Ahh, the wilderness… If you are anything like me, hearing this word tends to put a picture in your mind of being lost and maybe dread. Lately, I have been challenged to think differently and it’s opened a whole new world of excitement that I haven’t had in a long time.
Anytime we go through seasons where all of the sudden (or maybe even slowly) you have gotten into such a steady regiment of predictability or comfort and then what used to work doesn’t anymore. It normally isn’t just one thing but rather one thing after another of doors and windows closing and you can’t figure out the reason why. At first, maybe you’ll continue to do what you’ve always done figuring it’s probably a simple error only to find they are sealed shut.
A plethora of emotions starts to set in and if you are anything like me, you might even resemble a mixture of Piglet, Eeyore, and Rabbit. Panic and worry may tangle your thoughts with a tinge of “Oh bother…” Followed by some ranting and raving and then repeat. It’s a vicious cycle that is definitely not as cute as the “Winne the Pooh” characters, that’s for sure.
I’m walking through a wilderness period myself. I have been praying over and over to G-d to help me. Now everywhere I look this word seems to be appearing. It popped up in my scripture reading, songs on my music stations, sermon messages, and I was like, “Okay Lord, I got the memo. Wilderness. Now, what do I do?”
Sure enough, He delivered two messages from two of my favorite pastors and it clicked into place; “Stop dreading the wilderness. This is your time to learn to trust, obey, and prepare you for what I’ve promised you.”
How often do you hear from people when they share that they are in a wilderness time where their world has been flipped upside down? Our first response is usually one filled with an ache in our hearts to hope they can hurry through it and just get it over with. Or maybe another response is to give them advice figuring it might help them avoid it. What I’m finding is this is the best time to listen because this is a journey they need to take with G-d.
I’ve been challenged to look back at the story of the Exodus. The Israelites were in Egypt in slavery and bondage. They were crying out to be set free. The Lord answered their prayers and sent them Moses to help lead them out. Along the way there were major trials as Pharaoh refused to let them go without a fight, isn’t that just like the enemy? As he finally relents, the people pack up to leave everything behind and go where they have never been. They get to witness amazing miracles but their memory is short-term and they complain while longing over what they had known even though it was their bondage. What was supposed to be an eleven-day journey took forty years.
It’s easy to judge the people and say we would never be so foolish, and yet when I think about some things that I’ve carried with me since I was a child, it makes me cringe. How many years have I complained or been disappointed because things didn’t happen the way I thought they should?
As I look back on the past two years with Covid I had this thought come to my mind repeatedly. What if Covid was the marker of another great Exodus? Our world has never been in more turmoil since the Coronavirus, how many of us have forgotten the love of the Lord and His commands? How many have fallen in love with their own ideals and forgotten how to love their neighbors as themselves? How many have forgotten to love or forget what it feels like? Could Covid and all of its variations be part of the plagues to help us to get our hearts and houses in order? How many have proclaimed a few years ago how much they hated the way things are and now after Covid are wishing to have those days back?
So this challenged my thoughts not only in my personal life but on a global scale. We need to focus on this time as a time to press into G-d and his word like never before. With Jesus leading the way we need to fill our hearts with praise and continuously be speaking to each other in love and scriptural truth that we may not grow weary and faint. We need to get our hearts to a point of focusing on the road that the Lord has for each of us while recognizing that everyone’s path may be a different pace and encourage each other with not just words but actions! We need to remind ourselves and others of the miracles that have, are, and will be happening with each step we take. The best part of being in the wilderness is it’s okay to not have a plan. It’s okay to be still and know that each day as we come to Him, He will guide our steps at His pace.
It’s time to leave Eygpt and step out into something we’ve never seen before.
Each of us has a journey to walk out. Maybe you are fresh in grief over a tremendous loss.
He is with you.
Maybe you are dealing with chronic health or circumstantial issues.
He will go before you.
Maybe you have no idea what in the world you are supposed to be doing and you feel lost.
He has your path carved out for you.
So if you are in a wilderness time, may we rejoice that what looks barren is the perfect place to see miracles that your eyes could never have imagined.
I want to encourage you to meditate on Isaiah 35:1-10 NLT and just repeat it daily. I’ll leave you with verses 3 and 4:
“With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your G-d is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
As you read this whole passage prepare your heart for hope and restoration. The wilderness is a place of preparation for the promised land. This whole world is being prepared for amazing things our minds can’t conceive if only we choose to trust and obey. May we not grumble and press on to what our true calling in life is and that’s to love the Lord our G-d with everything in us and trust that the best is yet to come.