Finally, September. Praying and reflecting recently on what the last few years have looked like, re-reading through these posts and my own journals, have led me to a wonderful appreciation of the wilderness. But along with the appreciation, comes the memories of the hardships, fears and failures that went along with it. It got me thinking about the point of the process, and why the act of wilderness wandering is crucial for Christians developing a faith that will withstand. September’s post is all about that: the Wilderness Effect.
What is all the ‘wandering’ for? What is all the wilderness for, other than to learn to love all that you have, right here and now; our very being, in the light of our Father in Heaven? To realise, just as the Israelites did, that we have everything we already need, right here with us. Everything else is meaningless, and when it is stripped away, as it often is in the wilderness, the remaining is the realisation that at the end of the day, when all else is taken away, Jesus has, is and always will be enough. In Him we already have everything that we need – and more.
I walked into this wilderness five years ago hopeful – hopeful that I was ready for what God had been preparing me for. Yet that’s the craziest thing about wilderness. Despite how many preparations you make, all the stuff you carry into them, their sole purpose is to strip you bare. Even the wisest, most protected humans find themselves striving after mirages in the sand in a desperate hope to find the water. Water that they think will sustain them, possessions that they think will protect them. Only to realise when completely naked, the only living water we ever need is walking beside us.
I never imaged it would look this long, and for the first time I really hit bottom. I have never felt so hungry, so lonely, so desperate and so morally challenged throughout this season. I have questioned God’s intensions in leading me here, I have questioned my faith – the cost of following Jesus. If I really wanted this, am I really prepared for what that looks like? A life completely devoted to following Jesus.
I have been angry, I have been sad, I have hurt and I have been victorious. Yet through it all, I have emerged with an even stronger hunger for the word of God – I can’t get enough of it’s water – and an even deeper affection for the God we serve.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an ‘I’m so righteous’ look at me scenario. It has been, and is far from perfect and a lot of tears were spilled as I fought to survive this wilderness with even some faith left. But through it all I have learnt some powerful truths. I understand why I was created, unique and loved. I know who I am, where I am, and why I am.
I know that at the end of the day, everything I need and more is in Jesus, and perhaps one of the most powerful truths that emerged from the heat, is the realisation that I will constantly fall short. Yet along side that, the fundamental truth that when I am weak, He is strong, and it is through the resurrection and forgiveness of Jesus that I can keep getting up.
I have learnt the power of community and the connection of people, and I have understood how powerful encouragement and teaching can be.
We will all enter a wilderness of some sort throughout our lives. Some will go on for years, spiritual dryness will wear you thin, some will not last more than a moment, but remember always that throughout the Bible, there are dozens of examples where God used wilderness to lead people into new fertility. Look at the stories of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Ruth, Jesus, Paul – and so many more.
Here in Victoria, Australia, many hot summers, dry land and flammable Eucalyptus equates to many seasons of devastating bush fires. Like all natural disasters, they claim many lives, and it is hard to see the chance of life after a bushfire has destroyed so much hope. Yet there is something beautiful about some of the unique Australian flora. There are many species of flora that rely of the furnace heat of the fire to generate germination. They produce new life, when extreme fire destroys the ‘old life’. Reduced to ash, it relies on regular wilderness fires to begin again new.
It is easy to enter a wilderness and in desperation, hunger and thirst, blame the only one who can actually help you. He goes with you. And He is more sustaining than anything or anyone you can find in the world.
So if you find yourself in a dryness today, filled with grief and anxiety, remember this. The only living water that will ever truly satisfy is right there beside you. The wilderness will tempt you to forget Him and run after the mirage. But truly I tell you, the Lord your God is with you, right there from the beginning. Despite the heat and the fear of the unknown, press into Him. Because it is through His refining fire, and His calling in the wilderness that will truly bring new life – a new life we all desire. THAT is the Wilderness Effect, and what makes you prepared for the Spring.
Spring is here, Hallelujah.