By: Christi Grimm
I read a story once about a man who spent 71 days in the Australian wilderness. He had been robbed at gunpoint, drugged, and taken to the middle of the vast expanse to die. When he came to, he had no phone, no food or water, and no shoes. Over 2 months later, he was miraculously rescued when some station hands surveying the desert happened upon him.
The wilderness: a hot, dry, isolated place. In the physical realm, I have never spent much time there. In the spiritual realm it has, at times, been my home. I think about the Israelites and how acquainted they were with the wilderness. After spending 40 years in it, I am sure I could learn a thing or two from them. I think about Jesus and His time in the wilderness. After spending 40 days in it, I am sure I could learn a thing or two from Him! The Israelites and Jesus: both spent time in the wilderness, both for completely different reasons. The Israelites couldn’t stop complaining and couldn’t refrain from worshiping idols and so God made the decision to extend the consequences of their stubborn hearts. (Numbers 14) Jesus, on the other hand, went to the wilderness for consecration not for consequences. To be set apart, to draw near to His Father, to be tempted, and to be prepared for His formal earthly ministry. (Matthew 4) The “why” is important. Are you in a wilderness season? Ask yourself “why?” Is this a time of consecration or is this a season of consequences? Perhaps it’s a little bit of both, because we are not Jesus! I currently find myself in a long wilderness season, and while God has made it clear to me that it is for the purpose of consecration, I relate in a substantial way to the Israelites and their choice to complain and create idols in my life. What is the “why” of your wilderness? Our “why” will become our GPS as we navigate our wilderness journey.
I wonder about the Israelites wandering all those 40 years. I can’t imagine eating the same food for 40 days, much less 40 years. I can’t imagine having the same routine day after day without any relief from the monotony of daily wilderness life. They couldn’t even get out to browse around Target! Don’t get me wrong- I like routine and schedule! But too much of a good thing can is no longer a good thing. Even more than the monotony of wilderness living was how hopeless they must have felt. They KNEW they would be there until their generation died. Forty years- there was no hope of having anything better, getting out of that land, or of life becoming easier. Yet they continued on. They DIDN’T lose hope (at least not completely)- if they had, they would have taken their own lives. They looked ahead at what their children would get to experience and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Oh sure, in the beginning they tried to take matters into their own hands and seize the land anyway, but eventually, through much stubbornness, they accepted their fate. I can’t imagine KNOWING I would die in the wilderness when the promised land was right next door. Still, I am sure they had memorable days in those 40 years. There were still highlights, laughable moments, and experiencing some beautiful “life!” The wilderness, I am positive, was wrought with the good, the sweet, and the ugly alike.
What a gift it is that God doesn’t tell us how long we will be in our wilderness season. What a gift that even in the wilderness we still get to experience good moments. Not knowing how long we will be there provides hope which allows for sweetness and laughter. In God’s gracious manner He keeps time-frames unknown as a means of regenerating hope over and over again. It breeds perseverance. It breeds patience. Wondering in the wandering: what a gift.
So, what are we to do in the waiting? The wilderness is hot and dry; it zaps your energy! A spiritual wilderness is also hot and dry; it zaps your energy! In a physical wilderness, we would be wise to conserve energy, to stay hydrated with water, and to nourish ourselves when food is made available. So too with a spiritual wilderness. We would be wise to “conserve energy” by asking God what we should and should not pour ourselves into. There are seasons for everything and just as the physical wilderness is not the time to run a marathon, a spiritual wilderness is not the time to run a spiritual marathon by pouring out more than what God specifically instructs us to. When in a physical wilderness, water is of upmost importance. So too with a spiritual wilderness. Water yourself daily in the Word of God. It is of vital importance if we want to preserve life. It may not “taste” the same, but just as (clean) physical water doesn’t return void and gives life, the (True) Word doesn’t return void and gives life. Food is another vital resource in the wilderness and we would be wise to feast on it every chance we get! Spiritual food- the Word, Worship, Prayer, and Fellowship- will strengthen you for the long journey ahead.
In my wilderness season, this food and water has literally been my life line. I could not survive without physical food and water, and I could not survive without my spiritual food and water. Water yourself while you wait.
The weariness must have seemed unbearable at times for the Israelites. I relate wholeheartedly to that! The wilderness in a physical sense affects your mind, your will, and your emotions. The wilderness in a spiritual sense affects your mind, your will, and your emotions. When walking through the wilderness day after day, one may experience any number of mind struggles. I know the Israelites- (and the gentleman I mentioned in the Australian wilderness)- must have experienced a lack of motivation at times. I do as well. I know that lack of motivation must have affected what they were once passionate about. I experience this as well. They must have become so impatient in the waiting. Again, I know the feeling. They may have had a difficult time remembering what to focus on: water and food. Because sometimes the wilderness is just so dry. I, too, have struggled here.
I know they felt as if they were walking in circles! (Because quite literally, they were!) So often I wonder how long will I wander in circles. I have experienced every one of these struggles in this wilderness journey. It can make you weary. But even the weariness has a purpose: dependence. The more weary I feel, the more God-dependent I become.
A wilderness journey has purpose and parts of it that are beautiful- if we choose to see those parts. Just as one who is stranded in the wilderness has the opportunity to see the incredible and vast creation around him, taking it all in and experiencing the sights and sounds of that land, so can we choose to see the beauty in our own wilderness season. We can choose to stop and experience the sights and sounds of God through His Hand and His Voice to our hearts. The wilderness can become a place of worship. A place where a special intimacy with Jesus forms.
Jesus, while in the wilderness, endured 40 days without food, been tempted by Satan, and stood firm. The scripture tells us that angels came and ministered to Him- what an intimate experience for Him. In the same way, we can have a close intimacy with Jesus in the wilderness, choosing to consecrate ourselves in worship to Him, resisting Satan, and standing firm as God ministers and speaks to us. In this way the wilderness can become our sacred worship.
We are all in one of three seasons: journeying to the mountaintop, journeying down into the valley, or journeying into a wilderness. Let us make each season count for His Glory.
“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Christi is a fifth generation Florida girl who loves the sand, the sea, and the sunshine! When she is not busy mothering her 6 children, she enjoys her garden, traveling, experiencing new cultures, and indulging in warm chocolate chip cookies while reading a good book or journaling. Christi is passionate about bringing women alongside her into a life of freedom in Christ, and does so by leading Beauty for Ashes Women’s Retreats.