I printed maps for my students showing the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and colorful arrows tracing Israel’s itinerary as refugees and fugitive slaves. I wanted them to see the utter impracticality of the route–and yet it was chosen by God on purpose, and Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that God led Israel into the wilderness.
Back in 2010, my family and I took a cross-country trip that comprised a northerly route from Maine to Seattle and then a return through the southwest and a diagonal dash toward home. It was wonderful, but, believe me, we did not volunteer to take on extra miles even though we had air-conditioning in the mini-van, a pretty nice tent, and a lot more conveniences than the people of Israel enjoyed. Remember, they had unreliable access to water, and they were traveling on foot!
God knew the shortest and the simplest route, but “God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:18).
And God was in no apparent hurry to get the Israelites through the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses reminisces about the journey through what he called, in hindsight, “the great and terrifying wilderness.” That seems like a place to despise and blot out of memory, but Moses warns the people against wilderness amnesia:
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
Their time in the wilderness was not just a way station. It was a place where the nation was schooled in greater dependence upon God. They were fed by his hand. They learned the habit of faith, and at times, they even allowed themselves to become aware of the truth that God had not forgotten them there.
God Will Meet You in the Wilderness
Asaph the psalmist powerfully frames the question that plagues every wilderness sojourner:
Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”Psalm 78:19
Can God meet me here in this howling wasteland?
Does He see me?
Is God both powerful and loving? Sovereign and merciful? Then why doesn’t he DO something?
Have you ever questioned God’s itinerary for your own life? For me, the minute I sense that I’m “off course,” I begin to grumble instead of waiting for the lesson and trusting the Sovereignty of God.
I start to think, “Wow, if God were a travel agent, he’d never make it! He sends all his best clients, into the wilderness: Daniel, Paul, Moses, Joseph, Elijah, His own Son!
The Painful Purpose of the Wilderness
Then I remember God’s stated purpose for wilderness days from Deuteronomy 8:2–to humble, to test, to reveal.
I don’t always like what I see…
Your time in the wilderness is not for nothing. God has not forgotten you, and his intentions toward you are absolutely pure and good.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.Deuteronomy 8:2
For Israel and for us, the pathway of adversity shows us what is in our hearts. John Newton remembered his long wilderness days as “the Lord’s school.”
God wanted to make his people intensely conscious of their dependence. The wonders God performed to deliver them from Egypt and then to provide for them in the wilderness convinced them: they would not become a great nation in their own power.
Whatever wilderness you may be traveling through today, know that you are not alone, you are not forgotten, and God wants to meet you there with the water of his grace. May we have eyes to see what he provides as good, courage to relinquish what he withholds, and faith to envision what he wants us to become as a result of our days in the wilderness.
God wants to meet you in the wilderness with the water of his grace. May you have eyes to see what he provides as good, courage to relinquish what he withholds, and faith to envision what he wants you to become.Tweet
And Now Let’s Talk Books…
In the discovery of a book, timing is everything! It is certainly true that I would have appreciated Kari Cope’s exploration of the biblical motifs of wells and wildernesses at any time in my following life. However, I found There’s Always Water in the Wilderness after developing a retreat series called “Survival Skills for Wilderness Living” AND while teaching a Sunday school class on the book of Exodus. Obviously, it has been a valuable resource in addition to being a fascinating read.
Cope begins by making a case for a literary reading of the Bible. The habit of keeping genre in mind, paying attention to metaphors, and approaching the text in its context with a humble awareness of the author’s intent poses no threat to a literal interpretation of the Bible. In fact, reading literarily “takes[s] the knowledge that we have of the literal and expand[s] upon it by transferring it to the abstract.” (8)
The motifs of the well and the wilderness stitch together the Old and New Testaments portraying our deep need and its fulfillment in Christ. Against the backdrop of Israel’s complaining, my own prone-to-wander heart needs biblical reassurance that God leads his people into the wilderness–not to abandon us, but to meet with us there.
Holding you in the Light,
God leads his people into the wilderness–not to abandon us, but to meet with us there. #theresalwayswaterinthewildernessTweet
How Will You Come Close to God in the Days Leading up to Easter? (Here’s a FREE Resource to Help…)
February 22 is Ash Wednesday, the day on the church calendar that ushers us into Lent and our pondering of Christ’s great work on the cross. Every year, I appreciate this work of the heart that prepares me for a true celebration of resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As a gift to my newsletter subscribers, I’ve created a collection of 20 devotional readings called Come Close to the Story. If you’re already a subscriber, just sit tight and it will land in your email inbox on February 16, the Third Thursday of the month.
If you’re not already a subscriber, this Lenten season I invite you to join me for a daily pause—most readings should take five minutes or less—to come close to the story. In your busy life, remember that Easter is on its way. Affirm your belief in resurrection power, and then admit that without a death, there would be no resurrection.
Every month I send a newsletter with biblical encouragement straight to my subscribers’ email inboxes. Frequently, I share free resources, and the newsletter is where everything lands first. I’m committed to the truth that women can become confident followers of God and students of his Word, and it’s my goal to help you along that path.
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15 thoughts on “Do You Trust God to Meet You in Your Wilderness Journey?”
Oh, I really love this. I need the encouragement today. I’m trying to learn to ask in every wilderness, what am I to learn from being here.
That’s the question!
Michele, pls don’t ever give up blogging. I love your style and moreover, your content. I am moving away from blogging myself but I always will read yours come what may… Blessings on your own journey through the wilderness, Jan
Wow, that’s a huge encouragement and I appreciate your response and your faithful readership! So blessed by you!
Oh, you have so captured in this sentence, my own feelings sometimes! “Have you ever questioned God’s itinerary for your own life? For me, the minute I sense that I’m “off course,” I begin to grumble instead of waiting for the lesson and trusting the Sovereignty of God.” Thanks for the reminder that there’s something God wants to teach us there!
Oh, the wilderness classroom—I would never sign up for it, but when we find ourselves there, it’s because God plans to meet with us there.
Thanks for reminding us that God is the author of our journeys. He doesn’t waste a mile or a minute. He knows exactly where we’ll end up and when and how. There’s a peace that comes with knowing that His faithfulness and lovingkindness will continue to guide us each step of the way. I’m so grateful.
Have a restful weekend, friend. He is good!
What I might see as a detour and an inefficient inconvenience, God sees as the path of growth. Nothing is wasted!
God not making it as a travel agent due to sending his clients into the wilderness brought a chuckle, Michele. This is so powerful, “God wants to meet you in the wilderness with the water of his grace. May you have eyes to see what he provides as good, courage to relinquish what he withholds, and faith to envision what he wants you to become.”
He’s the Author and Perfecter of faith, but my eyes are all over the place sometimes when his message to me is, “Look and Live!”
I’m not fond of the wilderness, either, even with AC in the car and a cooler full of drinks and food. God’s humbling experiences aren’t pleasant, but they are beneficial.
We’re just like the nation of Israel! We take God’s provision and then we look back longingly at Egypt.
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I think back on some difficult seasons in my own life and can affirm the truths you present here, Michele. We DO learn greater dependence on God, heightened awareness of his presence, deeper faith, and a widening appreciation for his blessings in the present (instead of yearning for blessings of the future or the past). God has used each uncomfortable season for my good in these ways and more.
I have a feeling that God is still using those treks through the wilderness as you minister to others out of the wisdom you gained.
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I pray so, Michele!
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