I stared out the window at the falling snow and felt the chill of January surround me. I felt angry at the cold. I felt angry that the current tides of life had picked me up, swept me along, and then dumped me off abruptly to sit in the emptiness of grief. Grief feels as if it will swallow you up and drown you with reminders of a crushing loss. I wanted relief from the pain. I wanted to run from my thoughts. I wanted to feel whole again. But nothing would bring back the baby I had lost. There was not an instant fix for my heart.

Her due date was in the warm month of May and here I sat in the cold of winter. In this moment I was angry at God, and I wanted him to bring a quick fix, a relief from my current state of pain.

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).

Jesus was in the desert. He had not eaten for forty days, and our text simply states, “He was hungry.” I personally have never fasted even close to that long. Even after fasting for a day I am hungry! I find myself starting to snap at my family, the irritation of my shrinking stomach and my increasing fatigue is felt physically, and it is manifested negatively on those around me. I can only imagine the physical pain and fatigue that Jesus felt after those forty days. I can imagine his intense physical need for relief from his gnawing stomach and depleted body. Into this place comes the devil to tempt him, telling Jesus to use his power to turn stones to bread. Oh, the temptation of instant relief! The tempter says, “The answer to your need is right there! Just take it!”

Jesus doesn’t take the bait. So, how does he answer? How does he refute the great tempter while in his physically weakened state?

He uses Scripture, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Jesus uses Scripture to back up and emphasize the importance of Scripture. This is God’s Word given to us, not just a good book to admire, but something to place our trust in for our everyday lives of faith.

That day in the cold of January, I sat with my anger at God, my mind running through lists of the quick solutions the world uses to find answers. Tempted by thoughts of the worldly things that bring relief—short-lived relief, but tempting, nonetheless.

It was here that God met me. He didn’t meet me with a supernatural miracle or quick fix. He met me with whispers of Scripture, spoken to my heart. Familiar passages, reminding me of who he is. Comforting Scriptures telling me of the promises that are for me as his child. Scriptures that reinforce what a firm foundation Christ is for us.

As God brought Scripture passages and promises to my mind, I could then see clearly that I was still so loved by him. I was reminded once again that my hurt was inflicted, not by God, but by the brokenness of the world. I was promised that God was the one who was sustaining me, bandaging my wounds, and giving me strength to carry on.

My body cried out for quick relief, but of course God knew better. He gave me what I needed, not necessarily what I wanted. Through his Word he offered me something better than quick relief. He offered me a safe place to hurt and to heal as he walked the difficult road with me. When I woke each morning with that ache in my gut, God drew me into his Word, and fed me.

In Matthew’s account of the Temptation, Jesus doesn’t use his power as God to work supernaturally. Instead he takes Scripture, something God has also given us, and Jesus shows us the importance of it in the face of temptation. He shows us the sustenance we receive from Scripture in the midst of our pain. Jesus references the Israelites wandering in the desert. As they cry out to God in their need, he sends them manna. He does take care of their physical needs, but he also shows them something more through this act. He is humbling them, showing them that they are not providing for themselves, but that God is the one caring for them and sustaining them in the wilderness. Bread only fills them temporarily. It is resting in the promised salvation that brings fulfillment. It is faith in the Lord who is supplying their needs that brings life. Jesus emphasizes that it is the Lord who feeds us with what we truly need for our souls.

Now, I wish I could say that every time I am tempted, I claim a verse and flee from sin! But let me tell you, that is far from true. There are many times I fall, many places where I fail in things because “I know better,” and then here I find myself again. The truth is we all fail, we all stumble in small and big ways.

I don’t know what you’re going through. I don’t know what is causing you to hunger for things apart from Christ. I don’t know how you’ve failed and fallen or what weighs heavy on your heart, but what I do know is that we find our answers to our sin problem in Scripture. God’s Word points us to Christ: the one who refuted the tempter perfectly, the one who denied his flesh the pleasure of sin, and then carried our sin to the cross and paid the price so that we might live.

Christ resisted temptation and showed us a way out. We see from his example what it looks like to be fed from the presence of God and his Word. Even though he knew we would fail at this, time and time again, he gave us an answer. He made our path to freedom through the cross and the forgiveness of sins, paved with the blood of Christ.

There is a place to run, whether we are fleeing temptation or begging for forgiveness. Here in the trusted pages of the Word we find truth and forgiveness. In the Word we find food for our souls.

Karen Stenberg is Co-Director of Women’s Ministries of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.

Tempted by the Devil
It is Written...