At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
Mark 1:12-13 (CEB)
Most of us try to avoid the wilderness. It’s uncertain, mysterious, some might say, dangerous. We normally trod paths that have been walked before. It makes us feel safer that way, the wooded areas around our paths are not be explored, we might loose our way.
Then life happens and we find ourselves forced into the wilderness. Maybe life took us that way, maybe it was the Spirit. We tend to think about these times as times of test, and the bible certainly strengthens this case. What if these are not times of test but times of growth, learning, and discovery? By saying that I am not saying that they are easy. How many times have we pushed through a difficult project – sometimes feeling like we have gone to hell and back – only to find that the experience was one of the most growth filled of our lives.
Notice that Jesus did not go alone. The Spirit, the wild animals (they could be dangerous), there was the tempter, and there were angels. These were like characters in a play. How would Jesus fare in this environment of the unknown?
Mark does not tell us what happened, we will have to go to Matthew for the details. I guess like many of us who have gone through wilderness experiences the details are not so important. What mattered most is that in the wilderness we encountered both adversity and progress. If we lean on the Spirit (after all the Spirit was pushing toward this direction) and let the angels care for us, we might find that in the end the divine visits us there and we come out of the wilderness scarred but a more faithful follower of God’s kingdom.
So may this Lenten season be a journey in the wilderness. Let the Spirit guide you for there will be many temptations to flee, take the easy way out, to give in to false promises and comfortable alternatives. Allow yourself to stay hungry, to remain thirsty, allow yourself not to rush to get out of the experience, set up camp, for alongside the tempter, comes the gracious arms of God, ready to embrace us in the darkness, ready to show us the way in this difficult journey that we call faith.
Desolation is a file, and the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light. -St. John of the Cross