Navigating The Wilderness

Life is made up of moments. There are significant moments, mundane moments, jubilee moments and sorrowful moments. Some moments shock us, overwhelm us, and maybe just “tickle us pink” as my grandmother would have said.

Lately, we’ve all experienced a long moment together (though apart) as we’ve dealt with the ramifications of COVID-19. This brought us into a new moment in time – one I like to classify as a wilderness moment.

A wilderness moment is one that leaves us searching for proper next steps, as they’re not fully laid out before us.

We’ve found ourselves without a roadmap to navigate, and that can leave us feeling anxious, worried and scared. Providentially, the Word of God gives us several examples of wilderness moments to help us along our journey and to keep us encouraged.

Take for example the Israelites. After the miracle of Passover and the exodus, they found themselves wandering through the desert for 40 years! Even though God provided daily for them, they still made mistakes along the way. They took their eyes off of Him and allowed their worry and fear guide their actions instead. In doing so, they offended the One who provided by arguing, disobeying and constructing false gods. Despite their lack of obedience, God still offered the daily manna and led them with a cloud by day and fire by night. At the end of their extensive wilderness journey, He delivered the Promised Land for his people.

Noah’s wilderness led him to drift in a huge boat with only his family and two each of the Earth’s animals for 150 days. (The storm was continuous for 40 days and the flooding lasted well beyond that.) He and his family endured loneliness and isolation from everything they once knew. Genesis 7:23 says, “Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”

Every person besides them perished! Even when dry land had surfaced, they still had to wait for the right time to emerge from the vessel. It was over a year after the flood began before God gave the instruction to come out of the ark. At the end of this devastating wilderness, God brought Noah and his family a beautiful promise as displayed in the rainbow and revived this world.

Even Jesus spent significant time in a wilderness which was anything but pleasant. Luke 4:1 says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” It’s important to note that though Jesus was tempted by Satan, he did not fall into temptation. Instead, he looked to his Father and combatted those temptations with Scripture. Following Christ’s example, we can look to God and His Word to guide us through and stand firm against temptation. Immediately after Jesus overcame the hardship of his wilderness journey, he transitioned straight into a three-year ministry that changed the world forever.

There are other examples of wilderness ordeals in the Bible, from David in a cave and Elijah under a broom tree, to Jonah in the belly of a whale and the disciples in a storm on the water, among others. The thing to remember is that each one was met with Godly encounters!

What might God be trying to tell you during this uncertain time in history? No matter how hard this sabbatical from “real life” has been, what is he preparing you for? Are you confident in his provision? Are you resting in his promises? Are you preparing to emerge from this wilderness to live out wholly what He has in store for you?

You see, in our wilderness – whether it be the one we share now or a trying time we have been through in the past or will go through in the future – God is there ready to unite with us. He wants us to not worry, to not be fearful, but to lean in and trust Him. When we look to Scripture, our hope is confirmed. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is a promise on which we can firmly stand!