The Wilderness of Lent

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While the Lenten season holds a form of anticipation, it holds less Joyful anticipation than the Advent season. Recently reflecting on Lent as more of a wilderness experience, I wondered at the difference between the expectancy of Advent and the almost remorseful feeling of the wilderness of Lent.

Thoughts of the wilderness imply a feeling of loss, perhaps a surrendering of power, and a recognition of neglect.

Appropriately, Lent invites us into a wilderness experience of solitude and reflection which ultimately leads to repentance.

the wilderness of Psalm 13

A psalm of lament, Psalm 13 eventually transitions to Joy and encouragement as all of David’s lament psalms.

rocky wilderness at sunset

David seeks God in the midst of a time where God seemed distant, rather than living by his “emotions”. Many of us prefer being led about by emotions as if they present reality, when in fact they are driven by our thoughts.

David’s cries in his wilderness experience echo our own as we walk through the wilderness of Lent.

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

David’s Wilderness with God

In verse one, David’s wilderness struggle was first within his relationship with God. Just as David wrestles with the age-old question of “How long?”, Lent brings us face to face with our sin, and we wonder “how long” must we fail?

Falling on our knees in repentance, we still wonder “how long” must we feel distanced from God because of our sin, or because of our rebellious nature to seek our own way. “How long” will this enemy triumph over us?

dark wilderness at sunset

David’s Wilderness with Himself

In verse 2, David also expresses his wilderness in his inward stance of seeking his own counsel, in other words, his continual thinking on the problem rather than surrendering all in prayer to God.

At times, our reflective posture during Lent can keep us too inward focused on our failures, rather than acknowledging them and through confession finding the freedom of reconciliation.

David’s Wilderness with His Enemies

Struggling with the weight of his appointment as king and leader of God’s people, David’s desire that his enemies not triumph over him was not selfish. To the contrary, David’s enemies were God’s enemies.

In the same way, as we reflect upon the things which lure us away from God during Lent, it is not selfish to seek God’s help in setting new boundaries, preventing the enemies of our time with God from triumphing over us.

the joy and encouragement of psalm 13

Starting in verse 3, David transitions to bringing his wilderness feelings about his relationship with God, his own thoughts, and his enemies to God in confident prayer.

mountains with waterfall

Encouraging himself with the knowledge that God hears those who fear him, David persists in relationship by acknowledging God’s Presence whether he feels it or not.

He then asks God to enlighten or open his eyes. Realizing emotions are bad indicators of reality, he asks God to reveal the truth about his situation.

Finally, he petitions God again for victory over the enemies seeking to destroy him, and ultimately God’s people.

As David clings to God despite his wilderness experience, Joy eventually fills his heart, as with enlightened eyes he sees God’s goodness, compelling him to rest in God’s unfailing love, joy in God’s salvation, and praise God for His infinite magnificence.

the wilderness of lent

Meditating on Psalm 13 in my own Lenten wilderness, I found a voice for my discouragement as I wrestled with my own feelings of separation from God.

Receiving clarity for areas of neglect and failure through submitting my thoughts to Him, I clearly felt God inviting me into deeper fellowship, not banishing me to a foreign land.

Instead of a place of lonely solitude, the wilderness of Lent became a place of healing and joyful anticipation of reconciliation.

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All content is copyrighted and the intellectual property of Donna M. Bucher, Serenity in Suffering 2020.

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