Lent: The Only Way Out is Through

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going - Helen KellerI just wanted to be done.

We updated the 2nd floor bathrooms and waited for the paint and carpet. Both were on the calendar. Boxes filled with our belongings sat in the family room. Furniture stood in the center of each bedroom. The painter could finish the job while we vacationed in Florida. Carpet installation would follow within days.

I could almost feel my toes sink into the soft carpet. But then…

We returned home to an enormous mistake: latex over oil trim. Did you just groan? Me too. Imagine my anguish as paint peeled from the doors, trim, baseboards, and staircase spindles. There is no easy recovery: replace all doors and trim or sand it off.

The only path to completion involved costly hard work. There was no way around the problem.

Weary and deflated, I slumped on the top stair wishing for another way, a shortcut.

Satan offers Jesus a shortcut in the 3rd wilderness test.

During Lent, we follow Jesus into the wilderness. At His baptism God identifies Jesus as His beloved Son. The Holy Spirit fills Jesus with wisdom and strength. But to solidify the kind of Messiah Jesus would be, Jesus must pass several tests of character, submission, and obedience. He refuses to misuse His power for personal gain and refuses to test God’s faithfulness.

Satan’s final attempt offers Jesus a shortcut to the glory and authority.

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Luke 4:5-7 NRSV

The devil dangles the fast track to power in front of Jesus. Authority over the nations is the planned destination as promised to God’s Son in Psalm 2. Satan’s offer bypasses the long, hard journey. The humiliation. The submission. The obedience.

Psalm 2: You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I wil  make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. This smooth road is costly. Jesus must shift allegiance from God to the devil.

The route compromises Jesus’ Jewish values. Worshiping the devil violates God’s first command and breaks the relationship. And, although Jesus reaches the same destination, He does not achieve our salvation. He does not teach us how to join God’s kingdom. He does not show us the way of godly obedience.

Jesus must submit to God’s plan as the obedient servant, even unto death.

Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’ ”
Luke 4:8 NRSV

There’s no way around the suffering. Only through.

This raises the question: Does God want us to suffer? This may offend you, but sometimes, yes. God frees the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and leads them into the wilderness. He then causes them to hunger and thirst so that they trust Him as their sole provider. Deuteronomy 8:2-3

The journey through difficulties shapes us into the person God designed us to be. When we choose a life of daily surrender, we accomplish God’s mission for our lives.

Pastor Eugene Peterson quotes Friedrich Nietzsche in calling our walk with God a “long obedience in the same direction.”

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

I’m following Jesus into the wilderness of walking alongside grief. I expect there to be a long time. Crying with those who cry. But we find God in the wilderness. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

What is your wilderness?

  • Do you face pain or an illness and you long to feel better?
  • Are you wrapped up in endless legal proceedings and you want to be free?

It’s exciting to consider how great life will be when we achieve the goal. But to reach the destination we must take one step after another through the wilderness. And we cannot be transformed by God if we do not surrender daily to His guidance.

#seedsofscripture #readthebiblebetter #biblestudy #studytheword #studythescriptures #inthewilderness #lent #lent2024 #lentenjourney

Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2019).
Susan Kent, “Are We There Yet?”, The Wake-Up Call, https://seedbed.com/are-we-there-yet/, Feb. 23, 2024.

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