Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
It seems like every Lent around this time, I’m really feeling it. Maybe it’s that my life circumstances always happen to be especially trying this time of year, but here I am deep into my Lenten journey and I’m wandering in the desert. Really wandering. Not just struggling with my Lenten sacrifices, but feeling parched and tired and out in the middle of nowhere.
It’s the same almost every Lent for me, this far in with this far to go. We have moved beyond the energetic opening days of Lent, but we are still so far from the end. Here we drift, smack dab in the middle. We are, as Fr. Tim said, runners in a race. But right now, the race seems very long indeed!
I can’t help but wonder if God allows this for us, this weariness and woe. It’s not that the Lord wants to see us suffer — he loves his people so much! But perhaps we are allowed this feeling of being away from God, even just a little, as we wander through the desert heading towards Easter. For whatever reason, at the mid-point of Lent each year, I’m never feeling like “I have arrived.” I’m not on auto-pilot cruising toward the finish line. I am willfully — as I beg for God’s grace — putting one worn-out foot in front of the other. I can’t even say that I want to pray and fast, more like “I want to want to”!
And I know that’s a good thing, for it to hurt. For our Christian walk to cost, to be a struggle. It reminds me, as I fall to my knees begging God for mercy and peace, that on my own power I am nothing. This life we are called to live, a life of giving everything to God, it takes more than we can give on our own. We need God to help us do what he wants us to do.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
We may certainly feel forsaken by God. I’m embarrassed to admit how little it sometimes takes for me to feel that way. A surly teenager, a tired toddler. Where are you Lord, I cry out to the heavens, be with me! But I know God hasn’t abandoned me; I’m just having a hard day.
During the hard days and during the hard seasons, God is with us. Like a mother, he cannot forget us. He will not forget us. He is with us in the beautiful moments; he is here now, as we wander in the desert.
As we continue on our Lenten journey, as we stagger and struggle and pray for God’s soothing presence, let us find peace in knowing He is indeed here. Suffer us not, dear Lord, to be separated from thee.