We all have wilderness seasons. In Hebrew scriptures, the wilderness is a barren, dry place where no life grows, and nothing thrives. A frightening, chaotic, dangerous place inhabited by demons and monsters. A place of restless wandering, of loneliness, fear, hunger, and thirst.
It is a place where everything you lean on for support gets kicked away. It is a place where you begin to hear voices that are not telling the truth. You can feel abandoned by God, forgotten by Him, punished, betrayed. The things you thought you knew about God no longer seem to be true. Wandering in the wilderness, you feel unseen, insignificant, forgotten, unneeded, rejected – because the voices in your head tell you so.
Many of us have been in the wilderness over the past year. We’ve lost loved ones from Covid and other diseases, experiencing the agony of knowing they died alone. Our health has been threatened, our finances strained, and our relationships fractured as we’ve grown increasingly isolated and angry. In this darkness, the church that is meant to be the light of the world and the body of Christ on earth is divided – and we’re yelling at each other on Facebook.
Someone once described the wilderness as exile from God. Yet, in this barren place, God is still present. Moses finds the burning bush, Elijah hears the still small voice, Hagar and Ishmael experience divine deliverance, Israel learns to trust and follow God – to believe in his goodness, mercy, and compassion even when life seemed to be going from bad to worse. There is a purpose to the wilderness.
Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna… He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT)
The wilderness is a place where we learn that we’re not in control – where we learn to surrender, to let go. When we focus on trusting God, letting go can become very simple. To let go of whatever we’re clinging to, we need only to release our grip. To fall into the hands of the living God, we only have to leap.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.
The Little Prince