One swift kick. The frustration of the last ten months had come to a head, and with all the patience of a three-year-old, I took it out on the side of the tub. But tubs are unforgiving. Almost immediately, my ankle swelled in shades of blue and purple, and soon, I couldn’t bear any weight on that foot. For the next two days, I hobbled around, painfully aware that my heart needed fixing more than my ankle.
I’d been wandering a wilderness of isolation and waiting after moving from a small town I loved to a large city. I knew God had led us to move, but the months spent looking for a new church, new house, new everything had taken their toll. I missed my friends and longed to be settled. The lease on our rental was expiring, our furniture was in storage, and I missed the permanence of a home of our own.
Maybe you’ve experienced a wilderness of isolation without friends, family, or a church home. Maybe you’ve endured a wilderness of waiting long past your timeline despite your prayers. Or maybe you’re in a wilderness right now of deep pain or grief after your life shattered around you.
When we’re in the wilderness, we want out quick. But focusing on getting out can make us miss the lessons God has for us there. Wilderness circumstances feel barren, but they can be spiritually rich. Here are some truths to remember when you find yourself in the wilderness.
God provides in the wilderness. If God leads you to it, you can trust He will provide for you there. He led the Israelites into the wilderness. He led David, Elijah, and even Jesus there too. But God never left them to fend for themselves. He provided manna for Israel, safety for David, and meat and bread for Elijah. And after Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness, God sent angels to care for him. God will provide for you there, too.
God reveals His character in the wilderness. When Hagar fled to the desert after being mistreated and rejected, God appeared to her. She called Him “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV). When Moses was in the wilderness, God appeared to him, revealing Himself as the “I am; the Lord” (Exodus 6:2–3 NIV). At various times, God revealed Himself to the Hebrews as the Bread of Heaven, the Living Water, the Holy One, the Law Giver, and the Rock.
On Mt. Sinai, God revealed himself as, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6 NIV). Don’t miss the ways God reveals Himself to you in the wilderness.
The wilderness is a place of preparation, not permanence. God doesn’t park us in the desert places of life forever. He uses them to prepare us for where He is leading us next. This pattern occurs repeatedly in the Bible. God led the Israelites into the wilderness to make them a nation, give them His law, and show them how to worship, in order to prepare them for the Promised Land.
God led Jesus into the wilderness where Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and was tempted before beginning His public ministry. Paul spent three hidden years in the desert before launching into his evangelical missionary journeys. What is God preparing you for?
The wilderness is never meant to harm you; it’s meant to form you. Deuteronomy 8:15–16 NIV says, “He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions…to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (emphasis added).
God always intends it to go well with us. Don’t do as I did and kick against the wilderness places. God already has a good end in mind. As you wait, get to know Him in new ways, trust His provision, and get prepared for what He has in store. And when He reveals that next step, take it. You are not alone.
LISA APPELO is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher who inspires women to deepen their faith in grief and find hope in the hard. Formerly a litigating attorney, her days are now filled with parenting seven children, ministering, writing, speaking, and running enough to justify lots of dark chocolate. Find Lisa’s encouragement for faith, grief, and hope at LisaAppelo.com.