Angels in the Wilderness


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, 1 Samuel 17:17-30, Acts 10:34-48, Mark 1:1-13

Imagine that on your first day of work the boss introduces you to everyone by proclaiming how proud he is of you. Then he immediately assigns you to an extended gig at a remote branch to square off against a disgruntled former employee who now runs the competition. Per the opening chapter of Mark, that pretty much summed up Jesus’s first day on the job: John baptized him, God announced his favor from the heavens, “and the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” where he spent forty days grappling with Satan.

That’s the way life goes though. Just as we screw up the courage to make that change, or earn that promotion, or have that baby, we discover it comes with a new set of problems we weren’t anticipating. We start to ask if we weren’t better off before we got what we wanted. It doesn’t seem fair that doing everything right leads to more work. But if Jesus – in whom God was “well pleased” – was sent to suffer temptation in the wilderness, maybe we should realign our expectations and definition of success.

Doing good work – especially God’s work – does not guarantee ease. To the contrary, the Jews as God’s chosen people suffered tremendously, and Christian history is filled with martyrs. Our own callings vary, but all are real and we must engage with them. Accepting accountability – to our boss, our children, ourselves, or God – enlightens us to the brokenness in the world, and how much of it we are called to heal, prevent, or bear witness to.

The Spirit didn’t send Jesus into the wilderness alone: angels waited on him. We too have support available in our fellow Christians who share the same accountability. When times are tough, we remind each other why what we do is important. We help carry each other’s burdens. We listen. We cry. We are angels to each other.

Faithfulness doesn’t create suffering, but it does put us in touch with suffering that already exists. We can count on our God – and our angels – to see us through it.

Additional Reading:
For more on today’s opening chapter of Mark, see Many Waters, One God or Intersections.
For more thoughts on today’s passage from Acts, see Astounding Gifts.

Comfort: Even in life’s wilderness, you are not alone.

Challenge: Write a thank you note to one or more “angels” who have helped you through difficult times.

Prayer: To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. (Psalm 25:1)

Discussion: What’s the worst job experience that someone helped you get through?

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