What would hinder you from returning to God?
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12,13 NIV
Do you remember leaving someone on the wrong terms and later realizing it was best that you return to make things right? Can you recall how there were things that held you back from returning to apologize sooner than when you did? The story of the Prodigal Son describes such an incident. When the youngest son left his loving father, it was not by accident. He walked away from a caring, protective home, demanded his inheritance, and intentionally fled to another country to live the way he wanted. It ended in disaster. Read about it in Luke 15:11-32. The young man was self-centered, selfish, and stubborn. He wanted to “do life” his way rather than following the God of his father. In turn, he lost all his money and dignity when he ended up caring for pigs.
Isn’t it true that sometimes we can be like the Prodigal Son? Godless ways and people lure us to try life without the love, care, and protection of God our Creator. We convince ourselves that things will be better when we can live independently from God. We believe it is best for us to make our own decisions without any help from our Creator and Designer. Our hearts deceive us. We imagine a glamorous picture of success and fun by doing things our way rather than God’s way.
When Joel wrote his prophetic book, he described in great detail how the Jewish people had left their loving, caring, protective God to do what they wanted to do. They had intentionally walked away from doing life God’s way. Now disaster had overcome them. They suffered great loss. The Babylonian empire had conquered them, taken them captive, and dispersed them. Their sinful, disobedient living had led them to experience loss of family, wealth, and dignity. Joel was calling them back to God. The sad thing is that they did not yet want to return to God. How much loss does it take for someone to realize that living independently from God is a road which leads to disaster and destruction? How bad do things have to get?
What would hinder you from returning to God? Maybe thinking this way:
- I will be able to work my way out of this dilemma by myself,
- I will have to give up something I am not yet ready to give up,
- I have some people in my life who may get hurt,
- I can make it in life on my own,
- I’m not ready yet…I can do it later,
- I have other priorities,
- I’m not sure what others will think,
- I really don’t want to change,
- I just don’t care etc.
How sad! Not one of these reasons is worth staying away from your loving, Heavenly Father, Almighty God.
There is another reason that is even bigger than the 9 hindrances just mentioned. When overcome with despair due to our own making, we often do not want to return to God because of embarrassment. It is almost like we fear God will say, “I told you so…I told you how your life would backfire, people would take advantage of you, and you would not only lose what you owned but also your dignity. If you had only listened, you would not have messed up like you did.” How wrong that way of thinking is! The Bible says, “God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe.” [Joel 2:13, Message]
ISN’T IT TIME TO RETURN? It is time for you to come back into a personal relationship with your loving, Heavenly Father who knows and cares for you the best. Put the hindrances aside.
- Begin by repenting of your sinful ways. You drifted or walked away from Him and all His care. Don’t live a life of regret. Instead, repent for what you have done. Don’t just be sorrowful but instead ask God to forgive you. This may even include fasting, weeping, and mourning about your wandering life because you realize just how much you messed up your life and maybe even others.
- Commit your life to Jesus Christ. Give Him your heart. Not just a part of your heart but your whole heart. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ gives you a new heart and a new start.
- Realize that God forgives you the moment you return. He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and so forgiving. Like the Prodigal Father, God immediately welcomes you back with His loving, forgiving arms wide open.
SOMETHING TO DO
Take the time to return to God by following the steps mentioned above. Jesus is waiting for you!
If you are a believer and know someone who needs to return to God, take the time to pray for that person’s return. Continue to pray for that person until he/she returns to the God who endlessly loves, forgives, and blesses.
SOUL TIME PRAYER
Heavenly Father, thank you that You are gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love to me. May I never wander or drift away from You. AMEN!