Recently I’ve been part of a Bible Study which has centered on the children of Israel being led out of Egypt into the wilderness on their way to the “Promised Land.”¹ This study has been remarkable to all of us who have been attending, as we’ve all been able to identify the wildernesses we have been in, are in, or getting ready to go into! Yet in every case, God has not only allowed the experience, but has, in most cases, led us into them. It’s hard to wrap your mind around that! And it hit me–Jesus began His ministry being LED by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness! Think of it, God the Father allowing God the Holy Spirit to LEAD God the Son into a wilderness to test Him! And we complain?
As we have studied, it is easy to look back upon our own wilderness experiences of past times and identify the cause: wrong choices which caused us to get off a narrow road we were on and follow a small path that ended up in a wilderness; one of our “weights that doth so easily beset us” that caused us to need to go into a wilderness and be tested there, and many other reasons! As we go through our own wilderness, are we seeing it as a time for grumbling and complaining–as the Israelites–or are we seeing it as a necessary test that God has to put us through in order to see that He has been working on our lives to produce in us someone who resembles Christ? Doesn’t Christian mean “little Christs”? We tend to criticize the Israelites: God had just put them between a rock and a hard place: the Red Sea on one side, and the army of Pharoh on the other, then miraculously opened the sea to let them pass through–yet very quickly they are screaming because they need water! Why didn’t they say, “WOW! God just opened the sea to let us walk over, why not ask Him in humility for water to drink?” But no, they threw a tantrum. He (in spite of their attitude) supplied sweet water from a rock. A month later they are screaming for food! What happened to the sea and the rock experience?
A dear friend is in a wilderness–and has been for some time–and questioned every facet of it with “Why?” But now, as the time is passing, she is learning to be content in her circumstances! Not because they’ve become comfortable–they have not–but because she has grown in faith to look back at the faithfulness of God and see that He has her in this wilderness in order to bring her to a new level of faith. Now that that is happening, I expect her to be coming out of that wilderness because God’s will is being accomplished!
Another dear friend has been tested by God for several years: yet I have seen an enormous change in the past year. I have seen someone who was being faithful with big things suddenly lose those, and led to a wilderness. In that journey, they were brought to the bottom. Then God opened something “small.” Instead of being arrogant and turning the small thing down, they took on the “small” and have been faithful with it. Now it looks as though God is starting to work on the “vessel” He has been honing, and holding the potential for bigger things in His hand, with His arm outstretched!
What about you? Are you in a wilderness during this time in your life, and kicking and screaming, or are you looking back at the years when God has faithfully brought you through other agonizing times? If He was faithful in those, will He not be faithful in this? Or are you in this wilderness because something in your life has to be removed so that God can be given the glory for you having a new life in Him? James tells us that even if we are unfaithful, it will not result in God, also, becoming unfaithful, but on the contrary, He will still remain steadfast!
Search your heart and see if you can identify why you may be in a wilderness, then give it to God–completely! Then, be content and full of expectation that He who has been faithful in the past still has you in the palm of His hand, and will work all things out for good! He is holy, and calls us to be holy!
Father, God, how we love you! And admittedly we don’t love the wildernesses in our lives, but as we look back, we can see You at work in our lives, refining the dross so that we can be presented to You as a glorious vessel! Reveal those areas in our lives where we need change, and give us the courage to lay aside any weights that are causing us not to run our race with endurance! We give You honor, glory and praise! Amen
¹Priscilla Shirer, “One In a Million” Lifeway, 2010