The Prodigal Son’s Brother
Waiting is hard.
We have all experienced waiting at some point in life. Waiting for a spouse. Waiting for a child. Waiting for that promotion at work. And, whenever we are waiting, the process can seem to last forever.
It is not easy to wait, especially when those around us receive the very things for which we long. You’ve been diligently working towards that promotion at work and, instead, it’s given to another colleague. You’ve been praying every day for years for a child but have to watch while yet another friend announces her pregnancy. It’s confusing. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.
Singles are no strangers to the waiting game, especially those of us who are well into adulthood. It is a regular occurrence for us to see friend after friend after friend get engaged. Then, after most of our friends are married off, we start seeing those we used to babysit get engaged. (True story.) To say it’s difficult is putting it lightly.
I love marriage. And I want to rejoice when I see two godly people enter into that sacred union. I want to root for them. I want to see their marriage display the gospel. I want to see them work together for the kingdom.
But, it is hard. As much as I want to see their marriage succeed, I also so long to experience it. Every time I see an engagement announcement, it’s just another reminder I am not anywhere near that. It’s another reminder that the thing I so desire has still been left unfulfilled.
How long, oh Lord?
I was recently reading through Luke and came to the passage on the prodigal son- a passage I’ve read and been taught probably 1,000 times over the years. A rebellious son squanders his inheritance, comes back home expecting, and wanting, to at least be treated as a servant, yet finds grace in his father and receives a celebration fit for a king.
We all read this and rejoice over grace that is found in the father. We relate to the prodigal son. No matter how much we’ve sinned, we find a heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms to extend us grace. But, how many times have we stopped here or skimmed over the rest of the story? As I was reading it this time, I came to the end of the story and realized something.
I am the prodigal son’s brother.
Instead of celebrating the fact that his brother has come home, he grows bitter and sulks feeling like he has somehow been gypped of his own fattened calf. “Look at these many years I have served you…yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29).”
The similarities in his attitude and mine are astounding. I see one more person get engaged and my reaction is the same. “How many years have I served you, Lord, and longed so much for a husband, and you still won’t provide one? Yet, you gave this person over here a spouse and they definitely haven’t been waiting as long or as hard as I have.” Like the prodigal son’s brother, I am unable to rejoice over something worth celebrating because of my own pride and selfishness.
But, look at the father’s gracious response. “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31).” The oldest son needed to be reminded of who he was and what he already had. He was so consumed with bitterness over his brother’s fattened calf, he had completely lost focus on what was already granted to him.
That’s me more than I’d like to admit. I see someone else get engaged and I grow bitter, not only missing out on celebrating with them, but also blinding myself to God’s exuberant blessings in my own life. I’m too busy thinking I deserve what they have more.
The comparison game is real. And it’s ugly. It’s a tactic straight from Satan to make us lose sight of God and his abundant blessings. We must put that mindset to death.
I am not better than anyone else. I do not deserve anything more than anyone else. The Lord has already blessed me way beyond what I deserve. It’s so ridiculous to allow one thing in life to cloud everything else. This one desire for marriage often blinds me to all of the other amazing ways the Lord has provided for me. And, unfortunately, engagements can easily trigger it. Like the prodigal son’s brother, I feel gypped.
But, in these moments, my Father graciously reminds me of who I am and what he has given me. He encourages me to look beyond my desires and those things I think I deserve to see I have everything I will ever need. Instead of focusing on this one fattened calf, I realize I already have the whole kingdom.