Bible verse of the day: Deuteronomy 31:6 ” Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The wilderness means different things to different people. If you say to someone that you have just returned from the wilderness, they probably think you went camping or shot the rapids in a raft or canoe or went mountain climbing. We are likely to think of Bear Grills and adventure. Many would think that you went to get away, to relax and recharge. They may think that you needed time alone to think about your life, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To escape the frantic pace at which we live our lives in the 21st century. The wilderness conjures up vivid memories for most people. For me, it represents freedom, beauty, open space, quietness, serenity, and most importantly, time for personal introspection and reflection. I have found my soul many times during various ‘wilderness’ excursions.
But in my Christian walk, as I am sure is the case with many other folks, the wilderness can represent something more scary. It can represent the times that truly test a man’s faith, the darkest night of our souls. It is where we are alone and afraid, with little feedback or communication from God. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness to prove his ministry was not about the kingdoms of this world, but the kingdom of the unseen heavenly realms for which God had sent him. Jesus suffered greatly in the wilderness, but he stood strong by rebuking the devil with scripture, ” it is written that Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 ” It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Matthew 4:7 ” Away from me Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Matthew 4:10
The fact that Jesus, the Son of God, suffered greatly when tempted in the wilderness should give us all perspective and encouragement when facing our own wilderness experiences. In fact, Hebrews 2:18 tells us, ” Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” That He understands what we are going through in our darkest hours of questioning our faith, is what has kept me going many times. It is that personal relationship and fellowship with Christ, God incarnate, that defines my faith walk. That He can relate to our human experiences, since He lived them himself, is what sets our whole Christian life apart from any other religion in the world. Because when we are in the midst of a wilderness experience, when God is building up our trust in Him through a season of preparation, there is no other practical way to get through that except to know that our savior, Jesus Christ, is by our side.
Not surprisingly, the place where we are most likely to experience testing is exactly the place where we struggle most to trust God. For me, that has been patience and fully surrendering my financial future over to Him. I find it frustrating as I look back on my experiences, how I could clearly hear Him saying to me, ” We can either do this the easy way or the hard way, but the lesson is going to get taught one way or another,” and how my pride kept me from doing it the easier way. Why do we always choose the hard way? Surrender to God’s perfect plan is so much easier! Oh the foolishness of my pride!
We are slow learners riddled with fear and self doubt. Our pasts tend to cripple our beliefs of what our futures can be. God needs to transform us by removing us from our comfort zones! He helps us overcome obstacles, grows our faith via trials and tribulations, temporarily leaves us alone, leaves us discouraged, prepares us through a deepening trust, releases us from captivity to our fears, gains an improbable victory and achieves a fulfillment of His big purposes. The Bible stories repeat this theme again and again as God uses stutterer’s like Moses, adulterer’s like David, Prostitutes like Rebecca, weaklings like Gideon, to achieve His grand purposes. God uses the least likely to achieve His glory. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” That way there is no doubt who deserves the glory! I am qualified then by how unqualified I am.
Human nature is nothing if not consistent, we doubt easier than we trust. We must see it to believe it, just like Doubting Thomas. But God is in the resume building business and He often uses our wilderness experiences to help mold us into what he needs us to be. That usually requires some pain on our part, and it always requires a greater level of patience and trust. God knows how badly we want our dream to be accomplished, He wants it even more. He must refine us first. For when our “lack” is finished, whatever that is for each of us personally, then our preparation in the wilderness is finished. We are finally ready to claim our dreams and glorify our God!