Sometimes we grieve for our prodigals. I don’t believe we are alone, because so much of the Bible talks of God’s grief over His children.
Jeremiah quotes God Himself regarding the daughter of Zion, the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “As a fountain wells up with water, So she wells up with her wickedness. Violence and plundering are heard in her. Before Me continually are grief and wounds” (Jeremiah 6:7 NKJV). The Lord could constantly see the “grief and wounds” that were the result of their sin.
Many of the writings of the prophets reflect the reasons for God’s grief. Isaiah 63:8–10 says: “For He said, ‘Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.”
In fact, throughout the Old Testament, the Lord often seemed grieved over the children of Israel because of their sin and their turning away from Him, but despite His grief and disappointment, He said, “‘Return, O backsliding children … for I am married to you’” (Jeremiah 3:14). He still pursues them until they return.
The book of Jeremiah is full of God’s grief and the results of His people’s rebellion, but it is also full of promises to redeem. Jeremiah 29:11 is one often quoted, but if we read a little further, we find beautiful promises from the mouth of God: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (vv. 11–14).
During a conversation with the mom of a prodigal son, we talked about grief. We agreed that we may trust God completely and have the peace and rest promised by Him, but our hearts can still grieve, seeing the sins of our prodigals and the pain their choices have caused them, while also mourning the loss of the “life more abundantly” that God has provided and that is just waiting for them (John 10:10).
Grief can happen to everyone who loves a prodigal, not just moms. Grief just sometimes happens. But the Word of God has promises for us, too:
- “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
- “Thus says the Lord: ‘Refrain your voice form weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy’” (Jeremiah 31:16).
And there is Hannah, the mother of Samuel. When the priest assured her God was going to grant her request, she “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:18).
I know this season is difficult, but I also know that God is faithful to keep His promises. And for that reason, we can allow ourselves to be comforted.