I recently saw something that said “explore your wilderness” and it made me stop to think for a second. I love the outdoors. I love exploring and having adventures, primarily in the woods and mountains, aka the wilderness. All the heart eyes, yo! 😍
But when I saw that lil phrase, it didn’t make me think to go take a day to hike, plan a weekend camping trip, or anything of the sort. It made me ponder my season of life. I’ve said many times on here that I am in a wilderness/desert hybrid season and that I’m not sure why I am; that I’m struggling with seeing God in this and even, dare a good Christian girl say it, doubt Him at times. But reading that phrase made me think, “Am I exploring my current season? Am I exploring this wilderness and this desert? I’ve asked for ‘adventures’ from God, and though this time has been unbelievably challenging and stretching, exhausting and causing me anxiety, breaking me down to such an unfamiliar fragile state, is this an ‘adventure’ He has brought me to? If this is, what can I discover and learn here? What have I been so blind and deaf to these past 2+ years?”
This is a perspective I’ve never considered, never even had the slightest notion of, but perhaps is the perspective I need to look at my life through. We say God is our guide, but do we really trust Him to guide us? If He’s brought me to this wilderness, what can I learn from Him? What can He point out to me that I’d otherwise overlook? What new sight can He bring me to, maybe off the path, that I’d never find on my own? How will He challenge and encourage me to press on over these extensive ridges? How will He help me stay calm and at peace when trudging through the valleys?
This is clearly the Holy Spirit stirring here. As a writer, a word or phrase or sight can spark a whole blog or several. Usually it’s something that God is trying to speak to me through, like right now. He use that simple little phrase to say, “You paying attention?! I’m trying to get your attention. I want to make you better, stronger, more like Me. I want to draw you in so close that the words lonely and rejected no longer have any kind of power over you. I want you to feel My embrace and delight in you. I want you to learn many things as I prepare the way for you to a Promised Land you can only reach by going through the desert. Be patient. Trust Me fully. Take heart. I’ve got things ahead, but first, I must refine you so you are ready for what I have in store for you next.”
I’m not sure what embracing my wilderness exactly looks like, what the application and follow through will be, but this is a start. A huge start.
It’s having the right perspective that leads to taking the right steps.
It’s still believing, when everything else says the opposite, that God is still in-control, loves me dearly, is working in my life, and has not abandoned me. Rather, He is using this time to draw me back to Himself in deeper ways than ever before and will someday (hopefully soon) transform my life.
“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
The wilderness and the desert – neither are a fun place to be when it’s constant and continual. It’s difficult and challenging, and unbelievably uncomfortable. Once you’re in it, all you want to do is get out of it. Go back to comfortable, safe, and secure. Go back to not worrying about provisions and what will come around the next corner. Go back to not taking risks or leaps of faith, and being submerged into the unknown.
Remember the Israelites? Yeah, the people who wandered forty – yes, 4 0 – years in the wilderness? They knew a thing or two about waiting in the wilderness; about waiting on God. They knew about being completely surrounded by the unknown and daily having to take leaps of faith, both big and small. They knew that provision sometimes comes in forms we don’t necessarily want – mundane, tasteless, small. For them it was manna – their daily source of nourishment for their physical needs, but God used it to also test them and teach them things that they too had a skewed perspective on.
“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. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NIV
“He fed you with manna in the wilderness… He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.” Deuteronomy 8:9 NLT
I think about this season I’ve been in for quite a while and I don’t like it. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve missed out on joys I can never experience again. There are other joys that I know someday I could experience, but now must not be the right time according to God. It’s hard to swallow. It’s something I don’t want to think about. But I suppose this is where God is trying to speak tenderly to me but I’m too stubborn and frustrated about my circumstances, too focused on my circumstances, to pay attention to Him, to even want to pay attention to Him. How many times did the Israelites wail out to God their ‘why’ questions? I know I’ve had an abundance of those. Something my mom said to me the other day when we were talking about this very thing (actually the afternoon earlier in the day before I saw the “explore your wilderness” post. Ironic? Nope.) was that I’m asking the wrong kind of question. Rather than ‘why’ they should be more like ‘what’ and ‘how.’ What is God going to do in this season? How is He going to grow me? What direction is He guiding me to take? How does He want to use my dreams and gifts? How should I act, speak, and pray right now? What should I do while I wait for His promises to unfold?
This time in the wilderness isn’t for nothing.
If it’s only for one thing, it would be to draw me to love and trust God more. If it’s for anything else, it’s as the Deuteronomy verses say above: to be humbled, to hunger for Him, to learn, and for my own good. To go further, it’s to prepare me for the next season of life that God must be working quite diligently on behind the scenes. I don’t know what that looks like and there are moments, such as right now as I type, that I grow fearful and worrisome about my future, that I’m going to be stuck in a life I don’t like and cannot change, that my dreams will never come to fruition and I will wake with dread for the rest of my life, but that is lack of faith and trust in God, which is likely what He’s trying to strengthen. Refiner’s fire. It hurts like hell. It really does. But if it hurts that greatly, it must mean it’s purifying me from something that doesn’t need to be there.
“I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ ” Zechariah 13:9 NLT
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” Isaiah 48:10 NLT
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT
Exploring my wilderness means accepting this season of life, not so as to stay here, but to learn and grow from it as much as possible; to let it do it’s work in me. It’s embracing the fire and letting it cleanse me. It’s following God on blind faith that’s only blind to my future, not to His character. He is forever faithful and loving. He truly wants the best for me and sometimes that means struggling. It sometimes means learning the hard way, and for my stubborn self, I’ve realized that this time around, I am having to learn the hard way. Exploring my wilderness is to embrace every aspect of the journey I have to take to get to the Promised Land, the place where I will see God’s goodness and see His blessings be poured out.
“He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.” 2 Samuel 22:20 NLT
“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants.” Isaiah 66:14 ESV
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 NIV
The wilderness and the desert are gifts, ones that help change perspective and are full of lessons that are necessary for growth. Embracing them means gaining a new perspective and learning things that can never be learned otherwise. It means growing in ways you cannot imagine, but as God has said, is for my own good.
“THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME IN YOUR LIFE MAY BE THE BORDER TO YOUR PROMISED LAND.” CHRISTINE CAINE