Fourth Sunday in Lent
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” — Mark 1:12-15
We all go through periods where we feel like we are in the wilderness alone. Those times can prove to be difficult, as they can begin to peel back layers to reveal who we really are. In the midst of trials and suffering is where our true selves come out, where we begin to act out our true identity. Character is revealed in suffering, not formed by it.
When the suffering goes on for what we deem an extended period, we also get impatient, for we want to get to the end, to some sort of revelation or understanding, rather than just embrace what is going on right now. Instead of just being, we begin doing, losing our identity in the process, for we can so easily slip into that mode of doing in order to cover up who we are and what is going on in the moment.
Our culture of immediacy wages war with one of patience, of just embracing our identity in Christ. It is a challenge for us when God says (in Psalms 46:10) to “be still and know that I am God.” Where can we turn in these times that seem to keep coming? We can look to the response Jesus had when confronted with the same temptations. His response to the Spirit was one of obedience, one where He was being led to the wilderness for forty days. Not forty minutes. Not forty seconds. He went as a human doing, fully embracing His identity as fully God and fully man.
The Lenten season can seem to get quite long, especially if we are engaged in some kind of fast. The withdrawal we feel leaves us wanting. But this is just the point, isn’t it? To want more of God, to turn our desires first and foremost to Him. This is a period where we can endure suffering—however minor it may be—so that we learn to more fully rely upon Him when we are in the midst of real suffering.
It would do us well to just be who we are created to be: God’s children. Human beings rather than human doings, for we are defined by whose we are, not by what we do. In the midst of suffering, we learn to be more like Jesus, where we can rely on the Spirit for our strength, our understanding, our peace.