“In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 15:7 NLT
My two-year-old son was missing. He’d climbed the back of the sofa in the downstairs family room and slipped out of an unscreened ground floor window while I washed windows upstairs and his older brother and sister, who were supposed to keep an eye on him, watched cartoons.
We lived at the edge of a small rural village on what used to be the family farm. Where could he be on this warm, spring afternoon? Traipsing in the acres of woods and overgrown fields? Climbing the high wall, a steep, dangerous cliff left from open-pit mining years ago? Exploring the barn filled with suffocating hay bales or the wagon shed with all its enticing tools and machines? I imagined a small body floating on the pond fifty yards away and felt panic rise like bile in my throat.
The world can be a dangerous place for a curious toddler. Fear clutched my heart and squeezed hard. I called around the neighborhood while Todd and Jaime began searching. A neighbor boy hopped on his four-wheeler.
I can’t remember how long we searched. I only remember praying, pleading with God to help us find him safe and sound. We did—between the back doors of his grandmother’s house next door. She wasn’t home, so no one heard his knocking or answered the phone when I called.
What relief and joy flooded me when they brought him through the door! I hugged him and kissed him and hugged him some more.
There’s nothing worse than not knowing where your children are. My children knew the degree of punishment was proportional to the degree of panic.
Unlike us, though, God doesn’t panic when His children wander off. He always knows exactly where they are and goes after them. Not with punishment in mind, but in love and concern. He knows it’s a mean, dangerous world out there.
And He never forces them to return against their will. Instead, He calls to them gently, softly whispering their names so they hear it deep in their souls. He arranges circumstances to get their attention.
Cecil Murphey, in his books The Relentless God and The God Who Pursues, describes his own wandering and how God sought him, found him, and brought him home. My own Uncle Nick woke up in a jail cell after a drinking bout and found the Shepherd waiting for him. He became a Baptist minister who eventually led several family members to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God.
Sometimes God sends others to bring home His beloved children. My friend Melanie wrote a book called The Apostles He Sends, describing how God sent others to draw her back to her faith after more than three decades of running away.
He never stops caring. He never stops loving us. He never stops seeking us when we stray. So whether you or someone you love is the little lost lamb, be assured that God knows where His lost ones are—and He’s working on bringing them home.
Thank You for never letting me out of Your sight, Father, and thank You for bringing me home. Amen.
Read and reflect on Matthew 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7.