The First Sunday of Lent and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day this year. Each reminds us of both the wonder and pathos of being alive. We are part of the whole web of life and we trust in God’s care for all creation. Life is full of unspeakable love and beauty. Yet none of us, no matter how powerful or privileged, is immune from personal tragedy and suffering.
Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill reminds us, “No Christian escapes a taste of the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.” A standard biblical reflection for the season of Lent is Christ’s temptation in the desert. The desert reminds us that life is fragile and that we all have internal demons against which we struggle. Our inclination to ignore the relationship between love and suffering keeps us from recognizing the pared-down beauty that the desert brings.
It also keeps us from developing the spiritual resources that we can draw on during times of adversity? The Bible is replete with the assurance that we can turn to God for strength and security. Common cognates are that God is our refuge, our fortress, our stronghold, our dwelling place, and our shelter. We learn to trust as a way of coping with the adversities and anxieties that beset our lives.
James Healy writes, “Whether we gaze with longing into the garden or with fear and trembling into the desert, of this we can be sure—God walked there first! And when we who have sinned and despoiled the garden are challenged now to face the desert, we do not face it alone. Jesus has gone there before us to struggle with every demon that has even plagued a human heart.”