When I worked in a hospital, we sometimes had meetings over lunch for educational purposes. I have often thought of one speaker in particular, a counselor from our Behavioral Health facility, an off-campus care center for treating drug and alcohol addictions. The counselor, who had once been addicted to drugs, explained what it was like to be bound by obsessive cravings that served only to destroy one’s life. She said the addicted person had to hit bottom before he or she would turn their life around.
The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is a story about hitting bottom. Perhaps the rebellious son was addicted to greed and pleasure. At his pleading, his father gave him his share of inheritance that rightfully would not have been his until after his father’s death. Immediately, the son went away and quickly squandered a fortune. He all too soon found himself with nothing, not even necessary food for living. He had hit bottom!
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a picture of our Father God and how he responds to His children—us—no matter what self-orchestrated bottom we hit. He never stops loving us and He is always on watch for His confused, wayward child to return to Him.
Addiction of any kind is a demanding and jealous master; I don’t know that any addiction can be broken outside the power of God’s love. It is His love that gives strength when we have none. It is His love that puts the right people in our path to help us find our way out of an all-consuming habit. It is His love that never gives up on us—and that steadfastness gives us hope that we can be restored and the courage to begin.
When the Prodigal Son set off from home, he was dizzy with high expectations for a life of sheer pleasure. However, it didn’t turn out that way. His frivolity became his downfall and he was soon unable to take care of even his basic needs. When he returned to his father in abject poverty, his greatest hope was to be treated as a servant so that he might have food to live. But the Father met with delight and compassion this wayward son (Luke 15:20), certainly not what the Son who had hit bottom expected.
The account of the Prodigal Son is the story of anyone who willfully chooses to worship anything but God. Finding oneself in a pit of shame and guilt, we may ask “Will God take me back?” And the answer is a resounding yes! When we take the first step toward God, the step of repentance, our Father comes quickly to meet us. Not to condemn, but to welcome us home. He will reward our decision to trust Him with compassion and healing.
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
Psalm 6:4 (ESV)