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Now my soul is troubled, and what should I say? Father save me from this hour?”  John 12:27

Okay I can virtually see the eyes rolling and hear the heavy sighs as some readers say:  Really Doug?  Most of the country is in the grips of damp, cloudy, cold, rain, sleet or snow filled skies.  The news these days is not all that good.  And while yes it is the Christmas Season, even that can bring about anxiety and a certain melancholy.  So can’t you write something a little more upbeat than my Savior felt desperate too?  Is this some misery loves company post?  So if you’re thinking that or haven’t already clicked off to somewhere else, hang in there with me because I believe there is some powerfully uplifting, even a joyful promise in this.

So here we go.  When we think about Jesus being anxious or having feelings of desperation, we often picture His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, His trial before Pilate or His time on the cross.  And of course those would be correct instances to think that.  For in the Garden, Jesus knew that His arrest was to happen in a few short minutes.  Yet the referenced quote from John was not from the time frame of the Garden, it was right after Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem.  His disciples were still basking in the adulation of the entry.  Greeks were coming up to Philip almost begging to be introduced to Jesus.  The Pharisees and Jewish leaders were the one’s in despair thinking that the whole world had left them and was now following Jesus.

Jesus knew better.  Although the disciples did not recollect it at the time, Jesus had told them already that this trip to Jerusalem would end in His death.  Jesus seemed to always know what the end was going to be from the beginning.  And with a steadfast determination that could only come from the One True Son of God, Jesus never wavered from His Father’s Plan to carryout our Salvation.  Yet that doesn’t mean that Jesus skipped happily forward to meet His impending demise.  There was a part of Jesus who wanted out; even asked to get out, if there be anyway possible.  Thanks be to His strength; to the God come down, that He was able to summon the courage to go through with it.

Okay you say, I’m getting the fact that Jesus was in despair, but not sure about the uplifting part about it.  Here’s the thing, the wonderfully amazing thing; Jesus knew desperation..FOR US!   Jesus’ feeling of desperation, like his feelings of hunger, pain and sorrow were not just some academic exercise by a curious but unfeeling God.  No, Jesus subjected Himself to human frailties out of love for you and me.  The world would see it as a weakness but the truth is it takes unbelievable strength to endure the physical and emotional traumas that this world inflicts upon us willingly.  For us and our salvation God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ.  Why?  As it says in Hebrews, For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are attempted.  And again in Hebrews:  “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses….”  And lest we think that Jesus was some rogue deity sneaking down to help us poor humans out; this was His Father’s plan to bring us back into relationship with Him.

Having experienced as we have experienced yet without succumbing to sin, Jesus makes these promises to us that we know He has the power to keep:  He will give us rest, He has come that we might have life and have it abundantly, peace he will give us, not as the world gives but true peace.  We can have such confidence in those promises because they come from One who knew what it was to be weary; that was the creator of life knowing how abundant it can be, knew what strife and desperation are so that He knows what true peace is.  He beckons us to be in Him so that He can be in you and me, no matter what the circumstances.  So what do we get from that?  We get the promise from Him who has witnessed all first hand.

In response to every heartbreak, every woe, every downtrodden circumstance we may be in; Jesus Christ looks us straight in the eye and speaks to our heart:  That in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.  To overcome something you first must have experienced it.  Jesus Christ knows our desperation.  When we are in relationship with Him, we can experience our own triumphant victory over our desperation through Him.  In Jesus Christ, the victorious love company too.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we are made humble and awestruck at the length and breadth of Your Love for Us.  That You would Send You Only Son, Jesus Christ, to live as a human, knowing our trials and tribulations while never succumbing to them.  That being perfect, He would still choose to suffer the sinners death thus sparing us the judgement that is rightfully ours.  Thank you Dear Jesus Christ, that you, having experienced our pain reach down to shower us with Your Love to lift us up above our desperation to share in Your victory.  May it be that this world never blinds us to the promise that is in You, Dear Jesus and that our lives would be lived to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in Your Name Jesus Christ.  Amen

So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.  Exodus 2:18

David is in the wilderness… 1 Samuel 24:1

And He (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days  Mark 1:13

Moses, David, Jesus are just some of the people of the bible that had a wilderness excursion as part of their faith journey.  We could add Abraham, Elijah, Joseph, Ruth, Daniel, Mary to that list and there are many more.  It seems as if most of the great figures of the bible had a time in the wilderness.  Understand in those stories, that the wilderness was not just a place but also describes other aspects of their existence.  In many of these cases, the location was not only remote but they were also either completely isolated from other people or at least had only a small number with them.  During these times, from a human perspective, it would have been easy for these biblical heroes to feel victimized, abandoned and seemingly left with the only choice to give up.  The wonderful thing about the biblical account versus accounts that you would see from fictional heroes, is that these were real people with real emotions.  In these accounts, with the possible exception of Jesus, each person expresses their fear, their longing for comfort and their complete inability to turn their circumstances around on their own.  It is at their most desperate points that their faith does not desert them, the Most Merciful God demonstrates to them, that He has been with them all along.  Furthermore, God teaches them, that He is the one sufficient to save them from their circumstances, whatever they may be and all He asks is that they believe in Him.

Again be mindful of the fact that wilderness is as much a state of mind as it is a physical location.  Not to sound perverse, but I find comfort in the desperation that Jesus Christ feels in the Garden of Gethsemane as he contemplates the completion of His mission that involves, not only a horrible death, but also shouldering the totality of our sins.  The comfort I find is that My Savior and My Lord, knows the desperation that I feel, though I can never truly understand the depth of His desperation.  His Forgiveness, Mercy and Grace comes from a sense of shared experience.  That Jesus Christ would decide to leave heaven and come down and experience that kind of pain and isolation is such a perfect demonstration of His Love and the Father’s Love for us through His plan.

So, today you find yourself in the wilderness, either physically, mentally, spiritually or a combination of all three.  It may that you have tried all the things that you can think of or that the world tells you, you should do.  All your attempts have led to nothing or perhaps even driven you further into the wilderness.  Take heart knowing that you are in awesome company.  Have faith, that the same God, who was not slow to deliver every single one of those individuals, exalting  His Son, to the place of honor at His Right Hand.  Know, that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ endured His time of wilderness and also experienced triumph over it, will never desert you in your wilderness.  You are never alone.

Be very clear that we have a promised land.  Jesus promised it in His Gospels.  He also told us there would be persecutions and difficult was the way.  Often that path is going to lead through the wilderness.  The world is going to give us all kind of maps to avoid that wilderness at all costs.  Yet it is by traveling through that wilderness exhausting all our human strengths, that we come to understand and then rely on the Power of Our Gracious and Merciful Father, the Love of our Savior Jesus Christ, through the Promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that we will reach a destination that is far better than any destination we can reach on our own.

May we find that we are willing to take that journey.  Amen

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