From Wilderness to Wilderness

“So the Israelites set out from the wilderness of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud stopped in the wilderness of Paran” Numbers 10:12

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From wilderness to wilderness.  I couldn’t even imagine. 

A whole year camped out at Sinai only to pack up, march out and set up camp yet again.

In another wilderness.

God led the Israelites to another wilderness.  Would they ever reach the Promised Land?

This all got me thinking about the wilderness and those dry and thirsty places in our own lives.

Somehow we’ve got it into our heads that a wilderness can only be endured when it ends.  Somewhere along the way we’ve begun to believe that the goal of the wilderness is only to end its existence. 

Somehow I think there’s more to this journey than just an end in sight, yes?

Here we have the Israelites moving from one wilderness to wilderness.  One dust bowl for another.  One campsite for another. 

Wilderness for wilderness.

And it all seems downright terrible to me!

But…

What if changing my perspective can maybe change the landscape of the wild?

Somewhere along my journey I have begun to believe the idea of a wilderness being some kind of higher order spirituality.  I have believed going through the wilderness is like some twisted right of passage that all Christ-followers must go through and when you get to the other side, somewhat no worse for wear, you’ve reached a pinnacle of spirituality. 

Stupid.  I know.

What if walking through the wilderness is less about the wilderness because you know, that’s just geography.

What if walking through the wilderness is less about the wilderness and more about who goes with you. 

Two things strike me as profound as I’ve been making my way through the desert with the Israelites.

First, God never left them.  Not even once.  Sure He got angry and disappointed in them when they refused to trust in His goodness but He never left them.  He was in their midst the entire time.  Literally (remember the cloud?)

I think it is easy for us to forget that God dwells in us.  He’s not running ahead and leaving us alone all the while dangling the proverbial carrot of the Promised Land in front of our noses.

He doesn’t leave us at the edge of the wild and say

“Meet me on the other side and then you will have achieved… I’ll be waiting” 

I know I struggle with the notion of God being with me – even in the wilderness.  But it’s true, He is.

Even Jesus wasn’t alone – He was full of the Spirit.

“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River.  He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness.”  Luke 4:1

And during some His darkest and loneliest times in those 40 days the angels were with Him.

“Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus”  Matthew 4:11

God with us.  Not waiting for us.  Not chasing us.  Not ignoring us. 

With us.

Second, the Israelites entered the wilderness in community.  They had each other, a beautiful connection for times when love and support are most needed.

God often needs to remind me that I have beautiful people in my life (like you) who want nothing more than to pick up their tents and wander with me.  

Remember, God created us He knew our need for relationship and connection.  We are never truly alone.

Next time I’m staring down a wilderness and tempted to believe that God is using it as some litmus test for my commitment to Him, next time I believe that He is on the other side of the rough terrain measuring His love for me against my ability to make it through I’m going to remember that He never leaves me.  

Next time I’m going to grab His hand and find my comfort in Him and the community He has given me as I walk from wilderness to wilderness.

Next time I’m going to cling to the knowledge that, while I will encounter those dry and thirsty places all along life’s path, He’s encountering them WITH me .

 


3 Comments

  1. Amen. He’s right there beside us (and you know, I’ve discovered that wilderness has it’s own beauty–especially if I’m wandering it with my Savior!).

  2. I am always having to remind myself that no matter where I travel He is there with me.

  3. Just talked in my Bible study group about the whole point of our faith being to walk with God, and how He walks with us first. Good words to remember. Thanks for this reminder!

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