We are told in our scriptures that all people whether they are faithful or not will go through times of wilderness. In the Bible, wilderness invokes this notion of hunger and struggle but also a place for the establishment and securing of identity. We all go through wilderness. We all live through those times when we feel abandoned by God because we can’t feel him closely, because the temptations of this life have taken over. I am reminded of a video I had to watch over and over again in the classes I had to take as a preschool teacher. I believe it illustrates with children this struggle we face in our personal times of wilderness. So I am prepared to show it to you today.
In this video, you will watch a study that was first done in 1970 about gratification. It was observed that children who were able to wait for their marshmallows were more successful better adjusted adults. Sometimes our times in the wilderness mirrors the frustration on these children’s faces.
(Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ)
As adults, there is a level of humor when we watch these children attempt to wait for that second marshmallow and we can see them struggle against desire and the temptation of that marshmallow right in front of them. They struggle with the hunger of being denied. And any of you who have ever been on a diet, know how all consuming and slightly depressing it is to be in that wilderness. In life, we are sure to face challenges and temptations much more dramatic and difficult than what these children had to face in the marshmallow experiment.
Jesus also faced such temptations, such times of trial. But the wilderness isn’t all troublesome. There is great hope and promise in the wilderness. It is in those periods of wilderness that we work on our identity as Christians, as people of faith. It is in those times of wilderness that we learn about God and come to rely upon him. It is in those times that we receive the manna from heaven to sustain us and bring us through and into the light.
In our scriptures, we see Jesus facing the devil, facing temptations to take advantage of his relationship with God, temptations to place his own importance above the importance of others and the importance of God. The devil was asking him to test God. In our lives, we may not come face to face with Satan, but we do come face to face with temptations. We are constantly being faced with decisions that require us to choose between doing what is right for others and what we think will make ourselves happy perhaps at the expense of someone else. Sometimes we are successful in fighting off the temptations around us. Other times, we struggle, we fall, and we give into those desires.
Jesus said, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone’”. In response to his temptations, Jesus used the promise of God to build him up. Though God did not seem to be present in these temptations, in these conversations between Jesus and the devil, Jesus still held tightly to the promise of God. God offered so much more than the shallow offerings of evil. Jesus needed to make it through his time of trial so that he could truly understand the struggles that humanity faces, so he could walk those journeys with us offering to us moral support and friendship even in those darkest points of life. Those times when we fall into temptations that harm others, ourselves, or perhaps everyone involved.
We do not live on bread alone. Possessions in life are not all that is important. The promises of the Holy, the promise of love, the promise of a peaceful humanity, of eternal life is what lives on. This is what really matters and when we struggle Jesus is walking with us. When we enter those personal times of wilderness Jesus enters those with us encouraging us and rebuilding us when we get broken down, giving us the will power and the strength we need not to fall into those habits or experiences that tempt us away from common unity, common purpose and care for one another. So our challenge as we go forward into another week is to recognize our struggles and to look towards God for inspiration and strength for tomorrow. Remember we never struggle alone, we are offered a hand of companionship in Jesus.
 Luke 4: 4, NRSV.
(Based on Luke 4: 1-13)