Updated: Jan 7, 2021
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4
During quarantine, a lot of us have started some new habits we’re proud of, and maybe we’ve felt the return of something less wanted like anxiety, fear, doubt or something we’ve been trying to ignore now has found the space and time to sit at the forefront of our minds.
I’ve been listening to the Bridgetown Daily podcast because I’m a long time big fan of John Mark Comer, but also because I’ve found it to be an imperative time in my life to adopt more contemplative practices and focus on meditation. With many other distractions gone, since the beginning of quarantine I’ve been telling my husband Jackson that I don’t want to let this time pass us by. With all this time, I eagerly wanted to embrace it as an opportunity to grow closer to God and to take advantage of it. Part of this is just the future-oriented part of me, knowing this will end at some point, I wanted to make the most of it.
Now, we are mostly at the other side, although there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead. However, for most of us we are returning to our normal schedules at least in part, and starting to shift the patterns we’ve created in this season into the new season that’s coming forth now.
Recognizing our Inability to be Self-sufficient:
In conversations about quarantine, the Christian community has been asking if Jesus had ever experienced something like this because as disciples of Jesus, we need to look to His example. On this episode of Bridgetown Daily, Pete Hughs of the Kings Cross Church in London explains how Jesus has experienced quarantine before in the above passage in Matthew.
As we transition back to many of our prior responsibilities, habits and patterns, I’ve been desiring to keep some of the patterns I’ve created during quarantine.
I like my unhurried schedule, my blank calendar, walks around neighborhoods we didn’t know existed before, and more than anything, my loss of self-sufficiency.
In Jesus’ time in the wilderness, He was tempted or tested by the devil. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where the devil was ready to tempt Him. There, Jesus was first tempted by the devil saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Pete Hughs says, “This is the enemy inviting Jesus into self-sufficiency, trying to break this pattern of dependency on the Father. Go look after your own needs, be self-sufficient! How many of us in lock down have experienced deep needs and suddenly we’ve realized, gosh I’m not self sufficient I thought I should be I thought I was self-sufficient...and our culture celebrates that. You’re a self made man, you’re an independent woman. We are not self-sufficient. We have needs.”
Jesus Turns Away from Self-Sufficiency:
The enemy invites Jesus to provide for Himself, and of course, He could have. But He chooses not to because He has an eternal perspective. He recognizes there’s something much more important going on in that moment than provision. Jesus, being the Son of God could have easily turned the stones into bread and provided food for Himself. He had just fasted 40 days, He was really, really hungry. But He chose not to.
He instead focuses on His relationship with the Father which is one of dependency.
As the Son of God He willingly admits His need to be provided for by the Father. He chooses to be dependent upon “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The Temptation of Self-Sufficiency:
I think social distancing and quarantine have forced us to look at our needs. Because we have lost a lot of the interactions and daily practices we have taken for granted, we have been forced to see how those practices shape our identities and contribute to this false sense of control we had, or the self-sufficiency we thought we had.
I’ve heard so many people talk about how much they miss going to a physical church building, eating out in public places, visiting family, getting to walk by someone’s cubicle every day at the office, and the list goes on.
The devil is well aware of those needs too, and he is waiting in the wilderness ready to tempt us to become self-sufficient and try to muscle up to do it our way, provide for ourselves, and “take care of it.” If Jesus, who was the Son of God, chose not to be self-sufficient and instead to rely and be dependent on His Father, how much more do we need to be dependent on the Father for every need?
I think the enemy loves it when we try to be self-sufficient, and honestly, maybe that’s why self-sufficiency is glorified so much in culture right now. What a deadly trap that is. I know personally, when I try to make things happen, to be self-sufficient, it results in a spiral. I cannot carry all of the burdens of the needs for myself, my family, or my community. But I can respond by surrendering those in prayer to the Father with a confidence that He knows my needs, and will provide for them.
Contentment is found when we release the pressure to be self-sufficient, when we let go of the lies about hustle and “the grind” and being self-made, and we look to our Maker instead to meet our needs.
A Beautiful Dependency on the Father:
I want to keep this part of quarantine: the part where we all looked at ourselves and our culture and had to admit that we needed more than what we could provide for ourselves. The part where we had to surrender the glorified self-sufficient life and instead depend on God to carry us through the wilderness.
Jesus willingly surrenders His ability to be self-sufficient. He doesn’t try to be a tough guy and take care of Himself. He isn’t insistent that He’ll “figure it out” or “find another way” and He’s released all the pride that comes with self-sufficiency. Instead, He trades it for this beautiful dependency on the Father. The result?
“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:11 Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what a truly surrendered, dependent life looks like?
When we let go of the self-sufficient expectations we might place on ourselves, the enemy leaves us alone, and God sends His angels to care for our every need.
Maybe we can start shifting culture even as we leave the “wilderness” season many of us have found ourselves in. Maybe, we can keep an awareness of our needs as we transition, and sense the presence of God coming to meet our needs as we gently and faithfully proclaim we are dependent upon Him.
-Reflect on your own life. In what ways do you try to be self-sufficient?
-Continue to reflect on your self-sufficiency. What would it look like to surrender that to God today?
-Reflect on your needs that you have become increasingly aware of in this season. How can you invite God to meet those needs?
Today's prayer looks a little different! Something I’ve enjoyed recently is breath prayers. The basic idea is praying scripture as you breathe in, and breathe out.
Breathe in: “my soul find rest in God”
Breathe out: “my hope comes from Him.”
Here's a few more try: