O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
Over coffee, I tried to encourage the college student on the other side of the table. She was feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of classwork, deadlines, sleep deprivation, and relationship insecurities. As life closed in on her, she was even beginning to question her relationship with God.
He was too quiet. He felt too distant.
In those moments all I could do was remind her of something that she already knew. In all the mayhem, she had lost touch with it. To give her hope, I reminded this young lady that all the people whose stories had ever inspired her – from the Bible or otherwise – every single one of them went through harsh wilderness experiences along the way.
But why? I could see her eyes scanning for a reason. Why? Because there’s something very special about the wilderness.
As James explains, God allows us to take frequent excursions into no-man’s-land so that we can grow. It may sound like an oxymoron, that God would allow someone He loves to be dropped into the wilderness so that they can flourish, but He does.
David, for example, was literally made in the wilderness. Like most folks, he probably enjoyed the coziness and convenience of life inside the city limits, but he wasn’t there much. In his early days as a shepherd and later as a fugitive king, he spent a good portion of time off the grid, out there where life was harsh and desperate.
But here’s the deal. Were it not for David’s extended wanderings in the wilderness and the hardship that went along with it, he would never have become the person that you’ve read about in the Bible. It was in the discomfort and edginess of time spent in the wilderness where God prepared him and taught him to depend on someone other than himself.
It was right smack in the middle of the wilderness where David put break-through thoughts like this on paper,
, -Psalm 23:4
From the patriarchs of Israel, to Moses, to Jesus, God’s plan for developing character has always involved deployment to the wilderness.
Because it’s only in the wilderness that we can learn that God can be trusted, even when we’re terrified.
Because the wilderness makes us thirsty for something this world can’t give, and when we finally tap in, we realize that nothing slakes a thirsty soul like the grace of God.
And because it’s in the wilderness, face to face with all kinds of threats, that God disciplines us and teaches us how to fight.
You can’t really learn this stuff anywhere else besides the wilderness.
Friend, the road to Christ-likeness will certainly take you through a few wilderness experiences. Plan on it. If you are there right now, be encouraged, it just means God is up to something good.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.