I’m sure you’ve experienced a time in your life that seemed like a wilderness. A vast expanse of unknown outstretched before you. Long days of walking with no end in sight. Aching feet and tired eyes beckoning you to sweet slumber.
“Wake on up from your slumber; baby, open up your eyes.” – Needtobreathe
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had wilderness experiences. Some few; others many. But we’ve all had them. We’re all human.
The wilderness brings many temptations. After all… to be tempted is to be human (1 Corinthians 10:13). Among them: to give up, to lose hope, to allow our focus and purpose to give way to disillusionment and doubt.
Maybe you’re struggling with infertility. Maybe you’re battling an illness. Maybe you have a sick child. There are things in this life I’ll never fully understand this side of heaven.
But we’re in good company. Jesus himself experienced a wilderness time in which He was tempted by Satan in the desert. Yet it was that very time in the wilderness that was the launching point for Jesus’ ministry.
And Moses… As Phillip Yancey and Tim Stafford reflect on Exodus:
“[Moses’] career had to wait, though for a period of humbling in the desert… [He] fled Egypt as a brash, self-confident man who liked to take matters into his own hands. Forty years later he reluctantly returned, with little besides a stick and a donkey.”
And we all know what Moses went on to do. (Hint: There was a sea. It was red.)
I truly believe that your greatest trials become your greatest ministry. That sometimes God allows us to be tested, tried, and tempted to bring us to a place in our lives where we can be used exponentially more to bring glory to His kingdom.
I’ve experienced a wilderness or two… in my career, in years of singleness, in years of living with physical pain, among others. In giving up social media for Lent this year, I reflect on the metaphor it provides for other wilderness experiences I have experienced, am experiencing now, and will experience in the future.
To me it was a tiny reflection of a bigger picture – a “mini-wilderness” experiment of sorts in which I was able to see myself leave my “comfort zone,” enter a time of testing of discipline, and be emptied. And then I was able to see myself stretched, refined, and filled by greater things.
So my prayer as I continue on in this life, my prayer for those I love, and my prayer for those I don’t know personally is that no matter how unknown, uncertain, and unstable the path before us and land around us may seem, that we keep our eyes fixed on our Creator, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
My prayer is that we would not “wish away” the wilderness, but rather relish in the abyss, for we know that we will be delivered.
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” – 2 Timothy 4:18
Sometimes the most valuable lessons are learned in the midst of the unknown. Sometimes our richest growth comes when we feel stripped, stunted, and weak. And when we feel the most lost? Well, that’s when we’re able to be found. Don’t waste the wilderness.
“You brought me here out on my own
to find my way through things unknown.
I know that I can’t make it without You.
When days are long and skies are gray,
I’ll walk with You; You lead the way.
Some say that I am lost, but that’s not true
‘Cause really I am found by You.”
– Across the Sky, Found by You