Coming to Ourselves

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants” ’ ” (Luke 15:17-19).

The account of the prodigal son remains a picture of hope and redemption to all who read the story. In this parable, we witness a cycle of events with an outcome no writer could have matched. The prodigal son, wanting freedom from the humdrum of life, embarked on a journey to find pleasure and fun, all on a quest to rid himself of the chains that bound him. But once he spent his inheritance, he “came to himself” (Luke 15:17). Then the story takes a decisive turn, ending in forgiveness and restoration.

What does it mean to come to ourselves? If the truth was told, this may be the last place we want to be. Coming to ourselves means admitting that we were wrong. We have to own up to our sin and sometimes reckless decisions. We made a series of bad choices and, in stubborn pride, tried to work it out on our own. But recognizing that our own failure can lead to new beginnings. The pain we experience in defeat can produce lasting spiritual benefits. How so?

1. Pain reminds us of where we do not want to go.
Most growth in life comes through the door of pain. Pain produces a desire to find freedom from pain. Many at this point turn to God for help. He will not disappoint. He will turn the haunting memories of past failure into a glorious reminder of His marvelous grace. Once we have tasted of the mercies of God and His grace, we try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

2. God chastises all of His children.
The Bible indicates that “all” of God’s children experience God’s corrective discipline, and they do so throughout life (see Hebrews 12:5-12). We should not cringe from these moments of God’s chastisement; it’s proof we belong to Him (Hebrews 12:7-8). So in truth we “come to ourselves” often in life as God shows us new ground He wants to cover. This process of growth does not end until we go to be with Jesus.

3. God does not waste time with us.
With God, all experiences come with special instruction. He teaches us about His fatherly care, His wisdom and His love. He also “redeems” very ugly situations in our life. He turns around situations that otherwise would destroy us. He uses the ups and downs of life to reveal to us His greater purposes for our life.

Never despair when you find yourself flat on your back, in last place, or some other place you would rather not be. Trust in God’s love and wisdom to see you through the present ordeal, and then to make something good of it.

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