing a deep cut on his left hand that required about 10 stitches.

He was crying his heart out – not because of the pain from the deep cut, but for the pain he was putting us through. He felt so sorry and kept apologising to me and his brother.

What my wife and I saw through this incident was that the Lord promised the old would be smashed and, with the blood of Jesus Christ, all would be restored and renewed.

On June 9 to 12 that year, my youngest son went to our church’s youth camp with three of his friends.

On June 18, the two brothers cooked together for a Father’s Day celebration at home. The relationship between the brothers was restored. That same day, I washed their feet, signifying the Lord’s reconciliation work in my family.

On June 29, while having a conversation with our youngest son, we felt led to ask him to pray. God touched him and he said a prayer of confession and repentance. That was a divine and memorable moment for us.

Reconciled: Joseph and Joni with their youngest son on his 21st birthday.

On June 30, my family witnessed my graduation from Tung Ling Bible School.

On August 28, my youngest son said a prayer of blessing over the family.

In November, my youngest son completed his ‘O’ level examinations.

On Christmas Eve, he shared his testimony at our church’s youth Christmas gathering.

The power of love

These were the amazing events that God orchestrated without any effort from us. All we did was turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Since then, my youngest son has not been part of any street gang. In 2018, he accepted an offer to enrol in a diploma course in Sports Coaching.

Father God has never stopped His reconciliation work. He has prepared well for His prodigals to return.

He told us that one of the reasons he came back to us was that he felt the warmth and love of the family. He saw how his parents were so different from his friend’s parents when it came to dealing with “their kind of people”.

He also said that his greatest fear then was not when he had to resolve a fight with his gang members, but the sudden feeling of being forsaken when we totally let him go, thinking we had given up all hope in him.

Of course, we never gave up hope in him. We only let God take over the wheel of his life.

He told us he was reminded of the parable of the prodigal son when he was out at the beach in the middle of the night, alone without money, food or shelter.

He wondered what he was doing out there when he knew he could be filled, satisfied and loved at home.

That was when he decided to turn his heart back to us.

God is prepared for his prodigals to return

Our hearts were filled with pride when our son completed his diploma in Sports Coaching in April 2021.

Our family is still a work in progress, catching up on the lost time and opportunities. All the experiences and encounters with God are precious. They allow me to share and walk with fellow fathers who face similar situations.

I am closing this testimony with this passage:

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24)

Father God has never stopped His reconciliation work. He has prepared well for His prodigals to return.

My family and I will continue to claim His promises for us that our godly destiny be fulfilled in His Kingdom.

This story is an edited extract of Joseph’s story that was first published in the book, “The Elijah7000 Movement: Our Father’s Stories in the Lives of Men”. It is republished with permission.


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About the author

Joseph Oh

Joseph is married to Joni. Together, they have three adult children: Zenas, Tryphena and Jonas.