“He himself was being tested for what he suffered; He is able to help those being tested.” Hebrews 10:18 (NRSV)
We are too quick to equate the desert with sand and barren shrub, for the desert is any place where temptation is great and our fall seems inevitable. It is a void place that teems with temptation and challenge. It is any place where the void seems greater than we are. And that place can be any place.
It is a dangerous place….this place of the void. A place to be put to the test.
In the city and in the minds of those who live a life of abandon, there is the feeling that diversion is the place of temptation. If it were only that undaunting. At least with diversion, you can assign some meaning to a thing no matter how shallow. The void place is different.
In a literal desert, the landscape teems with life though you do not recognize it is there. The same can be true on crowded streets. How often have any of us walked among a crowd with the sound of traffic and conversation and not felt part of the life that surrounds us. It is here in the void we are that saddest thing…..we are alone.
We cannot live in the void for an indefinite time. We are not meant for such a thing. Rather when we find ourselves here, we are in the transient place of testing. The void will eventually cease to be. Something will fill us or walk next to us. What or who will that be is the answer we give to the test.
Put on Christ. We know those words from Romans. They are words for the people of diversions. They are necessary words for those who find the test to be in the carnal or the impure. They are also the words that answer the question as to what should fill the void. In the passage from Hebrews we know we are able to put on Christ, because He has put on humanity. Here we are told that Christ has assumed our nature. In this way, He did not assume our distractions, but rather our emptiness and aloneness. In this way, Christ who was abandoned and knew all the emptiness of the vast desert through forty days of trial becomes the one who can fill our dark nights of the soul and our wandering in empty places. It is here we know that we are alone, but not really alone. For Christ is here too and in that great void landscape dwells our God who through his Son can negate the void and can fill us with good things.