Posted by: Pastor J Jacobs on Fri, Sep 4, 2015
Over the last few years, I have been stuck in the wilderness of life. My seemingly perfect life as pastor’s wife crumbled at the hands of adultery and divorce, and I found myself wandering aimlessly. As I camped in the wilderness seeking his direction every day, I have clung to the promises that God would make this mess work for good for me (Romans 8:28) and that his plans were to prosper me and not harm me, to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
But, that promised land of redemption so often seemed far away. When would my life regain a sense of normalcy? When would I find peace? When would God redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25)? When would I see the new thinghHe promised to do (Isaiah 43:18-19)?
As I enter this new year, I have an unbelievable sense that the promised land is coming into view. There’s an amazing anticipation that good things are on the horizon. I find myself contemplating Joshua 3:5:
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
I have learned to enjoy life in the wilderness, but I know that God has so much more for me. I am excited to cross into the future he has been preparing for me—and I have seen glimpses of what that entails. While I don’t know all the details, it’s as if God has taken me to the top of the mountain to peer into the promised land, to have a vision of what I will soon possess.
As I began this new year, I started reading through the Bible again. I love how God continues to reveal things I’ve missed even after all these years as a Christian! As I read the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, I happened upon this verse:
Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands(Deuteronomy 8:2).
Not only has God led me through all these years in the wilderness—I would have never made it without him—but he has definitely used this time to humble me and show me what was in my heart. I never realized how much pride I carried. I felt that I was above certain sins, unable to fall or be tempted. However, in the wilderness I discovered that I was wrong. I have learned that the only thing that separates me from eternal condemnation is the amazing grace of my Savior. I have come to understand just how much I need his forgiveness—a lesson that I might never have truly understood without my wilderness experience. I have come to realize that my heart is truly deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). I have learned that I am truly a wretched person without the grace and mercy of the One who gave his all for me.
As I continued in my Bible readings, I came across the story of King David. Here’s a little shepherd boy with mighty courage—willing to face the toughest Philistine warrior. He didn’t come at Goliath in his own power; he came in the name of the Lord! And, what was his reward? He was banished to the wilderness because of King Saul’s jealousy! The promise that God had given him—that he would one day be king—seemed like a far-fetched reality as he wandered through the wilderness.
I had never stopped to contemplate that David spent time in the wilderness before becoming the greatest king Israel ever had. It made me wonder who else had spent time in the wilderness before coming into the amazing promises God had made.
Moses was banished from Egypt after acting rashly. He lived as a shepherd, leading the flocks to the far side of the wilderness (Exodus 3:1). That’s where he saw the burning bush and was called to save Israel from the Egyptians.
Elijah was fed by ravens as he hid by the Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan (1 Kings 17:5). After allowing God to provide for his every need, he went bravely to face King Ahab and the prophets of Baal at the famous show-down at Mount Carmel.
And, after Jesus was baptized, scripture tells us that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Even our savior was not immune from time in the wilderness! It was there that he fasted, prayed, and faced Satan himself—and came out victorious!
He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper (Deuteronomy 8:16).
As I contemplated my own wilderness experience—and the great leaders of the Bible—I came to realize that the wilderness is God’s way of preparing us to do his will, to be used by him. Without that preparation, we cannot have a true understanding of who we are and who our Savior is. It is in the wilderness that our hearts are purified. It’s in the wilderness that we see God’s tender mercies caring for us day by day, providing just enough manna to get through the day. It’s in the wilderness that we find the Great I Am—the One who meets our every need at just the right moment. It’s in the wilderness that our faith is grown and perfected (James 1:2-5).
Are you stuck in the wilderness? My wilderness has been adultery and divorce. Perhaps your wilderness is addiction. Or the death of someone close to you. Or infertility. Or betrayal. Or abuse. We all have different experiences, but God uses those trials to prepare us for to be used in the kingdom. He uses the wilderness to prepare us to be vessels for honor, sanctified, useful to the master, prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21). He wants to humble and test us so that he might cause us to prosper.
The question is, will you submit to the training of your Savior? Will you let him lovingly provide for your every need? Will you allow him to prepare you for the great plans he has for you? Will you trust him to use the wilderness for your good and his glory?
My wilderness experience has actually been rich and rewarding as I’ve experienced God’s tender mercies and provisions every day. I know the promised land is still to come, but I will always look back on my wilderness experience as the place where I truly came to know my Great I Am!
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