The 40 days of Lent are meant to mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness of Judea following his baptism by John in the Jordan river.
During that time, according to the gospels, Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan to abandon his future as the Messiah. Jesus, of course, dispelled Satan’s temptations; each time quoting scripture in response.
To honor Jesus’ time of fasting and prayer in the wilderness, people traditionally do the same thing during Lent. That is, they fast and pray—or at least give up something that they enjoy in order to get in touch with Jesus’ deprivation.
In some ways, it’s a real challenge to be true to the season of Lent when you aren’t in the wilderness. We live in a time and place that is just the opposite. We can have pretty much what we want when we want it. And Lent seems un-relatable.
Or does it? I would suggest that there are all kinds of “wildernesses” that people live in. It may the wilderness of loneliness or fear. It may be the wilderness of a collapsed relationship or a dead-end job. It may the wilderness of illness or bereavement after the death of a loved one. It may be the wilderness of feeling that God is all but absent from your life.
Those wildernesses are just as real as any desert in this world. And Lent, then, becomes all the more relatable.
If you find yourself in such a wilderness (and, in all honesty, we all are at some point in time), ask yourself what Jesus did during his time in the wilderness. Removed from all of his support networks and left with only the companionship of a tempter, he relied on his faith in God. Even though God may have felt distant to him in those days, he trusted that God was with him. He trusted enough to stay true to his calling.
Maybe you can take something from that. Maybe you can take something from this season Lent; this wilderness time.
Most importantly, I hope you take to heart the fact that you cannot enter even the most desolate of places and find God absent. God is there. We know this because Jesus was there; in the wilderness. Consequently, he is there with you in yours. He knows what it is like. He knows what you are enduring. And he is there to assure you that you will make it to a new day, an Easter day, a day of rebirth and resurrection.
Most people won’t admit, even to themselves, that they are in the wilderness. But that just makes your time there last longer. Lent invites you to confess that you, too, are in a wilderness. It invites you to acknowledge even the bleakest parts of who you are—and to remember that there is a way forward in faith.
See you in church,