Wilderness. It is a word that evokes something within us. There is a sense of both adventure and danger. The wilderness is untamed and demands respect.
Wilderness also describes the hard or wandering times of life. We could define wilderness as the places and/or seasons of life that are exceptionally barren, uncomfortable, challenging and difficult to navigate. All of us have experienced the wilderness at one point or another.
When you look at the pages of Scripture, there is one “wilderness” story after another. And for some reason, wilderness is what God used to advance his story of redemption in the world. Think about it:
- Abraham is told (Genesis 12) to pack up all he has (tents, people, animals…all of it) and to set out into the wilderness to the land God would show him ON THE WAY. Can you imagine! I am sure that conversation did not go well with his wife!!
- The Hebrew nation of two million people leaves Egypt and journeys in the wilderness for 40 years before being allowed to enter the Promise Land.
- Later, Israel would be taken out of the their land and into captivity in a Babylonian “wilderness season.”
- Jesus, before starting his ministry, spends 40 days in the wilderness being tempted and forging his focus and purpose for the journey ahead of him.
- The early church steps into a counter-cultural wilderness beginning in the Book of Acts as they live and behave differently that the prevailing culture (and it caused them great persecution and suffering).
The “wilderness” seasons flow one after the other in Scripture and today I propose we find ourselves in a Covid, sheltering wilderness. One thing rings true, one must journey THROUGH the wilderness, there is no magic wand that makes the wilderness disappear. And if the journey is through then perhaps it is good to understand what happens in the wilderness and how we can journey through the wilderness in such a way that we both emerge on the other side and become “more” than when we started.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WILDERNESS?
God FORMS us in the wilderness. Everything from our character, to abilities, to creativity, to humility and where we put our trust is formed in the wilderness. Sometimes God needs to undo some things in us so he can redo something better. Sometimes we recognize we need to leave some things behind that hinder us. Sometimes we realize we need to become something different, or something more to journey better through the next season of life. God can use the wilderness for form good things within us if open ourselves to that possibility.
We are TESTED. When we suffer or navigate challenges, a mirror is held up to our lives and we often find ourselves at many crossroads and decision points. Will I trust in God or will I rely on myself? Will my thoughts, words, and actions with others build them up or tear them down? Will I follow God’s standards and character or will I make my desires the driver of my life? These are deep waters.
Jeremiah 6:16: This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But the people replied, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ [THAT IS HEARTBREAKING!]
The real needs of life and the soul are REVEALED. In the wilderness, we often find clarity in the things that really matter. Were once distracted by many meaningless things, in the wilderness real needs like finances, provisions and food, encouragement, supportive relationships and even our need for greater faith bubble to the surface.
By now, you may be feeling the weight of the wilderness in your life and tempted to stop reading this devotional as more “stuff” kicks up in your mind and heart. I know this season is hard. Let me give you some encouragement and hope to press on in this Covid Wilderness.
HOW CAN WE JOURNEY INTENTIONALLY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS?
First, BE HONEST with yourself and God. What are the things you need? Where do you need more faith? What do you need to confess that you are not proud of? Who have you offended? In whom do you trust right now? Here is what I know. God is big enough to receive ALL your honesty. Bring it to him. Having the humility to be honest with yourself and God opens the pathway forward through the wilderness.
Second, LOOK UP. If you did not read the previous devotional titled LOOKING UP, please take a moment to read it. Looking up takes the focus off of yourself and allows you to see others, recognize opportunities and even see what God is doing in the wilderness. It will change your whole perspective and redirect your thoughts and behaviors.
Third, take ANOTHER STEP. Sometimes all you can do it take one more step—like a marathon runner trying to get through the painful “wall” in the race when everything in them wants to stop and quit. Perhaps you cannot take a big step, but even the smallest step forward is still progress. What steps can you take in your closest relationships to love and honor others, in seeking God in prayer, in providing for your family, in supporting others, or in allowing others to support you? Each day, if you only take a step you will find that those steps take you to somewhere new. No one gets through the wilderness backwards.
Fourth, make sure you journey with others in COMMUNITY. We were never meant to do the journey of life alone, and this is especially true in wilderness times. Being connected to at least a few others who you know well (and they know you) opens the flood gates of encouragement, opportunities to serve others (or have others serve you), and ensures that no one will be left alone. The times we want to curve inward are the very times you need others in your life. Phone a friend. You may be surprised how meaningful it is for you and them as you share this wilderness journey.
Friends, my prayer is that you journey well. May God’s peace and presence be with you as we journey together through the Covid Wilderness. Visit Altar Fly Fishing’s homepage to see opportunities for prayer and other resources that my help you in the coming days.
Note: This devotional was taken from a sermon by Eric Camfield, Altar Fly Fishing President. You can watch the whole service or forward to the sermon at Christ Church’s Media Page.
- Review the section “What happens in the wilderness?” and reflect (or write) what you are experiencing.
- Review the section “How can we journey intentionally through the wilderness?” and take your time to reflect on each point. What actions do you feel led to take as you open yourself to God?
- For Further Reading
- Colossians 3:1-17
- Numbers 14
- Other Altar Devotionals