What I’ve Learned: The Wilderness & The Desert

The wilderness is a tough place. The desert is a difficult place. I think that goes without saying. And as much as I want it to be flourishing with life and opportunity, I have learned to view it differently.

Life looks different when you’re in the wilderness or the desert. I’ve gone back and forth between the two. For me personally, the wilderness looks like the completely unexpected everywhere you turn, and the desert is as dry and barren as the eyes can see. When those two mix, it’s a pretty unique place to be.

Towards the end of 2016 I left a very unhealthy job – the environment, co-workers, pay, all of it – to a temporary position at a solid Christian organization. We spent every morning in devotion and that was something I cherished. Many times the topic of provision, of trusting in God, and hoping in His promises for the future came up. One verse our supervisor shared with us was this:

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 ESV

I had never come across this verse before and it has stuck with me since. At the time I was overwhelmed by the wilderness and surrounded by the desert. Although my hope was being restored (or at least it felt it because I was in such a godly environment with godly co-workers), I still struggled greatly with my circumstances. Here I was, almost two years out of college, no job, hardly any local friends, no church home, in crazy student-debt, my sister had a major health scare and we almost lost her – I’m not gonna lie, I was falling into my depression again. All I saw was my circumstances and I couldn’t see even the possibility of beyond. I honestly doubted there was a future for me.

In reading this verse, writing it down and meditating on it, I chose for 2017 that I would not be so enamored by what was or wasn’t going on in my life, but rather look up to see my God. He works in mysterious ways, does He not? He works behind the scenes, inviting us to trust His goodness and believe in His hope. I chose to not fall prey to dwelling on my current lack in life, but to dwell on the fullness I have in Christ.

You see, the wilderness and the desert can do crazy things to your perspective. They either cause your eyes to see things poorly or they turn your eyes to focus on Who is in control.

I didn’t know what this year would hold. We’re almost a quarter of the way finished with the year (time moves so fast) and I still don’t know what the rest of it will look like. I currently still don’t have a job, very very few friends who I hardly see (they have the job and the spouse, even a kid!), no church home, and in crazy student-debt. But I’ve learned a lot about perspective.

I can choose to be grateful for the wilderness. I can thank the desert. How? Why? Because they show me my need for God; they allow me to have some of the most intimate moments with Him, to develop greater perseverance, and give me the opportunity to grow my faith and trust in the One who knows how much longer until I see a Promised Land. Sure, I have my daydreams of what I wished my life looked like – the job I’d have, the friends I’d hang out with, the adventures I could take – but then I am ruling out the plan God has. I guarantee you, your daydreams for life will likely never happen.

God’s plan for our lives is far greater than we imagine, no matter how long it takes for us to get there.

When the Israelites wandered their forty years, God wasn’t absent. He was there with them. He provided manna for them every day, enough to fill them. He’s doing that with me now. He’s here with me, in the mess, in the heartache, in the unknown, and despite my lack, God provides just enough for me. Some days it doesn’t feel like that but it is the reality.

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will be.” CS Lewis

Sometimes we go through the wilderness and the desert because God wants to use it to get our attention, to draw us to Himself, to teach us and mold us into those more like Him. Sometimes He uses it to mature us, to prepare us for the next thing that comes. And sometimes, it’s a waiting phase. He’s moving pieces together and we simply have to wait on His promises. Sometimes, it is to protect us. Now, that may sound weird but I believe it. It’s like when someone tells you no in order to keep you safe. You’re upset because it’s not what you wanted, but it is the best thing for you.

“What if all the years, all the wandering and wounded ways, what if it all found fully sufficient grace just there: sometimes what we think may break us is but a brake to save us. … Maybe it’s the compassion of God that uses the unexpected to brake me so the unholy doesn’t break me.” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

So it took a while and I believe there are a few reasons why I am in the wilderness and desert – as for how long I’ve been here, I have no clue – but I finally chose to diligently seek Him in this time. (Duh, why didn’t I do that before?!) Even though nothing makes sense still, I don’t understand what’s going on and why doors aren’t being opened (that I can currently see), I choose to praise Him. I choose to thank Him. God’s given me my manna, my just enough portion, for each day. He will make a way in my wilderness. He will create a river in my desert. He has never left my side. He still has a purpose. He desires to bless me. In a world where we just want more more more, I am content in that God is enough. He is more than enough. I can give up my time catching up on tv shows, searching the web for jobs, sleeping in, whatever it may be, to spend time with Him. He is priority.

I can rest in firm confidence that God has not forgotten me, but instead is orchestrating details for a life that will exceed my expectations and draw me into deeper intimacy with Him.

And with that, what more do I need? If the wilderness and the desert can get me to that place of confidence, how can I not be thankful for them?

“The most difficult time in your life may be the border to your promised land.” Christine Caine

Right now, I might still be in the wilderness and the desert, but who knows how close I am to my Promised Land. I need only to keep trusting in His guidance and hoping in His provision. He will bring me to it when it’s His perfect timing.

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.” Hosea 2:14-15a NLT

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.” Hosea 13:5 NLT

“Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland.” Isaiah 35:6b NLT

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV


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