David Brickner observed in this month’s lead article that prodigals do come home, and recounted, from a chapter in his own story, how it can happen. He was miserable. He saw a couple of Jews for Jesus. He stood there and everything started turning in his heart and mind like a Rubik’s cube until all the colors lined up. I like that description.
I wanted to add my own. When I was in high school I “checked out” spiritually for close to a year. I didn’t stop believing, I just didn’t want to concern myself with God and what He wanted. Like David, I became miserable. One day my sister (nearly five years older than me) asked if I was coming to Bible study that night. I looked at her incredulously. I hadn’t gone to Bible study in months. Why would she even think I was coming? Instead of accepting my refusal she said, “But I arranged a ride for you.”
To this day I have no idea why she did that. I have no idea why I grudgingly changed my mind and went. It had to be the Lord because I promise that would not be my usual response to someone arranging a ride to someplace I didn’t want to go. I went to the Bible study and didn’t hear anything that was said or taught. I just looked around and had one of those Rubik’s cube moments, like David described. I knew everyone there really cared about me. I knew God cared about me, cared a lot more than I cared about myself at that moment. I went home and as I lay awake for what felt like forever I had a wrestling match with God. He won. And I was so relieved.
So what? Well, I have three thoughts for three different groups of people.
If you have a prodigal son or daughter, or niece or nephew or grandchild, this is for you. First, I know it hurts to see your loved one miserable, but remember that misery is often the first step in a prodigal’s return. So when you see that misery, pray all the more. Second, God might use you to help turn your prodigal around but very often He will use someone else. Or something else. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if you can’t seem to get through. Keep praying, as I’m sure David’s family did for him and my family did for me.
Maybe you don’t have a prodigal son or daughter, but God has put someone else’s prodigal in your path. You never know what your warm and caring attitude toward one who has turned from God for a time might do. Do what you can to reach whomever God puts in your path . . . after all, one day you may have a prodigal of your own, and pray to God for someone else to reach out to him or her.
Finally, maybe you are a prodigal son or daughter. This is for you. Maybe you just got tired of factoring God into your choices, or maybe difficult circumstances have caused you to be angry and mistrustful of God’s care for you. Are you miserable? If you are angry with God, it’s okay to tell Him. Your anger or aloofness toward Him is not going to make your difficult circumstances any easier. Telling God how you feel and asking Him to show you how or why you can trust Him again can be a first step toward a peace that passes understanding, and a joy that will make you strong.
Or maybe you just wanted to “ditch” God for a while to make choices you know He doesn’t like. How’s that working out for you? God still loves you. And when you receive that love, and surrender your heart to it, you’ll find that you start making choices that He does like because you actually want to. And they will be choices that you can live with and feel good about, not just on the surface, but deep down.
Prodigals do come home. Perhaps there’s one that’s looking to you for encouragement. Or perhaps you are a prodigal in need of encouragement. God loves you. Please come home.