I saw a powerful illustration on social media recently. There was an image of a little girl hugging her stuffed teddy bear tightly while Jesus was right in front of her kneeling down with one hand out signaling for her to give Him the bear. She didn’t want to hand Jesus the bear because it was her favorite bear, and she didn’t want to be left with nothing. What she didn’t know was that behind Jesus’ back, in His other hand, He had a much larger one that He wanted to give her in exchange.
This paints a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus. We often hold on to things that are smaller or less than what God wants us to have. In our fear and insecurity, we don’t want to surrender or submit the important things in our lives because we’re scared that we might not get them back, or we’re unsure of how we’ll be able to move on. This stuffed teddy bear represents relationships, material things, parts of our identity and self-worth, habits, addictions, routines, schedules, and so much more.
Many of us settle for less than what we deserve without realizing it. This is often because we’ve been let down, chewed up, and spit out by the world. Our self-worth, value, and identity are mixed up in the things we do, what we own, and traumatic events we experience. We’re scared to let go and let God. We think that we’ll lose ourselves or maybe forget who we are. The truth is that God wants to give us a new identity, help us ﬁnd our value and worth in Him, and exchange those dead things for greater things.
When God closes a door, He’s protecting us from unknown hurts. He’s redirecting us to be in alignment with His plan, and He’s keeping us from settling. In the book of Luke, we read the story of the prodigal son (see Luke 15). A son asks his father for his inheritance. Once he receives it, he blows all the money on a frivolous lifestyle. With no fortune left and nothing to show for it, the son ﬁnds himself having to ﬁnd work feeding pigs. He couldn’t afford food, so when he got hungry, he would eat the slop that the pigs ate.
After being settled there for a while, the son remembered who he was and where he came from. He swallowed his pride and returned to his father’s house. He realized he had done wrong, so he changed his mindset and heart posture. When he returned home, his father saw him, ran out to embrace him, placed a ring on his ﬁnger, put new shoes on his feet, and clothed him in a robe. He killed the fattest calf and threw a celebration for the return of his son.
The prodigal son had been settling for far less than what God had created him for. Even after his mistakes, even after his blunders, even after his carelessness, he remained an heir. In the same way, we must remember that even though our past might be ﬁlled with regrets, guilt, shameful acts, and a host of mistakes and failures, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are children of God who have been forgiven. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God created you for a relationship with Him. That relationship was not just for eternity, but for this life on earth. He has plans to prosper you. He wants more for you than you want for yourself. Embrace both open and closed doors, knowing His plans for you are good and so much better than what you could accomplish on your own.
Andrew Carter shares his tumultuous road to Christ this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from The Privilege Of Prayer by Andrew F. Carter. Copyright ©2023 by Andrew Formby-Carter. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.