If you’ve seen the newest installment of Disney’s Ice Queen, “Frozen 2,” you’ve likely heard the lyrics of “Into The Unknown.” (If you don’t have a three-year-old at home like I do who LOVES Queen Elsa and screams the lyrics of this song on repeat, you can count your blessings - I’ll be over here reminding myself to count mine too.) We were late to the game with this movie and didn’t see it until March… when there was this other BIG thing really hitting home... another kind of “unknown” - COVID-19.
I can almost guarantee that I am not the only one who drew a parallel, but I couldn’t help it: we were right at the beginning of our own kind of “unknown” and had no idea what to do other than try to be faithful and take the next right step.
Around the same time, I was listening to the Bible Project Podcast discuss how the theme of “the wilderness” shows up in the Bible, over and over again, as a time of testing and transition.
Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden (into the wilderness) after their sin...
The Israelites wandering in the desert (wilderness) for 40 years…
David’s many trips hiding in the desert (wilderness) running from Saul…
Jesus’ own 40-day fasting and temptation in the wilderness…
The list could go on. It’s a fascinating through-line and I encourage you all to spend some time in the Word wrestling with this yourself. The point I want to hover over is how Jesus dealt with His own “wilderness” experience. We know Jesus “...often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 15:16, NIV) So the wilderness was a part of His usual spiritual rhythm - a place where He could get away from the crowds and connect intimately with God, His Father. But then the temptation scene (in Matthew 4) brings on a few points I’d like to encourage us to consider today as many of us feel like we are experiencing a “testing” of sorts in this very “unknown” wilderness of a COVID-19 affected world.
Jesus quoted scripture to Satan, not to God. I, personally, am tempted to quote scripture to God in a very naive way… in a demanding way. I think my intention is to convince God how MY way is really what He promised, not reminding myself that HIS way is, indeed, best. I guess I could compare it to a child who is trying to make a parent cave to their demands based on their own slanted-view of a promise that had been given, but the requirements of that agreement left unmet. I like Jesus’ method better - when it came to His father, He said “Your will, please.” When it came to Satan, He said, “Here is what God said, so You’re going to have to back off now.”
He told Satan He wouldn’t put God to the test. If you need a reason to follow the health guidelines we are being asked to comply with, this has been my go-to. I wear a seatbelt, I use safety goggles, I don’t run on the boardwalk at the waterfront - I don’t need to live recklessly to prove to anyone that I trust God. I trust Him, but even Jesus said we aren’t supposed to try to make God act on our behalf for selfish reasons.
He didn’t let His own discomfort impact how much He wanted to worship and serve God only. I am SO easily impacted by my own discomfort… embarrassingly so. Let’s face it, I’m a wimp. I don’t like being without <fill in the blank.> Jesus seemed to be able to remember that even in those moments of extreme hunger/<fill in the blank>, He had a mission, and He would not be distracted from that mission for anything.
God, help us through this wilderness to lean into your Word, allowing it to change our hearts and learn about You and resist Satan’s lies. Help us live wisely, not putting You to the test, or asking You to “prove” anything to us. And help us push through the discomfort we are experiencing to reach a place of even more focused worship of You and service-centered living.
We love you, thank you for even this wilderness. Amen