In Matthew 4, we read of Jesus’ temptation in the desert that comes near the end (we assume) of 40 days and 40 nights of fasting. So after that, He commences His public ministry that leads to His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and, thankfully(!) resurrection.
But, there are other wilderness experiences in the scripture; the Israelites and their wilderness journey; David and his sojourn in the wilderness as he played cat and mouse with Saul; and the exilic period.
As I continue to be better acquainted with Tyndale Publishing House’s new Holy Bible: Mosaic, I have just encounter some new thoughts and perspectives on the Christian faith. And, I find them to be refreshing even for a place like The Wilderness
The Wilderness is the theme in week 24 of Pentecost and John Tauler of 14th century Germany says, “There are two kinds of wilderness, a good and a bad.” He describes the bad wilderness as a ‘place’ when “a man’s heart is filled with vanity, and barren of good deeds…” The good wilderness is “very fruitful and good, when the whirlwinds of earthly cares or passions are laid to rest…”
I have always view deserts as places to avoid. They are barren, dry, and life-threatening. But, in this same segment of week 24, Bryan Catherman gave me a new perspective when he writes, “His (that is God’s) wilderness always illuminates, often revealing a clearer picture of my deeper self. It is there that I struggle with the conflicts of my soul. It’s there where spirit and flesh do battle. In the wilderness, I’m changed never to return the same.’ (My italics)
I recall a wilderness experience of two decades ago. It was hard. It was dark. It was painful. It was a ‘bad’ wilderness but it had to be because I was full of spiritual pus and poison.
But, with Tauler and Catherman’s words, I started to realize that I have been going through a ‘good’ wilderness. This has enabled me, with God’s help and Spirit, to truly let go and allow myself ‘to die’ to sin and self, not in a negative self-disregarding way but in a way that allows me to become more of whom God wants me to become.
Are you in a wilderness? Is it a ‘good’ one or a ‘bad’ one? I believe that God is present even in the midst of it all. May you see God and experience His grace and mercy in and through it.