Lent Day 6: Something Other Than God

Texts: Psalm 104:1-9, Gen. 7:11-8:12, Mark 3:20-35

[This is part of my Lenten devotional study of the prodigal son. Click Here to Download ]

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“And he took a journey into the far country.”

I was never much of a rebellious child, but when I was ten years old, I ran away from home. I meant business, too. I can’t even remember what severe injustice spurred my quest for a better life, but I do remember running across the street to Water’s Market to stock up on bubble gum. A stringy haired runaway wearing a ball cap, blowing giant bubbles, and repeatedly pounding the pocket of her softball glove was surely the poster child for a serious rebel.

I think I was gone an hour and a half. I guess I got hungry. Or thirsty. Or ran low on Super Bubble and didn’t want to miss softball practice.

What it was that drove the prodigal away from the love of his family, we aren’t really told. He asked for his part and he left. Maybe he even had some legitimate complaints. Maybe he felt like his father favored the oldest son. Maybe he always had to do the worst chores or always got the short end of the stick. Maybe he always got blamed when something got broken or maybe he was 16 and still didn’t have a cell phone. Maybe he felt like his family just didn’t get him or appreciate all the unique gifts he had to offer.

Whatever it was, it was enough to justify his actions in his own mind.

What was at the heart of the prodigal’s sin? Probably the same thing that’s at the heart of ours.

Unbelief.

We are unbelievers.

We are sure our Father has been unfair to us. We wonder if He actually sees all the work we do and the turmoil and heartache and injustice we go through on a daily basis. We feel unseen or maybe under appreciated. Maybe our complaints are justified, too. Maybe our neighbor Tom always gets the best breaks, the perfect job, the obedient children, the rock star spouse.

We convince ourselves that we were born at the wrong time, given the wrong set of gifts, the wrong bank account, the wrong house, the wrong parents. If only we had fill-in-the-blank, our lives would be well. Isn’t that what we secretly murmur in the truest parts of our souls?

Except those murmurings are all lies—lies straight from our enemy who will do ANYTHING to separate us from our Father’s love.

God is our loving Father, and He is working everything for our good. He sees us. He knows us and hears the groanings that we can’t even utter. He has placed us right here, in this family, with these difficult people, in this dinky little town, driving this worn out car, for a very specific reason—for such a time as this.

In the Old Testament lesson, Noah and his family probably struggled with the same unbelief when the lights went out at night. Build an ark? For a worldwide flood? With these pathetic supplies? What about John, why doesn’t he have to help? Why us? Why now?

But Noah didn’t run away from his calling. He believed God, and he stayed and he built a boat, day after back-breaking day, without the slightest drop of rain to bolster his belief.

Until one day when God finally honored His word and the heavens unleashed their power.

Noah and his family were spared from the terror of the greatest destruction the world had ever known, separated from the wickedness of the world by water, kept safe inside the boat that had been the laughing stock of the town for decades. God can be trusted to get us home safely, if we will ask for the gift of faith, if we will learn to trust His ways and His promises, if we will stay inside the Ark of the church, though it be the laughing stock of the town still.

When we run to the far country, we are usually running away from our calling, from the very people God has given us to serve and love. We run because we don’t believe His promises, because we doubt that He loves us.

May our doubt and unbelief and stubborn sinful rebellion be washed clean by His saving flood and may we stay near to Him, the source of all light and life, and the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

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