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My life should have been a disaster. I read an article not long ago that said if you come from a divorced home, the chances are far higher that you will end up divorced. And then a new study found that if you come from a home where multiple divorces have taken place, it is very likely that you will end up getting divorced. Well, my wife and I have been married for 37 years. With God, all things are possible.
I came from a home of great dysfunction. And sometimes people use that sort of thing as an excuse for their present behavior. They will say things like, “Well, I came from a dysfunctional home, so that is why I am the way that I am.” I don’t know what kind of hand you have been dealt in life, but I do know that when God enters your story, everything can change. God had a plan for my life, even though I was not planned. There are no illegitimate children in the eyes of God. He has a plan for all of us.
As I look back, I realize that my mother did the best that she knew how to do. She could have been a better mom, and, quite frankly, I could have been a better son. But God allowed me to go through the things I did to help me do what I am called to do today. God can bring good out of bad.
But sometimes bad things happen, and bad things don’t become good. The Bible doesn’t promise God will make everything good. The Bible says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). Bad is bad. And bad things happen to good people.
I don’t know why certain tragedies happen to certain people. I don’t know why God would allow a Christian to get cancer or to have a disability or to have a loved one die at a young age. I don’t know why these things happen. But I do know that God can bring good out of bad and can be glorified through it. And sometimes we will not be able to get all that figured out until we get to heaven.
Then there are times in our lives when we will look back and begin to see how God could have used a certain hardship or difficulty in our lives. I think of the story of Joseph and all the horrible things his brothers did to him. But afterward he told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT ). Maybe you are going through a bad time in your life. Maybe you have experienced some horrible things. But God can bring good out of bad if you are willing to ask for his help and look to him.
One of the great stories of the New Testament gives us a sense of what God is like, a snapshot of God, if you will. As the story begins, we see a boy leaving home. We don’t know what circumstances led to this. We know it was an affluent home. It seemed to be a relatively happy home. It seems as though affection was openly displayed, judging by the way the father welcomed his son back. But one day, the boy simply announced that he didn’t want to live there anymore. He was tired of the rules and regulations of living at home. He was tired of his dad and what he had to say. The bright lights of the big city were calling, and the boy wanted to experience everything the world had to offer. He probably thought, What does Dad know about this sort of thing? He is so lame. He is so out of it. And so he ran away.
How this must have broken his father’s heart. As a father who has lost a son, I have a sense of the pain this dad may have been experiencing. He just wanted to be with his boy. But did you know that God longs for fellowship with us? It is not because he needs us. But He does want us. He longs for friendship. He longs for conversation. He longs for communication and communion with us. We see this from Genesis to Revelation.
The boy in our story was running from a father who longed for fellowship with him, and he wasted all of his money on wild living. He probably had the greatest clothes and all the girls around him. But as soon as the money ran out, his friends ran out with it, and he found himself hanging out with a bunch of pigs. He was reaping the consequences of his sin. He was realizing this was the wrong choice. And that is how sin can be. It looks so promising, so alluring, so glamorous, so cool. And then the consequences hit. We reap the results. And it wasn’t what we were expecting.
He finally came to his senses and realized he had it better back at home. He decided to go home and tell his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19 NKJV). Realizing that he was simply reaping the consequences of his own actions, he made the journey back home again, back to his father’s house.
In an interesting twist on the story, the father ran to his son. It was considered inappropriate for an older man to run in that culture, but the father, willing to lose his dignity, sprinted to get to his son and throw his arms around him. He didn’t stop 10 feet away and say, “Boy, where have you been? You smell like a pig.” Rather, he threw his arms around him and accepted him as he was. Then he ordered that a new robe be brought out for his son, along with a ring for his finger. Although he accepted his son, he didn’t leave him the way he was.
This is a perfect picture of how many of us run away from God. And if you haven’t already discovered this yet, hopefully you will realize that everything you need in this life is found in a relationship with him. Nothing this world has to offer will fulfill you.
God will accept you as you are, but he doesn’t want to leave you that way. Some people say they are Christians, but they are still trying to live in two worlds. That is the most miserable place to be. I was doing that for a little while after I gave my life to Christ. But I realized that I couldn’t live in two worlds. And one of the reasons I have never wanted to be a compromising Christian is that I had enough of this world for 17 years. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I know it is empty. I had seen the way it had worked out for my mother. So I thought, If I am going to be a Christian, then I am going to go for it. I have never regretted that decision. And you won’t, either.