Celebrating the Lenten Season
The Lenten season is once again upon us and it is a period of penitential preparation for Easter which begins with Ash Wednesday. Today I would like to speak about dealing with wilderness experiences in life. The gospel story of Jesus being led into the wilderness by the spirit to be tested by the devil for forty days and forty nights is an indispensable one for the Lenten season. What is a wilderness? In the New Testament, the Greek word ‘eremos’ means an isolated place which can apply to both the wilderness and desert. Predominantly, a wilderness is a place for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water, of isolation, of danger and divine deliverance, of renewal, and of encounters with God. When the Bible speaks about the wilderness it’s not merely talking about deserted areas void of people or civilization and full of wild vicious animals. The wilderness is much more evocative than just a place; it’s an experience of life. We are celebrating this Lenten season when we are experiencing different kinds of wildernesses in our world. Recently, the Diocese in Europe held prayers in remembrance of Ukraine who have gone over a year of the wilderness of invasion by Russia. The country so far has lost thousands of people in the frontline and some are civilians who are dying because of the shelling of their houses by Russia. Families are being separated as people flee from war and become refugees in various European countries. The people of Turkey and Syria are still in the shock of the horrific earthquake that claimed thousands of lives and some people are still missing. The infrastructure of both countries was severely destroyed and many people are homeless and have nothing to eat. Recent terrorist activities of people being shot in Germany and Israel in public spaces is a major concern for the peace of the world. These are some of the desert experiences that the continent of Europe is experiencing at the present moment. These experiences are also experienced in other continents as well.
We all have wilderness seasons in our lifetimes. We might feel overwhelmed and confused about where God is leading us. Going through the wilderness is never fun or easy. It can be a time of feeling abandoned and discouraged. Desert experiences are real in life and we cannot completely eliminate them and the question is how do we journey in a desert? Sometimes long periods in the wilderness leave us wondering if God has forgotten us. Think of more than three years of Covid 19, one would ask where is God. Think of more than a year of intense war in Ukraine and the situation in Turkey and Syria. Our wilderness journeys may be a time of temptation and trial. Jesus used His knowledge of Scripture and obedience to overcome the devil. We can make it through our wilderness journey by using Jesus’ strategies and trusting in God as our source of all we need. The wilderness can be a time of testing and relationship building. It can be a private time of connection between God and us if we let it happen. It’s one way God can get our full attention and show us His love and care. When we examine the biblical use of the wilderness, we learn some things. While our wilderness journeys are challenging, they do not last forever. We walk the wilderness paths to grow and learn, trust, and obey. God leads us there to prepare us for the good works He has in mind. God doesn’t put us in the wilderness and leave. He promises to never leave us! He puts us in the wilderness to show us a clearer picture of Himself and His love. The wilderness is never a comfortable place, but if we have eyes to see, there are also beautiful lessons there. Here are some of the spiritual benefits of the wilderness experience:
- It strengthens and grow our faith.
- It helps us develop perseverance.
- It shows us how God works in our circumstances.
- It helps us see ourselves as His beloved child.
- It helps us to know God better and become spiritually mature.
- It is a creative place where we learn His purpose for our lives.
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