Faith falters, Bible study stumbles, and prayer seems paralyzed. We have followed our Lord for years, but still we spend a little time in the prodigal pig sty. What is going on with us? At one time we feared the punishment of the Law. Then, we got saved, were born again, and surrendered to Jesus. Whichever expression we like to use, we became children of the Living God. Now the 'No' of our Lord is not that of hellfire and brimstone, but that of the gentle father telling the child not to reach out for that poison ivy plant along the way. But we do it anyway sometimes.
We don't just touch the plant, we hop away from the Father and jump in it, laughing and smiling, waiting to see what the Father will do. No longer is the Father looking at us in anger though. Our Lord says in effect, "Why should I be angry? You're the one that will suffer." And we do. In time, we realize that the horrible joke is on us, and in shame we return to the Father for comfort and healing. However, there is another time.
The prodigal cannot look back and recall a decision made in rebellion. But just the same, the son looks around at the boards of the fence, notices a pig or two rooting around in the soil, and feels the sting of the poison ivy all over his body. Yup, poisoned prodigal in the pig sty! How did this happen, he wonders in pain and despair? In these times, we look around, and, the Lord seems nowhere to be found. How can this be? That fact that we cannot see of course does not mean that the Father has left us alone. The situation does call for a returning though, often with the shame of partially-masticated corn husks and the stink of the sty figuratively clinging to our wounded bodies. How many more times, we wonder in our self-pity, must I return to my Father in disgrace?
From whatever state you and I return, the Father welcomes us back with open arms and the desire to celebrate. What isn't easy for us, is a great joy to Him. We live, we learn, suffer and grow, and in each experience become more like our Lord Jesus.Have faith in suffering prodigals!