Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.
Mark 1:12-13 (CSB)
I’m sitting at my dining room table, country music playing just a smidge too loudly behind me as my daughters have a dance party on what feels like the seventy-third snow day this month. I reach for my Bible, running my hand down the whisper-thin pages, and close my eyes.
Before I can even say hello to God, much less reflect on His holiness, one of my daughters is crying and the other is shouting about how it’s not her fault — she didn’t do anything! This time, I close my eyes, but in frustration, not reverence.
I settle this latest argument and suggest a litany of quiet activities my kids might enjoy for a while. Finally, peace. My hand hovers over my Bible, but — much as I’m embarrassed to admit it — I hesitate. My phone is sitting right there, just waiting for me, begging for my attention, promising to entertain me and numb all the irritations that have cropped up this day.
Even if I manage to ignore the pull of my phone, my mind and heart are still so prone to wander.
What time is my appointment this afternoon?
Did I return that message? I should do that real quick, right now.
Why is the cat crying? Guess I better give her fresh water.
That reminds me: I need to refill my water bottle.
Maybe I should try that devotional I bought a few months ago.
I’m just going to pay that bill online . . . and answer that one email . . . and check on that project . . .
When I began studying ways to prepare my heart for Easter, something many know as the season of Lent, I read everything I could find about the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. While accounts can be found in three of the gospels, the brief description in Mark is what resonated most deeply with me.
Thinking of Jesus, alone in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan, surrounded by wild animals was a breath of fresh air to my distracted, weary soul. I feel alone! I’m tempted all the time! And yes, at times it feels like I’m surrounded by wild animals!
When we struggle to quiet our lives and our hearts enough to focus on God, Jesus knows exactly how we feel. And what I know from the passages in Matthew and Luke is that despite the desperate situation in which He found Himself, He resisted temptation. The angels served Him. He leaned on His knowledge of Scripture and faith in God, and He resisted.
So what does that mean for me, as I think about one more failed attempt at a simple quiet time? What does that mean for you, as you feel the hunger and isolation of wilderness or battle attacks from temptation of all kinds, as you long for communion with the Lord but feel unable to get there, to stay there, to remember why you were going there in the first place?
It means this: Our Lord and Savior isn’t just the One who can quench our thirst and ease our pain. He is worthy of our praise and adoration, but He also is intimately familiar with our challenges and struggles. He knows the strength it requires to seek Him and abide with Him, and He knows that, without Him, we will perish in the wilderness.
It means that not only is Jesus our goal when we set aside time for Him, He is our solution for fighting through all the distractions and temptations that work so hard to keep us away. It means that no matter how barren and empty our personal wilderness may feel, we are not actually alone in our search for God. Just as the angels were with Him, Jesus is with us.
Dear Lord, thank You for going first into the wilderness — for showing us how important it is to get alone and quiet, to seek God, and to listen. Thank You for going with us when we face temptation and distraction — for giving us the tools we need to resist. Jesus, You are worth every effort it takes to quiet my mind and my heart. You are worthy of every minute I devote to You above all else. Please meet me in this place. Bind my wandering heart to Yours. Keep my eyes set on You. Thank You, Lord, for never letting me go. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
Today begins the season of Lent — the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday — and we have just the book for you, friend. If you’re looking to find more meaning in these weeks leading to Easter, you’ll find it in Journey to the Cross. Written by (in)courage contributor Mary Carver, this book offers forty days of encouragement and guided Scripture, reflections, and prayers — and your heart will be ready to celebrate the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.
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Oh how this resonated with me. I am retired. I don’t have children to distract me and I’m laid up with a torn Achilles Heel and yet..there are still those electronic distractions, the household stuff that still needs doing. When? Now of course. I must answer that email. When? Right! I know I’m not alone in this so thank you for focusing my mind.
Bunny Harrison says
This spoke to me directly! I, too, have distractions of caring for home, commitment to ministries, on the go go most of the time, and I do feel the need to spend un-distracted time with our Lord. Looking forward to the sampler! This expressed for me my own dilemma. Thank you.
Thank-you Mary for your beautiful words of encouragement this morning….
Blessings to all,
I am also retired and yet I am consistently distracted. Why is it so hard to focus on GOD? I have tried to do my readings first thing in the morning, after my yoga/stretches, after coffee, after breakfast, in the afternoon…. I am always fighting the distractions.
Nancy Ruegg says
God well knows what we’re made of, remembering we are dust (Psalm 103:14). Like any loving father, I think he appreciates our efforts to set aside distractions and carve out the time for him even when we’re not 100% successful. Not that we use our weaknesses as an excuse, but neither should we let them discourage us from making the effort–again and again. He IS worthy of every effort, just as you said, Mary!
Beth Williams says
I, too, get distracted easily. Sitting at my computer I think ok lets just play one game or look at Face Book. Often times I say hey need to do dishes or laundry, etc. Now a days there are more distractions than ever. Jesus understands our distractions we face. What we really need to do, if possible, is set aside time (early AM or late PM) to be alone with God. He will reward us for our efforts to do just that. This lent I will try my best to carve out time for God. It may be reading the Bible, watching Steve Furtick on TV or simply praying & doing Bible study. Thanks for a wonderful devotion that is much needed in these times.
Rev. David A Dickinson says
Your articles are just super!
Tara Boswell says
I am having trouble focus on God and finding him right now.I TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 TODAY.I REALLY REALLY AM NOT FEELING GOOD TODAY OR TONIGHT. PLEASE ALL OF YOU KEEP ME IN YOUR PRAYERS PLEASE.
Lifting you up in prayer for healing and peace in your mind and body. Praying your symptoms will be mild and manageable and that you can rest and refresh yourself with God. He’s got you, Girl!