One swift kick.
The frustration of the last ten months had come to a head and with all the patience of a 3-year-old, I took it out on the side of the tub with one quick kick.
Tubs are unforgiving.
My ankle began to swell with shades of blue and purple and soon I couldn’t bear any weight on that foot. For the next two days, I hopped and hobbled around, painfully aware that my heart needed fixing more than my ankle.
I’d been wandering a wilderness of isolation and waiting after we moved from a town I loved to a new large city. I didn’t doubt God had led us to move, but the months looking for a new church, new house, new homeschool group, new swim coach, new everything had taken their toll.
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I longed to be settled. I missed the mom friends I’d left. I missed the familiar faces at the grocery store and running errands. The lease on our rental was expiring, our furniture and things were wrapped in plastic in storage and I missed the permanence of a home of our own.
“He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions.” Dt 8:15
Maybe you’ve known that kind of wilderness.
A wilderness of isolation where you’ve found yourself without a circle of intimate friends or without church home.
Or a wilderness of waiting that, despite your prayers and pleas, continues to stretch out past your point of endurance.
Maybe it’s a wilderness of deep pain — something that’s shattered life and you find yourself wandering a trail of despair and debris.
When I’m in a wilderness, the first thing I want is out. When will you bring me through? I ask God. When will this end?
But that focus on getting OUT of the wilderness can lead us to miss all that God has for us IN the wilderness.
While our wilderness circumstances may feel emotionally or physically barren, they can be spiritually rich.
The wilderness is a place of latent fruitfulness.
Here are 3 truths when you’re in the wilderness.
1) God leads His children TO the wilderness and IN the wilderness.
God intentionally leads his children into the wilderness. He didn’t stop paying attention or let go of us.
God led the Israelites into the wilderness. He led Elijah and David and Jacob into the wilderness. God also led Jesus into the wilderness.
And where God leads, He also provides. When God led Israel into the desert, he gave them fresh manna every morning. God fed Elijah meat and bread through ravens and provided safety and men for David. After Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness, God sent angels to care for him.
2) God reveals Himself in the desert.
It was in the wilderness that God revealed himself to Hagar. Hagar had run to the desert after being mistreated and rejected, but there God appeared to her. “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Ge 16:13
It was in the wilderness that God appeared to Moses. From a burning bush on the far side of the desert, God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and revealed himself as the I AM, a name he’d not even revealed to the patriarchs. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them.” Ex 6:3
It was in the wilderness that God revealed Himself to the Hebrews as the Bread of Heaven. The Living Water. The Holy One. Law Giver. The Rock.
And it was in the wilderness that God took Moses to the top of the mountain where he displayed his glory and proclaimed himself: “The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and truth, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” Ex 34:6
3) The wilderness is a place of preparation, not permanence.
God doesn’t intend to park us in the desert places of our life. He uses them to develop us and prepare us for the places He is leading. This is a pattern seen over and over in the Bible.
God led the Israelites into the wilderness to make them a nation, to give them his law and to show them how to worship to prepare them for the Promised Land.
God led Jesus into the wilderness where Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and was then tempted – all before his public ministry.
And Paul spent three hidden and quiet years in the desert before any of his missionary journeys.
The wilderness is never meant to harm you; it’s meant to form you.
He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions…to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Dt 8:15-16
God intends it to go well with us.
Though we’re tempted to kick against the wilderness places, we can trust that God has led us there and will provide for us there. He will reveal himself in ways we’d never know otherwise and will use the wilderness to test us and prepare us for the end he already has in mind.
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