The year leading up to marrying my wife Gemma, now over fifteen years ago, was perhaps, unexpectedly, one of the hardest I experienced. The prospect of getting married was a joyful one, but the process of laying down ministry that I’d been involved in for a number of years, and preparing to move from my current life and location towards the completely new experience of sharing life with another in marriage wasn’t an easy one for me. It was actually quite a lonely and isolating time.
One Monday afternoon, when things felt particularly difficult, I decided to finish work early and drive the seventy miles from my workplace down to Ellel Pierrepont for their monthly Healing Service. The weather that Autumn afternoon and evening was terrible, with high winds and torrential rain, and all the way down to Pierrepont I heard a condemning whisper telling me how I was wasting God’s resources, driving all that way, and I could just as easily have prayed to Him at home.
I finally arrived at Pierrepont, just in time for the start of the meeting. As I walked through the front entrance, I felt the warmth of God’s embrace, and the accusing voice was silenced. When the person sharing the message that night stood up to speak, after the time of worship, her first words were, “Do you ever feel like you’re in the wilderness?” I knew, as I heard those words, that I was meant to be there that night.
I learned two truths from the Lord that stormy evening at Pierrepont. Firstly, He’s a generous loving Father, not a divine accountant, always criticising us for using too much of this or that resource. Secondly, and more importantly, I learned that when we move from one season in our spiritual journey with the Lord to a new one, we often have to travel through what seems to be a wilderness to get there.
We see that in the journey that the children of Israel made as they left Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, and then beginning to move through the wilderness towards the Promised Land. God’s intention was never that they should die in that wilderness after going round and round in circles for forty years. It was only meant to be a passing through place, where they could learn vital lessons about Him, and also about themselves. Our scripture verses for today, from Deuteronomy 8, show God’s higher purpose for them, and us, in wilderness times.
If life feels like a wilderness for you at the moment, be encouraged that the Lord hasn’t abandoned you. Just as He was with the Israelites in their wilderness journey, He wants to sustain you and lead you into a new place with Him.
Prayer: Father,`Let me find You in the desert, `til this sand is holy ground. And I am found completely surrendered, to You, my Lord and friend` (Geoff Bullock 1994). Amen.
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