Last week in Part 1, I offered the realization that I’ve been in a wilderness time lately. I also shared some insights I’ve gained on the wilderness theme with the help of a book called The Land Between by Jeff Manion.
Here are the rest of my takeaways about journeying through the wilderness.
5. Our hope for the future is rooted in God’s faithfulness in the past – only we are really good about either forgetting about God’s faithfulness in the past or believing that God could be faithful to others but not to us. Israel did the same thing – they knew Abraham’s story and God’s faithfulness to him. They knew Joseph’s story and God’s faithfulness to him. But they did not access it and lean on it in their own wilderness time. Instead they complained and despaired.
6. The wilderness is like a detour from our intended destination. God is faithful on the detour, but sometimes he doesn’t remove us from the detour. For example, Joseph was detoured to Egypt and he died in Egypt. God rescued many lives through Joseph’s detour but never rescued Joseph from it. The journey is more important than the destination.
7. God disciplines us in the wilderness. The chief purpose of God’s discipline is to develop deeper trust and dependence in us. Conversely, the wilderness dislodges whatever it is in us that keeps us from deeper trust and dependence. Manion, for instance, describes how a wilderness time in his church humbled him. He is certain that having experienced rapid, unimpeded growth in his early twenties would have made him intolerably arrogant. On a personal level, God used some of his congregation’s wilderness time to lead him to humility. He wasn’t spiritually ready for growth and success, so God used a wilderness time to prepare him for it.
In Numbers 13-14, God commands Moses to send spies to scope out Canaan, the promised land. When the spies return, they share that they discovered abundant resources but also huge soldiers and fortiﬁed cities. The people are ﬁlled with fear and begin to complain and grumble because they are certain they would be decimated if they tried to invade the land. They fail to trust God. They aren’t ready to live in the promised land. And so God sends them back out into the wilderness. When some of the people tried to enter the land anyway, they were sorely defeated.
These examples resonate with me. They are leading me to ask God, “What are you trying to accomplish in me through this season of my life?” God seems to be disciplining me – for what? to what end? A deeper trust and dependence upon him. But what is it that’s keeping me from trusting God more deeply that I need to allow God to dislodge in this wilderness time? These are important questions to answer and respond to in the wilderness.
8. This wilderness theme, and the concept of “the land between”, connects to what I learned recently in Spiritual Direction training about “liminality.” Liminal means “in between.” The wilderness is liminal space. Liminal space is ripe for spiritual transformation because it is by nature transitional – everything is up in the air. And when everything is up in the air we are most open to change, especially spiritual change.
9. God is with us in the wilderness. Perhaps the most comforting thought came through the story of Joseph’s “wilderness” experience. He was sold by his brothers into slavery and shipped off to Egypt, where he worked as a servant and was thrown in prison. And yet through it all, Genesis repeatedly states that “the Lord was with him.” “The Lord was with him.” Oh that such may be true of my own experiences in the wilderness. That is my prayer. “Lord be with me.” If God is with us, we can endure any desert. God is, in fact, with us. That is the testimony and promise of Scripture.
Question: How has God used wilderness experiences to discipline you?
You have some strong lessons here. I would like to have lunch with you soon and discuss how these apply to my life lately.
Let’s do it! Send me an email and we’ll set it up. Thanks, John. Blessings to you – I continue to follow your prayer emails.