My friend, Ashley Tumlin Wallace, explains, “In Lent we are on a pilgrimage with Christ. We are walking through His forty days in the wilderness and we end with His crucifixion, burial and finally, we gloriously celebrate His resurrection.”
I’ve experienced wilderness before – maybe you can relate. I have experienced the wilderness of shame, of loneliness, of depression, of doubt … maybe yours has been similar, maybe the wilderness of grief or pain. Describing Lent as a journey in the wilderness causes me pause – I don’t long for the wilderness.
So as I awoke this morning, God reminded me that He is with me. And He brought to mind women in His revelation that experienced His presence in their personal wilderness travels.
Hagar was a servant, a slave from Egypt. She would have been a nonperson. Her mistress, Sarai, gives her to her husband, Abram, to have sex for the purpose of making a son. But when the son is produced, Sarai is jealous and mistreats Hagar. Hagar runs away. The angel of the Lord finds her … you only find what you are looking for. God is searching out Hagar to minister to her in her wilderness, to bless her and to instruct her.
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are God Who Sees”; for she said, “Have I not even here in the wilderness remained alive after seeing Him who sees me with understanding and compassion?”Genesis 16:13 AMP
Naomi was a widow. She had lost her husband and sons in Moab, a pagan land. She was in the wilderness of loneliness and sorrow. Not only does she have no support, but her family line has ended. She returns home to Bethlehem, and insists on changing her name to Mara, meaning bitter. In her words, “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, walks with Naomi in her wilderness experience, clinging to her, wanting to help support her. Through Ruth, God changes Naomi’s life, brings her out of her wilderness, giving her family, and a grandson. I love how the women in Naomi’s life exhort her –
The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”Ruth 4:14-15 NIV
The Samaritan woman was at the well at an odd hour – about noon. It was not the custom of the day to draw water so late in the day. She was in a social wilderness, a spiritual one too. Jesus purposefully passed through Samaria, to stop at that well, to ask a woman for water – none of which would have been typical for a Jewish man. Jews believed they would be ritually defiled by being in Samaria, by drinking from their water pots – but of course, Jesus could not be defiled, He sanctified all that He touched. Could it be Jesus sought her out, found her, just as He finds each of us?
When Jesus questions her, the Samaritan woman puts up her best defenses. And in spite of her sin, because of her sin, Jesus offers her truth, freedom from the shame of her past, and living water! She becomes a witness to God’s mercy and grace, eagerly telling the very society that was shunning her that her life was now an open book.
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”John 4:39-42 ESV
The message God spoke this morning is, “Don’t be afraid to walk in the wilderness with me. You are with me, and I won’t leave you, won’t forsake you. In fact, I will offer you blessing, joy, mercy, grace!”
Trust Him today as you begin your Lent journey through the wilderness. Put your hand in the hand of the Savior to be led by Him!
Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.
Open now the crystal fountain,William Williams, 1745
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.