Will the Lord Leave Him? (Bunyan)

Saved by Grace Most readers of this blog are familiar with these phrases: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.”  As a Christian, if you truly know your own heart, you know the reality of these words.  You know that things in this world have a strong pull and sometimes they draw you away from Jesus and you don’t act or look much like a Christian during those times.  We have to remember that this happens to other Christians too.  Other true followers of Jesus are prone to wander.  I’m not saying this to point fingers.  I’m saying this so we don’t harshly judge other Christians and quickly look down on them when they wander.  I’m saying this so we can show love, patience, and care for brothers and sisters who are currently wandering.

Thankfully Jesus’ grip on us is stronger than our grip on him.  Though we are prone to leave the God we love, he is not prone to leave the people he loves.  Here’s how John Bunyan talked about wandering (or backsliding):

…Perhaps the soul grows cold again, it also forgets this grace received, and waxeth carnal, begins again to itch after the world, loseth the life and savor of heavenly things, grieves the Spirit of God, woefully backslides, casteth off private duties quite, or else retains only the formality of them, is a reproach to religion, grieves the hearts of them that are awake, and tender of God’s name, etc.

But what will God do now? Will he take this advantage to destroy the sinner?
No.
Will he let him alone in his apostasy?
No. Will he leave him to recover himself by the strength of his now languishing graces?
No.
What then?
Why, he will seek this man out till he finds him, and bring him home to himself again: “For thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among the sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered.—I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” (Eze 34:11, 16).

Later Bunyan talks about a child of God who wanders more than a few times:

“My people,” says God, “are bent to backsliding from me.” How many times did David backslide; yea, Jehoshaphat and Peter! (2 Sam 11, 24; 2 Chron 19:1–3; 20:1–5; Matt 26:69–71; Gal 2:11–13). As also in Jeremiah it is said, “But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return unto me, saith the Lord.” Here is grace! So many time as the soul backslides, so many times God brings him again—I mean, the soul that must be saved by grace-he renews his pardons, and multiplies them. “Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life” (Job 33:29-30 [NASB]).

I am prone to wander.  I know my sinful heart.  You also are prone to wander.  We should be patient and loving towards one another and other brothers and sisters in Christ.  And, as Bunyan pointed out from Scripture, the truth of the matter is that God will not leave us when we wander; he will bring us back again and again and again.  Since God never gives up on his people, neither should we.

 Bunyan, J. (2006). Saved by Grace (Vol. 1, p. 353). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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