“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, ESV)
Wilderness. The very word sounds dreary and difficult. It even begins with “wild,” letting us know it is an untamed place, a hard place. Dictionary.com defines it as “a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.” The wilderness seems an uninviting place.
Although most of us would prefer being just about anywhere except in such harsh surroundings, we sometimes go through what we refer to as “a wilderness experience” in our walk with the Lord. Someone once stated that mountaintop experiences and spiritual breakthroughs are often followed by time in the wilderness. Have you been there?
Several notable Bible events took place in the wilderness.
- Joseph’s brothers dropped him in a pit in the wilderness and planned to kill him.
- Moses met God at the burning bush in the wilderness.
- Hagar encountered “the God who sees me” while fleeing in the wilderness.
- God sustained the Israelites through 40 years of wilderness living.
- David and his men escaped to the wilderness when Saul sought to kill him.
- Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the wilderness.
- Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch in a desert place and explained the Scriptures.
Although the wilderness can be a harsh, barren place, it can also be a place of revelation. Because of her time in the desert, Hagar realized that God saw her. He knew her situation and had a plan for her future. David’s time in the wilderness no doubt taught him lessons that were valuable when he ascended the throne. The Ethiopian eunuch found the message of salvation in the desert. Many things, including good things, can happen in a wilderness.
At one time or another, God will lead each of us into the wilderness, not to punish us but to test us and refine us. As Deuteronomy 8:2 states, God uses difficult experiences to reveal our true character and what is in our hearts. Our response to these circumstances shows our level of trust and commitment to the Lord. In dry, dusty desert places we learn faith and endurance. We learn dependence on God. We learn to overcome temptations through the power of the Word. Just as God sustained the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, we are sustained by the Bread of Life.
Moses, who spent most of his adult years in desert places, gave these parting words to the Israelites before passing the mantle to Joshua.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)
We are never alone in the wilderness. God will meet us there and reveal Himself to us.
Lord, I know that You had Your own wilderness experiences and came out victorious. When life becomes difficult, when my spiritual life seems dry and dusty, and when I feel I am facing the battle alone, please remind me that You are always by my side. You will never leave me to face the harshness of the wilderness alone. You will transform my experience into something good.