Living in the Wilderness

CGGC Executive Director Lance Finley

Life is made up of different seasons. In some areas of our country, we have winter, spring, summer and fall (although in some regions, I hear it’s more like really hot summer and not-as-hot summer). But it’s more than just the weather. There are seasons of abundance and scarcity. There are seasons of refreshment and seasons of exhausting work. There are seasons of joy and seasons of sadness. There are seasons of busyness and seasons of stillness.

What season are you in right now?

Today I’m acutely aware of many friends and colleagues who are walking through difficult seasons. Some are walking through seasons of pain or illness or suffering; praying and hoping for healing, yet healing hasn’t come yet. Dear friends are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, facing the limits of our mortality. Some are walking through incredibly difficult family situations that leave them exhausted and feeling near the end of their rope with no relief in sight. Others are walking through a season of discouragement that sometimes leads them to question almost everything: themselves, their relationships, their work, their faith, and maybe even their relationship with their Heavenly Father. Our own culture is living through a season of uncertainty with a national election on the horizon, an economy that looks like a roller coaster ride this week, and the threat of a possible global pandemic dominating our news feeds and collective attention. 

This week also brought us into the season of Lent. The Ash Wednesday service I participated in was built around the 3rd and 4th chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. At the end of chapter 3 you’ll find Jesus at His baptism: seeing the Spirit descend upon Him like a dove and hearing the Father speak these words “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (v. 17). In the first verse of chapter 4, Matthew tells us “then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.” The contrast of these two verses is stark. Jesus goes from the high of such an overt display of His Father’s love and affirmation to be led into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting, ultimately facing temptation by the devil. Talk about different seasons.

In this life we experience the contrasts of incredible highs and despairing lows. There are times in which we feel extremely close to the Lord or experience His favor and those moments can be euphoric, but there are also those seasons that are more like the wilderness where we question whether God has abandoned us or left us alone in our suffering. David captures this contrast so well in Psalm 30: 6-7:

      When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
      Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm;
      but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

I don’t know what season you find yourself in right now. If you’re like me, you don’t necessarily look forward to the wilderness seasons: the tough or challenging times or the heartbreakingly difficult times. I know that some of you find yourself in one of those difficult seasons right now. Lament, but don’t lose hope. Be honest in respect to your pain, your temptation to despair or your struggle to hope, but never let go of the fact that your Father loves you and is with you, even when you can’t see it or feel it. I’ve learned through the years that it’s often amid the wilderness that our gracious Father brings us to the end of ourselves so that we can experience more of the fullness of His mercy, love and grace. Today I’m praying for many brothers and sisters in the middle of their own very personal wildernesses to experience the love of their Father in fresh and tangible ways in the days and weeks to come.

I know this is a bit different from my normal fodder here, but I just sensed that many across our body need to be encouraged as they walk through their own wilderness journeys, which certainly aren’t confined to a few weeks of the church calendar.

Christ’s Peace,

CGGC eNews—Vol. 14, No. 9

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