Lenten Devotional: Rejoice in the Desert

During Lent, the Center for Faith and Inquiry (CFI) shares weekly meditations penned by members of the Gordon community. Join CFI this Lenten season in prayer, in contemplation and in anticipation. Sign up to receive these devotions in your inbox weekly >

Third Sunday of Lent: Exodus 17:1–7 and Romans 5:1–11

Masks, social distancing, cancelled flights, missed holidays, job loss, illness. Living amid pandemic has introduced new scenarios that are easy to complain about—some trivial, some dire. In Exodus, the Israelites found themselves in a situation that caused grumbling, too.

Wandering through the desert thirsty, they complained to Moses, almost to the point of stoning him (Exodus 17:2–3). The Israelites seemed to forget that God had faithfully delivered them, and some even preferred their former bondage (Exodus 17:3). But God still heard their cries and provided for their needs, and the rock Moses struck produced water to drink (Exodus 17:6).

We read this passage and blindly say, “How could the Israelites forget what God has done for them? How could they complain?” But we so often do exactly the same thing—even outside of a pandemic. In our sinful, human hearts, the pain of our current discomforts can outweigh God’s providential power.

The season of Lent is a period of time to examine our hearts, mourn our sin and focus on Christ’s sacrifice. Instead of viewing suffering as inconvenience, could it actually bring us closer to understanding the suffering of Christ and remind us of his unfathomable grace?

In Romans, the Apostle Paul offers advice on how to stay focused on this eternal perspective, encouraging us to remember what God has done for us (Romans 5:1). He provided the rock—Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4)—even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). While we whine for momentary relief from discomfort, God has already provided the ultimate gift of salvation through Christ and the hope of eternity.

Thus, Paul encourages us not only to put aside grumbling, but to rejoice: “. . . we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5 CSB).

By Mike (Associate Professor of Political Science) and Mary ’15 (Communications Specialist) Jacobs