Wednesday, February 3, 2016
THE WILDERNESS OF LIFE
Judean Wilderness, Qumran, Israel
Mount of Temptation, Jericho, Israel
We hear about and experience the “storms of life” that cycle through all of our lives with challenges and dark times. Those storms are out of our control and in many cases we just need to trust in the protection of our Creator and weather the storm until we emerge safely on the other side. But what about those experiences in the “wilderness of life”, i.e., those menacing places that we willingly wander into and then find ourselves overwhelmed and lost?
These wilderness places can be barren and hopeless with no easy exit signs pointing the way out. We may have arrived there by seeking an easy escape from life. But then once the euphoria wore off, we had wandered even more deeply into the wilderness and found ourselves more lost and disoriented. Or we may have chased the rabbit of fame and fortune into the briar patch and down into the endless rabbit hole of fleeting worldly treasures. Often we witness news accounts of folks that wander off a remote mountain trail and become separated from their hiking group in dense forests. Or we read about an off-roader that becomes disoriented in a remote area. Some of these lost souls are never found until it’s too late. Some by the grace of God are found alive by courageous first responders that are able to bring them back to safety.
The Judean wilderness that Jesus walked into after his baptism in the Jordan River near the Dead Sea is an arid, barren desert country. The flat desert transitions into rolling limestone hills and then into porous mountains marked with sheltering caves. Legend reveals that he found refuge during the forty days he spent fasting and resisting temptations in a cave near Jericho. The location is now covered by a plain monastery on the Mount of Temptation. Once Jesus was victorious over the worldly temptations of self-destruction, he was strengthened and prepared for his three year ministry, death and resurrection.
The forty days of Lent we recognize are a time of reflection and preparation leading up to the celebration of Easter resurrection and the victory over evil and death in this broken world. That understanding gives us the strength and hope that sustains us through the stormy and wilderness times of life. And we are uplifted by the message that Adam Hamilton closes with every Easter service—“The worst thing is never the last thing!” if we do not find our way out to the other side.