Choosing the Wilderness

I often tell clients during the counseling process that the pain or concerns that brought them to see me may become more difficult than when they first met me. Changing the way we act, behave, and believe is not always an easy process. During counseling, many clients may be tempted to escape when they feel overwhelmed by the pain that they need to face and they may feel that it is just easier to live life the way they were before seeking counseling.

I suggest that they read and reflect on the book of Matthew where Jesus was being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). In the wilderness, Jesus chose against all three temptations Satan tossed his way. He experienced the extreme heat of the day and cold at night, wild animals sought his life, and He was thirsty and hungry. His environment was barren and Jesus was alone. Can you imagine what his mind and body were telling him?

The human side of Jesus must have said, “I don’t want to go without food and water, especially for forty days.” His emotions must have said, “I don’t feel like going through this all alone.” His intellect must have said, “There has to be another way.” His will must have argued, “I don’t think I can handle this!” How, then, was He able to walk through this experience and come out victorious? What drove Him? He could have chosen to serve his own hunger; He could have chosen to show his power; He could have chosen to have world domination. Because of Jesus’ choices, we, his followers, have resources that continue to sustain us in our wilderness times.

It was the creative Spirit of God in Him that helped Him to endure. After Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, the Bible says that He “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” indicating that the 40 days of encountering, resisting, and overcoming temptation resulted in an increased power of the Holy Spirit within Him.

Many believe that certain situations and changes in life are unbearable and that ending the counseling process is just fine with God, as He hates seeing his beloved child in pain. But God’s Word has an answer for these false thoughts that Satan hurls. The Bible says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He replied to the devil by quoting Scripture. Three times He said, “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). We need to be prepared for temptation.

The good news is that beneath this wilderness is the creative Spirit of God beckoning us toward transformation. The Holy Spirit will change us during our wilderness experiences just as Abraham was changed between Haran and Canaan, and Moses was transformed after his forty year experience in the desert. In these wilderness moments, we will learn that God is Holy; He is in charge, not us. Will you resist the temptation to end God’s molding and shaping or will you put on your spiritual armor and be victorious in Christ?

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