1st January 2015, I spent the whole day in bed along with my daughter and my husband. No, we did not decide to laze or rest the whole day as a family; all three of us were sick. While the world celebrated, made resolutions, I was curled up in my bed feeling miserable. The next days, weeks, and months were no different -- except that the reasons changed. Sickness, disappointment, unanswered prayers, death in the family, closed doors, failure, loneliness were all part of the wilderness experience of our last year.
Have you ever felt that you are fighting a battle that was never ending? A LONG silence from God, where your times of prayer seem mundane, you feel like a dry wasteland, parched and thirsty for water. No call back after you give a fantastic interview. A lump that turns into a cancer. Financial struggle month after month. A marriage you want to thrive, but all you end up doing is arguing. Desperate efforts to find a life partner, that are only futile.
Wilderness experience is inevitable.
Many characters in the Bible went through the wilderness experience - Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus.
God in His grace brought me to a place where instead of asking Him, "How do I get out of this?" I began to ask, "What can I get out of this?" So here are few things I learned last year . . .
Wilderness is a place of preparation.
Moses was known as a prince of Egypt for the first 40 years of his life, excelling in the ways of the world in that era. But he had to be brought to a place of solitude and anonymity to drain out of him the Egyptian ways, he had to learn to depend upon God and understand His ways instead. A man full of confidence and authority came to a point of saying: Who am I in God’s presence? Moses witnessed God’s glory. He was in awe of the power and might of God.
The wilderness was his training ground for him to be a leader ready to face the Pharaoh without an army, weapons or any force. Where did this confidence come from? A man, who fled to Midian, came back to the same place where he knew he might die. But his preparation in the wilderness enabled him to face Pharaoh and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, out of their bondage and misery. Forty years must have been REALLY LONG, the outcome was life transforming not only for Moses but for the entire nation of Israel.
Wilderness is a place where God teaches us to unlearn the lesson of self-reliance, as He teaches us to depend upon Him.
Wilderness is a place of provision.
When the Lord leads you into the wilderness; he doesn’t leave you alone to starve. HE PROVIDES. He may not change the situation for you but, if you look closely, He is right beside you. The pain of losing a loved one will never be easy, but He comforts you in such a way that He makes you a source of encouragement and comfort for others in the same way He comforted you.
Elijah was fed meat and bread by the ravens (1Kings 17:6) and the Israelites were fed quail and manna (Exodus 16). The menu may not be of your liking but there is provision. Provision to open your eyes to the unseen reality, and experience the supernatural. All this cannot happen while your focus is on the temporal. God draws you out into the wilderness to shift your focus from temporal to eternal. And even the dry and parched season at times turns into an oasis when God reveals the supernatural to you.
Wilderness experience is a place where God may not give you what you want but He knows your needs and He will provide for them.
Wilderness is a place of transformation.
Job, after going through the loss of his children, his possessions, his health and people whom he called “friends”, encountered God in a way that changed his paradigm. In Job 42:5, he says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you”. All his life he believed in God but now he experienced God in a personal way like never before.
When the words like “God I am listening” or “God I am willing” take precedence over never ending demands, our monologue turns into a dialogue, words turn into worship and tears roll down in awe of Him who is Majestic and Awesome.
Wilderness, with God, turns into a Sanctuary where you are on your knees worshipping the One for whom you exist.
Wilderness is the place where we encounter God most vividly.
2015 was one tough year for me, but I experienced God in a whole new way. I wanted the year to end quickly and I couldn’t wait to start afresh. But, instead, God chose to reveal more of Himself. He allowed me to be tired, exhausted, to run out of my own ideas, so I could just lie on my back and look up to Him. I began to enjoy His presence and see things differently. I learned that place and pace are not what God is interested in, He is interested in the process and the outcome.
Nothing much has changed in this year so far, however I believe I have had a similar experience that Asaph had in Ps.73. His understanding of the world and God was distorted because of his life experience, until he went into the sanctuary of God. God lifted the veil from his eyes to see God for who he is. The reality of this world did not change for him, yet he was able to pen these beautiful words, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps.73:25-26 ESV).
Our wilderness prepares us for God. The more we open ourselves to God’s transforming and loving actions in our lives, the more we become like Jesus, who came out of the wilderness proclaiming the kingdom of God.
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