“He changes a desert into a pool of water and makes water flow out of dry ground.”
(Psalm 107:35 NLV)
MORE WILDERNESS. What do you do when you’ve been pushed to your limit and life’s circumstances keep falling apart all around you? What do you do when you’ve escaped the chains of slavery, in whatever form it comes, but the journey of Freedom is accompanied with daily dependence? What do you do when you are flat-out tired and scared and not sure you can “rough it” one more day? Do you complain like the Israelites did, causing your initially short season to expand into a much longer than intended land of lessons? Or do you settle into the season of hardships with grateful adoration of what God is training you for?
For me, the answer to this question is the pinnacle of how to unleash God’s blessings in the midst of the burdens and how to dance among the mundane beat of consistency. I’ve been in more Wilderness Seasons than I would have liked. I have had unwanted seasons of Singleness, Brokenness, Loss, Grief, and Hopelessness, just to name a few. In each season, something I could not control, and did not ask for, shattered my expectations of what life was supposed to be like. Like a contestant on “American Ninja Warrior,” I would dominate one obstacle just to be knocked clear out of the competition of life altogether. It was always after the escape from one set of chains that tested my character as I found myself traversing the wilderness called Training Ground.
I will tell you that the Training Ground of Wilderness is the most important type of development, and it is where the rubber meets the road! This is the part where you decide: Will it be “my way,” or will it be “God’s way?” It is the most uncomfortable and exhausting season because this is where you wrestle with various beliefs. Once you overcome the fear of taking steps of obedience that lead you out from the external control of others, then you get to navigate the much more powerful enemy — your inner self! Humility or Pride? Fear or Trust? Self-Reliance or Dependence? Truth or Lies? Everything you fear about yourself, your darkest spaces, will come to the light in Training Ground Wilderness, and in the Training Ground you will have to learn to Fight!
Fight? The last thing I feel like doing is fighting when I can’t know the outcome! Fightinge might not be exactly what you think it to be, nor is the pain of the training worse than the pain of regret of what could have, or should have, been. No, I have learned that the Blessings are in the Battlegrounds between the self and the Spirit. How do I know this? Well, God has patiently taught me and strengthened me while He trained me to let go, trust while I train, and enjoy the process. The Fight in Training Ground Wilderness comes back to one thing, your mind.
Learning to fight in the Training Grounds of Wilderness is in facing what is in your mind and making it obedient to God’s Voice, aka His Word. Romans 12:2 (NIV) instructs us:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
How exactly do we do this? We learn from God’s Public Service Announcement:
Prepare through Practice
Stand Firm on the Word
Apply Action Obediently
Prepare through Practice
First know that on our own, it is impossible. It is through letting go of our prideful “we know best” attitude and humbling ourselves enough to listen to instruction. When we bring God into our darkest spaces, He promises to not only heal us but create a steady path for us. We need to be willing to let go of our plans, our expectations, and our timing in order to give God TIME to work IN US, so He can ultimately work THROUGH US. It makes me think of King David, after his anointing and before taking the throne as the king. King David was just a boy, being obedient to the Lord by tending sheep. How many of us would have complained through the Wilderness, demanding our title and rights be enforced immediately? I had to grapple with that while in training. It wasn’t until I understood that David’s time in training tending the sheep was the PREPARATION of PRACTICING that he needed to fight Goliath. Without the battles against the bear and the lion out in pasture, David would not have gained the skills needed to be victorious against a much bigger foe.
Likewise, I had the preparation of practicing habits to oppose some of my own personal internal enemies in my time of training: procrastination, distraction, consistency (or lack thereof), and instant gratification. God gently nudged me, one habit at a time, until I had mastered a new discipline of “doing it when I don’t want to.” The “it” changed with each circumstance, but slowly, over time, I became a more disciplined and determined person. God patiently waited and gave me repeated practice until I got it! Without these necessary skill sets, I wouldn’t have the discipline to write now, or explore many other new opportunities.
Stand Firm on the Word
Once I mastered those skills, I still had some mind-shifting to do. I still had massive trust issues revolving around the nasty, fear-based “what-ifs” in life. What if I failed? What if the future didn’t turn out to be as good as God promised? What if I couldn’t sustain the pressure or responsibilities that come with the blessings? What if I wasn’t enough? Luckily, in my Wilderness Training, I learned the Skill of Standing on the Word. The story of Old Testament Joseph kept crossing my path in this training. Joseph’s life seemed to be against him. His brothers sold him as a slave, in which God was with Joseph and his work prospered Potipher. Then Potipher’s wife falsely accused Joseph of taking advantage of her, and he was put in jail. Again, God was with him and Joseph was put in charge of the prison and the prison prospered. Two inmates had dreams that Joseph interpreted and they got out, one back to service and one to the end of his life, just as God revealed through Joseph. For years, Joseph was forgotten and it seemed as if all was lost. It was Joseph’s Story and Isaiah 45:2-3 (NASB) that begged me to remember WHO would make the way:
“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. 3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
Just like Joseph, I had to stand on God’s Word when everything around me seemed to look and sound just like the opposite of HisPromises coming through. Like Joseph, I was trained in the art of Patient Celebration and Calm Confidence in the waiting. This skill now allows me to enjoy the present instead of wishing for the future or the past. I get excited knowing that Joseph’s story ended with God’s Faithfulness. Not only did Joseph get his prison break by interpreting the Pharoah’s Dream, but he was put second-in-command! If that wasn’t enough, Joseph’s brothers who enslaved him ended up being saved by, and reconciled with, Joseph. The promises of God’s faithfulness is The Word that I stand on in my wait, knowing that God says:
“Don’t be afraid, because I’m with you; don’t be anxious, because I am your God. I keep on strengthening you; I’m truly helping you. I’m surely upholding you with my victorious right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10 ISV)
Apply Action Obediently
Now, today, I am at the “Applying Obedient Action” point of my Wilderness Training. I am waiting, just like David and Joseph both did. David and Joseph both trusted God in spite of their circumstances. They took the opportunities in their various Wilderness Training Sessions to simply BE WITH GOD and WORK WHERE THEY WERE. For some of us, the “work” could actually be at the place that provides your paycheck. For others it could be in parenting or in serving others with your specific talents and gifts. For me, my obedient action is to intentionally Dispel every single lie that I used to hold onto that caused me to shrink back in anxiety, worry, and fear. My faithful following of Christ means helping others to see, embrace, and use their God-designed uniqueness. My work while I’m waiting means spending intentional time with God, my son, my family, my dogs, and my small group.
Do I know when, how, or what my catapult moment will be? Nope. All I do know is that God is Good, and God is faithful. He has given me both His Promises and His examples that I can follow. I know that He is turning my wilderness and dry areas into refreshing springs of life! I know that God is giving me skill sets, habits, and opportunities to grow that I could not have had without The Wilderness. So, until I know God’s next steps, I will gratefully view my Wilderness Training Ground as a gift instead of a grind! I will trust that God has me here on purpose and for a purpose. I will praise His Name, and enjoy the journey, one day at a time. I will keep hope for the future and focus on what HAS BEEN GIVEN:
“For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness;
but of power and love and discipline.”
(2 Timothy 1:7 ASV)
In Jesus’s name ~ Amen and Hallelujah!