God's Word: Live It!

In the Wilderness

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Yesterday, we watched Jesus go eyeball to eyeball with Satan. Satan, no slouch at taking advantage of people, shows up when Jesus is alone, weakened by hunger, and contemplating his journey to the cross as the Son of God.  They go three rounds and Jesus wins each of them by staying close to God and choosing a life of sacrifice over power. We often find ourselves in the wilderness. Marital conflict, illness, fractured relationships, trouble with employment, payments, addiction or perhaps ongoing care giving are all wilderness experiences. They can weaken our resolve and our faith. They can leave us hungering to be fed by God’s intervention, God’s answer to our prayers that never seem to come. This is when we are vulnerable and may find ourselves wandering the barren landscape of our lives. This is when the doubt and anger can whisper its way into our spirit and leave us lost and alone.

Our comfort comes knowing that Jesus has been out there before us and knows exactly how it feels. He knows the perils, the hunger and longing of the lonely places in our lives. He also cares deeply when we are lost and alone, scared and tired. He also knows the way out. If we cry out to him he will hear our voice just as a shepherd knows his sheep. We have some weapons against the Evil One and we are marked by the cross. When we find ourselves in these places there are a few things we can do to ease our fears. They may not immediately change, or for that matter, ever change the situation, but it will give us resolve and allay our raw fear.

  • Use scripture. Many of us are not adept at this but we can look up a couple Psalms and read them slowly savoring every promise. For starters may I suggest Psalms 23, 32 and 34? Also Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:13-26. There are many more but I have found these very comforting in my own wilderness times.
  • Share your burden through prayer, boldly ask God to relieve you of your fears, anger, despair. Pray constantly until you have established a stronger relationship with God.
  • Ask a trusted person in your life to share the weight you carry, to pray with you or for you.
  • Face your burden head on, stare it down and diminish it with the power of Jesus’ name.
  • Invest yourself in the problems of another thereby reminding yourself you do not suffer alone and in many cases to not suffer as deeply as others.

We  matter to Jesus. We are blessed in our brokenness, loved and forgiven, upheld and protected. Our foe is faithlessness, not Satan. Together and in partnership with Jesus we can find our way home.

“Get up...don’t be afraid."

Yesterday, we got to watch from afar as Jesus ascends a mountain with some of his pals only to find that they were in for the experience of a lifetime! Jesus’ garments turn dazzling white; Elijah and Moses show up. God’s voice is audible as He blesses Jesus and, not surprisingly, the disciples run for cover scared out of their wits. Most poignantly, in this frightening and confusing moment when the disciples are cowering in fear,  the Bible tells us “But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don’t be afraid.”

In the midst of the mystery and majesty of The Transfiguration, Jesus leans over and touches his disciples to allay their fear. An intimate moment in an otherwise almost otherworldly experience. Jesus, knowing this moment means the beginning of his path to his own crucifixion, is nevertheless more concerned about this disciples.

His understanding of power is to use it to calm our fears, to touch us, to understand us. Our mountaintop Jesus is not full of himself, but fills himself with us. This is the Jesus who can hardly wait to have little children leap into his arms and sit on his lap. This is the Jesus who is overcome by grief siting on a hill over the city of Jerusalem crying over its eventual demise. This is the Jesus that can’t help himself and has to heal everyone despite their religion or national origin. This is the Jesus who sobs near the tomb of his old friend Lazarus. This is our Jesus.

This week, on Ash Wednesday, we can all experience this Jesus when we take the opportunity to humble ourselves in the face of such kindness and compassion. The smear of ashes, the body and blood, the kneeling before the altar are all ways of losing ourselves, of burying ourselves in the depths of the heart of a Savior who knows exactly what it’s like to love and laugh, touch and be touched, to be afraid and alone. His one shining mountaintop moment strengthened him for the long journey to Calvary and the even longer journey into the middle of our lives.

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