Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lent Words Day 16: Wilderness

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry."
Matthew 4:1-2

The practice of the Lenten season of fasting for 40 days is modeled after Jesus' time in the wilderness. Kris Camealy, in her book Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, says,
"The significance of the 40 days most commonly reminds us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before the beginning of His short ministry on earth. As the church reflects on Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, we are called to practice our faith in ways that stretch and bend us beyond what is comfortable."
In the Bible there are two major stories of time in the wilderness: the one in the Gospels of Jesus' time of temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). The other is the story of the Israelites 40 years in the desert (wilderness), as Deuteronomy 8:2 says, it was a time when God humbled and tested His people "in order to know what is in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands". What is significant about these wilderness times is that we are told in both accounts that these were times led by God. Wilderness times in the Bible are a time of preparation, a time of overcoming temptation. Author Jenny Phillips, in her book Jesus and Wilderness, says,
"The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space—an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, identity shifts, and new possibilities emerge. Through the experiences of the Israelites in exile, we learn that while the Biblical wilderness is a place of danger, temptation and chaos, it is also a place for solitude, nourishment, and revelation from God. These themes emerge again in Jesus’ journey into the wilderness, tying his identity to that of his Hebrew ancestors."
During the Lenten season, as we fast and seek God, we symbolically follow Christ into the wilderness. We voluntarily enter into a time of wilderness living. 

Again from author Kris Camealy:
"As the church is traditionally stripped for the Lenten season, so we, too, find ourselves naked before the Lord, shamed by our awareness of our weaknesses, constant stumbling, and self-righteousness. Jesus suffered all varieties of temptation in the wilderness, and as such, His faithfulness to the Father and His God-nature were put to test. Because He knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), He endured a trial that we could never possibly endure apart from Him. On the cross He took on our shame, and His shame becomes our glory as we allow Him to clothe us in Himself. In different ways, God tests our faithfulness. He refines us through trial and suffering so that when we emerge, we might better reflect His glory to the world."
Author Ruth Haley Barton says this of wilderness on her blog, transforming
"Oftentimes we think of wilderness as being a harsh and punishing place; however, it can also be a place where we find clarity, discover inner strength, and experience the salvation that comes from God alone. It can be a place where we experience God's steadfast love."
As we travel though this season of following in Jesus' steps through the wilderness, may we take comfort that God uses these times to shape us and form us into His holy people. May we see clearly our call to reflect His glory to the world and know that this wilderness time is beneficial to our souls and to our calling. And in this wilderness time, may we find clarity, discover inner strength, experience God's salvation and His steadfast love.

Join us for Lent Words 2018 -  A Creative Challenge Through the Season of Lent. More about it in this post. There is also a private Facebook group for the Lent challenge:


  1. I am sure enjoying these in depth posts regarding Lent topics, especially if I read them before I do my own attempt. Thank you so much for your inspiration.

    1. Thank you Brenda! I appreciate the encouragement and am glad you are connecting with them. :)