If you have recently faced any prolonged seasons of testing, challenge, spiritual battle, or temptation, I want to encourage you (and maybe even help save you from doubting your sanity).
In the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we are told that after Jesus’ baptism, He spent forty days in the wilderness fasting, praying, and undergoing a time of temptation. At the end of that time, Satan, the adversary, came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).
The sequence and timing in that story is important. It was when Jesus was hungry, weary, and maybe even a little vulnerable that Satan introduced a question mark into Jesus’ psyche: “IF you are the Son of God…” In other words, you might not be.
That question would have been pretty harmless if Satan had asked it at the beginning of Jesus’ wilderness experience, since Jesus entered that time directly after hearing God’s audible voice from heaven, affirming Him as God’s special, loved Son. But that wasn’t when Satan launched his most vicious attack. He waited until the memory of God’s voice had faded just a bit before plying Jesus with his contemptuous “if”. The same thing happens with you and me.
Spiritual warfare usually starts slow but then peaks at the end of forty days when we are exhausted from the battle (Note: forty is the symbolic number of a complete season). And please be aware: everything gets weird after forty days. After prolonged struggle or waiting, the questions always surface: “Am I really who God said I was? Is God really who He said He was? Can I trust Him? Am I going to survive this time?”
At the end of forty days everything comes into question and we start to wonder, “Who am I again? What was that word that I thought I originally heard?”
We have to remember that the word we heard on the mountaintop is still true in the valley. Jesus never flinched in the face of Satan’s best temptation, but rather, He beautifully countered the questions by quoting Scripture and elevating the conversation, ultimately sending Satan running. Jesus came out of the wilderness strengthened by angels, empowered by the word of God, and ready to fulfill His ministry. If you hold steady you will too.