There are three ways for us to look at the wilderness.
It can be seen as a beautiful and absolutely necessary part of the earth’s life. Unless a huge proportion of the earth’s surface is left as wilderness, a high percentage of species will be driven into extinction, and the climate will no longer sustain life. We cannot live without wilderness. If we see wilderness as a metaphor, this is still true. We all need breathing space, time to just be, peace and quiet, and the opportunity to retreat, regroup, and get a better perspective on life.
Wilderness can be seen as a situation of austerity – a desert place offering no luxury. Intimidating, disheartening, and downright dangerous, time in the wilderness is daunting and not something to look forward to. It’s a place where survival skills are called for. Metaphorically, it is about loneliness or depression, about adversity – maybe bereavement; tough times.
Wilderness can also be a place of formation. Luke (1:80) says of John the Baptist: “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness.” It has been pointed out that the world’s great religions emerged from desert cultures, and suggested that perhaps in the desert there is time and space to think and pray, whereas in wetter climates the mind naturally focuses on organizing stout houses, umbrellas, and gumboots.
Can you describe a time in your life that you would identify as “wilderness”?
Why do you think the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted?
Our first passage speaks of how God “watched over your journey through this vast wilderness”. Can you recall times of struggle or aridity where you experienced moments of encouragement or felt close to God?
Whatever happens to us in life, dear Lord, even when the road is rocky and leads us through wild or frightening passes, help us to hold on tight to you and to drink from the springs of grace along the way. Thank you for the endurance and courage of Jesus, and his steadfastness in temptation. May we learn from him, may our faith in him never fail, and may we grow more like him as we follow – slowly, stumblingly – after him. We ask our prayer in his name and for his glory; Amen.