God in the Wilderness
Have you ever found yourself in a desperate situation, with no idea of what to expect? This one place of our life, where we get desparate, can be be called the wildersness, and this is where God operates, a place where you learn to be completely dependent upon God’s lead. Here in the wilderness we learn God works things out in amazing (and often unexpected) ways when we put our trust in Him. Remembering the words of the Psalmist can become our words: “ As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God ” (Psalm 42:1). Today, it feels like everything is starting to hit a bit harder. It’s a terrible place to be, our moods and hopes are changing– and when things go down, we have a tendancy to lose our direction and feel like we are alone in a desert place. Do you feel closest to God when all is going well and life is churning along as you desire? Do you feel closest to God when we’re oppressed, scared, lonely, and desperate? Often times we may find ourselves lost, not knowing what to do or where to go. It is here in this place ‘the wilderness’, where the black and white words of Scripture begin to seep out, coming to life, feeding not only the mind but the soul. A place where we can’t distract ourselves with the things of this world, or take things for granted. It’s a place where we can meet up with God and there He can get our attention, because it’s the one place we can’t survive without Him.
The word wilderness is frequently mentioned in the Bible. Remember where God wrestled with Jacob and his name ‘Israel’ was born. It’s a place where God met Moses and elevated him as the leader to bring Israel from slavery before entering the Promised Land. It’s a place where David was forced to flee from Saul, and then Absalom, and in that place he composed the beloved Psalms. The wilderness (led by the Spirit) was also a place where Jesus entered before his ministry began, and was tempted by the devil. Here Jesus was to be tempted in order to demonstrate his humanity, and as an example to us to depend upon the word of God as our source of strength, truth, and as a means by which we resist sin. We see with Jesus that God has come to dwell with His people, meeting them in the midst of the wilderness, having gone there Himself. The wilderness is the place where God is calling us not to suffer for suffering’s sake, but to suffer a distaste for what this world offers in order to drink deeply from the living water that is Christ. God is not trying to tempt us, the devil does the tempting. “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). We must admit it’s not very comforting, but its not just weathering the storm, but to switch our saying from, “We will get through this” to “God will bring us through this”.
The Lord’s comforting promise is not deliverance from troubles, but deliverance in them. Yet on the cross, the perfect Son of God cried out and was met with silence. For the first time ever, the Almighty Lord of Love did not meet His chosen in the wilderness. The reason was because Jesus hung on the cross in order to fulfill that great exchange: our evil for his righteousness; our death for his life. He suffered, and died in order to take the punishment due for us. The Apostle Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was abandoned so that we never would be. He was hated so we would be loved. The Lord, at times, calls us into the wilderness to remind us that He will never leave or forsake us. We all at one time or another face difficulties, we don’t want to rely only in the hope that this too shall pass, for it misses the entire point. Our hope does not rest only in God bringing us out of the wilderness; but that He meets us right in the center of it. He promises that He never leaves, never forsakes, never abandons, and as He brings us out we emerge more faithful, more joyful, more content, and more peaceful. If frightened, remember that Jesus heard the Father’s silence so that you will only ever know His voice. He’s calling you away from trust in this world to trust in Him.
Comfort not in knowing that the wilderness will pass, but that God will meet you in it. The pain may be at times intolerable, but the outcome is invaluable. He says, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Isaiah 41:18 says “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” So trust in God through Jesus Christ and take heart; you are not alone, for the simple pleasures of earth are never completely safe in the hands of sinners. Without concern, we feast on the abundance of God’s house and forget that it is His house. We spiritually eat and eat, and slowly neglect God, who is our host, and our spiritual senses become dull, desiring for other things, we begin to choke the word: “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19). Just as God dealt with Israel, His mercy to deal with us may require for us to go into the wilderness. We have to learn with God’s word in our hearts how to look around a wasteland of sand, and sing for joy ( it may at times not be easy), but we learn to praise to the one who gives and takes away. God’s grace is meant to strengthn man’s heart in order to enjoy the simplest of pleasures, knowing where life comes from, for He said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This refresh in life can only come from the words of God – words better than gold, sweeter than honey. (Psalm 19:8-10).
The wilderness exposes what’s truly inside our hearts. What comes out of you when you are in the rubbles of life? Do we run to and idealize other life’s pleasures in an attempt to ease the pain? Our seasons of lack expose what was already there, but hidden. In the wilderness through God’s mercy, he reveals these hidden flesh treasures so theat we migh see them, hate them and give them a desert grave. In reality we come to know that God is near to the brokenhearted, that he hears the cries of the afflicted, and that, a God-filled wilderness is a heaven. If we learn to live by God’s word in the wilderness, then we will find ourselves more ready to use his gifts for what they really are: servants of our joy in God, not other substitutes for him. We can enjoy God’s gifts, not abuse them; delight in them, bless God for them, and not forget him in them. And even if God never gives what we want most, and the wilderness appears to become what seems like a lifetime, we can learn to strive to become a monument in the wilderness, chiseled with the words that are better than abundance: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” (Psalm 63:3).
If sometime in your life you end up in the wilderness more than once, please know you can find comfort in knowing that the wilderness is the place where God speaks. The wilderness is a womb in which the birth of mercy can grow, if you let it. In the wilderness, you’re given the opportunity to be sustained by the God who will go all the way with you, no matter how hungry you get, no matter how weak, how frail, or how lost. The wilderness offers you a chance to be restored by God, He will reveal how defective you are, and what’s lacking, so He can provide it for you. God will refresh you and help you to live “by every word that comes from His mouth.” (Matthew 4:4) May you hear the compassionate voice of God calling to you if you’re suffering in the wilderness, and let your spirit inhale the fragrance of his love and mercy. You may be forced to wait on the Lord for a little while, in order to experience His peace and joy in the midst of trouble, but there is much to learn from God’s Spirit as you start to become mature in your walk with Christ. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7–10).
The wilderness is an unpleasant place, we naturally want prosperity, health, and easy going. There will be times of trials and pressures and our faith will be tested; but know this, that our God will meet us in that place, be with us in that place, provide for us in that place, and lead us out in the fullness of his time, for he will never abandon us.