Part of being human means that one can feel beset by difficulties, not knowing what to do, to whom to turn. This is why the response in today’s psalm strikes a chord: ‘Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble’.
On this first Sunday we are near the start of our Lenten journey that ends in God’s triumph at Easter. So we know the end point – fullness of life – toward which we are all called. But how do I get there? This is what Lent is for. Firstly I need to become aware of my faults and failings. Then, rather than shrugging my shoulders and saying, in a somewhat resigned tone, ‘that’s me’, work on improving myself. As humans there can be a gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Which is why it’s great to have Lent, another opportunity to get closer to being my best self. Whether it’s being less controlling, more giving, more forgiving, less judgmental or whatever, it’s good for me to be better so that I don’t spread my unhelpful behaviours amongst others. My self-improvement is better for me and we.
Our Gospel today shows this process of self-improvement is part of God’s plan since ‘Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert’. God’s revelation at Easter doesn’t wipe away all human problems rather it shows us there is only one way – through the cross. This does not mean that God causes suffering. Humans frequently have a hand in causing suffering to others. Rather such suffering which is part of life is an opportunity to work through the pain and grow – to more closely resemble the best version of ourselves.