June 11, 2012

Welcome to the Wilderness

Wilderness: An uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Every devout soul which has loved to see God in his house will be refreshed by visions of God in the wilderness... -Christopher Wordsworth. 
Anyone who's gone through, or is currently residing in a spiritual wilderness (such as yours truly), will tell you that it can be harsh. It's certainly not what I would call "fun" or "exciting," rather I'd define it as feeling...
  • Wild & Uncultivated
  • Infertile, Barren, Empty, & Unfruitful
  • Wearisome, Tedious, and Monotonous
  • Hot, Dry, Parched, Dehydrated, & Scorched
  • Lonely, Uninhibited, Desolate, Stark, Bare, Bleak, & Empty
Throughout scripture, we see individuals and groups of people being guided and lead through the wilderness: the Israelites wondered for 40 years in the desert before entering the promised land, David hid from Saul in the desert before becoming king, Elijah fled to the wilderness to escape Jezebel, and Jesus, himself, went into the desert to resist Satan's tempting. In scripture, deserts were seen as dangerous/deadly, a sign of spiritual recession/decline, discipline for evil, temptation, and the result of disobedience. But, at the same time, it's where God revealed Himself to His people, guided them, and proclaimed truth over them.  

In her book Wilderness Skills for Women, Marian Jordan "pinpointed" a few of the different types of wilderness seasons we can experience (although, I think often they can coincide with each other to certain degrees):
  • Wilderness of Rejection: A season marked by heartbreak due to a breakup, illness, divorce, miscarriage, death, crisis (in their various forms and kinds), abandonment, personal failures, etc. leading to confusion, loneliness, pain, and grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression)
  • Wilderness of Despair: A season where our hope and joy is under attack
  • Wilderness of Unmet Desires: A season of longing without fulfillment and prolonged waiting, leading to feelings of envy and discontentment, comparing one's life to others, wanting to manipulate and control, and worrying.
Often, wilderness seasons are brought on by the result of sin and idolatry that's present in the heart and life... or they serve as a time of testing or a trial... or it may be the effect of slowly growing stagnant in our relationship with the Lord (finding ourselves in a "lull" of sorts)... or the "pause" button of life has been switched "on." Whatever the reason may be, Christ, in His goodness and love, frustrates our hearts in order to reveal idols that may be reigning in us, and/or to draw us into a more meaningful relationship with Him. The desert is meant to push us to seek Him, not to despair or stew in our loneliness, emptiness, rejection, etc. The wilderness can either "make you" or "break you." Let's aim towards the former.

What's the Purpose? In the middle of the desert, we're prone to question if there's really a purpose to all this pain, bitterness, strife, and conflict. And there is! The desert seasons...
  • Serve to refine us (Isaiah 48:10-11)
  • Show us our idols and our folly. God reveals the true value of our other "Baals."
  • Lead to rescue and healing (Jeremiah 17:14)
  • Assure of us of His character and to teach us to trust Him 
  • Cultivate a deeper love and intimacy in our relationship with Christ
The underlying purpose to wilderness seasons though, is covenant renewal that leads to restoration for us, the bride of Christ, and to bring glory to God:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. (Hosea 2:14-17)
It's in this season that He reminds us of the covenant that He's made with us. That He is the lover, the husband, of our soul (Isiah 54:5-8). In His own time He will bring us to dwell in a city (Psalm 107:4-9), to the promised land.
He promises to draw us apart, for there He can best deal with us, and this separated place is not to be a paradise, but a wilderness, since in such a place there will be nothing to take of our attention from our God. In the deserts of affliction the presence of the Lord becomes everything to us, and we prize His company beyond any value which we set upon it when we sat under our own vine and fig tree in the society of our fellows. Solitude and affliction bring more to themselves and to their heavenly Father than any other means. When thus allured and secluded the Lord has choice things to say to us for our comfort. He "speaks to our heart," as the original has it. Oh, that at this we may have this promise explained in our experience! Allured by love, separated by trial, and comforted by the Spirit of truth, may we know the Lord and sing for joy! -Charles Spurgeon in Faith's Checkbook
For all the ugliness that can be found in the wilderness there is even more beauty and splendor of God to be discovered. We enter in barren and empty, but come out of it fruitful and full. At the same time though, our hearts, minds, and souls are open to the elements: lies, temptations, sin cycles, etc. Whatever season God leads us through, He desires for us to make the most of it. For the majority of this series this is what I want to focus on: seeing the beauty of the wilderness, but fighting against the elements that seek to damage and destroy us.

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  1. I really like this series so far. I feel like I am in a desert, but I am with God through it all.:)

  2. Since Brian and I moved to Arizona, we've felt like we've been in the desert wilderness in more ways than one! I definitely agree with you about the purposes of being in the wilderness, I think we've both seen a lot of growth spiritually. Great post!

  3. I don't know if to cry or find you, stalk you and hug you for this. No, but really. This series right here is like manna from heaven. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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