A few years ago while I was working in Africa we visited an area of Kenya called Lodwar. It’s the quintessential desert wilderness. With the temperature over 100 degrees and dry as a bone it seemed like an incredibly difficult place to survive. The wilderness is a place that tests your resolve. It tests your faith.
In Mathew chapter 4 Jesus goes into the desert to be tested. It’s reminiscent of other great men who came before Him. Abraham wandered around Canaan for 25 years before God’s promise of an heir was fulfilled. Moses wandered in the mountains as a shepherd for 40 years before God called him to lead a nation. David wandered the caves and hills of Israel for 22 years before he finally received his anointed Kingship in Jerusalem. Why did God have these great men wander for so long in the wilderness?
“The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.” – Nancy Newhall
No one wants the wilderness but…we all want answers. There are some answers that can only be heard through the experience of the wilderness. After a great victory over his enemies the prophet Elijah was forced to retreat to the wilderness. A day in the wilderness and Elijah was ready to die. Tired and hungry, he fell to the ground and told God that he’d had enough. That seems pretty wimpy to me. Surely he could have lasted weeks before being so fatalistic, right? What about you, how long could you last when the world seems set against you? Or, let me put it this way; how long can you go without answers? When I was sick as a dog with mono last year I only last about 3 days before I was crying out to God.
Elijah retreated to a cave and waited for God’s answer. A powerful wind came and tore the rocks apart. An earthquake shook the mountains. A fire swept across the desert. But, God remained silent. Then, a gentle wind blew near the cave and God whispered to Elijah. Think about this; sometimes we can only hear God’s voice when all other noises are stripped away. When life is going according to our plan it is filled with the noise of our self-reliance, activity, busyness, and plans. God can use the wilderness to silence those distracting noises so that we can hear his voice. It’s in the stillness that God often choses to whisper what we need to hear. The wilderness positions our hearts to hear.
Last year when I laid in bed for 3 straight weeks with mono this truth was never more real. It wasn’t until all the noises of my life were stripped back that I could hear what God really wanted to whisper. As I worked through the frustration of my circumstances I was able to allow God to speak into areas of my life that desperately needed His voice. Are you in a season of wilderness now? Are you in a place that God might be using to position you to hear His voice? Are you ready to be still and hear His voice?
We all experience seasons of wilderness. If you aren’t in one right now then take this to heart so that when it comes you’ll be ready to listen and embrace God’s faithfulness. Don’t allow your life to be blaring with the noise of your own activity, self-reliance, pride, sin, or plans so much that it drowns out God’s whisper. Learn to position yourself daily so that you turn your ear to God’s voice and depend on His faithfulness.
If you are in the wilderness right now, don’t despair, be patient. Like Abraham, Moses, and David before you, allow God to mold and shape you into greatness. Perhaps this season is God’s testing and refining process for your coming legacy. Listen for his voice and trust His goodness. There is an end in sight. He has a plan and it will be worth the wilderness years.
Nothing great ever came easy.