Lent- the aftermath of struggle

A moment of insight

The image of Jesus in the desert, being tempted to take shortcuts, to be influenced by human pride and show, and struggling for his God -given identity is powerful. And then towards the end of the time, satan leaves him, and he is ministered to by angels.

Lent this year, for myself, and maybe for many, has been particularly intense. We are buffeted by temptation, sorrow, grief, despair and at times we can feel that it will all never work out. The aftermath of three years of covid, years of sorrow, isolation and fear have left their mark, and leave us less well equipped to cope with the trials of daily life.

I remember the verse in Luke chapter 19: 41 and 42 ‘ but as Jesus came closer to Jerusalem, and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.’ NLT.

Jesus wept over a people in denial, who didn’t recognise who he was, or the veracity of his teaching. He saw the consequences and the suffering. Today, the national church is going though an extraordinary and agonising time of change. We question is how do we stay attentive to the promptings of the Holy spirit, to listen for the ways of God, rather than the ways of humanity. We need to keep our eyes fixed on our beautiful Saviour.

For me this desert time, has been a time of struggle, tears on my pillow, deep sorrow and questions. I have learned new things about myself which have made me weep. I have also pleaded with God to take my broken piecesĀ  and to remake me in Christ’s image, to help me grow closer to Him, and to strengthen me in my inner being. In the aftermath, I have much to reflect on, but I haven’t given up hope, for God is still good, and angels are here in this place, even amidst the exhaustion and the grief.

Gracious God, thankyou for the example of our Lord Jesus, who set his face to Jerusalem, who retained his godly identity in the midst of temptation and trial. Lord Jesus, we are as small children, trying to discover our identity, seeking wisdom in our choices every day, to draw closer to You. Forgive us when we have acted out of pride or naivety or judgement. In desert times, we cry to You for help, but in the aftermath, may we be reflective and discerning, to learn, and to ask your holy spirit to heal us, to pick us up, and to ask for the gifts that will transform us, and recentre us in your loving purpose. May the presence of angels bring hope once more, as we continue on your path, Amen.

Lent- a profound silence

A time to hear?

On a planet where there can be a cacophony of voices, strident experiences of discord and noisy upset, times of quiet can seem appealing. The desert times in Lent, offer opportunities to come apart from the harsh discourses of our society, and to notice the quietness of the natural world. That can be appealing.

However as we are lead further into the wilderness, the quietness that seemed so soothing in the beginning, can become unsettling. In the silence, all the distractions fall away, and we are left alone with ourselves and with God. This can be a scary place, as we notice things about ourselves that we do not like, things we were trying to bury deep down, and to deny.

Mother Theresa is reported to have said: ‘in the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.’

In the quietness of the desert, we hear our own heartbeat, we reflect on our lives, and we see both ugliness and beauty. We celebrate the beauty, but we cry out to God with anguish about the selfishness, pain and sin we see within. We have to confront our inner demons, and cast them out in Jesus name. And then we ask for the holy spirit to cleanse us and fill us with light, goodness, love and hope.

The profound silence of the desert is both welcoming and then disturbing. It is a time of disarming honesty, when we need to confess our sin, and then journey on to find forgiveness and peace. There can be moments when we fear we are stuck, and the darkness weighs heavily on our souls.

There are echoes too of that silence, when Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, when the whole world held its breath. God invites us into that eternal moment of silence and revelation, when we realise anew the vastness of love, and the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are drawn into a moment of revelation and reverence, which transforms the meaning of all things. In his trial and final days on earth, Jesus spoke so little, but his silence spoke eloquently and profoundly of his Father’s purpose and His mission of love.

‘ He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter’ Isaiah 53: 7

Eternal Father, we think we like silence, but we are also threatened by it, for in the silence we have to face our darkest fears, and release our deepest secrets. It can be an agonising time of realisation and pain. In the desert spaces of our lives, Lord Jesus have mercy on us, help us forgive ourselves as You have forgiven us. Help us weave times of silence into our daily lives, so we can hear Your voice. Holy spirit, when we see the brokenness of our own internal landscape, may your healing go deep, liberating us, and giving us insight, and strength to form new patterns. Guard and guide us, as we continue our journey, Amen

Lent- hope in the wilderness

An early flowering……

Last week I was having a difficult day, and on a walk near a loch, I found this beautiful and early flower. Most of the tree was bare, with only a few buds, but this wee flower made me smile and brought me hope.

Lent is a desert time, when we remember that after Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, that the holy spirit then took him into the desert in Judea to be tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. After the purpose and blessing revealed and experienced in his baptism, Jesus was prepared for his ministry by a time of testing- Luke chapter 4:1-15.

There are times in our lives when we can really relate to that time of testing. Maybe we are despairing about something, or tempted to go down a path we know is wrong for us. Or it could be that we feel alone and vulnerable. Desert times test our love and our resolve.

My prayer for all of us in this period of Lent, is that we learn something that makes us stronger. Traditionally in Lent, we might think of goings to let go, excess chocolate or cakes or take away coffees! We can go deeper, to give up bad habits that take us away from God, too much social media scrolling, late night TV. We can ask God to help us let go of hurts, resentment and bitterness in our hearts.

Having let go, so we create space for God’s holy spirit to work. In the space, we might rededicate ourselves to prayer, or reading a gospel passage each day, or starting a prayer journal. We might commit to listening to praise music every day, or seeking to encourage and bless another person. We pray that somehow, even in the midst of the deepest struggles, God brings transformation to our lives. Then perhaps, there can be a flowering, even in the most unexpected of places.

‘The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands’ Isaiah 35:1

Gracious God, we confess that being in the desert is not something we enjoy. We hear the cry of wild beasts, and we are tempted and distracted and we get scared. Yet You, Lord Jesus, are with us, and you model how to stay close to God, by prayer and meditating on Your Word.

Whatever our struggles are, may we cry to You for help, and wait for your reply. May our eyes be fixed on You. Calm our overthinking and terrified imagining. May we know that You are near Lird Jesus, and find solace in the presence of your holy spirit, still guiding our path. And somewhere in the darkness of suffering, may there be new buds of faith, and flowerings of love, in Jesus name, Amen.