Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. He was tempted by satan, and depending which account you read he was fasting also. He was in this desert, a vast, featureless landscape, with no one and nothing nearby. Utterly alone, abandoned, apparently, by God.
With nothing to distract him, his thoughts come tumbling over each other, unable to keep track or to hold them, he is overwhelmed, his mind circling out of control. Questions with no answers, people too far away, worries he cannot ease, and the time dragging on with no hope of relief. And deep down the knowledge that soon, he still has a job to do.
This is not the wilderness we like to think of during lent. This isn’t an emptiness borne of giving up chocolate, or tea, or swearing. This isn’t the making time to pray a bit, or spend 10 minutes reading the bible each day. This isn’t a wilderness we can create, which is neat and tidy and restricted to these 40 days. An experience which is slightly uncomfortable, but not too much, bearable because it is quantifiable.
This isn’t an experience which we choose for 6 weeks each year, and lets face it, if we could, we wouldn’t. But that’s not to say we’ve not been into this wilderness. Whether only for an hour or two, or for months or years at a time. Either way, we have been there, and because we have, we can understand.
It is in this place, in the grip of these feelings which we would like to forget, that Jesus spends these next 40 days and nights. He has been there too. We are not alone.