Walking Through the Wilderness (and living to tell about it!)

Yesterday at The Gathering, I read part of an old post I wrote for my former blog, Espresso Roast, in which I was struggling through a wilderness experience.  Through it, I learned to trust God where I was, embrace the wilderness, and grow through it.  I hope it encourages you, as well. ~ dp

Originally posted July 26, 2006

A Walk Through the Wilderness

Years ago, my wife and I took our dog, Sydney, on a short hike up one of the nearby mountains in Massachusetts. There was a trail that led straight to the top after a short, twenty minute hike, giving a grand view of the breath-taking Fall colors.

As we finished our time on the mountaintop and turned to head down, Sydney decided she wanted to play “King of the Mountain” with another dog coming up the trail and took off chasing it down a different path. After finally catching up to her, we decided to continue down the trail we were on as opposed to climbing back to the top in order to go down the way we came. After all, they both went “down” and looked as though they headed in the same, general direction. 

Three hours later, after a grueling hike up and down hill after hill, our hearts sank when we came to a sign on one trail that said “Connecticut State Land.” We were supposed to be in Massachusetts! We were clearly on the wrong side of the mountain! Lost, as it were, in the wilderness. We eventually found a street only to see Connecticut license plates. After four hours of hiking, we made it back to Massachusetts and our car vowing never to venture off the known trail again (at least not without a compass!)

It is no fun being lost in the wilderness. It is frightening, lonely and leaves one with a feeling of hopelessness as though he will never be seen again! 

Though I found myself lost in a real wilderness, there are any number of times through our lives that we experience some form of “wilderness” or another. Just recently, I discovered that I have actually been in one for over a year.

As some of you may know, I graduated last May from seminary with a ThM in Apologetics and Worldviews. Since that time, I have been looking for a job…fruitlessly. I have wondered over and over why this was so hard and why God would not lead me to something.

Two weeks ago, it all came to a head. I very angrily told God that if He didn’t want me in ministry, then I didn’t want to be in ministry. I’ve tried and I’ve tried to follow Him and be obedient while He remained painfully silent. I held nothing back. I confess of this raw display of emotion because when I came to God honestly (He already knew how I felt inside anyway), He began to really deal with me. It led me to a place in which I could hear Him…really hear Him.

Though my feelings of anger lasted throughout an entire weekend (the weekend of my camping trip), a weekend in which I had nothing to say to God, my faith in Him did not deteriorate. I knew that He existed. I knew that He was real and that He was God, therefore being worthy of praise in spite of my anger. I knew that He could do something. I also knew that He was choosing not to. I was hurt because I felt He had abandoned me and that, perhaps, I had done something to cause that. 

Eventually I began to work through my issues, but it was not until the following Sunday that it all came together. We were sitting in our Bible Study Class at church talking about the Children of Israel’s deliverance from the Egyptians, led by Moses through the wilderness (do you see a theme developing here?). As we were discussing the topic, my eyes came across Exodus 13: 17-18:

  Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

At that moment it hit me…hard. God led them in the wilderness so that they did not become afraid and turn back. How many times does God lead His people into a wilderness experience either for their protection or their preparation? The wilderness was God’s doing, but it was not for their punishment but rather so that He could fulfill in them what He had purposed. He did so to protect them from themselves; from their fear in that even though God could have defeated the Philistines, they may have been too afraid at that point to go forward. They simply were not ready. They needed more preparation.

Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

God confirmed to me that I am, indeed, in a wilderness. The next day, I was mowing my yard listening to a sermon by Ed Young of Fellowship Church on the iPod in which he dealt with learning through, yep, the wilderness. Two days later, I had randomly downloaded a sermon fromSermonAudio.com which dealt with…you know already, don’t you?…lessons to be learned in the wilderness. OK, I got the message.

I am personally in a wilderness, wandering about while God does in me whatever it is that He needs to do. You know what? That’s OK. I may not be able to see the terrain for all the trees, but He does and He’ll lead me through mountains and valleys, through dried up ocean floors if necessary. But one thing is for sure: there is a “promised land.”

Through it all, just as God delivered men through history like Moses and Joshua, Joseph and Job, Daniel and the boys, King David and Paul, I know He’ll deliver me, too. See, the other thing I realized through the lives of these men is that God is a God of the wilderness. He has often used that as a tool; a training ground to prepare his chosen for the works He has appointed them to. So don’t be discouraged if you, too, find yourself in a wilderness. It just might be that the promised land is just around the bend.