At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert. (Mark 1: 12)
This seemed a strange way for God to prove His favor. “At once”— after what? After heaven was opened and the Spirit descended “like a dove” (v. 10), and the Father voiced His blessing, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (v. 11). Yet it is not an abnormal experience.
You, my soul, have also experienced it. Aren’t your times of deepest depression the moments that immediately follow your loftiest highs? Just yesterday you were soaring high in the heavens and singing in the radiance of the morning. Today, however, your wings are folded and your song is silent. At noon you were basking in the sunshine of the Father’s smile, but by evening you were saying from the wilderness, “My way is hidden from the Lord” (Isa. 40: 27).
No, my soul, the actual suddenness of the change is proof that it is not abnormal. Have you considered the comfort of the words “at once,” and why the change comes so soon after the blessing? Simply to show that it is the sequel to the blessing. God shines His light on you to make you fit for life’s deserts, Gethsemanes, and Calvaries. He lifts you to new heights to strengthen you so that you may go deeper still. He illuminates you so He may send you into the night, making you a help to the helpless.
You are not always worthy of the wilderness— you are only worthy of the wilderness after the splendor of the Jordan River experience. Nothing but the Son’s vision can equip you to carry the Spirit’s burden, and only the glory of the baptism can withstand the hunger of the desert.
After blessings comes the battle.
The time of testing that distinguishes and greatly enriches a person’s spiritual career is not an ordinary one but a period when it seems as if all hell were set loose. It is a time when we realize our soul is caught in a net, and we know God is allowing us to be gripped by the Devil’s hand. Yet it is a period that always ends in certain triumph for those who have committed the keeping of their souls to God. And the testing “later on . . . produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Heb. 12: 11) and paves the way for the thirtyfold to one hundredfold increase that is promised to follow (see Matt. 13: 23).
Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 60). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.