First Sunday in Lent
“”Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”” — Joel 2:12-17
Have you ever experienced total darkness, like been outside without any ambient light so that you cannot see your hand in front of your face? It is quite difficult to get in those spots because we are surrounded by plenty of little bits of light. There are street lights, house lights, cars driving by, numerous points of light penetrating the darkness. Hence we are able to walk along in the darkness with even the faintest of light and assure ourselves we know where we are going.
The same can be said of our walk with Jesus, for we are at times able to move along in the uncertainty of life feeling like there is a level of certainty. In reality, however, deep down, we know that nothing actually is certain. Even as we put things in place, as we put stock in things that fade, as we invest in relationships that will let us down, there is a tendency to grasp for them all in the hopes of finding some kind of affirmation.
All of it is fleeting, however, when compared with what we can have in Jesus. Our black hearts can actually only be illuminated by His Light and thus we can begin to see those little bits of false light that haven’t exposed the true darkness in our heart. Rather than tear apart our outward appearance—like on social media, in casual conversations, or in our religiosity—we are to rend the inside, the heart, so as to expose the idols.
God wants us to walk in Light, because, even though we don’t know how or when He will take away the sufferer game or the idols or the darkness with which we struggle, how much better is it to experience the forgiveness, the grace, the mercy, that we do know He will extend? He knows that, apart from Him, it is futile for us to walk along in any kind of certainty.
We can choose to stumble along in the darkness or we can wipe away things that distract us and be filled with the Light of Jesus Christ. This season of Lent allows us to participate in that, to withhold certain things so we can focus on what Jesus did for us. That suffering that we endure? That pain that we may be in? That relationship that is so strained? We can choose to open our hearts to Him so that we can make it through or we can continue along questioning where God is and why He’s allowing this, all the while forgetting that He’s right there with us, having endured pain–on our behalf–that we cannot even begin to fathom.