Come Back, Weary Wanderer

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in multiple conversations with weary and wounded friends who have called it quits. Whether past or present, they’ve reached the point where their life’s circumstances have proven too broken and painful, their walk with Jesus too difficult and illusive to endure, their sin too enticing, and their faith rattled to its core. One looked me in the eye, in the midst of choices that I fear will wreak havoc on her sweet heart in years to come, and said, “I just don’t care anymore.” The other told of a season just a few short years ago, “I just didn’t care.” With great humility and compassion, what is that? Are we so exhausted, so toiled in our walk with Jesus and fight against sin that a breaking point has become inevitable? If this is true, are we really living our lives in a surrender to Christ that produces freedom and rest, a yoke that is light rather than burdensome? Or is evil so rampant and life so trying that, in our human capacity, we can no longer withstand? Can even trusting and depending on Jesus be too much, too difficult? Or are we in denial and really not depending on Jesus at all?

And yet, I find myself toeing the line of a similar defeat. Truly God’s grace has triumphed, and by no doing of my own. To be honest, I looked into the eyes of both these friends and I couldn’t help but think, this could be me… in a heartbeat. And while I entertain that possibility, knowing my heart has been just as much in turmoil, I wonder why it’s not. Trust me when I say it can’t be reasoned that I’m doing things right, not even close. But why would God keep me close, spare me from that breaking point thus far, yet let others run from His grace, from abundant life and freedom found only in Him? Why do I feel like Satan is winning? God help us!

In a recent conversation about the Prodigal Son, a friend brought a significant and intriguing perspective, a question I had never considered. Why, when his youngest son came to him with the pride and audacity to demand his inheritance, would the father let him go? Surely the father knew the world had only emptiness to offer, that satisfaction and riches were guaranteed with him. He knew the risk of running would potentially lead to dissatisfaction, heartache or worse. But he let him go, he let him go and pursue the world (Lk 15:11-12). Maybe the son looked his father in the eye and said, “I just don’t care anymore.” From the outside, I’m all for the father pulling the dad card at this point, for the sake of the son’s safety and long term well being. He had every right to say no, motivated by fatherly love and compassion, to save his son much hurt and despair. The son would’ve been forced to trust the father was denying him for his own good.

Then I realize, that’s where this breaks down. I’m not sure I would blindly trust. Actually I am sure, I’m sure I wouldn’t. And my unbelief would leave me angry and bitter.

Friends we have a seeing issue. We do not trust what we can not see and know and touch and feel. We insist on seeing for ourselves. We fear that God is holding out on us and doubt He desires our good, our deepest joy, and to fulfill our deepest longings (Ps. 145). We insist on seeing for ourselves, seeing if there is better, or more. Truth calls to us from the pages of Scripture, generations precede us, warning us of the dangers we welcome when we run. And for believers, I think deep down we know God’s promises are true. The Spirit testifies in us. But somewhere in the mess of it all, Satan whispers exactly what he did in the Garden, “God is holding out on you.” And so holding on to an unseen Jesus becomes too difficult and we break, we just don’t care anymore. Waiting is out of the question, fear of disappointment is too overwhelming, and unbelief disqualifies us from the ability to risk the unknown, to put it all on the line. To the current wanderer, I get it. The battle is hard and maybe it just exhausts us to this point. We need help and we need to help each other. Let’s be loud, obnoxious, screaming voices of truth. For me, in this season, this has made all the difference. I had a friend look me in the eye a couple days ago and say, “You don’t believe today? That’s fine, I believe for you.” You see Jesus is better than the world, whether we believe it or not. Whether we see it in front of us or not. Too often it’s too blurred, foggy and distant to see, but the Father wants us to choose Him, to trust that His Word is true, and that the world pales in comparison. Perfect love will not manipulate or control us back, though in the lives of those close to me I so wish it would.

The Father will let us wander, though never let us go.

In the midst of all we can’t see, we do see the other side of the prodigal’s story. I’m starting to think it is so we might learn this lesson. The father let the son wander, and the son found a whole heaping pile of nothing. He was dissatisfied with what the world had to offer. He sank deep into the cares of the world and came up empty and dry.  But then he came back. He returned to his father with more humility, more love and affection for what he walked away from than would have been possible apart from his little freedom ride. The father was there, waiting. How unchanging of him, how faithful and steadfast of him, unwavering with love, regardless of the prodigal’s disobedience and doubt. The Scriptures say the father fell on his son’s neck (Lk 15:20). I love that, because it makes me think he was exhausted too.

To my weary wanderer, Christ is waiting, unwavering, and ready to welcome you back. And He waits better than us, never growing cold or bitter. I pray it’s a short stint that you wander, that the voices of truth are loud. Friend, Jesus wins, He is better and He will be faithful to His own, eternally faithful. Let us carry you back to a loving Father that has more in store for you. You are not too far. Trust Him.

To those awaiting a wandering friend, one who has given up, never give up on Christ in them to draw them back. I believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps 27:13). Go after the weary wanderer in your life with relentless pursuit (Jms 5:19-20).

Finally, to those on the edge of giving up, call in the troops. Call in those faithful friends that can speak truth over you, who won’t let you forget the promises of the Lord and that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer.