Welcome to Week 5 of The Desert Shall Rejoice, a six-week Lenten blog series. Each week of Lent, I am sharing a reflection, providing a Scripture passage to read and meditate on, and offering journal questions for deeper prayer with Jesus. You can read Week 1 HERE, Week 2 HERE, Week 3 HERE, and Week 4 HERE.
It was January 1, and I was gung-ho to begin my New Year’s plan, but after only three weeks, “life” interfered. A couple of my children got sick. A couple others had projects and activities that required my attention. I was needed by my people, and I struggled to integrate my new plans with real life.
Frustrated and tired, I lost my motivation. I felt discouraged and lonely.
I tried to get back on track, but I feared failure … again.
As I reflected on my three weeks of New Year’s resolution success, I realized the reason I struggled to keep going and feared repeated failure. I had relied solely on myself to succeed, and I didn’t allow any room for flexibility, patience, or God’s grace.
Faithfulness, Not Success
We are five weeks into Lent, and perhaps you feel as if you’ve failed the Lenten plan you started on March 6. Maybe the unexpected happened, and it felt impossible to attend to the real-life thing right in front of you and the thing you wanted to do for Lent. Perhaps now, almost nearing the end of Lent, you feel weary and discouraged, because no matter how hard you tried, you didn’t seem to make much progress.
Even if your Lent is not what you expected it to be, you have not failed. Sometimes, the thing God invites us into is the unexpected. Sometimes the thing that lands right in our lap is more important than what is on our agenda. And sometimes, we rely too much on our own strength and don’t allow God the space to work in our hearts.
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God doesn’t ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful. However beautiful our work may be, let us not become attached to it. Always remain prepared to give it up, without losing your peace.”
Lent is a beautiful set-aside time to work on improving our life. To do that good work of improving what is lacking, growing where we fall short, and being present to God instead of what distracts us from Him. But all of this takes time, patience, and perseverance. We can’t expect perfect success on the first try, or even the second, third, and fourth tries.
But we can strive for faithfulness. And we can leave space for the Lord to work with our meager efforts, our small offerings.
This week, let us not lose heart! Instead, let us attach ourselves to Jesus, offering our imperfect plan and the unexpected surprises. Let us trust Him to strengthen us when we grow weary and replenish us when we feel faint.
Take a few moments to quiet your heart. Breathe in and out.
Read today’s Scripture verses: “I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish.” (Jeremiah 31:25)
After reading the verse once, read it one or two more times.
What stands out to you? A word, feeling, thought …
Jesus walked a very difficult path to Calvary. He carried a heavy cross, while being whipped and spat upon. (You can read this in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.) Jesus shows us the reality of struggle. He shows us the humanity of stumbling, falling … and even (perceived) failing.
How has your Lent been? Take time to examine what you set out to do during these 40 days. Talk to Jesus about how your plan has drawn you closer to Him. Admit to Him the times when you got off track … when something interrupted your plan … when something distracted you.
Imagine walking along on your Lenten journey. In your Lenten desert, a road rises up for you to take.
Imagine points along the way when you make beautiful spiritual progress. Maybe you see a blossom in the desert, like we talked about last week.
Now, imagine the times on your journey when you take two steps backward for every three steps forward. You feel frustrated and discouraged. Maybe you even feel embarrassed and ashamed. At these moments, imagine the Lord stooping down to pick you up. What look is in His eyes? What does He say to you?
Journal about your experience. Then, at the end of your journaling time, spend a few minutes in silence or rest. Simply be still and be present to God.
Dear Jesus, You walked the dusty, hot, dry road to Calvary. It was hard, and it was painful. You even fell and struggled to get up again. In Your humility, You show me how to persevere. You show me how to rise up, even when all feels lost. Lord, my Lent hasn’t been perfect, but today, I get up again and take a step forward. I trust that You are by my side, holding me up, gazing into my eyes with love. You take my little efforts, and You redeem them into greatness. Thank You, Lord, for never giving up on me. I love you. Amen.