The story of the prodigal son is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible, and it has been on my heart and mind this holiday season. The story tells of a man who has two sons, and his younger son asks for his inheritance early. Once the son receives it, he leaves his home, goes to a distant place, and wastes his fortune. When the money is gone and a famine hits the country, he finds himself in an unfavorable position and must take a job feeding pigs. Unfortunately things get worse and he ends up longing to eat with the pigs, but no one gives him anything. When he eventually comes to his senses, he humbles himself, remembers his father, and sets out to return home. The father who has been watching and waiting the whole time is there with open arms as he returns. He is overjoyed and orders for a feast and celebration. The elder brother comes in angry and refuses to attend the party, and the father attempts to dissuade him by saying, “You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
I remember listening to and reading this story as a child, and it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized it isn’t so much about the lost son as it is about the father’s love. We start out with God immature and selfish, just like the lost son, only thinking about what our Father can give us. We realize a life of sin will never satisfy our hunger though. We discover that following the world leaves us empty; it can’t and won’t satisfy our spiritual hunger. The truth is that the world may attract our flesh, but it will never grasp our soul. The only love that cares enough and is simply perfect, is the One who waits on us; He waits every day with everything we need, everything we crave, and everything we are desperate for. We just need to turn to Him and receive Him and His love.
If you are lost, if you’ve fallen backward, if you’ve forgotten who you really are, it’s important for you to know and understand this father’s love for his wayward son. Despite all his son did, the father’s heart was still waiting for his son to come home. He didn’t give up on him. There was no need to punish him, reprimand him, or question trust. In the end, the son’s heart toward his father was more important than the mistakes he had made. Our Heavenly Father is just like this, and He is waiting for you to come home too. You may have to go through periods of surrender and restoration, but there is no need to worry that your mistakes are too big or that He will think negatively of you. He is forgiving and loves you regardless.
As Jesus said in Luke 15 verses 4 through 7, if He has 100 sheep and one is lost, He will leave the ninety-nine and set out to find that lost one. There is more joy in one sinner’s rescued life than ninety-nine good people who aren’t in need of being rescued. The fifteenth chapter of Luke demonstrates what it means to be lost, how heaven celebrates when the lost are found, and how our loving Father yearns to save people. Truly it is an amazing picture!
This holiday season I want it to be known that you don’t have to remain lost, and you don’t have to feel alone and empty. You can go from the deepest pit to the highest palace with God. Remember this story, remember that God is waiting on you with open arms to receive you back. Know that He takes us just the way we are. He sees you as a blessing and worthy to throw a party for. He loves you, He cares for you, and He longs to recover and restore you. Open your heart, return home, and experience God’s gracious love.
And to those who have been found, remember that all of Heaven rejoiced when you were found, recovered, and restored. Aim each day to have a heart like our Father, abandon your life as Jesus did, and seek out and help Him save those who are still lost.