The Wilderness is Not the Problem

“I’m in a wilderness season.” I’ve said it, maybe you’ve said it, or at least you’ve heard somebody say it.

I think one of the best ways to look at a “wilderness season” is a period of time when things are hard; you aren’t enjoying the milk and honey you anticipated, and you’re sleeping in a tent. Metaphorically in our case, but literally for the Israelites.

About a month ago, my perspective on the wilderness changed completely. I was at a prayer and worship gathering, and God reminded me of a time when I had been in a similar setting about a year before. I was reading through the Old Testament at the time, Deuteronomy to be exact, and I was getting rocked. Nobody had ever told me the OT was so tasty! I decided to return to the first few chapters of Deuteronomy and God spoke to me once more.

“The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” (Deut. 1:30-31)

Wow. How, then, should we think about the wilderness? It is the very place where we witness God’s extravagant love for us! He goes to such great lengths for His children; it’s like He’s a dad who, seeing that we’re getting too tired to walk on our own legs, scoops us up and puts us on His shoulders. This seems like a good place to cast an anchor of hope. Surely, in this life our legs will get tired, but we can count on and put our hope in our good God and Heavenly Father to carry us and fight for us.

Even in the wilderness, we have a reason to praise God.

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” (Deut. 2:7)

It was not the wilderness itself that made those forty years hard for the Israelites, it was their ingratitude. Instead of thanking God for His faithful provision, they complained and were afraid. You will live a bitter life in God if every time He gives you a sandwich you say, “I wanted a steak” instead of “thank you.” Maybe you don’t get to choose whether or not you’re in the proverbial wilderness, but you do get to choose whether or not you will worship God for His faithfulness while you’re there. God will provide. It won’t always be a steak, but there’s plenty of living water to wash it down with.

The Israelites in the wilderness were like the people Jesus talks about in Luke 14:16-23 who, though invited to “a great banquet” made excuses and missed out on the kingdom of God, losing their invitation to “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”

If ever I complain about the wilderness again, I hope I have somebody wise enough nearby to rebuke me and point out God’s faithfulness.

Take heart, Beloved, and trust in God. “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deut. 4:7-8)

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