Our Lenten Journey
In the Bible the desert is more than a sandy expanse lacking rainfall. It is a blessing and a curse, a place of attack and of refuge, of testing and of preparation. Many significant events took place out in the desert, away from civilization. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. In the desert John the Baptist declared the coming Messiah. Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days before beginning his ministry. The desert is a place of testing and preparation for what is next.
We proudly live in the land of 10,000 lakes, so it takes a few hundred miles for us to reach an arid region. But we don’t have to go to Arizona or Wyoming or California to know the feelings of disconnection, loneliness, or spiritual dryness associated with the desert. Deserts can be spiritual, too.
The psalmist knew this well. Before the verses of the sixty-third psalm, the author gives us a clue as to the situation in which this psalm was composed, “A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.” The psalm then goes on to say “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” In the sixty-third psalm, the physical setting of the desert has given way to a spiritual sense of dryness and longing.
During Lent, we spend the forty days leading up to Easter to go into the desert with Jesus. It may be difficult to see what God is doing—or it may be quite obvious. The desert requires much of us. We are left bare with nothing to hide behind, nothing to cling to. The tradition of giving something up for Lent is one way that we can go into the desert with Jesus. We abstain so that we can seek God unhindered.
However you choose to observe Lent, the goal is to be able to approach Easter with joy and a deeper knowledge and love of God. It may be that when Easter rolls around, the only result of our Lenten journey is that we come to realize how much we don’t know God. But that is a mystery worth pursuing. Only God can say what these desert days will produce in you, but even if they are days of hunger and searching, I pray that we are able to say with the psalmist, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Ps. 63:3).
by Hilary Ritchie