I have always found autumn to be a thrilling season. The air is crisp with change, and the glory of fall’s kaleidoscope of colors adds to my eager anticipation of the holidays. For many of us, this has been a busy—maybe even demanding—year, but as we prepare for Thanksgiving this month, the joy of celebrating with our loved ones seems to make everything else incidental.
Something I have been reflecting on in recent days is that the holiday season is not a time everyone looks forward to with eager anticipation. For some, there will sadly be family members missing from their table this year, for one reason or another. For others, the idea of “family” is complicated, maybe even painful. While their hearts long to rejoice and celebrate, there is a dull ache associated with this time of the year.
As I have been thinking about this, the Lord brought to my mind the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable, Jesus tells of a reasonably well-to-do man that had two sons. One of the sons wanted his inheritance in advance, and the father agreed to give it to him.
Unfortunately, this kid went out and squandered the whole thing and ended up in a pigsty trying to make a living. Finally, the son decided to return to his father, in hopes of being received back as a hired hand in his father’s household.
Scripture says that while the son was still a long way off, “His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:20-24, NJKV). Then, they began to celebrate the son’s return.
How Our Heavenly Father Feels About Us
Loved one, I believe this parable reveals our Heavenly Father’s heart towards us and lets you and me know how He feels about us. In this passage of Scripture, the very Son of God Himself is sharing how God loves and cares for His children.
I am writing to you, dear friend, to share with you four things I find significantly impactful in this parable. I hope these things will encourage you and help you understand your Heavenly Father’s love for you more deeply and fully!
- The first thing Jesus shows us in this parable is that the Father never loses hope. What is particularly impactful about this is that the prodigal son ran against everything his father would have naturally wanted for him, and yet, the father still didn’t lose hope for his son.
Don’t you love that our Father God never loses hope for us? He doesn’t give up caring about you and me, and He never loses His vision for what He sees our life becoming. Hallelujah!
- Second, did you notice that the father was always waiting and longingly looking out for his son? We see our Father’s heart for us in this parable when the father began to run to the son, even while he was still a long way off. The father obviously had been watching for his son because he saw him from a great distance on the horizon.
The message for us in this is that the heart of God never ceases waiting, and His eyes are always looking out for us. His heart is ever reaching out toward us in love, no matter how far we may wander.
- The third thing is that the son returned and repented to his father. Please hear this, dear friend, the father did not demand the son to grovel for acceptance. The father’s heart did respond to this repentance because he was glad the son had come to recognize his own problems, and that these problems weren’t the father’s fault.
When the son returned, he acknowledged that he had sinned against his father and heaven. The very nature of repentance is turning from our way to God’s way. It is saying, “Lord, I want to line up with You.” When we align ourselves with the Lord and His way, it opens the door for the Lord to release all that He has for us.
Of course, the Lord doesn’t say, “I will only love you if you are on my terms.” He loves us with an unconditional, everlasting love. However, it’s important that we say, “I will turn from my ways to live in Your ways,” for Him to be able to release all that He wants to do in and for us. When the prodigal son did that, he experienced great blessings.
Turning from our ways and plans and towards God’s ways and plans is the key to unlocking and experiencing all that He has purposed for us.
- Lastly, there is significance in the gifts the father gave his son upon his return: a ring, a robe, and shoes.
The ring represents the reinstatement of fellowship with the father. When we come — or return — to Him, He will reinstate the partnership and possibilities He had in mind for us to share with Him. In other words, He will restore our place in the family business of fulfilling His Kingdom purposes.
The father also gave his son a robe that went all the way down to his ankles. In the culture of this time, that length was a sign of dignity. This gift symbolized the father covering any shame, nakedness, or past scars that existed in his son, and it represented the son’s restoration to an unashamed standing. Our Heavenly Father will clothe us in dignity and restore us to the full stature of who He made us to be.
Finally, the father put shoes on the son’s feet, showing that the loss and mourning of the past had been removed. Putting shoes on was a way of saying that a time of weeping had come to an end.
Have you been walking through a difficult season? If so, come to your Heavenly Father and ask Him to put new shoes on your feet and to lead you into a new season of rejoicing!
You have a Special Place in God’s Family!
We see a great deal of the Heart of God in this parable told by Jesus. We see that the Lord wants to reinstate the partnership and purposes He has for you and me. He wants to clothe us with dignity, so that we can rediscover who we were made to be. He longs to wash away whatever embarrassment or shame may be in our past.
The parable of the prodigal son shows us how our Heavenly Father’s heart is always reaching out in hope to us, looking out for us, embracing us in our weaknesses, and clothing us with royalty. It helps us to better understand how we are to relate to and think about Him, and the importance of turning from our ways to His ways. It also helps us to understand how we are to think about ourselves in His sight.
Please hear this, loved one, your Heavenly Father loves you deeply. You have a special place in His heart, and you belong in His family of redeemed sons and daughters.
I pray this upcoming holiday season will be a blessing to you and filled with memories that you will treasure. I pray you will feel your Heavenly Father’s love for you, and that you will be surrounded by loved ones, whether that be your physical family or your spiritual brothers and sisters. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I pray that we will be faithful to offer up a great measure of thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for His great grace, unfailing love, and precious promises for our lives.
I hope you know, my dear friend, that I am very thankful for you!
Celebrating with thankfulness,
P.S. Friend, it doesn’t matter where you are or what your family dynamic is like, God has invited you into His family. Like any good father, our Lord wants you to know your value and worth. With this letter I’ve included a special product offer for you, a 6-part teaching on who the Father is and who you are in relationship with Him. May God bless you richly as you grow in fellowship with Him.