"And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need… and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything." (Luke 15:14, 16)
If not for the famine in that far country, would this young prodigal turn back to find his Father?
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable about prodigals, why they leave, how their quests end, and how they are received by God when they return. The attitude of the younger son toward his father sounds similar to my own temptations toward God: “I want your provision, but not your presence. Give me your riches, so I will possess health, wealth, and pleasure. Once you do, I will head on my way alone. I want your riches but not your relationship.”
What causes us to reverse our course? God often lovingly allows us to endure hardship of our own making to expose the emptiness of counterfeit gods. We seek life on our own, and it satisfies for a little while. But then a famine comes. Famines get our attention. During the occasion of a famine, we may finally see the truth and accept the frailty of our lives and the futility of our plans. Relentless aches of hunger pain prompt us to seek sustenance quickly. Seeing only pods, we admit our need for help. We need more than riches which are lost, food that molds, clothes that fade. We need our Father. And with a broken and contrite heart we pivot our heart back toward him because we know there we will find life.
Lent is the season when we confess the ways we, like the prodigal, run from our Father. Lent is also when we choose to receive the lessons of the famine. One way we can do this is by fasting. Fasting is choosing to enter the famine because there our hunger for God grows and our hunger for lesser things wanes. In fasting, the hunger pains confront our attempts of self-sufficiency and give us a clearer vision of what we truly crave. I am weak. I need my strong Father. I seek life elsewhere in my sin. I need my forgiving Father.
And we know at the end of this season there is a Father who cares for us. With confidence we know God has provided for his children not only our daily bread but the very Bread of Life.
(Written by Joshua Earman)