If you’re going through something difficult right now and you’re wondering why then take a moment and read. There’s a reason for what you’re going through, and it has a good ending, but *spoiler alert* it may not be the ending you’ve imagined.
The circumstances of life are most difficult – there’s always something going on to cause worry, fear, and anxiety. But have you ever considered those difficulties to be invitations to draw closer to the Lord? Have you ever thought that the dryness of your soul is meant to be quenched and that the thirst is meant to drive you toward Jesus, not away from Him?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the wilderness lately.
It’s actually kind of a funny story. I was asked to preach at church on a Sunday morning about a month ago, and the message was about the wilderness. My message followed my lead pastor’s message on the same topic, I just had an additional perspective. Then the next week, one of the other leaders preached on the wilderness, then another, and finally (maybe? – that was just last Sunday) a guest speaker came and spoke the same type of message. Five messages from five different speakers over five weeks. It was unplanned by us. Nobody consulted with anyone about it, but each was led by the Holy Spirit.
What is the underlying message to us regarding wilderness experiences? There are so many, but here’re a few:
The wilderness is needed to change mindsets.
The children of Israel needed the wilderness to learn how to be free men and women rather than slaves. If they had entered the promised land with a slave mentality, they would’ve become enslaved to the inhabitants of their promised land. They would’ve never been as free as God intended. They didn’t know it at the time, but their behavior bore the fruit of their internal reality, which was revealed in the wilderness experience.
The wilderness tests you.
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2
Even Jesus was required to go through this one. He didn’t need a mindset change, but He needed to be tested by temptation. He was baptized into His ministry, set apart for the work of the Father, then immediately, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (a form of testing). He was filled with the Holy Spirit, but when He returned, He was filled with power and authority. (Reference Luke 3:21-23, 4:1-2, 14, 32, 36)
Testing reveals what you’ve really learned and what you still need to learn.
The wilderness is a place of significant growth.
It doesn’t feel like it at the time, but the difficulties and stripping of old habits and mindsets are like pruning a tree. The gardener cuts off the old and the wild branches that deplete the plant’s energy. What remains is the strong and healthy branches that can bear more fruit. Consider it as a place of intense intervention. It’s not comfortable being examined and pruned, but the end result is fruitful (pun intended).
The wilderness is a place where self-serving outcomes are buried in the sand.
I realized that like Moses, I have ideas of how I want God to move on my behalf. Moses expected that his countrymen would understand he was saved so he could deliver them (Acts 7:25). In his imagination, Moses was the hero of his own story. Yes, God intended to use him to deliver the people, but not in the way he imagined.
God sends you to the wilderness so your self-serving dreams can die. I know that sounds harsh – and it is. The process of dying is brutal. Your flesh does not want to die, but it must so that God’s outcome can be revealed and executed. His plan cannot work while your agenda is always trying to take over.
Here’s another example from the word:
“Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:27-28
That’s all great news! Jesus is interceding for us according to the will of God! And no matter what happens, God’s gonna work it out for good! It’s so comforting because there’s a lot of stuff going sideways in life. But I usually have my own version of the good I want God to work out. However, the very next verse expresses what God’s desired outcome is:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
The working together for good = being conformed to the image of Christ!
Typically, that’s not the outcome I’ve imagined for myself. Thus, the need for a mindset change or a season of testing. I don’t understand it all, and I don’t know what to do most of the time, but when I surrender to God’s way, will, and time, I know I’ll come out looking more like Jesus, which is the point.
God’s the hero of your story, and the wilderness is the place where healing, strengthening, and testing form you into the person who can walk into your promised land and kick out the giants.
You’re meant to possess the land, not merely inhabit it.
Whatever you’re going through today, seek God more. Let Him prune you, cleanse you, and strengthen you. He has the specific answer you need.
I hope this encourages you!
There’s a reason for your struggle (I think that’s encouraging).
But I know it’s hard when you’re in the middle of it and don’t see an end in sight. But Jesus is the answer, and through it all, God is working His good in you by conforming you to the image of His Son.