The Misunderstood Wilderness
Has there been a time in your life when it seemed like you were in the middle of a deep wilderness and couldn’t feel God’s Presence? Or perhaps you found yourself in a period of waiting that, despite your prayers or pleading, seemed to just continue beyond your point of endurance?
I’ve experienced both.
During my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s I went through those moments of isolation, waiting, and frustration. I would get impatient not knowing how long these periods would last. Honestly, I wasn’t relying on prayer and the Lord to lead me out of the wilderness period. I seemed to be looking to the world to find answers, instead of looking to God.
Once I entered an intimate relationship with God and started listening with my heart to the Holy Spirit, I recognized that the “wilderness” was very different from what I believed as a young adult. Have you ever felt like this? Have moments in the wilderness confused you like they did me?
The truth is, when we find ourselves in seasons of wilderness, God doesn’t abandon us, and He isn’t punishing us. Instead, He is preparing us! God uses that time to make us ready for the places He is leading us.
God Has Always Led Us into the Wilderness
Scripture has many examples of God taking His people into barren places to prepare them. Consider:
In Exodus 13:18, we read “So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus, the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.” God led the Israelites into the wilderness to make them a nation, to give them His law, to teach them how to worship, and to prepare them for the Promised Land.
After being baptized by John, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for 40 days and then was tempted – all before his public ministry (Matthew 4:1).
And it was in the wilderness that God took Moses to the top of the mountain in Exodus 34:6 where He displayed His glory and proclaimed Himself: “The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and truth, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.”
Three Things to Remember About the Wilderness
Obey. In the wilderness we must still obey God. He has plans for things to go well for us. The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) It’s easy to obey God when things are going well. Yet during those moments when we may not fell God’s presence, don’t give up!
Listen and Learn. Our circumstances may sometimes feel emotionally or physically unfruitful, but they can be spiritually rich! The story of Job (Job 1-42) is one of the darkest, yet most interesting stories in scripture. Job, a devout man who prayed and worshipped God, became a target of Satan with God’s permission. The disasters Job experienced during his trials were soul-crushing. Yet ultimately, God uses the test to teach Job and those around the powerful truth that through everything we face, there is a sovereign God who always watches over us. Let’s not focus on getting OUT of the wilderness because it can lead us to miss all that God has for us IN the wilderness.
Grow. The most important character traits we need can be developed in the darkest seasons of our life. We may not understand what’s going on, but when God gives us the chance to apply the lessons we learned, we’ll realize that all our tears and efforts are not in vain. We’ll discover our potential, and God will open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see the good things He is doing behind the wilderness. And when the time is right, we will see a complete transformation in our life!
Preparation and Revelation
The wilderness is never meant to make us suffer or to punish us, but rather, to help shape us, bring us closer to God, and learn to trust in HIM rather than the world. Often, when God takes us to the wilderness, He withholds that which we have come to depend on other than Him.
After freeing them from Egypt, God led his people into the desert for 40 years. Looking back on those years in the wilderness, He told them this as they prepared themselves to enter the Promised Land. “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 29:5-6)
I can honestly say the wilderness isn’t a place I want to immediately embrace but now I know God is for me during this time, no matter how long or how difficult it may be. I trust that He has a plan for the outcome. I believe He wants me to obey, listen, learn, and grow to prepare me for what’s next. That’s what He wants for you too!
Finally, never forget the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Know that God rewards those who diligently seek Him in faith.
May God continuously guide your path.