By Jane M. Gardner, presiding evangelist
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. -Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV
Often during the season of Lent the psalmist cries, “God, where are you?” It is a lament from one who cannot sense the divine presence. There are more laments in the book of Psalms than psalms of praise. For me, that makes the Bible relevant. In times of trial and challenge I am also asking, “God, why aren’t you here?”
I know God is always present. I believe it. But, when faced with unbearable loss or depression or pain, I am tempted to blame God’s absence for the difficulty. “If God would just show up, my troubles would melt away” does not represent a very mature understanding of God’s presence and generosity.
Biblical laments generally address God, express a complaint, make a request, and end with affirmation. For example, Psalm 22 addresses God: “My God, my God” followed by the complaints, “Why have you forsaken me?” and “Why are you so far from helping me?” (v.1). In verse 19, the request is stated: “…do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” Then, the psalmist moves to words of trust: “…he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him” (24), and “before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him” (29).
In my better moments, I get it-the journey through complaining, requesting, and then affirming is the blessing. But it’s helpful to know I’m in good company with others who have felt forsaken-especially during Lent. Do we have to wander in the desert with the children of Israel? Must we step into the desert with Jesus where temptation waits? The answer is “Yes!” These forty days of introspection, searching, and, sometimes, desolation have potential to be the most informative and stretching season within our discipleship.
The poem “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil” by Sarah Williams in Twilight Hours: A Legacy of Verse includes a lament. It is written on my heart:
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
These words and the pattern they represent have been my companion for years. During Lent they call me to an authentic struggle through the desert, with the assurance that my life’s journey, even the darkness, is accompanied by Divine Love. With every step in the desert I will repeat, “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
God, may my deep hope align with your deep vision. Release in me anything that keeps me from freely following your Spirit. Amen.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Breathe deeply as you enter a time of silence. Become gently attentive to what may be restricting you from faithfully responding to the divine invitation in your life. Are there priorities, attachments, tasks, or motivations competing for your response? What does freedom for God look or feel like in you this day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.