Mark 1:12-13 (NLT)
The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
Jesus’ forty-day wilderness experience is a theological echo of Israel’s forty-year trek in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. For both Jesus and the Israelites, this period was an important test of character and a preparation for the ministry of bringing God’s message of life and saving grace to nations who did not know God.
Wilderness is a strong theme in the Bible that we can apply to our modern lives as well. Biblical wilderness is a time of spiritual testing, danger, and temptation. It is a period marked with uncertainty and taps into our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. Wilderness times expose our truest beliefs about God, ourselves, and our world. Ultimately, they force us into making choices.
When we find ourselves struggling over whether we can forgive someone who has harmed us, for example, we have entered a wilderness place. We can compare our experience with that of Jesus, whose successful navigation of such a time can guide us in navigating our own.
- The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. The Spirit is also compelling you, or you would not be struggling over the issue of forgiveness. God is calling you to consider a better way of dealing with this person.
- He was tempted by Satan for forty days. Satan is real and constantly working against your spiritual good. He pits his clever lies and half-truths against the truth God has revealed to you, making your wilderness a shadowy and confusing place. Satan knows your emotional triggers and tempts you at your weakest points.
- He was out among the wild animals. These wild animals were not the cute bunnies and squirrel families who befriended Snow White in her fairy tale forest. These were powerful predators— wild dogs, wolves, and jackals—who posed serious danger to the human Son of God. Your wilderness time may threaten you with real harm, whether mental, emotional, spiritual, or even physical. More than ever, you need God’s protection, counsel, and help.
- Angels took care of him. Jesus knew that the Father never abandoned him but faithfully permitted testing that was not beyond what Jesus could endure. The same is true for you. Despite what Satan tells you, God cares about your suffering and would like nothing better than to draw you deeper into his heart and will, to heal your wounds, and care for you.
FATHER, thank you for the Gospel accounts of how Jesus navigated his wilderness time and remained faithful to you. It comforts me to know that Jesus prays for me as One who understands what it’s like to live in those scary, confusing places. When you call me into a wilderness place, give me strength to choose as Jesus did and to resist the ways of sin.
1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:18
When you are in a wilderness place, how might Satan tempt you to choose resentment over forgiveness? What does he tell you?