For years, every summer my husband and sons would go camping with various other male members of our extended family. It became known as the “Father-Son-Cousin Camping Trip.” Every year the men-folk would gather up their survival gear and bid the women of the family farewell. For three solid days the men didn’t shave and the boys didn’t bathe (and I was always a little suspicious that their toothbrushes looked none the worse for wear as well).
I always packed a large box with maternal provisions. Things like bacon and eggs, a frying pan and hot dogs. And every summer it came back almost untouched. We don't need provisions from home, they’d announce. We’re on a camping trip and we're gonna rough it! Yes, it was a man-thing, a bonding time, a “living off the land” extravaganza. And so you can imagine my surprise when I got a certain phone call...
They were two days into their three day excursion, and this particular year they’d picked a different camp site. It had come highly recommended and boasted of many outdoor activities. I knew the boys were excited to investigate it and so when the phone rang that second evening, I wasn’t surprised to hear the happy voice of 8-year-old Eric on the other end. Mom, this place is great! We've been hiking and swimming and I even caught a fish!
My imagination immediately drifted to a clear mountain stream where Ron and the boys had set up camp, with a roaring fire crackling nearby. I could almost hear a lonely coyote howling at the moon in the distance. What are you doing right now, Honey, I asked him. And that was my mistake. I wasn’t expecting his answer. Roasting marshmallows, I could understand. Singing campfire songs would've worked. But when Eric said, we’re eating at Pizza Hut! Well, that completely burst my bubble of roughing it in the wilderness. It turned out that this new campsite had a water slide and swimming pool and even a Chinese food restaurant right on site. I don’t know who was more excited, the dads or their sons. Yep, there was nothing “rough” about it. Completely unlike the “wilderness” we read about in today's passage.
As in the book of Matthew, in this portion of Luke, we read about the wilderness experience of Jesus. Starting in verse 1, let's hear where His journey began.
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness where the devil tempted Him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry. Luke 4:1, 2
Jesus experienced real wilderness. And it wasn’t easy. He was exactly where He needed to be, humanly alone and physically deprived, yet spiritually focused. Every step of the way.
What about us? How often do we go through a spiritual wilderness, certain we've been led there by God Himself? We have the map, we've made the provisions, and yet when we arrive, we find the stream is dry and the forest is barren. We have no shelter. We have no direction. And we start to question why we’re there.
Could it be that in our wilderness God removes every distraction so we can’t help but hear His voice? And when we finally do, we know we’re not alone. The One who has led us has fed us and we become stronger because of the struggle.
If you’re in a wilderness right now, hear God. Trust God. And know that He will never let you down.