The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness. He went without food or water and faced temptations from the devil himself. This past weekend Pastor Rob reminded us that in the wilderness we can encounter God. When we’re facing deep needs, lonely moments or crushing temptation, it’s encouraging to know that we can encounter God in the midst of that kind of wilderness.
Unfortunately, though, the wilderness of our lives doesn’t last only 40 days. How many of us would sign up right now if we only had to experience the wilderness of longing, loneliness and temptation for 40 days? If we could make it through 40 days, encounter God and then come through the other side, never having to experience the wilderness again, we’d all be on board.
That isn’t how life works, though. Instead of the 40 days of Jesus’ wilderness, our experience is more like that of the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. They triumphantly left Egypt but, because of their disobedience, they were forced to wander through the wilderness for 40 years. We don’t just have a season of walking through the wilderness; we’re going to experience the wilderness throughout the entirety of our lives.
True, sometimes the wilderness will be more prevalent than others. There may be some seasons when we can’t even remember what the wilderness is like, but it’s always there waiting to creep back into our lives. We may get an unexpected phone call or have an undesirable diagnosis and then we’re right back in the wilderness. The wilderness is always going to be there until we die or Jesus returns. Now that could discourage us, unless we remember that we encounter God in the wilderness.
If we’re always going to face the wilderness, then we’re always going to have opportunities to encounter God. If we didn’t have to regularly face the wilderness, then we might forget our need for God. The wilderness reminds us that we can’t make it through on our own; we need God to guide us and support us and love us.
In our deep needs, God can satisfy us.
In our loneliness, God can comfort us.
In our temptations, God can stand with us.
Sin has broken the paradise God intended and left us with a dangerous wilderness. God didn’t abandon us to the wilderness, though. He meets us in the wilderness, walks with us through the wilderness and will eventually lead us fully out of the wilderness when his kingdom comes.