Many years ago, our son began making bad choices. He was still living at home, so my husband and I made sure he knew his actions were unacceptable. But instead of changing his ways, he moved out. He wanted to show us he was old enough to make his own decisions.

We were crushed. We had tried to be faithful in serving God and providing well for our three sons and daughter. We had never experienced such outright rebellion before. My husband and I tried many things to get him back on track. We took his car from him. We tried to guilt him into coming back home and doing what was right. Nothing worked.

I have always prayed for my children, but this time, I knew I needed to seek the Lord more diligently. I needed His wisdom; we obviously weren’t making any headway with ours. I prayed. I cried. I poured out my broken heart to Jesus. He graciously answered, but not with the words I expected. I heard, “Just try a little kindness.” Be kind to our son who was acting so rebelliously and selfishly? That just seemed wrong. And I told the Lord that! But God’s ways are always higher than ours.

In the end, I obeyed the Lord. I knew that only He knew how to return our son to the respectful, well mannered, and godly young man we knew him to be.

Returning his car was the first act of kindness the Lord led us to do. Then, He told me to take him shopping. What?! Yes, I was to be kind and treat him as if he were the best son ever.

Several months went by without much change in him—but I was changing. I was more at peace, and I had more compassion for my son. I learned to trust God more as He showed me that our son needed kindness as he charted his own path through this world’s stormy waters.

So I continued to be kind. I tried to be more compassionate and considerate, generous and thoughtful, as well as patient and gentle. And then it happened. Our son asked to come home, and he promised to do things the right way.

That night, with deep, godly sorrow, he apologized for mistreating us. It was a wonderful night, to say the least—a true answer to our prayers. And it never would have happened if we hadn’t obeyed the Lord and been kind to our rebellious son.

Only the Lord knew what was needed to change our son’s heart and to bring him back home.

As the director of the Victorious Living Prison Correspondence Outreach, I have found that many of the inmates who write to us have never experienced the kindness of God through the actions of their parents. In fact, some have never experienced it  all, from anyone. This breaks my heart.

The Bible talks a lot about kindness. Psalm 117:2 says that God’s loving kindness is great toward us. Psalm 36:7 tells us it is precious; that it provides us a place of refuge. So many see God as an angry Being, full of wrath, eager to punish us for the least little thing. But that is not our heavenly Father. God longs to pour out His kindness on both the just and the unjust.

The Bible also tells us that we, as believers, should show God’s loving-kindness to others—yes, even when they don’t deserve it. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Unless we understand how kind God is toward us, it will be difficult to extend undeserved kindness to others. But once we do, amazing things happen.

The kindness we extended to our son brought him to repentance, changed his ways, and brought him home. Today, he is serving the Lord in amazing ways.

According to Romans 2:4, God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. Repentance is birthed from the presence of God in the heart of an individual. People come to realize they need to repent (change their ways) as they meet the kindness of God on a daily basis.

Second Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” I prayed for godly sorrow to invade my son’s heart and bring him to repentance. God used our kindness to change our son’s heart, to lead him to express sorrow before God, and to take responsibility for his actions. Our goodness toward him showed him the goodness of God.

Every one of us has opportunity to show God’s loving-kindness to undeserving people, just like God does for us. Trust in His loving-kindness. Let it change you and help you forgive those who have been unkind to you.

Kindness is what this world needs. This world would be a different place if we just tried a little kindness instead of always demanding our own way, seeking revenge, forcing people to do things our way, and punishing them when they don’t.

Next time you face a difficult person or situation, try pouring on the kindness. You might be surprised at how your situation changes over time. You can make a difference in the lives of others as you treat them the way God intends—the same way He has treated you. †