“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. – Hosea 2:14
Have you ever been in a wilderness season in your walk with God? Maybe you’re in one now. If you haven’t, chances are really good that you will. Not just once, but possibly several times. How do I know? Well, I’ve been through a few myself. And if you’ve read much of the Bible, you’ll notice most everyone God ever used had their own unique time in the wilderness, even Jesus. In fact, the wilderness is a common theme; the word is used over 270 times in the Old Testament alone.
The term can refer to a natural area of uninhabited land or pasture. The Hebrew word used literally means, a region suitable for pasturing sheep or cattle; an uncultivated place; not a barren desert. When used figuratively, it often depicts a place of barrenness and dryness, with little to no life or activity. Many times in Scripture it was a place of encounter with God, as seen in Hosea 2:14.
The Israelites encountered God as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire in their wilderness wanderings. Moses encountered Him in the burning bush. David discovered God as his refuge during his years of running from Saul, hiding out in a cave. The Shulamite maiden encountered Him as a Bridegroom. There are many others as well.
So what does this mean for you and me? Why does God repeat this pattern so many times in Scripture? What are His purposes for these wilderness seasons in our lives? I’ve come up with at least 8 reasons God allows these times in our journey, based on Deuteronomy 8:2-9:
- Reveals the hidden things in our hearts that hinder our relationship. (v. 2)
- A time of testing our obedience to Him. (v. 2)
- Humbles us, causing us to depend upon Him more fully. (v. 3)
- Produces greater spiritual hunger. (v. 3)
- We learn to hear His voice more clearly. (v. 3)
- Proves His faithfulness to us. (v. 3-4)
- Can be a form of discipline. (v. 5)
- Preparation for a season of blessing. (v. 7-9)
Learning to understand God’s ways and purposes doesn’t always make these seasons easier, but we can learn to embrace them by His grace, when we realize the good that He wants to accomplish in our lives. I believe we can discover how to thrive in the wilderness, not just simply survive. How should we respond in order to do this? Here are a few suggestions that might help:
- Rather than run from the issues in our heart and soul, seek help and healing to get free. The more we are healed, the greater our intimacy with God can become.
- Seek His grace daily in areas you struggle to obey. Ask for help and prayer from those you trust.
- Humble yourself; trust Him to do what you cannot do. Let His strength come forth as you embrace your weakness.
- Make spending regular time with Him a priority. Increase that time as much as possible.
- Meditation in the Scripture is a great way to learn to hear His voice. Ask mature friends and leaders to help you if you struggle with this.
- Develop a daily attitude of gratitude. God deserves our gratitude, worship, and praise. Remember, grumbling and complaining cost some of Israel their promised land!
- Submit to His discipline. Repent, confess your sins to God and to trusted friends. Remember, He disciplines those He loves.
- Commit to continue this process when the season changes. Israel is one example of how quickly we can forget God during times of blessing and favor.
As we learn to embrace God’s ways rather than resist them, we can accelerate our spiritual growth. We can thrive, not just survive, in the wilderness.
What has God taught you in the wilderness seasons? I would love to hear your comments!