Giant fir trees, cascading waterfalls, and the absence of humans are often what we consider a wilderness in the United States. However, Christians know another wilderness that is barren of beauty and envelops the soul. We never ask to go through this type of wasteland experience; it just seems to happen.
Has God deserted me? Have I committed a sin that has separated me from my Lord? How I can escape this desolate state of being?
Everything that happens to us has a purpose, even the times when our lives look bleak, our usual activities become a chore to complete, and we feel God has left us.
"'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5). God does not walk away from us; we walk away from Him. When we sin, we turn our back on Him and go our own way, separating ourselves from Him. However, He promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Although our wilderness experience is not necessarily a result of sin, we should examine our lives to see if we are ignoring a lifestyle or an action that is not pleasing to God, and then ask forgiveness.
Most pastors stress the importance of our faithfulness to the fundamental instructions of Christian living, regardless of our feelings. These basics include reading the Bible, praying, obeying God, attending church, paying our tithes, and trusting the Lord. Feelings are great, but not essential to pleasing Him. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). This verse says nothing about feelings. We have become intoxicated with the idea that feelings are necessary for anything worthwhile.
Walking through a spiritual wilderness teaches us to trust the Lord for who He is, not for how we feel about Him. We all have experienced days when our head aches, food nauseates us, and doing anything productive is beyond our ability. On such days, we know our spiritual temperature will be sliding toward subzero. When our health is vibrant, our walk with the Lord is often strong. However, when the desert winds start to blow across our spirits for no apparent reason, our world can look hopeless.
Regardless of how we feel or the circumstances in which we find ourselves, trusting the Lord to keep His promises is a test of faith. When the Children of Israel were in the wilderness, they lost sight of God's power to keep them safe and take them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. We can learn from their experiences and continue to do what the Lord has asked of us. The Bible tells us to
"Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (1 Peter 4:7).
2. Be thankful.
"Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
3. Be obedient.
"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
4. Be trusting.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The wilderness will not last forever, even if it seems it might. Let us begin today to be faithful in the basics of walking with Jesus. The Lord will bring refreshment to our parched souls through even the smallest blessings. As in the desert, flowers can bloom in the wilderness of our lives.
By Barbara Lighthizer