No-one voluntarily seeks the wilderness. By its nature it’s a place of isolation, emptiness, uncertainty and deprivation. Yet, it’s the very place the Holy Spirit led Jesus to after His baptism by John, which resulted in Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove, and Father God thundering out His affirmation of His beloved son. At the very cusp of His ministry Jesus was taken into the wilderness, not as a punishment, but as a preparation.
The wilderness, for Jesus, and for many of us, is also a place of silence with no distractions. It’s a time when God Himself can be silent and we can wonder what on earth is happening. Often, they seem to be linked to times of great sudden upheaval in our lives, where the landscape we were used to is changing. Why is God silent? Why am I here for so long? What is the point of it all? In the wilderness experiences we are left to wrestle with God. It’s a time of getting down to the reality of who we are and what we really believe.
Some of you may be experiencing the upheavals of life right now. Others may find themselves in the wilderness, where all that seems to face them is an uncertain future. What does God say? Does He come with a medical explanation, an economic one, or even a theological answer? No. He rarely comes with any of these, because they do not provide any real comfort. Instead He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He does not say, “Be still and know why.”
In the wilderness C.S Lewis said that, ‘We should bring to God what is in us, not what ought to be in us.’ The ‘oughts’ will keep us from telling the truth, and from feeling the truth, especially about our pain and confusion. The wilderness is a time of stripping away and then a time of preparation. The more we rebel against it the longer it can take. Jesus was there forty days and nights. When Satan came along, he found a different man from the one who had entered. Jesus was ready for him, and ready to begin His ministry, and ready to face the cross three years from then.
For those who are facing or going through some kind of wilderness right now, I would like to say: “If you will allow yourself to trust God through it, even though you might pray without receiving any answer, you will be made ready for what He has in store for you next. It’s not a punishment and it’s not that God has forgotten you. Jesus’ Father was in the wilderness with Him and He is in your wilderness with you. When you emerge, you will be a different man or woman from the one that went in. You will be strong in the Lord and made ready for whatever God has for you”.
Perhaps the following prayer might be an appropriate one for you.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I admit to You that I don’t understand what is happening to me or why at the moment. The upheavals that have taken place seem to have created a wilderness experience for me. But Jesus is my example and I choose to trust Him. As things of my life are stripped away, I choose to trust You and bring to You my true feelings and beliefs. I ask You to reshape them into what they need to be. For Your glory, Amen.
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