“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b (NIV)
The last time I had seen my prodigal family member was in silhouette in late afternoon.
From my car, I happened to spot them walking into the mall, holding hands — a rare good day. My heart broke for the thousandth time as I left the scene, wondering if the situation would ever change.
My prodigal had refused to break up with the person who was causing tremendous pain, and as I watched the downward spiral, I’d cried out to God in confusion. Why isn’t my loved one changing for the good? Are my constant prayers making a difference? Should I just give up hoping for a turnaround? My heart trembled with fear as I desperately searched for signs of my loved one’s return.
Jesus knew many of us would be in a similar situation when He told the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. In it, Jesus focuses on three people. First is the prodigal son who ran away. I’m pretty sure every sinner can relate to that one!
Then there was the father who selflessly sacrificed for this son and scanned the horizon for his return.
And last but not least, we see the older brother who was loyal to his father, yet simmering with anger.
I believe Jesus had several purposes for telling this story. One was to encourage those who love a prodigal. The Holy Spirit moved Luke to record this story to remind us we’re not alone. If you’ve ever loved a prodigal, God sees your soul-crushing heartache.
Maybe you’re the one looking for a return, except you’re the mother, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, friend or teacher in Jesus’ story. Longing to see your loved one return to their roots of faith.
Part of what helped me work through that difficult season was worship music. Every morning, I listened to four of my favorite songs in a particular order.
The first song reminded me I just need Jesus on my darkest days. The next prodded me to choose joy. The third song invited me to worship the One who died for me on a hill He created. Finally, another favorite song rallied me to remember how God takes all that’s wrong and makes it right.
This playlist became a musical life raft as my heart nearly drowned in despair, bringing much-needed comfort to my soul. Though I was close to hopelessness, those songs tethered me to God’s truth.
During that difficult time, God’s Word also kept me grounded. I reread the prodigal son story, and the Holy Spirit used this verse to keep me focused on the horizon:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20b).
The father in this story is our Father God. He watches the horizon every single day for our prodigals. He never stops hoping for them to return. Our loving, compassionate Father longs to welcome your prodigal back home.
It takes courage to watch the horizon and stay focused on your prodigal’s return, courage to keep hoping and praying, despite knowing they’re still a long way off. It takes courage only God can provide to overcome the rage, despair, dread and injustice you feel. Yet, isn’t that what faith truly means? Believing in a future we can’t yet see?
Our Father God is standing on the horizon, holding out His hand. He’s inviting you and me to watch the rising sun with Him, where His mercies are new every morning. On the worst of days, He alone holds us up as helplessness looms large. He’s right there by our side, urging us to keep watching the horizon with hope.
Today, I’m thanking God because my prodigal eventually returned home. I know this isn’t everyone’s story, so I’m praying for those who are still waiting.
Never give up hope. God is standing beside you.
Heavenly Father, I praise You for watching the horizon for my prodigal, even when I lose hope. Remind me I can find strength and courage to keep watching with You by my side. Help me trust You more in this difficult journey each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (NIV)
Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)
We have BIG news! For the first time ever, our Online Bible Studies program and the First 5 mobile app are teaming up to study the Bible together! The Answers to Your Deepest Longings: 40 Days Through the Bible starts September 7. Click here to sign up. P.S. The study is free; all you need is your Study Guide. And you’ll have access to our community group to join women from all over as we study God’s Word together!
For encouragement to keep hoping, grab a copy of Sarah Geringer’s book, Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Are you watching the horizon for a prodigal to return?
Post a prayer request about your prodigal in the comments, keeping them anonymous if needed, and pray for the person who commented above you. Let’s cover each other in prayer!
© 2020 by Sarah Geringer. All rights reserved.
What We Believe