“Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” So we read in the Book of Hebrews (2:12) as the author describes Jesus facing the ultimate of wildernesses, even his death on the cross. The Lenten season offers opportunity for us to reflect on Jesus and ourselves during these challenging journeys in our faith experiences. Though they may seem to last forever at times, wilderness experiences have an end.
I like to look at wilderness experiences as signposts, not hitching posts. What helps me get through these night experiences is the awesome promise embedded in the gift of hope, which Poet Emily Dickinson calls: “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” But looking ahead is in no way an attempt to duck the reality of the lonely, barren wilderness. Life is hard at times, pain can be severely powerful, exacting moments can sometimes be very debilitating, and in some of these painful ego states our soul can find close company in the words of the Psalmist David in Psalm 88: 1-2: “Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear unto my cry; my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near unto the grave.” Yet, these wilderness moments of life have a specific, transformative God-purpose. If we let them. They come to deepen and strengthen us. Probably this is what African-American poet, Langston Hughes, implied when he wrote: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
I recall as a child singing along with my family a little chorus which has held for me over the years a memorable line: “Don’t let anyone steal your joy,” and this includes our wilderness experiences. If there is a wilderness moment in your life at present, try to tippy-toe and raise your head, if only a little, and peep with hope to a horizon of joy in the distance. Our God walks with us in both – the wilderness and the joy. That is why we dare place our trust in the unfailing wisdom of our loving God. We choose to believe the signpost of Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Did I hear somebody say, “Amen!”
Rev. Dr. Leo S. Thorne
Former Associate General Secretary for Mission Resource Development