(Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I have talked to so many people who were raised in faith and walked away for a time. Now they have returned. They were all prodigals, and each one has a different story. I never considered myself a true prodigal because I mostly walked away from God in my heart, not outwardly. Only people very close to me knew my intense struggle.
I grew up in the church, and my dad was a pastor. I was used to being recognized, but since I was shy, no one really knew me. I felt like I didn't fit anywhere. Even the few people I called my friends didn't feel like friends much of the time. I guess that made me an easy target for the enemy. I felt alone and sad.
I went to a Bible College and wasted it for the most part. I remember praying and begging God over and over not to return until I was married and had kids. This is a prayer that was answered as I have a wonderful husband of 36 years and four amazing adult children. Getting married and having children was what I really cared about. School was about gaining head knowledge that I didn't care about at that time.
The year I got married, my dad was asked to leave the church he had been at for fifteen years. I was devastated and angry and hurt. My dad found a job at another church an hour and a half away and moved the family. My husband and I stayed. My dad told me not to leave the church until I had forgiven the head pastor. It was a very long road. We were at the church for ten more years. It was during those years of unforgiveness and hatred that I opened a door for the enemy to wreak havoc in my life. Even after I forgave, I still suffered consequences. I still didn't know God.
It would be another ten years before I experienced the love of God. I was in my mid-forties. Early on in the depression, I read Jeremiah 29:11-14, and for a second wondered if it was a promise for me. Twenty years is a long time to wait for a promise to come true, and I certainly didn't believe it. But I do now. God works in mysterious ways; His ways are not our ways. It was a love worth waiting for. His love always is.
My own story is something I have to keep in mind when those times of deep sadness come over me because of my prodigal. My time of walking away from God in my heart had nothing to do with my parents. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt them. I know this is true of my son as well. He has to live his own life, and I have to let him. I am so thankful that God is patient not only with His children, but also with His creation, not wanting any to perish.
There are still days when I have to grieve all over again. It is less painful now than in the beginning, and I can let it go quicker. I can remember God's promises more easily, and my faith is much stronger. These things and more is what God has been teaching me during this time of waiting. My prayer life is much richer, and my love for God is ever growing. Not that I don't still have a million miles to go it seems, but it is good to know this time of waiting isn't wasted. God never wastes anything. Although I can't yet see how God will turn it around for my son, I simply have to trust Him that He will not let his journey be for nothing. And I pray someday my son will have a testimony that no one else has and it will bring glory to God just as my story does.
I pray your prodigal, too, will have a testimony that is unique and will bring glory to God. I pray prodigals everywhere will realize how broken they are, will recognize their sin, and will return and repent just as the prodigal son in the Bible did. And like Israel, God's prodigal, will one day fully return.
So, don't give up hope. God loves our prodigals more than we do.
Behold the Father's heart The mystery He lavishes on us As deep cries out to deep Oh how desperately He wants us The things of earth stand next to him Like a candle to the sun Unfailing Father What compares to His Great love Behold His holy Son The Lion and the Lamb given to us The Word became a man That my soul should know its Saviour Forsaken for the sake of all mankind Salvation is in His blood Jesus Messiah The righteous died for love It wasn't over For He is the risen One Then sings my soul Then sings my soul How great Your Love is How great Your Love is Behold I have a friend The Spirit breathing holy fire within My ever present help Speaking truth when I can't find it Light up this broken heart And light my way Until my time on earth is done Oh Holy Spirit Breathe in me like kingdom come Oh Holy Spirit Let Your work in me be done Then sings my soul my God He who was and is to come Prepare the way Until the work on earth is done Watch as the clouds He rides swing low Lift up the sound As He makes our praise His throne Behold the Lord our God will lead us home