When They Don’t Come Back

I met Derek years ago when he came to Midtown Cafe with his older brother, Tim. When I learned he was Tim’s brother, I expected the worst. Tim is an unapologetic drug addict who will lie and steal with no remorse. The last thing I wanted in my life was another Tim to have to keep an eye on.

But I found out Derek was different. He had a job, a girlfriend, and a place to live. He spoke well, and politely thanked us for the free coffee and breakfast.

Over time, Derek’s life started to mirror Tim’s. They’d get arrested for stealing, assault, or public intoxication.

It was disappointing.

I’d confront the issue, telling Derek that I saw potential in him, encouraging him to leave “the life” and live for Christ instead. I could tell these encouragements meant a lot to him, and sometimes he’d make progress. But his brother always found a way to drag him back to a life of theft and addiction.

A couple weeks ago, we had a community pizza lunch. Derek and Tim showed up – high.

They were like zombies.

I hate seeing people wrapped up in spiritual bondage and self-destruction.

This past Thursday, Derek came into our building, alone.

No Tim. No Drugs. Just Derek.

“Guys,” he said, “I want to apologize. When Tim and I came here the other day, we had just smoked some spice.”

“We know,” I told him. “We can always tell. But we forgive you. There’s always grace here.”

I was honored to have a long talk with Derek. He confessed his struggle with drugs. The burden of taking care of his brother. His pain in being alienated from his family.

This time, I didn’t try to boost Derek’s self esteem or offer him meaningful volunteer service.

Instead, I told him to cry out to Jesus.

For forgiveness of sins. For strength to resist temptation. For wisdom for life.

Salvation is found in no other name.

Derek listened. He was clearly wrestling in his heart. I invited him to confess Christ as Lord but he wasn’t ready. So I encouraged him to pray that Jesus would reveal himself in an understandable way, and he agreed to do just that.

He had to leave for a job interview, so we prayed together and I told him to come back the next day to pray more and talk about what God was saying to him.

“I’ll be here,” he promised with enthusiasm.

The next day came and went.

No Derek.

What do we do when the ones we hope and pray the most for don’t come back?

Personally, I return to the word hope.

This idea that the miraculous might happen. That something, beyond my control or influence, might bring Derek so close to Jesus that he can only surrender.

How puny is my faith if I don’t believe this can happen?

Perhaps someone you know is perpetually lost. They’ve heard the truth a thousand times, and you know they know better…

But there’s no change.

Don’t lose hope.

Our faith is one in which hope remains forever.

One day, there will be no more church buildings, no more ministries, no more non-profit organizations.

But hope will remain.

Don’t lose hope. We serve an infinitely powerful, infinitely loving Father.

He’s more than able to bring back the lostest of all sinners.

2 thoughts on “When They Don’t Come Back

  1. Maybe the title should be “When They Haven’t Come Back Yet”
    or “When They Don’t Come Back As Soon As I Think They Should”

  2. Talking to people who are being faithful to family members that are pushing them into misguided places is tough. Sometimes even fair fictional families have a tough go of it. These conversations need to be done carefully.

    One interesting point, when Jesus talks about leaving family it is in reference to ideas that are harmful not so much in disavowing and casting out; What ever the case Hope is the comforter.


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