Life: God restores his people

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for July 21 focuses on Ezra 1:1-5; Nehemiah 8:1-6; Jeremiah 29:10-14.

I have seen and worked with many a rebellious teen in my years as a student minister. I have sat across from countless sets of parents as they questioned their parenting and second-guessed their methods of discipline. They cry as they relay some of the destructive choices their children have made. One student stands out in my mind as I think back over a decade in ministry.

A beautiful 15-year-old girl with tons of personality and possibility made the choice to date a young man who had negative influence on her life. This young lady grew up in church and had a relationship with Christ dating back to elementary school. She knew all the right answers and had a family who loved her deeply and supported her in sports, school and her spiritual life.

Isolating herself

When she started dating this boy, the once talkative, carefree girl began isolating herself in her room. Her healthy relationship with her parents had been whittled down to a bunch of lies, and she seemed to have no care for the way she was hurting those around her.

After her parents found a pregnancy test in her bathroom trashcan, everything escalated. Family arguments became a daily event, and her heart grew hard with bitterness. Trust was broken. Sibling relationships were broken. Communication was broken. And the choices this young lady was making were not only causing friction in her home, but were separating her from her heavenly Father.

This young lady made poor choice after poor choice. After being caught in a lie, she would apologize and then turn around and tell another. Her father told the young man she was forbidden to see him or communicate in anyway. So, the girl went behind his back and sneaked out at night in order to see the boy. She no longer could be trusted and had lost every privilege she once held. The gaping hole between her and her family seemed insurmountable, and the siblings and parents wondered if she ever would return to the truthful, softhearted girl they once knew.

Caught in deceit

I remember sitting in the living room with the family after one of the last times she was caught in her deceit. All the brothers and sisters were crying, as was her mother. The young lady seemed very broken, despite her repeated acts of rebellion. I wondered if this might be the turning point in her life as I watched her dad. He was sitting in a wingback chair in the living room when he took his daughter in his arms.

She was a tall, lanky basketball player, but he held her like she was a baby. He put one arm around her shoulders and the other under her knees, and he pulled that teenager up into his lap and leaned his head over to rest on the top of hers. Through tears, I watched the father tell his daughter: “I am going to rescue you whether you want to be rescued or not. I love you, and I am going to rescue you. … I am going to rescue you.”

We are rebellious children

I wonder if she realized the words being spoken over her head were ones that had been echoed by her heavenly Father, as well? We are rebellious children and continue to lie and walk in darkness time and again. We are caught in our sins and in our poor choices, yet we return to them. Just as God rescued the Israelites out of exile and restored them to right relationship, so he wants to do the same in your heart and in mine. Sure, we have a role in it all, but the restoration initiation and completion belongs to him.

Just as that sweet father held his daughter and promised to walk her through the darkness back to the light, so our heavenly Father has the ability and desire to do the same for you and for me. He wants to bring us back into right relationship and into community with him and other believers.

God’s story, from start to finish, is about restoration. Restoration is bringing something back to its former condition, place or position. Although we travel far from our heavenly Father, he desires to bring us back where we belong. We can make some right choices on our own, but ultimately, we do not have the power to make things right again.

The Father must extend grace and offer the healing we desperately need. We experience pieces of his restoration on this earth, but one day, we will experience it in full.

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