In The Wilderness

We like to think we’ve all been there. We associate our hard times with the hard times of theprophets of old. Our experiences often seem so dire that either God has forsaken us or He doesn't care. Sometimes we can see the ground drying up before our eyes as the spiritual drought soaks up every bit of energy we have left. We pray for rain. We long for something, anything refreshing. What if in these moments of being spiritually stuck we’re wearing ourselves out from holding back? Not that we don’t log enough hours in service. No thats not it. It’s not that we lack sincere effort in helping others. We have given plenty out of our own efforts. But what if while straining to hear God’s voice we are sticking our fingers in our ears? 

I have had ups and downs in my own life. Slumps that have brought me to the brink of destruction. Many people have experienced times of hurts and times of fear. We’ve all faced giants in some way or another. But before we faced our giant, before we decide that our own Goliath is calling us out to battle, have we spent time in the meadow? Have we battled the lions and the bears that have went after our sheep? I believe every thing we experience in life can lead to an opportunity to understand more of who God is and who I am if we listen for that still small voice. I’m afraid the reason my own problems have come in cycles is due to my inability to listen and to act. What if God has been trying to prepare you for something so great that if it were four thousand years ago it would make the pages of scripture? What if God desires that all of His children gain His perspective? I’m starting to see more and more in my life and in the lives of others that God is trying desperately to grab our attention. If we but seek Him then all of our woes would have a purpose. 

The children of Israel had their wilderness experience due to disobedience. Why was The Son of Man “driven” into the wilderness? Why did the greatest man to ever live, John the Baptist, have to spend time isolated in the wilderness? This seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the Bible. Many wilderness experiences but often for various reasons. I don’t think that anyone can argue that Jesus was driven to the wilderness due to disobedience. Nor could anyone make an argument that David was sent to the lonely fields for a punishment. There is no case in the Bible of God sending anyone anywhere for a punitive purpose. Jonah wasn’t sent to Nineveh because he had made bad decisions. God had a purpose for sending Jonah. God had a purpose for the 40 years Israel spent wondering about in the desert. God had good reason to drive Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days. Somehow God even used the situation of Joseph being sold into slavery to save His people. The reason in all these cases may vary but the purpose remains the same. Redemption. 

Is it fair to associate our experiences in the wilderness to the people from the Bible? I think so but you must also ask, “If I am here, then why?”. The answer can be summed up in two ways, the redemption of your soul or the redemptive acts that God is preparing you to do. In either outcome the solution to finding our way back is found in seeking God’s face. Ask any Christian why Christ had to die and they’ll tell you for the forgiveness of sins. That’s a correct answer but it is an incomplete answer. Jesus was crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world because The Father longed to make us His own. The entire plan from the beginning was to reconcile mankind unto Himself. If you are in good standings with your spouse do you talk to them once a day? Would that type of interaction suffice to build a long-lasting relationship? You may have said the vows and intended to keep them but does your past intentions out weigh your current actions? In the case of a husband ignoring his wife or a wife ignoring her husband in this way what do you think the inevitable result will be? Divorce. That isn't a pleasant word. Now take this same relationship principle and apply it to a God who has spared nothing to reconcile you unto Himself. As this picture develops in your mind imagine a desperate man trying everything to rekindle his relationship with his wife. But the wife has grown cold and is no longer interested. Can you imagine the heartache the husband would feel? To what lengths would the husband go to win back the affection of his wife? Now what is the reason for your wilderness? 

Until we learn how much God loves us, and apply that knowledge to our lives in every aspect, we may continue to repeat the mistakes that have driven us away from God. God loves you deeply. And every moment of your waking life, the good moments and the bad, He has been there with you. You see, God never left anyone alone in the wilderness. For disobedient Israel He was still very present. They hadn't arrived at their intended target but God never left them. In fact he still provided, even in the wilderness, all provisions necessary in order to sustain His children. If God worked this way on a macro level with His chosen people what would make you believe that He would deal with the individual differently? All things that you have needed God has provided proleptically in His infinite wisdom. He knew what you would need even before you asked Him for it. All the while God has been preparing you for a determined purpose. In order for any of us to fulfill that purpose it will require us to become one with His Son just as The Son was one with The Father.

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” John 17:20,21

Until we get to the point that we realize every thing God wants us to do hinges on us drawing closer to Him we’ll repeat our experiences. When we lose sight of The Lord, when we stop seeking first The Kingdom of God and His righteousness we’ll find ourselves in a pattern of disappointment. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, for disobedience or for equipping, it’s always in the same method. We find that all handicaps have been subtracted and we are forced to rely wholly on Him. And when we rely solely on Him we become one with The Divine. God answers His children in times of distress. The problem is sometimes as His children we wait until distress to call on Him. When our perspective of whatever situation we find ourselvesin is one of an eager pupil we develop the very perspective of God. As James reminds us, “My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.”

The wilderness is an opportunity for us to mature in our faith. The experiences that we have when we are cashed out of all other resources other then God bring us closer to Him and nearer to who He wants us to be. We are not sent to the wilderness out of spite. We are brought to the wilderness so that we can be removed from all distractions and be completely dependent on Him. When we don’t get it the first time He is gracious enough to take us back again. When we are being prepared for a mighty work sometimes He uses the wilderness to prepare us. Either way praise God that He is willing to lead us to a place that is closer to Him. Once we are purged of ourselves we can give to others out of the efforts of God. We are then cleansed and consecrated for a Holy purpose and given the authority of Heaven through the Spirit of God.

Manny Elswick