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During a recent student leadership meeting one of our students requested a lesson on the wilderness. As he explained his request it was clear that he wanted more than a mere study of Jesus’ 40 days or Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. He wanted to take a closer look at the metaphorical wilderness periods people experience today, likening the college years to a stint in the wilderness, a time in life marked by more wondering and wandering than usual. 

Lent kicks off every year with the story of Jesus in the wilderness as told by either Mark, Matthew or Luke. During my study of Mark’s account a few weeks ago I came across a commentator observing that biblical wilderness experiences generally include times of testing and provision. College is most certainly a time of testing: tests in the classroom, testing the limits of newfound freedom, testy roommates, and a variety of other life tests during the turbulent transition from youth to young adulthood. 

Testing is an unavoidable part of life, whether in college or not. Israel’s faith is tested in the wilderness as they ache for food and pant for water, all the while wondering what Moses and God are up to. Jesus is tested in the barren land, dared by the devil to perform cheap miracles in place of trusting God’s provision. The college students I am privileged to know and accompany on this stage of their journey are tested by new ideas and experiences that prompt them to reexamine their beliefs about God and self.

Yet in the midst of all this testing there is manna. There are attending angels. There is divine provision. I get a front row seat to God’s masterful work at MSU, hearing international students talk about God’s hand in getting them to the states, witnessing seniors share their excitement when getting a job they did not think would pan out, and watching freshmen find a loving community after a lonely first semester. Testing, yes, but provision too. 

Any kind of wilderness experience, literal or metaphorical, is disorienting, but through God’s grace these periods often lead to a reorientation of one’s self toward God and the world. When it comes down to it, that’s why LCM is here. We are a community of faith committed to walking with students through whatever test this time of life throws at them while bearing witness to God’s transformative work through it all. 

Thanks for joining us on this leg of the journey. Thank you for being a part of God’s provision in this time and place. 

Grace & Peace,

JP Carlson, Campus Pastor