When we think of the desert most of us think about Las Vegas. That’s as rough as we want to get. Our idea of camping out is an economical hotel. We like to suffer quietly, with no pain.
We do everything possible to avoid pain. No one in their right mind looks for suffering. Yet, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert without any comforts. He fasted for a long time. Logically, He was hungry. Can we remember the last time that we were hungry? Have we gone for even one day without eating? Perhaps in the hospital, or right before a medical procedure, or because we had a stomach virus. To voluntarily refrain from food and liquid for an extended time requires discipline. We are unaccustomed to discipline. We prefer instant gratification. Instant gratification was the main temptation the devil used on Jesus. “Turn the stones into bread—don’t suffer hunger.” “Fly like ‘Superman’—you do not have to walk.” “Power can be yours—just bend your knee to me.” Satan is devious. He always lies. Evil presents an illusion of false happiness—false joy—the false self. Since most of the images that we are accustomed to seeing are false, we fall for the trap. There are so many lies that we have begun to believe them. For example, a typical illusion is that possessions bring us happiness. So, we keep buying stuff. Naturally, we fit into our capitalistic system. We are outraged when gasoline goes up 25 cents a gallon. But we keep buying it. We “shop until we drop” to save a few dollars and then spend more on gasoline getting to the other side of town for the bargain.
In a world gone mad with possessions, we have a difficult time discerning between what we need and what we want. To add to the illusion comes indecision. Three to five second videos are available so that we do not have to decide—just be entertained. Sort of like the folks who live together without making any commitment to each other or before God. They want to keep their “options opened”—in case they get tired of each other. They do not know what they want, just that they want. Changing jobs, constantly moving from one house to another, not deciding on a major field of study—all symptoms on not knowing what we want. We would rather just watch. Being a passive spectator is easier than being a participant. That’s the reason that so many people, particularly in this part of the United States do not bother to vote. That’s the reason that the non-voters are the loudest complainers. We were not made to just sit and watch.
If we are willing to participate in life, then risk is involved. No one likes to get hurt, to suffer, no one wants to lose. However, in all relationships we will be disappointed. Everyone will sooner or later disappoint us. Yet, Jesus did not suggest, He commanded that we love one another as He loves us. Our relationships cannot be based on “What’s in it for me?” “What will I gain?” Our relationships must be based on service. “What can I give?” “How can I help?” Otherwise, we are only using people. Unfortunately, so many do. That’s all that some folks want. Even in intimate relationships. As soon as there are disappointments or boredom, or betrayal, they want to walk away. Lasting relationships are not about instant gratification. They are about sacrifice. A lasting relationship comes at a high price. Jesus paved the way. He came to show us how to love completely. “No one has greater love than to lay down his life for another.” Consider the person in a hospital bed with their spouse of 50 years beside them. Cleaning, caring, patiently forgiving the mistakes. That’s the cross. That’s the desert. That’s living like Christ. Temptation is here to stay. Evil uses the same tricks. Our vocation is to say “no” to temptation. We embrace whatever trials come our way knowing the Jesus gives us daily grace to not be discouraged.
The beauty of Lent is to experience “new life” within us. Just like the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, the Spirit guides us be strong in our resolve to follow Christ.