Luke 4:1-2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Temptation and wilderness places are not soothing topics. Everything about an over-indulged culture says that those are actually not natural and can be re-framed with a more positive outlook. Temptation is just your body telling you what you need. There is a cure if you are in the wilderness places. We can fix the discomfort. We should fix the discomfort.
During Lent we choose discomfort. Even shifting our routines to include a short conversation with God is enough to send our whole sense of normalcy out of order, sort of like someone coming into a room and rearranging everything by 10cm. It feels off, not quite comfortable anymore. Giving silent space for God to speak with us is even more disconcerting. What if he says something that will make me feel bad? What if he says something that I don’t want to hear? Even worse, what if he says nothing at all? Giving up something that you are used to having on a daily basis can be torture. Adding something or subtracting something from life might be a good thing for our health but it can never truly be a spiritual discipline if there isn’t time when we look to God. When we invite him into our physical and mental disciplines, we engage our whole being and will often find ourselves facing off with some of our biggest fears and insecurities.
That’s what Jesus did when he entered the wilderness. He didn’t go into the desert and fast because he wanted to lose a bit of weight. He went because he was led by the Spirit. He was filled by the Spirit. By following in his footsteps, we choose to feel uncomfortable because he chose to be uncomfortable; we choose to speak with the Father because he chose to speak with the Father; we give opportunity for temptation because he gave opportunity for temptation; we can make it through because he made it through.
Sometimes we also find ourselves in wilderness that we never expected or invited. Something in our life that we have relied on has shifted outside of our control and it feels like we are drowning in quicksand as it consumes us. The temptation is not to go back because we can never reach out our hands and grasp onto what was there before. The temptation comes as our identity is challenged and options to numb the pain are within reach. I don’t believe that God pre-determines the pain-filled situations we face. However, I do believe that he is able to lead us through those wilderness places. Our desperation is not too deep for him.
Whether we are in a self-imposed wilderness or one not of our choosing right now, we can follow Jesus through to the other side where there is fresh hope and sense of purpose in our lives.
As we follow in Jesus’ footsteps towards Easter, let’s be as honest with God as he is with us. Let’s sit in silence as we wait for him to respond. Let’s think about what he has done as we go about our day. During this week of The Lenten Way, we’ll be focussing on being stuck in the wilderness places (self-chosen or not) and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us through.
Today, talk to God about your wilderness. Ask him to show you what it was like for him to be there. Take a minute of silence when you are done.
You can follow along with the Way Marker at the side of the blog each day or sign up to receive these conversation starters in an email each morning.