Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (ESV; emphasis mine)
WILDERNESS. This one word reflects so many connotations! I wonder, what image pops into your head when you picture yourself in the wilderness? Are you trudging through a scary, treacherous, and unknown landscape, like Indiana Jones, desperately trying to stay alive? Or are you more like a pirate on a scavenger hunt, combing the beach for treasure and learning how to be resourceful? Maybe, your wilderness is even more peaceful than that? Perhaps you are lounging in a field of wildflowers, basking in the sights and the sounds of the untapped beauty that nature provides, refreshed and ready for what is to come!
Over the next three weeks, we will venture into each kind of wilderness so that we can embrace where we are instead of fighting against the purposeful wilderness meant to protect, prepare, and strengthen us. As I embark from one wilderness to another, I cannot help but to look back and see how God used the Wilderness to lovingly provoke the new growth needed to embrace the seasons of blessings that were to come. Rarely do I begin in a state of acceptance, yet I ALWAYS end up overwhelmed by God’s Goodness when I switch seasons. Let’s be real here, who prefers to accept a season that might require us to surrender to an uncomfortable state of vulnerability and trust, especially one that includes navigating unknown, rocky terrain?
Let’s start with scenario 1, The Wilderness of FEAR and SURVIVAL. Yes, I hate to admit it, but there will be seasons of simple survival. You know, those times where every possible thing that can go wrong will go wrong, so much so that eventually your mind, body, spirit, and resolve all melt into a puddle of misery. If you haven’t hit that yet, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but live long enough, and something will happen to rock your world to your core and make you question your existence all together. Fear will creep in and try to take over your confidence and peace. When circumstances seem dire, impossible, or just flat out hurt beyond our comprehension, anxiety can take over, and fear will then have the ability to rule the roost. Before you know it, you are barely holding on and may be walking through circumstances that are rendering you incapable of even functioning, let alone becoming impactful and purposeful.
Sounds terrible, right? Well, when you are in the middle of misery, it FEELS terrible. The good news is that when we break to the point of abandoning self-reliance, God steps in and starts to work in our weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9) In Exodus, God uses the WILDERNESS TO catapult FREEDOM into the history of the Israelites. God purposely had Moses take the Israelites into the wilderness, so that they could escape the brutal chains of slavery that had been their way of life for hundreds of years! In fact, not only does God have the Egyptians send the Israelites off with provision, but he also miraculously parts the Red Sea giving them a path to cross on! If that is not enough, God comforts the Israelites with the knowledge of things to come before He drowns the chasing force of the Egyptians. Moses reminds the Israelites:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” (Exodus 14:13-14 NIV)
- Fear Not
- Stand Firm
- Be Still
As God was revealing what the past season of Wilderness was for me, I noticed what seemed like a set of directions laid before us to simplify the process in the parts of life that are less pleasant. For me, the past 15 months have been a constant onslaught of challenges that sent me into a season of Wilderness in which survival was all that I could seem to do. Just during the last six months of 2018, it was like a comedy of errors, only it didn’t feel very funny! My car got a flat tire, my house flooded, one of my best friends walked away and stopped talking to me, my car engine flooded with oil, one of my numbers literally fell off of my house (and is still missing), the wheel on my garbage bin fell off 3 times, the head gasket on the car repair went bad, my toilets broke in rotation, my garage door continues to work and not work for no apparent reason, my stove handle and cover fell apart, and my job description drastically changed unexpectedly! It was in this season of Wilderness that I questioned God’s plan and wished, more than anything, to go back to Egypt (aka the way things were before). Yet this verse begged me to move forward.
In my margin and prayer time with God, it was like He was reminding me of my request during the previous February. I had asked God one simple question: “Is the Freedom I hear about possible?” I said, “God, I want to know what it feels like to have Freedom, the True Freedom that only YOU can give. I want the Freedom that does not attach my Joy to circumstances and teaches me to be the calm in the storm.” Little did I know that like the Israelites, I would be broken free from the things that held me captive, but it looked NOTHING like I expected. I was thrust into a Wilderness that made me FULLY DEPENDENT on God’s provision, one crazy circumstance at a time!
I cannot tell you how many tears I cried, nor how many times I giggled my way through sea-parting miracles. It truly was a battle of my mind to LET GO of what I thought was best based on my previous experience for the BETTER PLAN that God has in my future. (More on that next week.) The Wilderness hurt at first, because my flesh did NOT want to relinquish control. Instead, my mind wanted to cling to the fear of “not enough” like a toddler clings to a pacifier when it is time to let it go. Fear was comfortable. Predictable. It was all that I knew. It was my identity, and it was my friend. I had confused fear with discernment. I thought my fear was my guide, and I thought that I was being “wise” and “thoughtful” when I worried. After all, wouldn’t God want me to care and be responsible in all of these challenges?
Yes, God would want me to care enough to take a step into the unknown and TRUST HIM to take it from there. Like the Israelites, I had to tell fear to “Shut Up,” and I had to “do it afraid.” I had to say, “God, I have no idea how you are going to do this one, but I Trust that you will!” Sometimes I found myself staring into space, taking a deep breath, and just saying, “I can’t wait to see how you are going to fix this one, because I’m tapped out!”
The ironic part is that by uttering those words God seemed to usher inthe miracles. Every single car issue got covered by a weird warranty line that would have expired just days after my repairs were done. Some unknown person randomly fixed my trash bin after the third time a wheel fell off. New friends and old friends pulled together to repair my pipe and my wall, paint my house (almost done finally), cook together, fix my stove, and laugh through the pain. Together, we stood firm in The Word and found comfort in Jeremiah 29:11 when God said:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
Still to this day, I have parts and pieces of my life unfixed. I am still navigating the Wilderness. The difference now is that I have learned how to savor survival mode and laugh with confidence knowing that as long as I am firmly rooted in relationship with God, HE WILL provide for me. I proclaim Him Jehovah Jirah, my Provider, and Jehovah Nissi, my Fighter. I do my best, and I get out of the way to willingly let God do the rest! Can I tell you how incredibly FREEING it is to not bear the weight of trying to control everything anymore? As God promised, HE DID free me from my Egypt, which was fear-based, “do it all myself” control. The enemy did his best to wear me down to a point where I gave up and went back to my chains of slavery. As it turns out, the further and further I would venture into the WildernessWITH GOD, and the more and more I leaned on Him with childlike trust, the more He provided. Peace replaced worry.
I know that surviving the Wilderness can feel scary at first. Trust me, the temptation to go back would have won had I not had friends reminding me that:
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT)
To this day, I have to still face Wilderness moments where I have no idea where I’m going nor how it will work out. Even so, God provides not only a new way each time, but a new perspective as well!
As life hits and you find yourself wandering through the Wilderness, doing your best to take the next step, know that you are in good company! It is in this type of Wilderness that God is the closest and it is the time where you get to rest. My dear friends, when you are feeling like surviving is the best that you can do, fear not and stand firm in God’s presence! Watch the Master Crafter work on your behalf, trust Him, and soak in God’s awe-inspiring awesomeness! It is in the unknown that new things come to life with our God! Savor. Each. Moment. God’s got this!