The wilderness is a tough place! It’s a place of barrenness and confusion..where you feel hopeless, discouraged, and oftentimes are tempted to give up. Everywhere you turn, there’s nothing but dry, parched land, as far as the eye can see. You may identify with Job, who felt completely abandoned by God.
“If I go to the east, he is not there,
and to the west, yet I do not perceive him.
In the north when he is at work,
I do not see him;
when he turns to the south,
I see no trace of him.”
Job 23:8-9, NET
So what is a “wilderness”, anyway? The Yahoo dictionary defines it as
- An unsettled, uncultivated region, especially,
- A large tract of land that has not been significantly affected by human activities.
- A barren or desolate area; a wasteland.
No wonder it’s overwhelming to find yourself in the middle of one!
But did you catch the first part of the definition? Uncultivated and unsettled? What does that make you think of?
(Doesn’t that sound like an adventure??)
Have any of you been crazy enough to actually pray the words to the song,
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders/Let me walk upon the waters/wherever You would call me/
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander/Where my faith will be made stronger/In the presence of my Savior”?
(Um, I have.)
So… after studying this definition of wilderness, I see that this is exactly where God has taken me. He is answering my prayer to “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander”… though when I prayed it, “walking upon the waters” sure sounded a lot more exciting and adventurous than I have found it to be! But without a doubt, I am in uncharted waters. God is leading me on a trust journey. I must learn to trust Him to lead me through this wilderness and to the other side!!
And in this wilderness, like in Job’s case, there have been times when I couldn’t find God with a searchlight. My prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and fall back on my face.
But He was there. He is there. Always.
I must trust. Trust Him even when I can’t see Him, hear Him, feel Him, or touch Him.
“Are You there, God? Do You remember me? You dropped me into this wasteland and left me here…remember?
“Why are You taking me this way, God?”
“Where are You, Jesus? Don’t You see my pain? Can’t You see I need your help here?”
And God answers,
“Yes, my child, I’m right here! Take my hand. It’s just a little bit further! Be strong, and very courageous (Joshua 1:6-9)! I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)! My strong right hand upholds you(Isaiah 41:10)! My rod and My staff, they will comfort you (Psalm 23:4)! Trust me- I am doing a new thing in you (Isaiah 43:19)!”
Getting back to Job- he follows his previously bleak statement with this declaration,
But he knows the pathway that I take;
if he tested me, I would come forth like gold.
My feet have followed his steps closely;
I have kept to his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.
Job 23:10-12, NET
If we follow Jesus through the wilderness…if we cling to His unfailing hand…if we keep to His way and not turn aside, even in the barren wasteland…we will come forth as gold, as Job says. Our feet will be as hinds’ feet and we will walk on high places (Habakkuk 3:19)! We will have hands that know how to war, and fingers that know how to fight (Psalm 144:1)! And most importantly, we will know Him in the fellowship of His suffering and in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:8-10).
I want to know God, don’t you? This is my heart’s desire!! But before that happens, I have to die. I have to die to my self- that pesky, stubborn part of me that always wants its way. This is another big reason that we go through the wilderness- to die. It purges us of all of the “extras”. Kind of like the pioneers who traveled West in their covered wagons. Scattered all over the Plains were dressers, dining room tables, heavy trunks…all left behind by their owners, who knew the only way they could make it to their Big Dream was to shed the unnecessary weight.
And that goes for us, too! Gotta shed that extra baggage of “self” and lean and rely fully on Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone and the Author and Finisher of out Faith (Hebrews 12:2). The work that He begins in us, He FINISHES (Philippians 1:6)!
To sum it all up-
I believe that there are (at least) 7 reasons that God leads us through the wilderness:
1. To test us.
2. To train us.
3. To teach us trust.
4. To teach us how to war.
5. To kill our flesh so His Spirit can reign in us.
6. To birth His Dream in us.
7. To shape us into his image.
So, no matter what kind of wilderness you may be in now, don’t give up! Listen:
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:28-29, NET
You’re being made more beautiful- to look just like Jesus!!
Dear Jesus, I pray for my sisters today that are going through a wilderness. I pray that You would sustain them and uplift them with Your mighty hand! That You would be not far from them, but that You would hear their cries and make Yourself known to them in a big way, God! Help them to trust in You…to lean on Your everlasting arms and to run to You, Who are our Rock and our Refuge- our very present Help in time of trouble. We run to You, God! We look to You! Our eyes are on You, Jesus! Come for us in this desert wasteland. Fill our dry land with pools of water and allow us to draw from the well of the Holy Spirit with joy! For we know that the joy of the Lord is our strength. I pray all of this in your mighty, precious, holy name- in the name of Jesus!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23094783@N03/3389327460″>alone</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>