I believe I’ve used “The Natural” in another post, but I felt compelled to write briefly about something personal regarding today’s scripture.
I’ve been feeling as if God isn’t using me for any particular purpose right now. Surely my role as a father and husband are significant, but I have lately inquired of the Lord, “Is there something more I’m supposed to be doing?” Occasionally I feel empty, lonely, and as if I’m just wandering, and it has been sheer dependence on God that has sustained me.
A skeptic would prove this as evidence that God perhaps does not exist, and my emptiness and waiting is the result of mere delusion, but the passage today shows proof to the contrary.
On two occasions in Mark 1, the text refers to the wilderness, once alluding to the slightly bizarre John the Baptist and his command unto others to repent, and the other to Jesus where he would be tempted for forty days.
What makes this text compelling is that, on both occasions, God has led these individuals into the wilderness, a place of desperation and solitude. While they are certainly obedient to God’s direction, these people are told to go into a place where they would have to suffer and deal with the elements for prolonged periods of time.
At a time in the U.S. when affluence is at an all-time high (despite economic forecasts, nearly everyone has a smart phone), and prominent church leaders continue to preach prosperity through a relationship with Christ, a rather unnerving truth remains in a timeless text — Christians are sometimes led to suffer.
In the film “The Natural”, a baseball player, plagued by his past errors, returns to the game after a 15 year hiatus to redeem his career and restore himself to glory. The process requires great humility, however, as he constantly fights off temptations and the lingering disappointment of what could have been. What makes Roy so great, however, is his prolonged absence from the game, which contrasts his sudden explosion onto the scene.
Roy’s journey parallels the detour that John the Baptist and Jesus take; both biblical persons are sent to prepare for what is to come, John preparing for Jesus, and Jesus readying Himself for the following three years of ministry.
Would God really lead His believers to suffer? The answer, in this context, is yes. It may not be to remedy past mistakes, but simply to prepare us for what is to come.
It is in the wilderness that John the Baptist commands the people he baptizes to prepare their hearts for the coming Christ, doing the work that God has set aside for him; it is in the wilderness that Jesus experiences temptation and suffering so He might empathize with others.
Perhaps you’ve been feeling isolated, alone, and you’ve been feeling quite useless. Know that, if you continue to abide in Christ, your days in the wilderness will come to an end, and you will be ready for what is to come.