Isn’t it amazing the way Scripture turns so many things upside down? The meek inherit the earth, while the proud are humbled and brought low. It’s only in dying that we find life. Those who are last become the first. Over and over again in Scripture, things are not what they seem, and the more time we spend reading the Bible, the more paradoxes we seem to find.
At no other time are the paradoxes of the Christian life more evident than during the season of Lent. While the world looks upon this as a time for sadness and glum faces, the church sees it as a springtime of healing and restoration. While the world sees sackcloth and ashes, the church rejoices in the promise of forgiveness. Where the world sees a call for self-denial, the church sees an opportunity for greater intimacy with God.
The one image that best captures the great paradox—and the great promise—of Lent is that of the desert. The world sees the desert as a desolate land offering only hardship and discomfort. But Scripture portrays it as a sacred place of intimate meeting with God, a place where the barren land, the punishing heat, and the menacing environment lead to a greater…
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