This year seems to be flying by – already we are seeing the first shoots of Spring and, in the shops, batter mixes and lemons prominently displayed to herald the coming of pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) on 1 March. The following day, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of Lent, a period of six weeks leading up to Easter.
In Lent, we focus on Jesus going into the desert to fast and pray before beginning his work for God. Jesus went through a desert experience and it’s something we are all familiar with in one way or another isn’t it? The physical desert is a barren, oppressive place, but the spiritual/emotional desert is pretty difficult to cope with too. The landscape of our interiors can have no flowing water, no colour, no fragrance, no softness or beauty, just barrenness and silence.
It’s easy to be disturbed by this. Who finds it easy to come faithfully to sit with emptiness and offer praise to God in this situation? It’s tempting to be scared and self-pitying, turning inward to lick our wounds. But there is hope, great hope. Jesus has been to the desert. He encountered temptations of evil, yet evil was unmasked and defeated by the absolute sovereignty of God. In all our own desert struggles, the desert can be the place of encounter, as it was for Jesus; to learn not only the deceptions of evil, but to experience the presence of God. Far from being a place of barrenness, the desert is discovered as the place of renewal and strength; the place where we can begin again. As we lean into and accept the stillness, then we are able to hear God’s gentle voice calling us to trust in His goodness.
My prayer for us all is that, when we find ourselves in the desert, we will be able to faithfully follow Jesus through it and, out of our experience, to bear great fruit. I am mindful of the words of Isaiah that bring me comfort and hope:
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”, Isaiah 43:19.
May God bless you and keep you in His love and care during the Holy season of Lent