We often succumb to focusing on our physical needs ahead of our spiritual ones. Honestly – it’s hard not to. Our human nature pulls us towards the immediacy of what we see and feel, and it’s not always bad. You wake up and you’re hungry, so you eat breakfast. You then get ready for the day and then you’re out the door. It’s only in a quiet moment that you remember you never spent any time communing with God. It wasn’t unintentional, but it also wasn’t intentional. And so we promise to do better tomorrow but there’s a problem with this scenario – we aren’t fully prepared to deal with what’s happening today.
It’s not always easy to press pause on all the thoughts running through our minds. We see the messages on our phones, the bills in our email, the challenges with friends and family and the pressures of work. Instead of focusing on God first, we want to solve the needs in front of us – to fix anything that’s causing pain, hurt, and stress. We also want to stretch out the moments that bring us pleasure. Why cut them short for a relationship that’s optional? If we manage to make it through the day, it appears as though we have survived on our own. We give ourselves the credit while lessening the importance of our time with God.
Entering into the Wilderness
And so, sometimes God takes us into the wilderness. Consider the wilderness a place of transition, where God takes our relationship to deeper levels. The best example of this concept can be found in (Matthew 4:1-11). We learn that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness right after He was baptized. Jesus was about to fulfill His ministry, but He needed to have this experience first. While in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the devil but did not succumb. He made a choice to keep His eyes focused on God, and tap into the strength of His father to make it through the trials.
For us, our choice is the same. We can choose to have a relationship with God, or we can choose to lean to our own understanding. Samson had a choice. He chose to follow the misguided desires of his heart and wound up making decisions hurtful to himself and the mission God had for him. (Judges 13-16) Then there is Daniel, who made a choice to put God first, subsequently making it through the night in lion’s den. (Daniel 6). But no so fast, there is also Steven, who made a choice to stand for God and became a martyr. (Acts 7).
Internal vs. External Outcomes
When God takes us into the wilderness, He wants a better version of us to leave there. There are no guaranteed outcomes when we decide to follow God. Choosing God changes our hearts and our characters. We have to hold close to our hearts that no matter the outward situation, the internal outcome is guaranteed.
Seeking God in the wilderness means our lives are forever changed in ways that elevate our character and experiences. We learn to endure and then to thrive because we know how to be at peace grounded in God. Our sorrows are bearable as His mercy and grace stretches over us in ways that we could never imagine. Our faith can move mountains, create new walkways, and give us the courage to face doors that have been closed. We recognize that our survival even when we feel disconnected is still the outcome of God’s mercy and His grace.
A Spirit of Gratitude
It’s much easier to testify after the storm – to praise God for all He has done. Yet, it’s the periods of the unknown where God’s greatest miracles are performed. It’s only when we stand at the edge of the Red Seas, that the waters part. It is only we face Goliath that we learn giants too can fall. We cannot expect to achieve greatness without endurance. Our spirit of complaining must be replaced with a spirit of gratitude.
Without it, we will end up like the Israelites who spent an additional 40 years in the wilderness before entering into the promise land. Why? Because a generation of people who disregarded all that God had done had to pass away first. (Numbers 14) The Israelites could not enter into the next part of the journey because they were not prepared to do so.
Seeking God in the Wilderness
The wilderness of the unknown is a challenging place to exist. Just remember, God will not take us into the next phase before removing what must go. Purging happens when we’re seeking God in the wilderness. He challenges us to “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12) We can only grow when we continually seek God and put Him first. Never forget that today’s strength is the preparation needed for tomorrow’s troubles. And more importantly, today’s healing is the closure needed for tomorrow’s beginnings.
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