The Wilderness.


Yesterday I was reading the story of the 12 spies that explore the promised land. You may be familiar with the story. The Lord tells Moses to send out 12 men, from each of the 12 tribes, to explore the land of Canaan. Ten men come back with a negative report, focusing only on the giants of the land. Only Caleb and Joshua return with a sense of confidence and trust in the promise and protection of God. They know that if God promised it to them that He will help them to take hold of it. The Israelites began to rebel and cry out, "If only we had died in Egypt." They loudly complain, "Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?" They make a new plan. "Let's choose a leader and go back to Egypt." You can read the whole story in Numbers 13 and 14. Because of the Israelites complaints against the Lord, no one is able to see the promised land except for Caleb and Joshua. Although God has mercy on the people of Israel and does not choose to destroy them altogether, because of their rebellion they never make it past the wilderness. They die there. This one line really stood out to me, "As surely, as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say" (Numbers 14:28).

I was convicted by this passage. It caused me to reflect on my own times that I have journeyed through the wilderness. How often have I complained against the Lord? Maybe I haven't come right out and accused God for my troubles but I haven't always spoken the most faith-filled words either. Have you ever felt like the Israelites in the midst of your own fight? Have you ever struggled with feeling like God brought you all this way, but now you are going to die in the battle? Life is like that at times. It is filled with valleys and mountains. There are plenty of curveballs and plot twists to go around. Just when we think we have a handle on the journey, life causes us to take an unexpected turn. Some of those turns appear to be taking us even farther away from the promised land.

I have had a few of those experiences myself. But I have discovered that through each wilderness journey, God is making me increasingly stronger and is growing my confidence in Him. I had a conversation about this subject last night with a friend. I was sharing with her how God is training me to adjust my eyes in times of darkness in my life. Sometimes we have to give our eyes a second to adjust before we can really see clearly. For me I am learning that before I have time to retreat into a place of fear, insecurity and hopelessness, I have to center my focus on a few basic facts. 1.) God is good. 2.) He can be trusted. 3.) He is for me. If I really know these things, it will be much easier to see clearly even in the storms. If I don't really know these things, this is where I need to start. Seeking God and asking him to reveal to you His goodness, His trustworthiness and His love, even in adverse circumstances, should be the first step in your wilderness journey. And trust me, that step is a shortcut.

Although it may be tempting to complain and only focus on the negative aspects or frustrations of the situation you are in, don't do it. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death are in the tongue. I don't think we realize that many times we are literally speaking death over our own lives. Negative declarations can be faith declarations too, faith that you will stumble, faith that you will fall, faith that you won't make it. The question is who are these negative declarations putting our faith in? Faith is a powerful force and we need to make sure our faith is aligned with the nature, purposes and promises of God.

I believe that if we begin to train our eyes to see the goodness of God, train our mouths to speak the promises of God and train our ears to hear the voice of God as we walk through the wilderness phases of life, we will discover that God has never left us. His intention is not for us to die in the wilderness. Rather, His desire is to use the wilderness to prepare us for all that lies ahead and to draw us closer to His heart. With God holding your hand, are you ready to take the next step?

photo credit