What does it mean to step into the wilderness for 40 days, just like Jesus did?
Posted in , Feb 24, 2020
Lent is here. Those 40 days before Easter (not counting the Sundays, mind you) when we recall the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before He began His ministry.
We read in the Bible how Jesus fasted for those 40 days, and it is a tradition to practice some sort of fast to mark that journey. Of course, you could give up things like drinking wine, eating chocolate or devouring red meat, but will that take you on a journey closer to God?
Whenever I look back at that passage about Jesus going off for 40 days and nights, the part that strikes me the most is the wilderness. What does it mean to step into the wilderness these days and how can I do it in the midst of a million demands on my time?
Here are four ideas I came up with:
1) Try a cellphone fast.
No, I don’t mean you have to put the phone in a drawer for 40 days, ignoring all text messages until Easter. But couldn’t you put it aside for several hours a day and avoid checking it for news that is meant to rile you up or distract you? Putting the phone down can help you listen God’s call rather than the world’s.
2) Give up a bad attitude.
I had a friend who told me she gave up sarcasm for Lent. “That sounds kind of dumb,” I thought. Isn’t it fun to indulge in a sarcastic comment every now and then? But wait. Isn’t it also worthy to think about what you say and why and how it might possibly hurt people?
3) Stop worrying for 40 days.
Didn’t Jesus urge us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and how their heavenly Father fed them without any of their fretting? Still, not worrying is really hard. I think the true value of giving up something like worry is to spend 40 days paying attention to where your mind is going and how you might trust God to reshape your thoughts.
4) Take on a good deed for Lent.
Maybe it’s a prayer that you promise to say for 40 days. Maybe it’s an encouraging email that you look to send or a note that you’ve promised to write. Listen to the good ideas your brain is offering. Take them up. Just one at a time.
The complaint is often made that if we give up something at Lent that might not be good for us, such as unnecessary worrying, shouldn’t we just give it up for good? Why stop at 40 days?
Because none of us can be remade in an instant. We grow in steps. We take wilderness journeys and come back from them, changed, recharged, ready for what’s next. Lent is an invitation for spiritual growth. Jump in.