Drawing inspiration for the season from Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness
Posted in , Feb 4, 2021
Lent is coming soon. Ash Wednesday is on February 17. Usually, I give up something for those 40 days—remembering how Jesus fasted in the wilderness. But now I’m thinking, “Haven’t we given up enough already with this pandemic?” It feels like I’ve been doing Lent since last March!
It was a minister friend who set me straight. “Practicing Lent doesn’t have to be all about giving up,” he said. “You might want to take on something instead.” Not give up but take on? I liked that idea.
For inspiration, I looked at the biblical account of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Here are some of the things I noticed:
1) Be led by the Spirit.
As the gospel puts it, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). How often do I allow myself to simply follow the Spirit’s leading? I’m more likely to get wrapped up in to-do lists of my own making.
What if I make following this leading a spiritual goal of the Lenten season? To listen intently for the Spirit’s voice and not to simply shrug it off, saying, “Geez, I’m too busy for that.” To honor and, more importantly, follow its lead.
2) Learn in the wilderness.
Jesus didn’t go into the wilderness for the fun/misery of it. He needed to prepare for His ministry. He needed to grow. My wilderness experiences are things I run away from. The anxieties that crowd my mind, worries that fill it.
But maybe there’s another way to think of them. Maybe a wilderness time—like what we’ve suffered from during this pandemic—is also an opportunity to refocus, recharge, grow.
3) Turn to Scripture.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He fought back using Scripture. Asked to turn the stones into loaves of bread, Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4).
There’s another good goal for this Lent. To immerse myself in Scripture. In fact, that’s exactly what’s helped me get through the pandemic. Every morning during breakfast, instead of reading the news, I turn to the Psalms and a chapter from one of the Gospels.
4) Focus on the commandments.
In the final battle, when the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if He would only worship Satan. “Jesus said, ‘Away with you, Satan!’ For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’” (Matthew 4:10).
Too often I read the commandments and other spiritual prescriptions in the Bible, forgetting what power they have. Look how they changed the whole scenario in the wilderness. “Then the devil left Him, and suddenly angels came and waited on Him.” Which leads me to my last point…
5) Accept what the angels offer.
Those angels of God’s mercy are simply waiting for us. Look to them. Open your heart to them. They can appear at the most unexpected of times.