The wilderness is often a place of spiritual 'crisis' and preparation
The ‘wilderness’ is not a concept that is understood too well in Christendom, despite the fact that it is all the way through the Bible.
From the book of Genesis right through Revelation there are clear references to the ‘wilderness’ as being something God often employs in His dealings with men. The pattern is undeniable.
When we look through the Scriptures we see that the wilderness is often a place of spiritual “crisis” and also preparation.
It is the place God sends us before the “real action” begins - before we enter into the full purposes of God in our lives. There must be ‘death’ before there can be resurrection. There must be a desert place before the “promised land.”
The wilderness is a place of trial and testing, of brokenness and full surrender to God. The props and activities that have kept us continually striving to “make things happen” are stripped away. Our self-reliance is shattered and replaced with a total reliance on God alone.
Every “idol” in our lives (often including our own ministry) is brought under the piercing searchlight of God. Our selfish motives and ambitions are shown for what they are. This process may take years. Finally we emerge broken, chastened and purified.
The process has matured and cleansed us in so many ways. We are now ready for the fulfillment of all that God originally called us to do. But our heart-motives are vastly different from what they were before.
We see this pattern all the way through Scripture. Many lessons can be learned from what we read there. Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul the apostle - and even Jesus Himself - all had to go through this “wilderness” experience. Very often it lasted for years and years. Why then should we be surprised if it happens to us?
Probably the best-known instance of a ‘wilderness experience’ in the Old Testament is the story of Moses and the children of Israel.
Moses had been raised and trained all his life in the palaces of Egypt.
But when he came face-to-face with his heritage as an Israelite, he rose up “in his own strength” and killed an Egyptian slave-driver. He was then forced to flee into the desert, where he was to spend 40 YEARS as a simple shepherd in the wilderness.
What an enormous length of time!
Imagine if every Christian leader had to spend that long in the wilderness before God would allow them to lead His people! It is almost impossible to imagine the depths of despair and “death” to all his dreams and hopes that Moses went through during this time. In fact, after 40 years it is hard to imagine anyone being “deader” to the usual ambitions and temptations of leadership than Moses would have been. And what PATIENCE these years of waiting must have produced in him!
We see here the lengths that God will go to in the “preparation” of a leader “after His own heart.” (-Though 40 years is unusually long). The isolation, the chafing, the crying out to God for deliverance- all play their part. Such an experience is almost irreplaceable. That is why God uses it so often. The hearts of driven men are so similar in so many ways, that God’s “cure” becomes similar also!
He will even shut us up in a kind-of ‘prison’ for a time so we cannot escape the process. It is that important. He does not want ‘self’- oriented leaders shepherding his precious sheep.
After his 40 years of preparation, Moses returned to Egypt at God’s command to lead His people out of bondage. This was the beginning of the entire nation of Israels’ wilderness experience. For when they left Egypt the only way to their “Promised Land” was through the desert. Some commentators say that in a straight line, their journey could have taken just a few weeks or less. But because of their disobedience and fear, the vast majority of those who left Egypt were destined to die in the desert, never reaching the Promised Land. In fact, their wilderness journey ended up taking 40 years!
Now we need to take special note of this fact:- Not everyone who entered the wilderness survived it. In fact, multitudes perished there. The wilderness tried them and found them wanting. They went to the place of testing and failed the test. This is a pretty crucial fact to realize in our day also. Just because we are “called out” and enter a wilderness time, does not mean that we will embrace the dealings of God and respond appropriately. It is entirely possible to lose everything out there. These people lost out completely.
Only their children came through to inherit the promises of God. How clearly we see this pattern over and over again - in both the Old Testament and the New:- That many whom God wants to one day use are sent into a place of aloneness and brokenness before being brought into their true destiny. We have not even mentioned heroes of God such as Noah, Jacob, Job and others who all had similar experiences. Part of this process lies in the “waiting” that takes place.
Also, the fact that all the supporting ‘props’ are taken away. The “waiting” alone can be torture.
The wilderness also deals with any fear of man or ‘systemized’ way of looking at things. God often uses it to bring a whole fresh perspective, which is very important for leaders who are going to be representing a “new” approach or facing opposition because of the confrontational words that they are bringing. The lonely desert years give them backbone to stand up to the crowd or the powers- that-be, and declare God’s truth without compromise. They now truly fear God rather than man. And they think differently from others. The wilderness is vital for anyone who is wanting to bring fresh manna to God’s people.
Are you someone who has been going through such a “desert” experience, my friend? Be encouraged! Look up, for your deliverance draws nigh. God only ever sends His children through such experiences when there is a great purpose to it. Don’t give up.
Don’t be cast down. On the other side lies a ‘land of promise’ if only you can hang on to Jesus. Be active, be praying, be prepared. Don’t become “passive” and let the desert swallow you whole. Use this time to draw closer and closer to Jesus. Dig down and plant your feet firmly on the Rock. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up in due time - if only you can cling to Him.