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.
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?
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.