Walking Through the Wilderness
In our world, particularly southern Ohio, we find very little literal wilderness. We are not surrounded by land that is dry, deserted, lonely, or lacking life. As I sit by the window of my home and look out I see rain, green vegetation, blooming flowers, birds, and a steady stream of cars passing by that remind me that people are never far from me. But despite the realities of life in nature, and a population of people nearby, most of us walk through the wilderness at times.
We experience the wilderness of feeling dry and barren spiritually, the wilderness of depression, the wilderness of loneliness, or the wilderness of waiting. We can at times look up and realize that we weren't aware of entering the wilderness but here we are and we aren't sure what to do about it.
For most, the natural tendency is to escape into distraction to avoid the wilderness feelings. Distractions are abundant for us, we are good at keeping our selves occupied so be don't have to think about the wilderness and how we got there. We certainly don't want to think about how we plan to live in the wilderness if we end up staying there for a while. However, if we were in a literal wilderness we would seek a guide. Someone who has knowledge of the territory and can help us navigate it. Wildernesses of the mind and soul are no different. The Bible provides us with a trustworthy guide, someone who spent time in the wilderness on more than one occasion, David. David helps us get our bearings when our internal compass doesn't seem to be working. Psalm 63 charts a course for us as we watch what David did during one of his stays in the wilderness.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psa 63:0–11 ESV)
This map is helpful not only for us but good counsel for any that we know who stumble into that land.
- He seeks God earnestly. He is honest about his desperation and need for God to work yet he presses into God not away from God.
- He understands that the sanctuary is a place to look at God. His wilderness journey banned him from being in God's house and he longed to be there. We must keep going to church to see God in the face of Jesus Christ and be reminded who he is.
- He chooses to praise based on the truths about who God is.
- He fills his mind with thoughts about God in the quiet moments. He meditates on the things God has done for him and he sings for joy in the reality of those things, not because of his feelings.
- He actively trusts God by clinging to him. He knows that God will act justly, in this particular case, enemies wanting to kill him.
- He rejoices in God among others. This does not happen in isolation.
I know very well that we cannot manipulate our emotions. If something is not there (joy, love, praise) it feels insincere if we try to express it. I also know that when we don't feel the love, joy or praise we tend to lean away from God rather than running to him. He is after all the source and giver of all those feelings we need. He is life, his word is life, and we can come to him in our desperation asking for him to pour out that life in us. As we wait, as we often need to do, we meditate on all he has already done for us. How he has transferred us into his kingdom of life, how he has poured out wrath on Jesus — wrath that was meant for us. He has walked with us through our days and has been faithful. He promises to do so much for us in days to come. Are you not sure what that is? Open up your Bible, pray for God's Spirit to illuminate your reading, and look, dig, earnestly seek God through the main way he has revealed himself.
Someone else was led into the wilderness and faced temptation to turn his back on God and yet he did not. Jesus. He faced the ultimate enemy with the sword of the Spirit, God's word. If he being perfect did this how much more should we who are week and easily deceived? Are you in a wilderness? Earnestly seek God through his word, in his church, in worship. He is always there.