Dear friends and readers,
Ten days ago, as this Lenten season began, I embarked upon my personal forty day journey with Jesus. As you may recall, rather than giving up something physical in my life, I had proposed to give of myself in every situation, essentially to try to truly be the light of Jesus in the world. I entered the journey with no specific expectations. I knew that following God’s will for me would result in new insights and understandings. I am just a child in my life with God, and He is a limitless font of surprises. Obeying His commands never fails to provide profound changes in my perspective of how to live, or even why to live, this life with Him. Experiencing the Lenten season reflectively and deliberately is certainly proving to yield a deeper understanding of my relationship with God.
Lent is the season in which we find some personal way to take the journey of Jesus Christ in the wilderness: the forty days He spent in the Judean desert after His baptism and during which the devil tempted Him. The origins of the Lenten season in the church are murky, and my research has revealed changes in the focus and reasoning for Lent over the centuries as church doctrine has changed. In representation of Jesus’ time in the desert, we modern Christians observe the season of Lent for forty days, resting on Sundays, in the time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. We can’t base our modern observance of Lent strictly upon the origins of the tradition. Lenten observation is not found in the scriptures. It is something we have done as worshippers over time for different reasons. Therefore, I suggest that we take the time as an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. As a Christian whose relationship with our Lord is personal, as is yours, I can only report upon my own experience, as can you. From that perspective, I will say that I have found the observation of Lent to be a precious opportunity to spend time focused on Jesus’ life and His experiences as a human man.
In my experience, even trying to be as focused as possible upon doing God’s will first and foremost in my life, I find it fundamentally challenging to be both a Christian and a human. Material concerns seem tantalizingly under my control, so that I may turn to God for healing for a friend or relative, but insist upon relying on my own power to earn a paycheck, when in reality, God is in control of everything. If we are truly doing God’s will first, seeking the kingdom of God first, we must pass all control of all things over to Him. I have found that to be especially difficult recently.
The first ten days of Lent for me this year have been spent in a constant struggle between relying completely on God to chart my course and trying at every turn to wrest that control away from Him.
I am in my final year of my undergraduate studies. I will graduate in December. I am also participating in a prestigious scholarship program that helps prepare Ph.D.-seeking students for graduate school. I feel that God has opened and closed all the doors to my future since I started back to school three and a half years ago. In fact, I fully believe that in my heart and in my mind. Therefore, I should have no problem at all believing that God will continue to faithfully guide me to wherever He needs me to be. And I do. I really do believe that I don’t need to fret about what will happen after graduation, that God has that all planned out. All I need to do is keep walking through the doors He opens and, most importantly, not go looking for other doors on my own.
For the past ten days, though, I have been anxious for a least a part of each day. It is not that I have been worrying. I haven’t been disbelieving. I haven’t lost my faith at any moment. No, my anxiety has come from a desire to KNOW. I have wanted, in the way a four-year-old child wants, complete with stomping feet, to know exactly what to expect from God. I want the details. I want the dates. I want to be able to write them on the calendar: I will graduate on this date, one of the local colleges will offer me a job on this date, this school will accept me on this date, my boyfriend will propose on this date, I will settle into a career doing this on this date.
Really, though, isn’t that sort of thinking a lack of faith? Isn’t that sort of thinking a hypocrasy of my promise to be the light of Jesus in the world, especially during this Lenten season? Mustn’t I be that light to myself as well as to others?
For ten days, I have reached out to others when my natural inclination was to be silent. I have spoken to strangers in awkward situations as if they were old friends, just to make them feel comfortable. I have witnessed to others with my testimony, been open about my faith in casual references to God, and tried to encourage and lift up others in every encounter. The more I try to do these things, it seems, the more people around me are responding positively, but the more anxious I become privately about wanting to know God’s plan.
I wonder if I am feeling a small fraction of the temptation Jesus underwent in the desert. I would imagine that the devil, being the adversary, does try daily to trip us up, to instill nagging doubts, even to frustrate us with technical difficulties. I tend to experience difficulties every time I attempt to post this blog, in fact: suddenly slow internet, repeated failure to post upon hitting “submit”, distractions. How many of those are random and how many are the adversary’s work in the world? If the devil works against us, what is our defense?
We have only one defense against satan: trust in God. God is more powerful than satan. He protects us. He shields us.
In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. – Ephesians 6:16
God will continue to chart my path as He wills, regardless of whether I fret and stomp my feet and demand to know the future. More importantly, His gift to me is the peace that will come from my faith in Him. The same is true for you. He doesn’t want you to spend your days tied in little knots of anxiety. He wants us all to have complete faith, trust, and confidence in Him, the creator, the almighty. As powerful as God is, and as much as He loves each one of us, having faith in Him should be the easy part. Why is it then so hard to achieve sometimes?
I don’t have answers yet to all my questions, but I feel better having shared my anxiety with you, my readers and my friends. It does become easier to have fuller, stronger faith when we fellowship with one another, and share our challenges and joys with each other.
And that sounds like another post for another day…
Blessings to you all, in Christ our King,