Lent, Troubled Times and Candy

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert at the end of his ministry, leading up to his final entrance into Jerusalem, his trial and crucifixion, and three days later, his resurrection. The 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, the period we’re in now, is called “Lent.” When we were kids growing up Catholic, we fasted during this time. Candy was my delight, so I usually chose it to give up. In our house, we were granted an indulgence each Sunday after church, at which time I happily gorged on sweets.  Looking back, without that weekly bit of grace, I don’t think I could have kept the fast all the way to Easter, and then, indulging on as many chocolate bunnies as I could eat. Lent means different things to different people, of course.  What resonates with me this year is the time Jesus spent in the wilderness by himself fasting and praying. I imagine him seeking discernment about his impending destiny on the cross. Maybe he hoped for another way. During this time of deprivation and uncertainty, alone in the wilderness, the Devil visits Jesus offering to be his savior. He temps Jesus to exchange the promise of the Divine, for the fruits of this earthly life- sustenance, power, glory. A famished and weary Jesus isn’t having it. He turns down the Devil’s offer, famously replying: “Man does not live by bread alone.” Indeed, we do not.  My own experience with the wilderness doesn’t take place in a particular setting, but in a state of mind, when trouble emerges and the search for direction and comfort becomes an imperative. These times bring to mind static on a radio dial. You have to tune around to find a place of clarity and peace. Until you do, there is just disconcerting noise. The theologian Martin Luther says about times of trouble: “Whatever virtues tribulation finds us in, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle, and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble.” In other words, if our orientation is hope and faith in God, our troubles are actually a way through to a better place, closer to the divine. 

In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul puts it this way: we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Put in the parlance of self help, in every problem there is an opportunity for growth, so we should always look for the silver lining. I agree. And we should look for the Divine also.  The song pairing is one of mine, “Wildness.” Until next time, stay safe, be brave and keep walking toward the light.

Out in the wilderness,
out in the wilderness…

When the waters are not flowing
when Your springs run dry
when we cannot feel Your love
no matter how hard we try
Lord, we stand before You
thankful for Your grace
in the power of Your cross
in that power we are raised

Out in the wilderness
out in the wilderness…

We seek Your face
we seek Your voice
we seek Your strength,
Your love

Out in the wilderness…

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