22 Insights from the Wilderness

Earlier this year, I led a women’s study at my church about how God uses the hard things in our lives to make us more useful.

Flowers in desert

Although we covered a broad range of topics over the course of 10 weeks, one that stands out for me was the session about the wilderness—that dry, desolate landscape that has the potential to transform our hearts like nothing else.

I’ve spent a few long seasons in the wilderness, so it was a deeply personal class for me. But the stories I shared from my own life were merely an entry point for the women in the class to consider their own experiences with this exhausting and often-confusing place.

We talked about what the wilderness looks like, why it’s so hard and why God allows us to linger there. I closed the class with the following thoughts about the wilderness. It’s by no means an exhaustive summary, but if you are trudging through a desert of your own right now, I hope it provides perspective and encouragement for you today.

• Every Christian goes through wilderness experiences, some more than others.

• God is sovereign over the wilderness. He tests us and may allow sifting, but whatever happens, we are never completely at the mercy of Satan.

• Sometimes we don’t know we’re in the wilderness until we’re well into it.

• When we’re in the wilderness, we need to accept the fact that we are there and might be there for quite some time.

• Not every hard or inconvenient thing is the wilderness.

• Sometimes the wilderness is difficult because it’s so intense; sometimes it’s the length of time is that makes it hard.

• When we are at the end of our rope in the wilderness, God will strengthen us.

• When we get a respite in the wilderness, we should try to enjoy it. Cue a verse I’ve loved forever: “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.” (Exodus 15:27)

• Life goes on in the wilderness. Just because we’re there doesn’t mean we’re going to be miserable all the time.

• While in the wilderness, we should remember that God is with us, but not expect Him to live up to our expectations of what He will look like or do.

• Things are not always as they seem in the wilderness. Just as deserts have mirages, so our foggy minds can play tricks on us. Cue another verse that is one of my go-to prayers: “Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.” (Psalm 43:3)

• When we’re at our lowest points—laid bare with no idea how to move forward—we need to claw through to the realization that God is enough.

• If we are in the wilderness due to no fault of our own, its because our loving heavenly Father deems it necessary. It’s the right place to be if He has allowed us to be there.

• If we get there because we’ve run away or made bad choices, God is still there. We need to move toward Him; He will redeem.

• God leads us and takes care of us in the wilderness, even when sin puts us there.

• God uses the wilderness to do His transforming work.

• It may be hard to see except in retrospect, but one heart issue that God often deals with in the wilderness is pride.

• When we’re in the wilderness, the work we’re best at or value most may need to be set aside, temporarily and perhaps even permanently.

• Some wilderness experiences end victoriously; some end quietly.

• Even when we can see the wilderness in our rear view mirror, we may never be completely “over it.” Scars and sadness may always serve as reminders of where we’ve been and how it has affected us.

• The wilderness will change us, so our ministries may be completely different once we leave than they were before we got there. Remember: God doesn’t just have one assignment for us in life; He gives us different ones during different seasons.

• When the rough terrain becomes smooth again, we need to appreciate where we are, which is NOT in the wilderness.

Now that you’ve read my list, I would love to know: What has the wilderness taught you that you may not have learned somewhere else?

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at #FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.

24 Responses to 22 Insights from the Wilderness

  1. Lois, this is full of peace and freedom! I thank God for the truths He’s given me in the wilderness and the hope to know without a doubt that He has something on the other side of unwavering faith and confidence through it all. It seems the wilderness can take such prominence in our hearts (speaking from experience) and it takes great intention to focus on the graces only available in the wilderness. Powerful post friend:)

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “It takes great intention to focus on the graces only available in the wilderness.” I love that, Crystal … so true, and so worth it when we are able to do it! It’s such a blessing to share perspectives about the wilderness with others who have been there too. 🙂

  2. Aimee Imbeau says:

    Oh, yes, I know that wilderness all too well, Lois! Not a place I enjoyed wandering about in, but I know my faith would not be where it is today if I hadn’t walked through it. Thanks for linking up with Grace and Truth.

  3. Lois – thank you for sharing your thoughts from the wilderness. You know, I know a lot of people hate the wilderness, and I can totally understand that, but I think sometimes is gets a bad wrap – I mean, God totally cared for the Isrealites in the wilderness/dessert season of their life – – I don’t like being in the wilderness, but when I am, I look forward to what New Thing God is going to do in and through me when I get out. I am your neighbor today at #FreshMarketFriday

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Debbie, I think you’re on to something here. God didn’t just plunk the Israelites out there and leave them to fend for themselves, did He? I draw lots of comfort in remembering that there is always a point to our wilderness experiences! Thanks so much for this great perspective!

  4. Mary Geisen says:

    I love your insight into the wilderness. I agree that there are times we don’t recognize we are in the wilderness but also during that time we can still see and experience God’s blessings. It is not so desolate and bleak that we are suffering our way through.

    There are times of waiting I have experienced in my life that feel like the wilderness. Mostly because God is still working in and through me but the period of time is extended until God has sufficiently completed the work.

    Thank you for your words and for describing wilderness periods so perfectly.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Mary, isn’t it comforting to know that God is in charge of the timetable in the wilderness (especially when it is stretching on with seemingly no end in sight)? Believing that His work in me isn’t done yet helps me keep putting one foot in front of the other! Love your thoughts here, my friend

  5. Lois,

    I appreciate so much your nuggets of wisdom. As I read, I kept saying, “yes,” over and over. I bet the women were very blessed by your teaching and sharing.

    Many blessings to you,

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Dolly, I loved seeing your name pop up in the comments today … thank you for your kind words. I hope the women enjoyed my sharing; I know I was blessed time and again by hearing THEIR stories and perspectives!

  6. Hi Lois,
    I’m intrigues with wilderness writings! I’ve just read AJ Swoboda’s “The Dusty Ones” that was a very thoughtful perspective of our faith, too. It’s true that while the wilderness is difficult, it can yield some rich insights that wouldn’t have been unearthed along a different path. Your writing always has deep thoughts to consider and that’s my favorite kind! 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Valerie, your words always bring such encouragement–thank you! “The Dusty Ones” sounds like a wonderful book … I’m glad you mentioned it because wilderness writings also intrigue me (as you may have guessed by now)! Have a wonderful evening!

  7. Christi Gee says:

    When I saw this email title in my inbox, I knew it would be good. After a year of following your writing, I was so curious to see how you would sum this up.

    I wasn’t disappointed, friend. These are all so good. You ask what I learned through my Wilderness trek? God is good to you even when it doesn’t feel good to you.

    It’s not easy, but it’s not all that complicated 🙂


    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s always a joy to hear from you, Christi. I’ve been meaning to email or comment about your move … I hope it has gone smoothly. And your lesson from the wilderness? A thousand amens, my friend!

  8. Karlene says:

    Love this: “When we get a respite in the wilderness, we should try to enjoy it.” Unlike the children of Israel, we can allow God to give us new perspective and the Strength you speak of. Amen. {Visiting from #TellHisStory today.}

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That one speaks volumes to me as well, Karlene. I’ve loved that verse about the springs of water and date palms since I was a kid, I think–especially the details about how many there were!

  9. Lois, what a great post! Your lessons learned in the wilderness are some of the ones I’ve learned too. It was in the wilderness where God really showed me what faith is. And what His faithfulness looks like. I wouldn’t have learned this to the depth I did had I not walked through the wilderness.

    And yes, learning and coming to embrace the truth that God is enough was pivotal in my relationship with Him.

    It’s in the wilderness that I learned to seek Him for who He is rather than what He can do for me.

    There are other lessons I’ve learned, but these are a few. 🙂 You covered this topic so thoroughly. 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m so glad you added your beautiful thoughts to this conversation, Jeanne. Learning to seek Him for who He is rather than what He can do for us … that’s powerful! 🙂

  10. Lisa notes says:

    The wilderness is definitely a training ground. A painful one! ha. But an effective one. I’ve learned many things there myself, one being that you won’t always stay there. It’s a season. Even if it sometimes feels like a long one, rain will eventually come. Great points here, Lois! You give us lots of reasons to maintain hope.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Lisa, I’ve often wondered … if I could go back and skip some of those tough seasons, would I? It’s such a hard question because I can see now the growth that occurred because of them. You are so right … the wilderness is a hard-but-effective training ground. And that rain feels SO good when it does come, doesn’t it? 🙂

  11. Linda Stoll says:

    Wow. I need to sit and savor this list, Lois! Each sentence is a treasure trove. You could do a post on each and every keen observation.

    And yes, our best teaching / writing / counseling emerges from the healing of our own wilderness experiences. I’m so grateful God is in the redemption business …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, when I was in the middle of those hard seasons, I held fast to my belief that God WOULD use them for something, that they would NOT be wasted. At times, honestly, that’s what kept me trudging on. And yes, God did redeem and He is using those times, and like you, I am so thankful! Have a blessed day, my friend!

  12. Debbie says:

    The wilderness has taught me to trust, to know He is in control, and to give thanks and know there is joy even in the wilderness.

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