Into the Wilderness: Lent 2019

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The wilderness sucks.

Detours? Pain? Suffering? Solitude? Death? No, thank you.

When God brought the Israelites to the wilderness, they wallowed in misery. “'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!' (Numb. 21:5).”

Even the food in the wilderness sucks, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along.

And me? When I was brought to the wilderness last month, I went into it kicking and screaming. Quite literally, actually. I've had wilderness trials before, but this one may have been the hardest one I've ever had to endure. I wanted a way out. I laid in bed every night, sleepless and sobbing, begging for a way out.

There's something fearsome about the wilderness. Very rarely do we enter into its terrain willingly.

The remarkable thing is that Jesus began his ministry in the desolate terrain of the wilderness. In fact, the Gospel of Mark tells us that the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness.

Jesus went into the wilderness willingly.

For Jesus, the wilderness was a time of trial and suffering. He fasted for 40-days in a place of isolation and loneliness. But the wilderness was also an opportunity for Jesus to experience the grace of God. Just as he did for the Israelites, God provided for and sustained his Son with his loving presence.

Let me be completely honest, friends. I avoid the wilderness at all costs. I flee at the first chance I get. But by diverting my path around the wilderness instead of through it, I just might be missing out on an opportunity to receive God's grace.

Sometimes the wilderness is forced upon us by the sinful choices of other people. Sometimes the wilderness is a result of our own sinful choices. And sometimes, like me, the wilderness creeps up on its own, defying all logic and reason. However you may find yourself in the wilderness, the good news that Jesus whispered and shouted to me over and over last month is this:

Jesus tamed the wilderness.

Jesus confronted the evil powers that resided in the wilderness... and he won. That trial you may currently be going through? He's already won. That temptation you may be facing? Jesus has conquered it.

This Lent, I encourage you to journey into the wilderness with Jesus for 40-days. Look for signs of God's grace and provision. Pray that God sustains you. And trust that, in his loving kindness and steadfast love, Jesus will never leave you nor abandon you in the wilderness, but will tame and command it to his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

(P.S. Before I entered into the wilderness myself, I wrote this Wilderness Lent Devotional. I hope it can be a source of hope and comfort for those who are facing the wilderness this Lent season, too.)

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